Cagle.com Premium Cartoon News http://www.cagle.com/author/tom-purcell/ Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood," is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Email Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 02:03:01 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 Longing for Tax Freedom http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/longing-for-tax-freedom/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/longing-for-tax-freedom/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 07:15:03 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=639955 “I can’t believe it. The wife and I owe the IRS again!”

“You mean you aren’t getting a refund this year like millions of working Americans?”

“Refund? The wife and I run a small business. We are crushed by taxes. We can barely keep up with what we owe.”

147038 600 Longing for Tax Freedom cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

“It can’t be that bad.”

“We pay 28 percent federal, 3 percent state and 1 percent local. Then we pay 15.3 percent for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. All told, it’s like we’re in a 47 percent bracket!”

“That’s almost half. Surely you have deductions.”

“You mean the money we spend to run our business? Even when you factor the deductions in, the amount of money we pay in income taxes is astronomical. What is killing us more is the time and cost of completing our tax return.”

“What is so hard about filing?”

“The tax code is incredibly complicated — so complicated that, according to the National Taxpayers Union, Americans spend 7.64 billion hours and $227.1 billion complying with the tax laws every year.”

“How did filing become so complex?”

“It’s not hard to understand. When the income tax became law in 1913, the tax code was 16 pages long. Now it is nearly 75,000 pages long!”

“How did it get so big?”

“Because the government uses the tax code to do everything from redistributing wealth to giving taxpayers incentives to buy homes, have kids, save money, spend money and so on.”

“Sounds like we need tax reform!”

“You got that right. Everyone agrees that our complex tax code is hurting the economy. Tax reform could unleash America’s pent-up economic energy and increase revenues to help us reduce our deficit.”

“Maybe we can scrap the whole income tax system and replace it with more simple and sensible ways to acquire the revenues the government needs to operate.”

“You mean something like the Fair Tax, a national sales tax concept that would allow us to keep our whole paychecks and pay taxes only on what we spend? Great idea, but good luck making it happen.”

“Why wouldn’t it happen?”

“You really think that all the groups that make their livings off a complicated tax code, and all the politicians who acquire power by promising special tax breaks, are going to let that happen? Complexity is king in Washington.”

“That’s a shame.”

“It’s more than a shame. Despite all the money the wife and I pay into the system — despite all of the agitation and lost hours — our country isn’t even close to paying its bills. Americans now spend more on their taxes than they spend on food, clothing and housing combined.”

“I did not know that.”

“Tax Freedom Day is on April 21 this year — three days later than last year, says the National Taxpayers Union. This is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total federal, state and local tax bill for the year.”

“Almost one-third of the income Americans earn is what it costs to pay for government? I didn’t know it was so high.”

“What’s worse is that it is not high enough! Our federal government is still spending more than a half a trillion dollars beyond what it is taking in.”

“You’re depressing me.”

“Here’s what’s even more depressing. If you factor in all the borrowing and money we owe, Tax Freedom Day is May 6. The only time America had a later Tax Freedom Day than that was during the thick of World War II, when it would have been on May 21, 1945.”

“Now it makes perfect sense.”

“What makes perfect sense?”

“Why you and the wife owe the IRS again!”

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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My Father’s 1959 Tax Return http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/my-fathers-1959-tax-return-2/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/my-fathers-1959-tax-return-2/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 07:05:50 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=639803 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

I stumbled upon my father’s 1959 income tax return a few years ago. How I long for the simplicity he enjoyed when he filed his taxes that year.

For 1959, my father paid a measly 5 percent in federal taxes, even though his name wasn’t Rockefeller.

129714 600 My Father’s 1959 Tax Return cartoons

Mike Keefe / Cagle Cartoons

How did he do it? It was easy. For a year when the top income tax rate was 91 percent — President Kennedy would slash rates a few years later — deductions were many.

Even middle-class people like my dad enjoyed their fair share of perks.

He was a heavy smoker then — who wasn’t? — and was able to deduct every penny he paid in cigarette taxes.

He was able to deduct every penny he paid in gasoline taxes, too. If we had such a perk now, the federal government would go broke (even more broke than it is now).

And he was able to deduct every penny he paid in state sales tax in Pennsylvania, another wonderful perk that would save the average Pennsylvanian a boatload in federal taxes every year.

He took a $600 tax deduction for each of his two dependents, my sisters Kathy and Krissy — a lot of dough relative to his income.

For 2014, the deduction for each dependent is $3,950. On paper that is about six times what my father got in 1959 — but if properly adjusted for inflation it would be just under $5,000 today.

Here’s one that grabbed my attention: In 1959, he paid only 2.5 percent of his income toward FICA (then, Social Security; now, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid).

Today, the average employee pays 7.65 percent FICA and his or her employer kicks in another 7.65 percent.

I, being self-employed, have the pleasure of paying the full 15.3 percent. I will soon write out a sizable check to bring current the more than $12,000 in FICA contributions I am on the hook for every year.

In any event, my father had his fair share of simple deductions in 1959, which helped offset his federal taxes. That helped him keep his total federal tax tab at a measly 5 percent.

Better yet, his tax form was one sheet of paper printed on both sides. He had no calculator, nor did he need one.

He did a test run in pencil on one copy of the form, then finalized a second in ink and mailed it in; he always got a refund.

Which is why I long for the simplicity he enjoyed back then.

In 1959, the federal tax code was about 15,000 pages. Today, it is just under 75,000 pages.

Unlike my father, who was able to calculate his taxes quickly, I spend days getting mine in order, so I can hand them off to my CPA, so he can tell me I owe lots more than I feared I would.

This year, after all my deductions for business and pain and suffering — including the agitations of owning a few rental properties and investing a boat load of dough renovating one — I will pay about 29 percent of my gross income in federal, state and local taxes.

I consider myself extremely lucky at that rate.

Still, as the April 15 doomsday approaches, I look back fondly on 1959. I didn’t pay a dime in taxes that year.

I wasn’t born until 1962.

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Privacy? Surely You Jest! http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/privacy-surely-you-jest/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/privacy-surely-you-jest/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 07:10:35 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=639725 Ring. Ring.

“Hello, this is Tom.”

“We know who you are, Tom. In the digital age, you will be shocked by what we know about you.”

“Who is this? The National Security Agency? I thought President Obama issued orders to rein you in!”

136089 600 Privacy? Surely You Jest! cartoons

Adam Zyglis / Buffalo News

“That’s a good one, Tom. Obama told the NSA to stop storing bulk phone records on millions of Americans. The NSA can easily access that information through phone companies. I’m not from the NSA, however.”

“Then who are you and what do you want?”

“What is more important, Tom, is who are you and what do you want? Lots of government and private organizations are interested in that information and you are making it easy for them to get it.”

“I have given no one permission to access my information!”

“Really, Tom? Didn’t you hand over your address, Social Security number and other information to buy a car, get a credit card, apply for a job or vote?”

“Maybe a few times.”

“Did you know that since 1961, various Congresses and presidential administrations have enacted more than 40 laws, regulations and policies that require the use of Social Security numbers? That is a godsend to people like me — and that was before the digital era made my job easier!”

“What do you mean?”

“Every website you visit, every online purchase you make, every email, text or online comment you make leaves an incredibly rich electronic trail that defines who you are and what you do.”

“You are bluffing.”

“Really, Tom? That 32-year-old Bolivian flight attendant you’ve been flirting with on Facebook?”

“What about her?”

“He’s 45 and he’s an undercover surveillance expert for a large retail outfit.”

“Oh. My. God.”

“You should be more careful with your password selections, Tom. It took me less than a minute to access your credit card account. Only a fool would use ’123456,’ the worst password of 2013, according to PC World.”

“You are invading my right to privacy.”

“Really, Tom? There is no mention of any right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. Sure, the Fourth Amendment stops the police and other government agents from searching our property without probable cause. And, says the American Civil Liberties Union, ‘other amendments protect our freedom to make certain decisions about our bodies and our private lives without interference from the government.’ But a specific right to privacy does not exist.”

“You must be breaking some law!”

“That’s a good one, too, Tom. There are no laws to prevent us from knowing about you — particularly when you so willingly hand over so much private information to so many strangers! You have no idea how vulnerable you are!”

“Vulnerable?”

“Identity theft is a growing problem, Tom. The personal information you willingly gave about yourself exists forever in the digital ecosystem. That gives savvy technical people lots of opportunities to steal your identity and destroy your finances.”

“I didn’t realize it was that easy.”

“Identity theft is less worrisome than what government entities could do to you. Look how the IRS has been used to attack political enemies. Now imagine what government entities can do when they know EVERYTHING about you! That’s why I called you today, Tom. I called to help you.”

“Help me how?”

“You know those new anti-terrorist scanners they use at the airports? Well, at your age, you might want to consider switching from briefs to boxers.”

“That, sir, is an outrage. I demand to know who you are and what you want!”

“Sorry, Tom. That information is private.”

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Springtime in Washington http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/springtime-in-washington-3/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/springtime-in-washington-3/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 07:05:31 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=639512 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Ah, springtime has finally arrived in Washington, D.C.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is beginning. The cherry trees, 3,700 of them given to America by the Japanese in 1912, will soon be in full bloom.

It reminds me why Americans are so wary of Washington.

36894 600 Springtime in Washington cartoons

R.J. Matson / Roll Call

In the spring of 1999, you see, some culprits had been chopping down cherry trees.

The National Park Service, in a state of high alert for days, finally identified the tree fellers: three beavers, who decided to construct a dam in the Tidal Basin.

In a normal city, this situation would have been dealt with swiftly. The beavers would have been trapped, transported to another location and released.

In fact, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), not known for common sense solutions, suggested exactly that.

But Washington is no normal city.

No sooner was PETA’s idea floated than experts began crawling out of the woodwork. One said it would be tragic to separate the three beavers, since they’re likely from the same family.

Another said you can’t move beavers to a new colony because the new colony — beavers are Republicans? — would reject the freeloaders. Besides, what’s the point of being a beaver if you don’t have any buddies to plug up storm sewers with?

A third expert said that, all things considered, the most humane solution would be to euthanize the beavers.

Boy, did the public react negatively to that suggestion.

This is because beavers are cute. Their cuddly television presence clouded the public’s ability to address the problem rationally.

The fact is that if beavers looked more like their pointy-nosed cousins, rats, even PETA would have lined the banks of the Tidal Basin with rifles and shotguns to take out the varmints before they felled more beloved trees.

By that point, PETA returned to form. It demanded the beavers be allowed to continue damming the Tidal Basin — to hell with the cherry trees and the fact that “Tidal Basin” would need to be renamed “Tidal Wave.”

The hullabaloo went on for some time before the Park Service finally hired a professional trapper. The trapper caught the beavers and they were carted off.

You’d think that would have been the end of it. But not in Washington.

Activists, suspicious of what the Park Service really did with the beavers — Guantanamo Bay? — demanded their location be divulged.

That prompted the Park Service to issue a statement. It said that, due to the publicity surrounding the case, the beavers were moved to a “safe house,” which, apparently, is some kind of beaver witness protection program.

The beaver incident illustrates how convoluted and confusing things can get in Washington — simple ideas and solutions that work everywhere else are twisted and contorted and made unrecognizable there.

That’s why the fellows who founded this country had the right idea when they sought to keep most of the decision-making out of Washington — keep it among the people and within the states.

But the birds running the government right now don’t see it that way. They have Washington butting into every aspect of our lives.

Alas, springtime has arrived in Washington. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the cherry trees are in full bloom.

And all I can do is worry about what that nutty town is going to meddle with next.

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Obama Confesses http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/obama-confesses/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/04/obama-confesses/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 07:15:02 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=639490 “Pope Francis, I have never been to Catholic confession before, but I have a few things I have to get off my chest.”

“Go on, Barack.”

“Between you and me, pontiff, I can’t believe I am president. There I was, trying my hand at presidential debates, and all of a sudden I am sitting in the Oval Office. Now I need all the help I can get.”

146366 600 Obama Confesses cartoons

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Help, Barack?”

“This job is getting to me, pontiff. The majority of Americans dislike ObamaCare, my signature achievement. Republicans are blocking everything I want to do. And every time I blink, some Third World dictator is challenging me to a duel. It’s no wonder my disapproval rating just hit a record high.”

“You have the hardest job in the world, Barack. Your woes are to be expected. But how can I help you?”

“Pontiff, you have to put in a good word for me with the Big Guy. I wonder if you can arrange a divine intervention?”

“You know I can’t do that, Barack. The purpose of confession is for you to examine your conscience.”

“What is this thing you call conscience, pontiff?”

“Oy vey! Barack, a conscience is what helps you decide how to act and what to say.”

“I thought that’s what the polls were for.”

“Look, Barack, we all understand that at times a president has to stretch the truth when negotiating with enemies or even his political opposition. It is part of the art of politics. But you have to admit that some of your words went over the line.”

“But all I said was that if they liked their insurance policies and doctors, they could keep them. It’s not my fault the fools believed me.”

“Barack, this is one thing that worries me about you. You are a man with tremendous gifts. We all wish for you to use those gifts to bring people together.”

“Pontiff?”

“As a believer, you know that all things on this Earth are temporary. The greater glory is yet to come, but only if we pass the test.”

“What test is that, pontiff?”

“There is good in the world and there is evil, Barack. These two forces are battling for the rights to your soul.”

“They are? I thought it was just the teachers unions and the trial lawyers.”

“With every decision any of us make, we are either moving toward good or away from it. It is what our Lord meant when he said, ‘You are either with me or against me.’”

“Funny, that’s what Pelosi and Reid keep telling me.”

“Barack, just as an individual can lose his way, I believe your country is losing its way. Your debt and deficit are out of control. Your entitlement programs and tax system need to be reformed. But you are making no progress on these matters because your people are divided, cynical and often uninformed. When this happens, the enemy makes great progress.”

“I’m with you, pontiff. Those Republicans can be nasty!”

“Barack, too many Americans care more about their own comfort, wealth and material well-being than they do about virtue, sacrifice and truth. They are losing the ability to think critically and solve problems logically. They are making poor decisions. As a republic’s people soften, so goes the republic.”

“Let me get this right, pontiff. You think America is growing soft and you want me to use my talents to help the American people understand our challenges and then lead a collaborative effort with my political opposition to address them?”

“You have the skills to do this, Barack, and your people are hungry for such leadership.”

“Fair enough, pontiff. But how do you suggest I get started?”

“Have you ever considered a retreat, Barack?”

“Pontiff, if you can get the land, I know some timber interests who can get us the lumber.”

—–

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Obama Talks to Putin http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/obama-talks-to-putin/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/obama-talks-to-putin/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 14:16:28 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=639238 “You have been warned, Vladimir. If you don’t reverse your impending annexation of Crimea, you’re going to pay a steep price.”

“Steep price, Obama? More silly personal sanctions placed on a handful of individuals, rather than sanctions on my energy industry and banks — something Vladimir actually fears? Sticks and stones may break Vladimir’s bones, but unserious sanctions never hurt me!”

146068 600 Obama Talks to Putin cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

“Don’t you read the college textbooks, Vladimir? You are on the wrong side of history. The Cold War is over. Carrying on like an imperialist thug is so 1980s!”

“Vladimir greatly enjoys Obama’s naive misunderstanding of power-hungry leaders. Vladimir will never tire of the pie-in-the-sky ramblings of America’s faculty-lounge-member in chief!”

“But haven’t you listened to my speeches, Vladimir? I heralded a new, peaceful era across the globe. I promised to break the precedent of prior presidents and open a dialogue with our foes. I was going to change the perceptions other countries had of America!”

“You surely changed Vladimir’s perception. That is why Vladimir is confident he can carry out his imperialist vision to rebuild the Russian empire — and Obama will do virtually nothing to stand in Vladimir’s way!”

“You can’t do this to me, Vladimir. You are making me look and sound weak and foolish on the world stage!”

“Sorry, but it is Obama’s unrealistic world view, not Vladimir’s bold actions, that is making Obama look and sound weak and foolish!”

“You think this is some kind of joke, Vladimir? You have no idea how much you will regret your actions.”

“What, Obama will draw a line in the sand? Like he did in Syria! Or, worse yet, threaten to give more rousing speeches! Obama’s words have Vladimir quaking in his boots!”

“I’m telling you that if you do not pull back and recognize Crimea as an autonomous republic of the Ukraine, then you are going to have to pay the piper.”

“Pay the piper? What, does Obama threaten to expand ObamaCare to the Russian motherland?”

“I’m talking to my allies in Europe, buddy boy. We are looking into possibly thinking about setting up committees to potentially explore taking additional steps that you might not like.”

“Ha, ha. Europe, who like Vladimir’s supply of natural gas, is even more tepid than Obama!”

“Give it up, Vladimir. You are on the losing side of history!”

“Actually, Obama is on the losing side of history. History has long shown that weakness, not resolve and decisive leadership, is what invites chaos and aggression. Words, not backed by actions — a running gag in Obama’s foreign policy — is why Obama is in mess he is in!”

“Can’t you see you are losing this fight, Vladimir?”

“Oh, really? Obama poll numbers tank among his people, while Vladimir’s soar among his. Poll after poll show Vladimir is considered much stronger leader than Obama! Meanwhile, Obama’s weakness is sending green light to bad guys in rest of the world!”

“What are you talking about, Vladimir?”

“All the world’s bad guys know you are all talk and no action — that you are unserious and not going to hurt us. Vladimir just might be licking his chops over annexing the rest of Ukraine and maybe Estonia, too!”

“I’m going to give you one last chance, Vladimir. Back off or it is game on.”

“Game on? What, Obama is going to tell Vladimir that if he likes Crimea, he can keep Crimea? Then again, that WOULD be one threat that would make Vladimir quake in his boots!”

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Government Advice on Affording ObamaCare http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/government-advice-on-affording-obamacare/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/government-advice-on-affording-obamacare/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 07:10:50 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=638997 “Look, if you want ObamaCare, you are just going to have to make some better budgeting decisions.”

“Budgeting decisions? I make $36,000 a year. The best deal I could find on ObamaCare, with subsidies, is $350 a month. That is a hefty 10 percent of my income!”

145778 600 Government Advice on Affording ObamaCare cartoons

Gary McCoy / Cagle Cartoons

“Like President Obama recently said at a Spanish-speaking town hall, all you have to do is prioritize your budget better. I’ll bet if we look at your cable bill, cell phone bill and other things you are spending on, we will find your priorities are not good.”

“My priorities! Do you know how little $36,000 is? Have you seen the price of food lately? Produce is so high, the wife and kids and I are going without salad many nights.”

“Maybe you ought to plant a garden and grow your own. That would be the environmentally responsible thing to do.”

“Our electricity costs are soaring, too — the EPA is driving that by writing new rules that are hurting coal-fired electric plants.”

“We’re doing that for your own good. Besides, it isn’t the government’s fault that you probably hoarded inefficient incandescent light bulbs that waste heat and burn more energy. People like you cause your own problems.”

“Gasoline prices are out of sight. Federal gasoline taxes aren’t helping and the government is not letting refineries expand. With global demand for gas growing, prices will keep going up. We can’t afford gas on my salary now.”

“You are driving an SUV, aren’t you? For your own good, the government bailed out GM and lost $10 billion in taxpayer money — and promoted environmentally friendly electric and hybrid cars in the process. They get way better mileage than your SUV.”

“We can’t afford a Chevy Volt. Are you listening? We can’t afford any of the things our expanding federal government is foisting on us — least of all ObamaCare. You promised to make health insurance less expensive, but costs are soaring!”

“Such ingratitude. Look, smart people in Washington have been making important decisions that you simply are not smart enough to make yourself.”

“Really? Then why does Medicare Part D, a successful entitlement program that provides drugs to the elderly poor, work so well? Under Part D, seniors are free to choose among a variety of benefits, costs and plans offered by private insurers. According to the Heartland Institute, Medicare trustees estimated a 2013 average monthly cost of $61 — the actual costs are HALF that.”

“Look, there have been some bumps in the road, but that’s partly because people like you aren’t getting with the program.”

“Getting with the program? You imposed a massive overhaul on a health system that the majority of Americans were happy with. You forced the policies to cover things many people don’t need or want and you imposed all kinds of new taxes. It would have been cheaper and easier to leave the existing system intact and give subsidies to people of modest means to buy their own policies.”

“How selfish you are being. We need everyone in the pool for this thing to work. Sure, people who can pay will pay more to subsidize people who can’t pay. So quit your whining and embrace your duty. Become a willing participant in our government’s collectivist effort to control everyone’s health care — or the IRS will track you down and impose a fine!”

“You still aren’t listening. I make $36,000 a year, just like the fellow at the Spanish-speaking town hall. Even if I was willing, I cannot afford to spend 10 percent of my income on ObamaCare!”

—–

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Value of Irish Humor http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/the-value-of-irish-humor/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/the-value-of-irish-humor/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 07:05:12 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=638766 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

With the world in such a tizzy these days — with so many people ready to shout and argue and poke each other in the eyes — I can’t think of a better time to embrace the Irish spirit.

108348 600 The Value of Irish Humor cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

It’s my great good fortune to be a fellow of Irish descent. I share my good fortune with a quarter of all Americans, who can also trace their heritage to the rolling, green hills of Ireland.

As a lad, I remember my father sitting on the back porch on Sundays. Uncle Mike would sometimes visit for a couple of beers, and few things gave the two more pleasure than swapping Irish jokes.

Such as the one about the fellow who was touring the Irish countryside. Hungry, he stopped at a farm and asked for refreshment. The lady of the house served him a bowl of soup. There was a pig in the house that kept running up to the fellow.

“That is the friendliest pig I ever did meet,” he said to the woman.

“He’s not friendly at all,” said the woman. “That’s his bowl you’re using.”

I know that I’m not really “Irish,” but an American through and through. I know, too, that I’m also of German descent, and, though my father refuses to accept it, my great-grandmother on his side turned out not to be Irish, but 100 percent French.

Still, in my family we celebrate what it means to be Irish. Being Irish means to laugh easily, never to take yourself too seriously, to be cautious of getting stuck in the narrowness of your own point of view.

Which reminds me of the one about the German spy who is sent to Ireland during World War II. The German is instructed to meet an Irish spy named Murphy and confirm Murphy’s identity by saying, “The weather could change by Tuesday.”

After the German parachutes into Ireland, he sets off for town. Along the way, he asks a farmer where he might find a man named Murphy.

“Well, sir, it all depends on which Murphy,” says the farmer. “We have Murphy the doctor, Murphy the postal carrier, Murphy the stone mason and Murphy the teacher. As a matter of fact, I, too, am Murphy, Murphy the farmer.”

The German gets an idea.

“The weather could change by Tuesday,” he says.

“Aye,” says the farmer, “you’ll be wanting Murphy the spy.”

James Thurber, one of my favorite humorists, says the wheels of humor are set in motion by the damp hand of melancholy. Aristotle wrote that comedy and tragedy are close cousins. The Irish have long known that humor and laughter are our chief weapons for combating sadness and pain.

Which reminds me of the time a young Irishman tells his mother he’s in love. Just for fun, he brings home three girls and asks his mother to guess which of the three he has chosen to be his bride.

After his mother interviews all three, she says, “Your fiancée is the one in the middle.”

“That’s amazing, ma. How did you know?”

“Because I don’t like her.”

British academic and joke theorist Christy Davies says a good joke can help clarify and express complex feelings. A good joke can cut to the heart of the matter better than any speech or law or government policy.

If only everyone held such a point of view. These days, with all the conflict and disagreement going on, we could surely profit from a better sense of humor.

Which reminds me of the time Pat explained to Mike why his valiant effort to scale Mt. Everest fell short.

“I would have made it to the top,” says Pat, “had I not run out of scaffolding.”

—–

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Old-Fashioned Baby Names Make a Comeback http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/old-fashioned-baby-names-make-a-comeback/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/old-fashioned-baby-names-make-a-comeback/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 07:15:15 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=638749 Get this: Old-fashioned baby names are beginning to make a comeback.

That was the finding of BabyCenter, a digital resource for parenting and pregnancy, which released the top 100 baby names for 2013.

100184 600 Old Fashioned Baby Names Make a Comeback cartoons

Patrick Chappatte / International New York Times

Some of the names at the top of the list are oldies but goodies, such as Sophia, Isabella and Olivia for girls. And once we get past Liam, Lucas and Mason, Jack, Ben and Bill are increasing in popularity for boys.

Naming conventions are surely cyclical in nature, and I hope it is just a matter of time before the common names of my childhood make a comeback: Tom, John, Jeff, Bill, Bob, Rich and Tim. We had one Clint and he had a brother named Reid, but that was as daring as things got in those days.

You were never referred to by your full name — Thomas, Jonathan, Jeffrey, William and so on — the way parents demand nowadays.

My sisters had common names, too: Kathy, Krissy, Lisa, Mary and Jennifer. So did the girls I went to school with: Terri, Laura, Donna, Colleen, Karen, Susan, Janine, Holly, Sandy, Sherri and so on.

The girls’ names were much less flowery than they were in our grandparents’ generation. My grandmother on my father’s side, born in 1903, was named Beatrice — family members called her Beady.

She came of age at a time when it was common to name girls Gertrude, Mildred, Dorothy, Lilian, Josephine, Mabel and other wonderful names.

I surely prefer old-fashioned names over the newfangled ones — and don’t care much for the way modern parents determine names for their kids.

A few years back, The Wall Street Journal did a report on parents who hired naming experts, applied mathematical formulas and software programs and even consulted with nutty spiritualists.

One couple hired a pair of consultants to draw up a list of suggestions based on “phonetic elements, popularity and ethnic and linguistic origins.”

One woman paid a “nameologist” $350 for three half-hour phone calls and a personalized manual describing each name’s history and personality traits.

Another spent $475 on a numerologist to see if her favorite name had positive associations, whatever the heck that means.

One married couple really took the cake in coming up with the name Beckett for their son. The name sounds reliable and stable, according to the proud dad, who said the “ck” sound is very well regarded in corporate circles. The “hard stop” forces one to accentuate that syllable, which draws attention to it, he droned on.

What a dweeb.

Needless to say, parents didn’t obsess over baby names this way in prior generations. Children were named after people their parents admired — family members or someone they were close to.

I was named after my father and his father, Thomas James Purcell. I am the fourth Thomas James Purcell to hold that honor.

My name also carries with it a spiritual meaning. There are many Christian saints and biblical heroes named Thomas. By assigning me this name, my parents also hoped to bestow on me Christian blessings and guidance. That’s why the kids I knew at St. Germaine Catholic School all had simple biblical names.

In any event, isn’t it better to name children after saints and admired people than to hire a high-priced consultant to define the right phonetics?

Even though “Tom” is only 59th on the BabyCenter list, I love my old-fashioned name. It is practical. I know immediately, for instance, when I’ve done something to anger a woman; angry women refer to me as “Thomas.”

A kid with a newfangled name — such as Nevaeh, which is “heaven” spelled backward — will never enjoy a simple benefit like that.

——-

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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FIRST Step Toward America’s Future http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/first-step-toward-americas-future/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/first-step-toward-americas-future/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:44:38 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=638607 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

It’s a compelling event — something we all better hope we see more of, if America is to thrive.

FIRST FIRST Step Toward Americas Future cartoonsI speak of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competitions, which will be taking place at various cities across Canada and the U.S. through the first week in April.

Teams of high school kids spend months designing and building computerized robots. They raise money and manage budgets. 

Then their robots go head-to-head in a rollicking contest.

In the process, the kids become so excited about science, math and engineering, many go on to study these subjects in college.

Which is precisely what America needs.

A chief reason why America has enjoyed massive growth and prosperity is the innovation and productivity made possible by our scientists, engineers and inventors.

We became prosperous by creating faster, better, cheaper ways to make high-quality products. We led the world in innovation for many years.

But, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine, we’re beginning to fall behind.

Consider:

• In 2009, 51 percent of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies.

• China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s No. 1 high-technology exporter and is second in publication of biomedical research articles.

• Between 1996 and 1999, 157 new drugs were approved in the United States. In a corresponding period 10 years later, just 74 were approved.

• Almost one-third of U.S. manufacturing companies responding to a recent survey reported some level of skills shortage.

• According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks 48th in quality of math and science education.

We’ve surely got our work cut out for us.

Science, math and engineering are difficult to master in college — they cut into party time, and many students avoid them.

Besides, why study such challenging subjects when you can stumble through a second-rate law school, then collect 30-percent commissions by suing companies that actually produce stuff?

Our kids need to be motivated to become scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

Which brings us back to the FIRST event.

FIRST is a nonprofit founded in 1989 by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen — the type of fellow America better start producing more of.

FIRST’s vision is to “transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

FIRST is succeeding.

This year, nearly 250,000 high school students will participate in FIRST Robotics Competition, Tech Challenge and LEGO League events.

The robotics contests alone are producing results.

An independent study by Brandeis University’s Center for Youth and Communities found kids who participate are three times as likely to major in engineering — and twice as likely to expect to pursue careers in science and technology.

These kids need our support.

FIRST is always looking for volunteers, mentors and donations.

And the robotics contests are an absolute blast to watch. The more who attend, the more inspired these kids will be.

Attending would be one small step for you, one giant leap for America’s future.

(District and Regional competitions are now running across the U.S. and Canada through April 6, 2014. To find an event near you, visit www.usfirst.org).

——-

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Men, Your Love Life Needs a Pickup (Truck) http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/men-your-love-life-needs-a-pickup-truck/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/03/men-your-love-life-needs-a-pickup-truck/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 15:26:42 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=638510 There’s a reason why American men drive big pickup trucks: Women dig them.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, a new poll by Insure, an independent consumer insurance website, found that women think attractive men are most likely to be driving a pickup truck.

89026 600 Men, Your Love Life Needs a Pickup (Truck) cartoons

David Fitzsimmons / Arizona Daily Star

The survey asked 2,000 men and women what type, brand and color of vehicle is driven by the “most fetching members of the opposite sex.” Ladies reported that desirable men are more likely to be driving, specifically, a black Ford truck — not a minivan or hybrid.

It would appear that the truck, which was once a purely utilitarian vehicle used by farmers and workmen, now lends cachet to many modern males, who make their living in a service economy and wouldn’t know the first thing about getting their hands dirty.

Many younger men now purchase trucks, then, as that is their only hope to model themselves after their fathers and grandfathers, who likely provided for their families by working “manly” jobs that required brawn, craftsmanship and guts.

Guys like John Wayne and Steve McQueen represented my father’s era — tough guys who were men of action, not words.

But which celebrities represent the modern era? Johnny Depp? Leonardo DiCaprio? McQueen could whip them both at the same time with both his arms tied behind his back.

That’s why suburban men buy trucks.

A truck is a beautiful thing. It is simple and useful — like our dads and granddads were. Trucks are tough, sturdy and reliable. Sure, they get poor mileage and the ride is bumpy, but when the weather gets bad or you need to tow, haul or pull something, there is no better vehicle.

A suburban man can live vicariously through a truck. He sees himself cutting and hauling wood on autumn days. He dreams of pulling strangers’ vehicles out of ruts along country roads. He expects to become a hunter one day and drive deep into the woods — across brooks and over rocks — in search of a big buck.

It doesn’t matter that he will never do any of these things. One of my suburban friends paid $50,000 for his truck. Its low gears and big tires are designed for the roughest terrain, but he would never take it into the woods.

“I don’t want to scratch it,” he told me.

I can see the utility in owning a big 4×4 truck, but don’t have one. A few years ago, I moved back to a house I own in the country, where many men still work with their hands and know how to fix just about anything.

Well, while I was working in the yard last summer, my wheelbarrow got a flat. I loaded it into my sedan and drove it up the hill to my neighbor’s house. He has lots of tools and he and his friends work on trucks. When they saw me hauling a wheelbarrow with a flat tire in a mid-sized foreign car, I think they were more embarrassed than I was.

It didn’t help that I am the only driver of a four-dour Japanese sports car that has a gun rack in the rear window.

In any event, it all makes sense that women associate attractive men with black Ford trucks. What is more traditionally American than a Ford?

Maybe I will get one soon.

Then I can dream of Saturdays when I’ll rise early and drive to the diner. I’ll wear a Caterpillar ballcap and eat three eggs sunny side up. I won’t talk to anyone, because I’ll have little to say. Then I’ll drive to the landscape center, order three yards of mulch and haul it home.

If I can stomach putting mulch into a $50,000 vehicle.

—–

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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A Dieting Cookie Addict’s Plea http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/a-dieting-cookie-addicts-plea/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/a-dieting-cookie-addicts-plea/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 14:41:18 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=638243 We must stop them.

We must stop the millions of Girl Scouts who are, right this moment, preying on a helpless public, making us buy and consume calories we don’t need — at the rate of one or two rows of cookies at each sitting.

105379 600 A Dieting Cookie Addicts Plea cartoons

Randy Bish / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

I am on a diet, you see — not just a low-carb diet, but a low-fat diet, low-calorie diet. I am getting by on only 1,300 or 1,400 calories a day.

That means I can’t eat sweets or drink adult beverages or consume pretty much anything that tastes good and makes me happy. I am giving up almost all my vices in one fell swoop — making me one of the least pleasant people you’d want to be around.

The only upside is that this diet is very effective — and it is working. It is monitored by well-educated administrators and coaches. I meet them every Saturday morning for a weigh-in and to discuss any untoward dieting challenges that I faced the prior week.

There is no greater challenge to a dieter than Thin Mints, Samoas, Peanut Butter Patties and, my hands-down favorite, shortbread Trefoils.

Oh, sweet heaven on Earth, I’d give my right arm for the Trefoils recipe — if I didn’t need my right arm to dunk the cookies in a mug of ice-cold milk.

Look, I understand that the Girl Scouts organization was founded in 1912 to help girls develop physically, mentally and spiritually.

I know the annual cookie sale has become a tasty part of American culture since it originated in 1917, when one troop held a small bake sale, selling sugar cookies.

I understand that managing cookie sales helps Girl Scouts learn useful sales, accounting and other business skills — and that it raises some $700 million dollars yearly, funding many worthwhile Girl Scout activities.

But it’s still time to stop this outmoded cookie sale — for my sake and the sake of millions of other cookie victims.

Who among us has the power to say no to any young girl raising money for charity who offers to sell us a legal product that’s so addictive?

Nobody — as demonstrated by one particularly tenacious Girl Scout in 1985. Elizabeth Brinton of Falls Church, Va., sold 11,200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies that sales season. She later topped her record by selling 18,000 in another season. She sold more than 100,000 during her Girl Scout career.

And I was her only customer!

OK, I wasn’t her customer, but you get the point. I’m addicted. I sense that word is getting around in local Girl Scout circles that I am an easy sale — so much so, I am afraid to go to any stores or public places where the clever order-takers will prey on me.

It is both troubling and puzzling to me that, in this era of government-managed health care — a new era of regulations, mandates and penalties — it is still legal for any organization to raise funds by pushing so many sugary, salty, fatty treats onto our already obese population.

I am on a diet that will improve my health and hopefully reduce my future health concerns and benefit everybody else in my insurance pool. Shouldn’t our micromanaging government give me a tax credit for every cookie I don’t eat?

Likewise, shouldn’t the peddlers of unhealthy treats — treats, as I said, that one can’t help but eat by the row — be subject to government fines or taxes that punish them for victimizing the cookie-addicted?

In these unusual times, I fear somebody will take these requests seriously — before I can break my diet, one row of Thin Mints at a time.

——-

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Swimsuit Issue http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/the-swimsuit-issue-2/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/the-swimsuit-issue-2/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 08:10:27 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=638039 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

It disgusts me more every year.

I speak of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, which is published the middle of February every year.

I’m not the only one disgusted. Other folks, such as those in the American Decency Association (ADA), often criticize the publication.

swimsuit The Swimsuit Issue cartoons

“Sports Illustrated disrespects women by displaying demeaning stereotypes of female sexuality,” says the ADA’s website. “The swimsuit issue features women models posed not as athletes of strength, skill, and endurance but as playthings …”

That is surely true, but here’s what is also true: We men are also being exploited.

Look, it’s the middle of winter. We men have suffered a few weeks without football. With free time on our hands, we find ourselves lost in self-examination.

We fret over our winter flab. We wish we’d chosen different career paths. We fear we’ll never amount to anything worthy.

The Sports Illustrated people understand our woes.

They know we’re down in the dumps. They know we’re vulnerable. They know we’ll cough up our hard-earned dough for a momentary escape to exotic beaches, where we can pretend to prance about with bikini-clad babes.

Every year, the swimsuit issue uses the same formula to exploit us: stunning babes who roll around in the sand, dance on the beach and cling to their skimpy duds and curvy parts as they are hit by waves.

Sure, in our overly sexualized culture, these female models may be suffering exploitation, but they surely come out of this arrangement better than we men do.

Many of the women who pose for the magazine are thrust into supermodel status. The ones who make it onto the cover earn a fortune in endorsements. And many of them go on to date and marry some of the world’s richest men.

But what do we average fellows get? We get the satisfaction of knowing that we’ll never marry, let alone talk to, such knockout beauties.

That makes us even more depressed.

So we go to cheesy restaurant chains where waitresses wear short shorts and low-cut shirts and exploit us all the more.

The coy lasses touch our arms delicately. They give us flirtatious glances. They talk softly and sensuously, the way women do when they know men are about to hand them gobs of money.

One of my poor, baldheaded friends falls for this ruse several times a month.

Despite being coated in hot-wing sauce and stale beer, he is convinced his waitress likes him. His waitress encourages this fiction and is rewarded with a 50 percent tip.

I think I speak for average fellows everywhere when I say I resent that.

I resent that some women deliberately target us for our money and are exceptionally good at parting us from it.

I resent that some waitresses can so easily take advantage of hapless, simple-minded men by plying us with a few lousy beers.

I resent that Sports Illustrated packs its swimsuit issue with photos of the most physically beautiful women in the world, knowing that’s all the magazine has to do to get us to buy it.

Yeah, our culture places way too much emphasis on physical beauty. Young girls are taught by the media that the chief way to win a male’s attention is through provocative clothing.

None of this is good.

And neither is it good for my middle-aged, hair-challenged friends to be taken advantage of by big media outlets and big restaurant chains.

That’s why I am so disgusted this time every year — as I thumb through my Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

——-

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Losing Ourselves in Snow & Cold http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/losing-ourselves-in-snow-cold/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/losing-ourselves-in-snow-cold/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 08:10:56 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=637993 Let’s keep it together, people.

I speak of the way we are responding to record snow and cold sweeping across vast regions of the country.

People are cussing at snowplow drivers and each other. Panicked shoppers are fighting over toilet paper and milk. Americans are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder in unprecedented numbers.

143546 600 Losing Ourselves in Snow & Cold cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

For goodness’ sake, my fellow Americans, what kind of weak, chaotic image are we portraying to the rest of the world?

Worst of all is the way our nation’s capital is responding to the weather. As soon as forecasters predict an inch of snow there, bureaucrats shut down schools, cancel flights and order “non-essential” government employees — and that covers a lot of people — to stay home.

That is something I still find odd about our government. I remember when I was a kid listening to Jack Bogut on KDKA and praying school would be called off or delayed, but when did the federal government start doing this?

In December, I needed assistance processing my passport in D.C. but could get no help — because that day has been declared a snow day and the government, and all embassies, were shut down.

The next few days, the government issued two-hour delays because of the cold — even though it wasn’t cold. It was almost 35 degrees.

I have trouble pitying the folks in D.C. because I’m a Pittsburgher.

When it snows in Pittsburgh, salt trucks are generally dispatched with order and efficiency. Cranky old guys in big trucks — guys chomping cigars and cussing at you to move your damn car out of their path — plow and salt every inch of road with skill and speed.

And Pittsburghers make the best of snow. We know we can’t control the cold and snow, but we can control how we respond to them.

Our kids immediately appear atop the steepest hills with a variety of sledding devices, then spend many hours letting nature whip them downhill.

Our grownups happily abandon their typical routines to shovel driveways and sidewalks. We are invigorated by the crisp air and a good sweat. We use this time to catch up with neighbors while sipping hot coffee out in the cold.

The fact is, snow and cold are gifts from the heavens. They are intended to puncture our seriousness and self-importance — not encourage them.

Look, my fellow Americans, we have to get ahold of ourselves. It’s just a little snow, for criminy’s sake.

If your car slides to one side, turn into the slide.

There’s no need to fight over toilet paper and milk. They will make more.

And rather than complain about the weather, use that energy to reach out to elderly neighbors or family members who need help shoveling or some supplies from the store.

The fact is that despite our wealth, technology and sophisticated ways, it still only takes some white flakes from the sky to disrupt our little world. Roll with it.

That is what Americans have always done. Remember rugged individualism? Remember Yankee ingenuity?

We don’t whine, argue and complain, people. We deal with whatever challenge is before us and use our native wits to address it.

So rather than carry on like the end times are just ahead, here’s something more positive you can do: Borrow somebody’s sled and hit the slopes for a few hours. Few things will improve your spirits more than being a kid again.

And isn’t that a much better impression of America to share with the rest of the world?

——-

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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For Valentine’s Day – a Return to Romance http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/for-valentines-day-a-return-to-romance/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/for-valentines-day-a-return-to-romance/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 08:15:59 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=637906 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

For the past 40 years or so, a movement has been afoot to make men more like women and women more like men. This movement has been successful. I cite exhibits A and B as proof: Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health magazines.

127130 600 For Valentines Day   a Return to Romance cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

According to one past issue of Cosmopolitan, women are in a panic to “follow sexy strategies to ignite our desire.” But you ladies need not waste your time. We’re simple creatures. If you want to ignite the desire of normal men, just show up.

As for men who subscribe to Men’s Health, how did you become such dweebs? Why have you let your self-esteem get so low that, like women, you are obsessed with your weight and how you look in a swimsuit? Our fathers never cared how they looked in a swimsuit. They saw the value of a belly big enough to set a beer can on.

And, ladies, I know you’ve always been obsessed with your looks, but things are out of hand. You don’t need Cosmo for “pasty-face fixers.” You certainly don’t need advice on the “three ways to amplify your cleavage.” If you want us to notice your cleavage, to revisit an earlier point, just show up.

Both magazines devote more than half their print to sex. Men’s Health promises techniques to seduce women. Cosmo promises techniques to seduce men. In fact, so devoted are both magazines to this subject, you begin to wonder if the editors think we have any other need as humans.

And, of course, they don’t.

You see, ladies and gentlemen, we have let magazine publishers and advertisers beat us down for too long. They want us to feel fat, ugly and unwanted so that we will buy the lies, and the many useless products they advertise, to make ourselves feel better. It’s no mystery why we’ve become such shallow and pathetically helpless creatures, completely out of touch with what a man or a woman is really supposed to be.

But this St. Valentine’s Day, let’s take a stand.

Look, we’re humans, not vulgar animals. We’re better than the magazines — than the popular culture — are making us out to be. See, we humans have two natures. We’re part animals, to be sure — a few links away from monkeys, for goodness sakes — but we also have hearts, souls, minds and spirits. This deeper nature is never promoted in the magazines.

No, sir, the magazines, and television, have done their best to keep our lower nature, our animal part, in a constant state of agitation and overdrive. When our animal side is inflamed, all we think about are animal things (like three ways to amplify a lady’s cleavage). All we think about is ourselves. And all we think about is buying the tripe that advertisers are trying to sell us.

And so amplified have we let our lower natures become, that men and women have lost their distinction. Women have become more like men, getting more masculine and physically aggressive, and men have become more like women, turning into a bunch of delicate-voiced pansies.

To be sure, we’re confused. And our confusion fills us with longing. And what are we longing for? Romance!

Surely women prefer to spend time with men who know how to be men. Men who are confident, witty and self-assured. And surely women detest what so many men have become — cowering little creatures, who deliberately say what they think a woman wants to hear.

And surely most men long for a woman who is not afraid to be feminine — a woman who carries herself with grace and style, an air of mystery, a dignity and quiet confidence that demands respect.

It is only when the two truly opposite forces called man and woman collide that romance may occur. And it will only occur if we restore our lower, selfish, vulgar natures back to their proper place and reintroduce our higher natures.

Our higher natures see no conflict between a woman being successful, independent, well-to-do AND able to maintain her distinct feminine grace. Our higher natures know that a man can be at once sensitive, caring and considerate at the same time he maintains a distinct masculine presence — unlike so many bumbling husbands and fathers on TV sitcoms these days.

So, men, this St. Valentine’s Day, woo your woman, court her, sweep her off her feet. Ladies, revel in our adoration and attention.

When both sexes follow their true natures, the sparks fly.

——-

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Discouraging Work http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/discouraging-work/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/discouraging-work/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 14:20:34 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=637787 Get this: The government is incentivizing people to not work.

So said the head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last week. CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told lawmakers that millions of workers could either cut back their work hours or opt out of the job market completely because of ObamaCare.

144087 600 Discouraging Work cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

The CBO report says millions of people will opt to keep their income low to stay eligible for federal health-care subsidies or Medicaid — resulting in losses equivalent to 2.3 million full-time jobs by 2021.

But who can blame them?

Working is no fun. I’ve been doing it a long time now and that has been my conclusion. Every Sunday night I get the blues about the stresses and projects that are due that week.

Every Monday, after I wake, stay out of my way until I’ve had a few cups of coffee — and until about 11 a.m., when I finally have some idea of what I have to complete that week.

Of course, I am a writer. My job is easy compared to many others. I don’t have to work outside in the brutal cold every winter, as my father had to do for many years. I don’t even have to sit in traffic for hours, as millions of working Americans must do.

Besides, if you have a modest middle-class income, you have a choice.

Hunker down, grow your talents and skills and do what many millions of Americans have always done: get promoted. Or start a business. Or do a million other things to increase your income over time to live the American dream.

Or you can go the other direction and find ways to avoid work and minimize your income on paper, so that others will help cover your costs.

I took a cab from the airport recently and the driver, a native of Africa, told me he’d just signed up for ObamaCare and qualified for sizable subsidies. His monthly payment is only a few hundred bucks — whereas my health-insurance payment recently doubled, in part to subsidize his insurance policy.

He also told me he has a nice suburban home and he and his family are living very well in Pittsburgh.

So how did he qualify for such grand government subsidies? Because he is able to keep a sizable portion of his actual income, which is paid in cash daily, off the books. He appears much less well-off on his tax return than he is.

The trouble is, the less money he reports in income, the less our government receives in badly needed tax revenues to, ironically, pay his subsidies and whatever other government benefits he is taking advantage of.

There is a reason we still are bringing in at least $500 billion less than we are spending every year.

Now the CBO tells us our newest entitlement is going to cause millions of others to aspire to use the system to their advantage — to qualify for free food, health insurance, housing subsidies, free utilities and on and on.

It wasn’t so long ago that people came to America asking for nothing more than the freedom to make their own way. They wanted to live the American dream and work hard so their children could enjoy an even better American experience.

How did we arrive at a point where government policy is discouraging these aspirations on such a grand scale?

How did we get to a point where millions of people would rather call it a day and happily accept government benefits than work hard to improve their skills and rise into the highest levels of the middle class and beyond?

Sounds like bad government policy to me — policy that is helping put nails in the coffin of the American dream.

——-

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Why Americans Want Smaller, Cozier Houses http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/why-americans-want-smaller-cozier-houses/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/02/why-americans-want-smaller-cozier-houses/#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 08:10:46 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=637556 Get this: Americans are getting sick of McMansions.

So says The Wall Street Journal in a recent report. Americans are favoring more historic designs, such as the arts-and-crafts houses their grandparents once lived in, over gargantuan suburban houses.

82937 600 Why Americans Want Smaller, Cozier Houses cartoons

Mike Keefe / Cagle Cartoons

A new style of housing developer is emerging to serve this demand. These developers are designing and building more modest size homes — in the 2,500-square-foot range — that look historic on the outside, but that have modern amenities on the inside, such as custom kitchens and walk-in closets, that the original homes did not have.

I never did understand the allure of the giant boxes. You need a bicycle to go from the couch to the fridge to get a beer.

They are drafty and impersonal inside — big just for the sake of being big. They may be homes, but they certainly are not homey.

And so a longing for smaller, saner housing stock is growing. Part of this is the result of the stumbling economy — though, the article points out, the average size of a U.S. home has rebounded to 2,642 square feet.

Part of it is the result of people who are tired of living in big houses — people who are nostalgic for the Sunday dinners they enjoyed at Grandma’s many years ago, when the average American family lived happily in a much smaller home. The average size of a U.S. home was 1,660 square feet in 1973.

Heck, when I was born in 1962, the third child in our clan, my family was living in an 850-square-foot ranch, one probably built with GI Bill money after World War II. Needless to say, the house was a little tight.

When my mother became pregnant with my sister Lisa, a bigger house was essential. My parents found that house in a new housing plan that my father drove by every day on his way to work.

It was a rectangular “cookie cutter” design typical of 1964. It had red brick on the bottom and white aluminum siding on the top. It had four bedrooms, one full bathroom and one half-bathroom. And it was all of 1,400 square feet.

My parents would raise six children in that house. I still remember my poor father, sitting on the edge of his bed in his robe, waiting to get into the shower. As soon as he heard the bathroom door open, he’d rush down the hall, but someone else would always beat him to it — and back to his room he went to wait some more.

By 1974, he’d had enough, so he and my mother hired a contractor to build an addition onto the first floor — their new bedroom with their own bathroom! They were in heaven. And our house had been expanded to a whopping 1,662 square feet!

My parents lived in that house happily for 34 years. It served us well and none of us ever realized how small it was until my parents moved into a bigger house. Now, when we drive by the old place, we say, “How did all of us fit in there?”

But it sure was cozy and is still the place of many grand memories. I suppose the modest size of the house forced us to live together — particularly during holiday gatherings in which people were cheerfully piled atop people.

I think this is what more Americans are longing for these days. Sure, we want to add “great rooms” on the back and three or four full baths, but I still think the trend is positive and reflects America’s desire to get back to the basics.

Cozier and saner is better than massive and wasteful, but that doesn’t mean dads should have to wait hours to gain access to the shower.

——-

Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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It’s Later Than Men Think http://www.cagle.com/2014/01/its-later-than-men-think/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/01/its-later-than-men-think/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 08:10:00 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=637282 The illusion was good while it lasted. I speak of the male biological clock.

Yet another study, reported at PsychCentral.com, finds that children of older fathers are more likely to suffer “from mental health issues, including schizophrenia, mood disorders, neurotic disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders and other developmental and childhood disorders such as autism and mental retardation.”

113645 600 Its Later Than Men Think cartoons

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star-Tribune

And this news is a real bummer for middle-aged fellows.

Oh, how glorious things used to be before these male biological constraints were known. We fellows were free to believe we could dilly-dally through our 30s and 40s, acquire some dough, then marry an attractive young woman who would bless us with a couple of healthy young children, who could push us around in our wheelchairs in our rapidly approaching old age.

We cheered on any old fellow who procreated later in life.

Actor Tony Randall had his first kid with a young woman when he was 78. Novelist Saul Bellow sired his fourth child at the age of 84. Author George Plimpton had twins when he was 68.

Actor Anthony Quinn fathered two children with his secretary, who later became his wife — the first when he was 78, the second when he was 81.

And let us not forget gorgeous actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, who has had two kids with aging actor Michael Douglas — or is that Kirk Douglas? They both look so old, I get confused.

Then the studies started coming out.

Scientists said men start suffering low sperm count as soon as the age of 35. They said our “little guys” can’t swim as fast as they could when we were young and have higher concentrations of broken DNA strands, which cause maladies in our offspring.

Scientists suggested that if we are still crazy enough to procreate after 35, we better give up fun. We must forsake smoking and drinking and everything else that could damage our reproductive capacity.

They said we have to give up delicious fatty foods, too, and consume as many oysters, fish and walnuts as we can take.

I suppose we had it coming.

For years, you see, lots of studies documented the female biological clock. Infertility research shows that a woman’s eggs deteriorate with age. The longer women wait to have kids, the more likely their children will have issues of some kind — if they are even able to get pregnant.

Hence, many articles and books have suggested that career women can’t have it all — that if they want families, they should put their careers on hold and have children while they’re young and at their biological best.

The female biological clock actually benefitted some of us men. Women who dreamed of having a family, aware of their time limitations, were much more likely to consort with boring men of high moral character. Even a bald, chubby fellow could land a lovely wife, so long as he was a CPA.

And before the male biological clock was documented, there was some opportunity for a fellow to dedicate years to developing his talents and growing his wealth. In his late 40s or early 50s, at the top of his career, he still might find a lovely woman who liked the idea of having a family with a financially stable older fellow.

But those days are gone — and, in fact, were never really here.

We humans like to think we can impose our will on reality — in this case, biological reality — but that is just not possible. The regrettable truth is that younger people are best suited to procreation and, if you want children, waiting too long isn’t a good idea.

So pick up the pace, fellows. Your clock is ticking.

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Forward and Back with the iPhone http://www.cagle.com/2014/01/forward-and-back-with-the-iphone/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/01/forward-and-back-with-the-iphone/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 08:05:32 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=637070 The Huffington Post is onto something.

In a recent report, the website listed seven things that the iPhone, first released to the public only seven years ago, has made obsolete — though there are surely plenty more than seven.

74033 600 Forward and Back with the iPhone cartoons

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch

Up first, says the website: roadmaps. Thanks to Google Maps, which anyone can use on his or her cellphone, nobody uses paper maps anymore.

I can’t begin to imagine how much stress this is saving vacationing families.

Pre-Google-Maps horror stories were legend when I was a kid in the ’70s: Neighbors who thought they were heading east to the beach unwittingly headed west and had no idea of their error until they hit Indianapolis.

I remember being lost for hours in our station wagon, several maps sprawled across the dashboard and front seat, my father grumbling to my mother, “I knew we should have hung a Louie at Breezewood!”

Yeah, good riddance to paper maps.

That brings us to another item made obsolete by iPhone innovation: the alarm clock. Every cell phone has an alarm app now. I use mine all the time — particularly on the road.

Though the website didn’t mention this one, the wristwatch has also been made obsolete. Since I always have my cell phone nearby, clearly displaying the time and date, I stopped wearing watches years ago.

In fact, the only time I missed having a watch was last week. I was out of the country on business and deactivated my cellphone for the week. Lacking a clock of any kind, I was perpetually late, or way too early, for the bus I took from my hotel to my client’s office.

Cellphone technology has also made obsolete most cameras and music devices, such as the iPod, which made CDs obsolete just a few years ago. Many phones can store thousands of songs and come with high-resolution cameras — which, in my opinion, are making modesty, compassion and good judgment obsolete.

Hey, just because your cellphone has a camera doesn’t mean you have to use it — you don’t have to take “selfies” while drinking adult beverages without your shirt on. And you know who you are, seemingly-90-year-old Geraldo Rivera.

The selfie is enabling human nature to display its ugliness at never-before-imagined depths— such as the lady who included in her selfie a distraught suicide victim about to plunge from a bridge, or the coy student who selfied himself as his pregnant teacher was having contractions in the background.

Our attention spans have also been made obsolete by iPhone innovation, says the website, and isn’t that the truth. Why, that reminds me of, um — oh, never mind, I can’t remember what I was going to say.

One thing I can remember is that it’s impossible to have a serious, face-to-face conversation with anyone under age 30 without him or her obsessively pressing both thumbs against a small keypad while making intermittent eye contact with you. That is because, says the website, another victim of the iPhone is table manners.

How much longer will it be before entire extended families gather for Thanksgiving dinner — three or four generations sitting side by side — and nobody is talking, but each is texting someone at somebody else’s Thanksgiving table in some faraway city or state?

How did we so quickly descend from the invention of the typewriter keyboard, a grand 19th-century advance that efficiently transfers thoughts to paper using multiple fingers, to bastardizing the English language using only our thumbs?

That’s the odd thing about human invention. For every step we take forward, we seem to take a few backward at the same time.

As much of a visionary as Apple founder Steve Jobs was, I wonder if he doubted his own inventions at times — which he surely might have, had he still been alive when Geraldo Rivera tweeted his selfie.

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Little Sisters vs Goliath http://www.cagle.com/2014/01/little-sisters-vs-goliath/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/01/little-sisters-vs-goliath/#comments Tue, 14 Jan 2014 15:10:25 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=636864 It’s a story about how freedom is all.

I speak of the Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Roman Catholic nuns who have devoted their lives to caring for the elderly poor.

I am lucky to know more about this remarkable organization than many.

108201 600 Little Sisters vs Goliath cartoons

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch

In 2007, I wrote a column about Gorman Johnston, who was living in the Little Sisters retirement home in Pittsburgh, PA. I was scheduled to interview him one wintry December night, but didn’t want to go.

It was dark outside and bitter cold. The roads were icing up. I’d had a big party at my home the night before and my head was throbbing — but I went.

I met Gorman in a sitting room near the entrance and he told me his story.

When his wife had died a few years before, his doctors told him he needed care, too. They said he should move to a retirement home.

He was a longtime volunteer at the Little Sisters home — he did odd jobs to repay the nuns for caring for his elderly mother in her last years — and was lucky when a spot opened up for him there.

The best part of the story is that the nuns found a clever way to accommodate his dog, Abner. They arranged for a married couple, two regular volunteers, to adopt Abner. They took Abner home at night and brought him to stay with Gorman during the day. Abner quickly became the beloved house dog.

It was a grand story, but as soon as the interview was done, I wanted to go home — but Sister Regina urged me to tour the home.

I was immediately struck by the laughter and camaraderie on every floor — even in the infirmary, where people are near their end, joy was abundant.

There were several people there, mostly women, sitting in wheelchairs and hooked to IVs. They were in their very last stage of life — yet they were cheerful.

One woman called me over. She put her hands on mine and told me she wished me and my family the merriest Christmas.

Sister Regina introduced me to 93-year-old Nick, whose eyes sparkled with mischief and intelligence. He loved to sing and took requests. He belted out a Sinatra song that was remarkable.

Most cheerful of all were the nuns who cared for the elderly residents. They loved their work — loved serving God by bringing dignity to the last years of others’ lives.

By the time we finished our tour, I was glowing. My mood had been transformed by what I had witnessed. There was a powerful presence there — in my view, the presence of God.

Which brings us back to freedom.

The nuns who live and work at the home are freely practicing their faith. They voluntarily chose to do their godly work.

Their vow is to advance the dignity of life for every person, no matter how weak or unwanted. They can never support any program that runs contrary to their beliefs — they can never fund insurance policies that cover the cost of contraception, abortive drugs and sterilization.

Our federal government has a different notion, however. It has mandated that these things must be covered by law. It has made some exceptions for religious organizations, but to become exempt, the Little Sisters must submit a waiver form to the government.

That is, they can only be exempt from the law at the pleasure of the federal government — until the federal government one day arbitrarily changes the rule, as it is doing now with so many other rules and regulations.

So the Little Sisters sued.

They argue that their constitutional right to freely practice their faith is being obstructed by our ever-growing government. They are right. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently issued an injunction siding with them.

As I said, this is really just a story about freedom. This is what it looks like when the state disagrees with the religious convictions of a private organization and slowly takes that freedom away.

If you want to experience real freedom while you still can, visit the Little Sisters of the Poor retirement home nearest you.

You will be moved by the experience.

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Elegy For The Incandescent Bulb http://www.cagle.com/2014/01/elegy-for-the-incandescent-bulb/ http://www.cagle.com/2014/01/elegy-for-the-incandescent-bulb/#comments Tue, 07 Jan 2014 08:10:09 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=636651 Farewell, old friend. I am going to miss you.

I speak of the incandescent bulb — the light of my life for all of my years. As of Jan. 1, you have been shut off. That was the mission of a 2007 law that raised energy-efficiency and wattage standards far beyond what you are capable of reaching.

14832 600 Elegy For The Incandescent Bulb cartoons

Angel Boligan / Cagle Cartoons

You had a fine run, my friend. Perfected by Thomas Edison some 135 years ago, you stand as one of the greatest inventions of all time.

Your brilliance was in your simplicity. By sending an electrical current through a thin filament, which is sealed in a gas inside a bulb, you produce light.

Several inventors worked on the concept until Edison produced a carbonized-bamboo filament that could last up to 1,200 hours. Thanks to him, the cheap, long-lasting bulb was born.

Oh, how we took you for granted over the years. Because incandescent bulbs are so cheap and plentiful, virtually every home in America has had dozens of them. You walk into a room, flip a switch and, presto, there is light!

To be sure, you have been so successful, it took the government — not better lighting products — to kill you off. That’s because, some argue, you are causing the Earth to warm.

As electricity passes through your filament, you see, the filament gets white-hot. That is how light is created — but in the process,you also create a lot of heat, and heat is wasted energy.

You require more electricity than other lighting alternatives, such as fluorescent bulbs, halogens or LEDs. Since electricity comes from the electric company, which may be burning coal to produce it, you are causing more greenhouse gases to be emitted into the atmosphere than other lighting sources would.

Already I miss you.

I am no big fan of the alternative lighting sources I must now use. The compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs take forever to get bright. They lack the warm glow unique to incandescent lighting.

The fluorescents are a wee bit dangerous, too. They are filled with mercury vapor. When electricity passes through the vapor, ultraviolet light is produced. But these bulbs sometimes explode for no reason.

I was sitting in a coffee shop when one went off. Luckily, nobody was sitting at the table beneath it. It fell from the lamp and crashed onto the table — the manager was unaware that it was unhealthy to touch the shattered glass without rubber gloves or that the shattered bulb required special disposal.

But these are the kinds of bulbs we must use now.

I am something of an agnostic where the global-warming debate is concerned. It is surely possible that human activity is contributing to a greenhouse effect. We are pumping vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Then again, the science is not conclusive — it is not a closed case, as some journalists and politicians would like us to believe. The models that predict complex future weather patterns are fallible. The news reports are incredibly confusing and frequently contradictory.

Nonetheless, the global-warming issue has become a giant political football and power-hungry politicians hope to use it to pass lots of new laws and controls that further limit what we can and cannot do — and what light bulbs we can use.

Sure, I’m all for new technologies replacing older ones. I’m all for energy efficiency and cost savings and minimizing electricity usage. My science friends tell me LED lighting offers great promise.

But I am not ready to see my old incandescent pal go. You had a fine run, my friend. I leave you with some gallows humor:

How many people does it take to shut off an incandescent light bulb?

Answer: 264 members of the House, 65 senators and one Republican president.

©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Obama Channels Nixon http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/obama-channels-nixon/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/obama-channels-nixon/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 08:10:24 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=636494 President Obama, despondent over his low poll numbers and the lack of trust many Americans have for him and his policies, did something drastic. He met with the psychic medium who once helped Hillary Clinton contact the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt. With the medium’s help, Obama summoned the only presence in America who could help him: Richard Milhous Nixon.

141886 600 Obama Channels Nixon cartoons

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons

Obama: Hello? Mr. President, can you hear me?

Nixon (sitting on a cloud playing a harp): What do you want, you ninny!

Obama: I’m in big trouble, Dick. My approval rating has fallen steadily since I began my second term. I’m polling in the low 40s — only you polled worse than I am. That’s why some are beginning to compare my presidency to yours.

Nixon: Good God. My legacy is worse than I thought!

Obama: Like your presidency, mine has been mired in scandal. There is the Benghazi flap, Fast and Furious, using the IRS to inhibit political enemies, my refusal to enforce laws I don’t like and so much more.

Nixon: You’re getting off easy, Obama. All I did was cover up a little burglary operation and look what they did to me.

Obama: But it gets worse for me, Dick. I told the American people they could keep their health insurance policies and their doctors. The fools actually believed me and are now punishing me for it. The botched rollout of ObamaCare, my signature achievement, is also hurting me.

Nixon: With all due respect, Obama, I couldn’t care less about your problems.

Obama: But, Dick, in November a majority of Americans said they no longer find me honest or trustworthy. It’s a trust issue, Dick. I am losing the people’s trust. You have been through worse. Surely you have some advice.

Nixon: They don’t like us to discuss politics up here, Obama.

Obama: But, Dick, if I don’t turn things around, everyone will be comparing my presidency to yours. Everyone will be talking about Watergate and dismal presidential poll numbers. Do you really want people dredging all of that up again?

Nixon: All right, then, Obama. I’ll help you just this once. If you weren’t such a rookie, you would have been able to figure this out for yourself.

Obama: Go on, Dick!

Nixon: You must continue delaying or adjusting ObamaCare to lessen the pain it is causing the American people — even if your actions are unconstitutional. And for goodness’ sake, fire somebody. Haven’t you ever heard of scapegoating?

Obama: But I have had such luck just blaming President Bush.

Nixon: Despite the fact that you are the most partisan president in modern history — despite the fact that America is more divided now than it has been in half a century — you need to portray yourself as the most bipartisan president in modern history. You need to reach out to Republicans and pass a few bills together. Tax reform would be a good place to start. Maybe you can make adjustments to your disastrous health care bill. Compromise for once.

Obama: I’ll try, Dick, but what is the point of compromising?

Nixon: Because as more Americans see their premiums spike and their policies canceled, you can pin the blame on Republicans!

Obama: You are brilliant, Dick. What else?

Nixon: I’d hold off on the vacations and golf outings. Roll up your sleeves. Invite Republicans over to the White House to work through disagreements. Be more transparent. Do what the people who voted for you expected you to do. Do it right, Obama, or you will pay a great price.

Obama: What price, Dick?

Nixon: To atone for my presidential sins, they made me listen to LBJ speeches for months. I sat in on Carter Cabinet meetings for years. For goodness’ sake, Obama, you’ve been given a precious gift to lead the greatest nation on Earth. So lead already.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Key To New Year’s Resolutions http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/the-key-to-new-years-resolutions/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/the-key-to-new-years-resolutions/#comments Tue, 24 Dec 2013 08:10:11 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=636246 There’s a reason why only 8 percent of New Year’s resolutions are kept: Too many of us make resolutions that lack resolve.

“Resolve” is a powerful world. According to one dictionary, it means “to solve a problem, or to find a satisfactory way of dealing with a disagreement.”

124864 600 The Key To New Years Resolutions cartoons

Martin Sutovec, Slovakia

Bill Gates elaborated on the concept in his 2007 commencement address at Harvard. He said the first order of business in resolving a problem is seeing it. Then all you need to do is cut through complexity, so you may solve it.

Gates made it sound easier than it is, of course. With virtually all large problems, simplifying complexity requires a great deal of work — a great deal of resolve.

Solving problems in the private sector is really no different than solving them in the public sector, or any sector, really — if your interest is in actually getting to the root cause of the challenge, so you may see and understand it, and then in coming up with a solution that produces real results.

I have done work for many information technology firms and marvel at their ability to use technological innovation to solve problems. They study old, complex business processes — the way large global organizations source raw materials and parts to support global manufacturing operations, for instance — and replace them with fast, new processes that slash costs and bolster productivity.

These technology successes are not applied only in the private sector, either. Though government generally lags behind, many ideas that are perfected on the private side are often introduced to government programs and processes, as well — to the benefit of the government and the taxpayer.

In any event, in the past few decades, America has led the world in simplifying complexity. Thanks to Google, anyone can enjoy instant access to information with a few taps on a keypad — oblivious to the complex back-end systems that must perform seamlessly to get you the information you are after.

Anyone who has worked with the very smart people who deliver such miracles daily, then, is frustrated at recent events — in which complex systems are being made MORE complex!

ObamaCare offers a fine example of that. The reason why health costs have been running so high has to do with complexity. The way to address that complexity is to get to the root cause — or, in this case, multiple root causes.

But that is not what our political leaders did. They actually ignored the root causes of the high cost of care, piled on complexity — atop a heap of good intentions and unrealistic wishes — then hoped for the best.

And we see how that is turning out.

The great worry I have is that if our government was so ill-advised in its approach to one-sixth of the U.S. economy, how on Earth is it going to fix the many other complexities — tax reform, entitlements, spending, debt and deficits — that need to be addressed?

There is only one way I can see government officials doing it right.

They need to put politics aside for a good long while and address the incredible mess that our country is in.

They need to work together to solve our problems and “find a satisfactory way of dealing with a disagreement.”

They need to make some serious New Year’s resolutions to fix our country next year — resolutions that go well beyond partisan politics to get to the root cause or our problems, so they may fix them.

And their resolutions better include some serious resolve.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” and “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood,” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info on using columns contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Email comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Looking Forward this Christmas http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/looking-forward-this-christmas/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/looking-forward-this-christmas/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 08:10:47 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=635997 I’m turning into my father.

About this time every year, my father pulls me aside and asks me to tell my five sisters that he doesn’t need any gifts for Christmas — and, “for Godsakes, please tell your sisters I don’t need more sweaters. I can’t wear the sweaters I have now. Use the money to get something nice for your mother!”

141537 600 Looking Forward this Christmas cartoons

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons

Nonetheless, every Christmas, my father receives five sweaters (I usually get him things like lug nuts), and we always get something nice for my mother.

At 51, I am beginning to hold similar sentiments about gift-giving. There is nothing I want that I can’t buy myself. And I don’t want others to dig into their funds just to give me a gift.

Truth be told, Christmas makes me a little bit somber as I get older. Sure, I enjoy the large gathering every year at my parents’ house — I enjoy going to church, too — but I can’t help but look back and miss the things and people that are no longer here.

I vividly remember one Saturday in December 1967, when I was 5. It was uncharacteristically warm in Pittsburgh that year. My father was 34 (he’s 80 now) and his hair was black as coal. He stood nearly 6-foot-2, a powerful man. As he lifted our Christmas tree off the roof of our station wagon, I marveled that his biceps and forearms were bigger than Popeye the Sailor Man’s!

My mother was, and still is, extremely cheerful during Christmas. She still whistles while she decorates. She was a master at building up mystery and suspense. And as our family decorated our tree, she took time to explain the meaning behind old family ornaments.

I remember the excitement my family felt when the Charlie Brown Christmas special aired every year — a show that captured half the viewing audience when it first ran on Dec. 9, 1965, and still delivers big ratings. It was an event to gather our family together to watch the show.

I remember our old wooden stereo console that played Christmas albums nonstop during the Christmas season — “Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch Miller,” “Christmas with the Chipmunks,” “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” and Bing Crosby records. Stereo technology has improved significantly over the years, but I still miss the sound of scratched vinyl.

I remember the many family members who are no longer with us. And I know, as we all age, that there will be a time when my mother and father are no longer with us — when we can no longer enjoy large, wonderful gatherings at their home.

I know we should look forward, not backward — particularly at Christmas. We must be grateful for our blessings and, despite our country’s woes, we still enjoy many of those.

Looking forward this Christmas, then, all I want is good health for my family. I want every child to be blessed with parents like mine, whose love and sacrifice implanted so many Christmas memories in me.

Looking forward, here are the gifts I pray for: That our country comes together, solves its problems and thrives again. And, though I know it is trite to say, that we end strife and expand peace.

And I ask that any funds set aside to buy gifts for me be donated instead to the needy — that’s the kind of Christmas gift I really enjoy now.

Like I said, I am turning into my father.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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A Christmas Toy Story – Back To The Basics http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/a-christmas-toy-story-back-to-the-basics/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/a-christmas-toy-story-back-to-the-basics/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 08:05:06 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=635712 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Boy, do we need to get back to the basics in America — especially with our Christmas toys.

Consider: In the basement of any kid’s home you’ll find once-trendy, dust-collecting gadgets that are no longer played with.

141537 600 A Christmas Toy Story   Back To The Basics cartoons

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons

So I was delighted to stumble across a Geekdad.com article by Jonathan Liu that ranked “The 5 Best Toys of All Time.”

First up: the stick, a simple branch or hunk of wood you can find in your own backyard.

Though doing so is no longer acceptable today, when I was a kid I made several slingshots out of sticks that could fire a small rock a long way.

I also tried whittling a flute once with a Swiss Army knife, but that was before kids did jail time for getting caught with any kind of a blade.

Which brings us to Geekdad’s second-best toy of all time: the box.

Boy, did we love a good box in the ’70s. We used the box that a giant, new refrigerator came in to make a fort out back. It was a terrific structure — until the first rain came along and our father made us drag it to the curb for garbage pickup.

One of the great ironies of modern times is that no matter what trendy toy you buy your kids, you’ll soon find them playing with the box it came in.

Here’s third-best toy: string.

Though Geekdad says kids can use string to hang things from doorknobs, make leashes for stuffed animals or play Cat’s Cradle, I don’t recall having any interest in such things.

Geekdad is right about tying a long piece of string to two empty cans, though. When the string had tension, one can would carry your voice to the other can several feet away.

So cool is this still, I’ll bet today’s average kids would set down their smartphones for hours while trying to perfect the can-string audio.

Which brings us to Geekdad’s fourth-best choice: the cardboard tube.

The little tubes that hold toilet paper or paper towels were always great fun. We taped them together to create little horns, which we could toot out of — they had the faint sound of a kazoo — until our father couldn’t take it anymore.

The best tubes, ever, were the kind that architects carried their drawings around in. They were hard to find, but would pop up occasionally when some architect dad would toss it in the garbage.

With some aluminum foil or small mirrors, some tape and a pair of scissors, an architect’s tube could be made into a periscope, allowing us kids to see around doorways and into windows from three or more feet away.

Top that, Apple Inc.!

That brings us to Geekdad’s fifth-best choice: dirt.

In my early years, despite being warned by my mother to avoid dirt, the only thing I loved more than rolling around in it was rolling around in mud puddles after a rainstorm.

Could you imagine how much less stressed Americans would be if we rolled around in dirt and mud puddles at least once every week?

In any event, there is a moral to this toy story, I believe.

Despite all the trendy gadgets that clutter the basement in every kid’s home, kids are still drawn to the most fundamental playthings — simple things that allow them to imagine and discover on their own.

Heck, the best things in life really are simple and free.

Rather than give our kids a bunch of trendy gadgets for Christmas this year, why not pick up some sticks, boxes, string, cardboard tubes and dirt and give them the gift of creativity.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Barley at cari@cagle.com. For comments to Tom email Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Gender Differences Hard Wired http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/gender-differences-hard-wired/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/gender-differences-hard-wired/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 08:10:18 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=635592 A new study has come out that finds men and women really do think differently.

According to The Independent, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania used a new and very precise brain-scanning technique, diffusion tensor imaging, to create a neural map of the human brain.

The technique has found that male and female brains are wired differently.

128388 600 Gender Differences Hard Wired cartoons

Petar Pismestrovic / Cagle Cartoons

“Researchers found that many of the connections in a typical male brain run between the front and the back of the same side of the brain, whereas in women the connections are more likely to run from side to side between the left and right hemispheres of the brain,” reports The Independent.

Why is this important?

Because “the brain could play an important role in understanding why men are in general better at spatial tasks involving muscle control, while women are better at verbal tasks involving memory and intuition.”

Which reminds me of my sister Lisa’s favorite joke: “Men are only good for one thing! But who cares about parallel parking, anyway!”

The fact of the matter is that men and women are and always have been wired differently. It’s written in our DNA.

Women tend to be more intuitive than men. Ragini Verma, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Independent why.

“Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks,” she said. “Intuition is thinking without thinking. It’s what people call gut feelings. Women tend to be better than men at these kinds of skills, which are linked with being good mothers.”

In this nutty world, it is considered sexist, in some places, to compliment a woman for being a good mother — or to insist that mothers have some unique parenting skills that fathers likely lack.

But don’t ask me, ask humorist Dave Barry, whom I will now paraphrase: The difference between fathers and mothers is that mothers are far less likely to drive off with the baby still sitting on the roof of the car.

Many other studies over the years have gained insight into the differences between men and women.

Take dust. Whereas the male brain is more wired for navigating outdoor activities, such as hunting woolly mammoths, the female brain is wired to notice more sensory detail. Men are less likely to notice dust, which, women tell me, is a mix of fine particles that settle on furniture.

Listening offers another important distinction between men and women. One brain imaging study shows that men listen with only one side of their brain, whereas women use both. (Women would be shocked if they knew how many other things we do using half a brain.) Since women listen using several regions on both sides of their brain, they are more likely to remember things — in particular, every single wrong thing we men have ever said or done.

The Independent reports that the brain-mapping technology used in the University of Pennsylvania study will not only help understand differences between men and women, but also provide more insight into neurological disorders, which are often gender-related.

It’s a grand thing that modern researchers continue to make strides into human biology and behavior. It’s just too bad that we need studies to affirm what most of us have always known to be true.

That men and women are different — and we should celebrate our differences rather than pretend they are not so.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Dog Days of Obamacare http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/dog-days-of-obamacare/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/12/dog-days-of-obamacare/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 13:18:49 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=635086 I’ve heard a lot of interesting stories of people trying, and failing, to sign up for ObamaCare, but this one takes the cake.

According to UPI, Shane Smith, of Fort Collins, Colo., had his new ObamaCare insurance opened under his dog’s name.

140809 600 Dog Days of Obamacare cartoons

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons

As it goes, Smith’s existing plan was canceled because it failed to meet the requirements of ObamaCare. After considerable effort, he was finally able to establish an ObamaCare policy — but the government service representative accidentally assigned the policy to Baxter, Smith’s 14-year-old Yorkshire terrier.

I’ll bet that could lead to some interesting medical situations:

Smith: Doctor, I strained a tendon in my foot pretty badly.

Doctor: You were chasing the mailman?

Such is the law of unintended consequences when the government — to keep our dog analogy going — bites off way more than it can chew.

Doctors’ appointments will be the least of Smith’s problems, though. If the government assigned his insurance policy to his dog, what other information might it have gotten wrong? What happens when he needs to make use of his insurance policy?

Smith to ObamaCare representative: I had cataract surgery, but my insurance company refuses to pay the claim!

ObamaCare representative: I’m sorry, Baxter, but your policy doesn’t cover DOG cataracts.

Smith: My name isn’t Baxter and I am not a dog!

ObamaCare representative: Then why are you barking at me?

Baxter will likely be upset with his new insurance policy, too. His premium will likely be double or triple what he was able to get before ObamaCare.

He’ll bark when he realizes he has to carry maternity coverage — despite getting neutered in 1999.

He’ll growl when sees how high his deductibles will be — and that Smith’s middle-class income disqualifies him for government subsidies.

He’ll howl when he loses his biscuits — especially since President Obama promised him that if he liked his biscuits, he could keep his biscuits!

Where government bureaucracy is concerned, bureaucratic errors have a way of multiplying.

Will Smith endure a full IRS audit for taking interest deductions on a doghouse?

What happens when Smith retires and begins receiving Social Security — and the payments are to Baxter?

Baxter, already 98 in dog years, likely won’t be cashing checks for long. When he passes, will Smith spend the rest of his retirement trying to correct an error that originated with ObamaCare?

Anyone who has ever dealt with government bureaucracy — anyone who has ever sat at the Department of Motor Vehicles, waiting to get a license photo taken — is aware of the limitations of government bureaucracy.

Sure, there are always going to be functions that we should rely on local, state and federal governments to do — but shouldn’t we limit these functions? Do we really want something as personal and important as our health care to be managed by government bureaucracies?

The many unintended consequences of ObamaCare are rearing their ugly heads, causing many of the program’s most enthusiastic supporters to pause and ask, “Isn’t there a better way to help the uninsured without the government playing such a hands-on role?”

Well, Smith says that after some effort, he thinks he got his dog’s name removed from his policy. But with government bureaucracy being what it is, there are no guarantees his problem is solved.

He’ll know for sure if a high-ranking ObamaCare bureaucrat makes this promise to him:

“If you want to keep your name on your insurance policy, you can keep your name on your policy!”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. . Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Why There’s Lots to Celebrate this Thanksgiving http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/why-theres-lots-to-celebrate-this-thanksgiving/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/why-theres-lots-to-celebrate-this-thanksgiving/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 08:10:56 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=634878 Sure, the country isn’t doing so well at the moment, but there are still plenty of reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

I sit at the “big people’s table” now, just to the left of my father. It took me years to earn that coveted spot, and for that, I am thankful.

140047 600 Why Theres Lots to Celebrate this Thanksgiving cartoons

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Everyone in my family is healthy this year. My parents are 80 and 77, and doing well, and for that, I am surely thankful.

This will be my 51st Thanksgiving. I’ve celebrated most of them at my parents’ house, with various relatives, my sisters and their children and grandchildren.

My father fell head-over-heels with my mother the first time he met her. He was a football star at Carrick High School and she was a cheerleader.

We marvel over their wedding pictures. My dad’s hair was thick and black. My mother was stunning. As a couple, they looked like two actors in a 1957 Hollywood production.

They had no idea that day that their union would produce six children, 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

This is what I celebrate on Thanksgiving.

For so much of the year, we focus on what is not right. To be sure, lots of things are not right in our country, and civilized debate is needed to get us back on the right path.

I worry about spending and debt and dismal economic growth that is not producing enough wealth to pay our bills.

I worry about our rapidly growing government and the basic freedoms it is taking away. As the unintended consequences of ObamaCare rear their ugly heads, I am being joined in that worry by many others.

But that is not what Thanksgiving is about. It is a day to set politics aside. It is a day to remember what we have done right.

Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, points out that Thanksgiving is still one of the least commercial holidays we have.

Sure, there are ads for turkey and cranberry sauce. Sure, more retail stories are opening their doors on Thanksgiving night, which is regrettable.

But then again, there are no Thanksgiving greeting cards that have to be sent, no gifts that have to be exchanged. For most, Thanksgiving is still a simple day when you enjoy a traditional feast with your family.

One of my favorite parts of the day is when my father, at the head of our three or four tables, says grace.

My father, who has never enjoyed speaking publicly, stumbles through the words every year, but they still hold a great deal of meaning to me.

The first Thanksgiving was about thanking God for a plentiful harvest. That is the traditional meaning of the day.

As the American experiment produced tremendous results — as our free republic produced unimaginable wealth — Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning.

Over many years, millions have flocked to our shores, asking for nothing but the freedom to pursue their own happiness.

This is what I celebrate still on Thanksgiving.

I love the commotion of the day. My father has to rent a couple of tables and several folding chairs to accommodate our family.

Everyone shows up with a plate of some kind — my new job is to make the second turkey and bring that with me — to contribute to the celebration.

After my father says grace, we toast loved ones who have passed. We pay tribute to Grandma and Nanny, Aunt Jane, Uncle Mike and Uncle Jimmy. We share humorous toasts and laugh out loud.

And then we dig into our feast.

We are thankful because we are together — because we know that everything we really need in life can be found sitting next to us at our Thanksgiving table.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Bill Clinton, First Guy http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/bill-clinton-first-guy/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/bill-clinton-first-guy/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 08:10:51 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=634652 Last week, when Bill Clinton said President Obama should allow people to keep their health-insurance coverage — an early attempt to distance Hillary and himself from ObamaCare — I began to worry that the Clintons may be serious about another run at the White House.

140194 600 Bill Clinton, First Guy cartoons

Taylor Jones / Cagle Cartoons

I surely don’t want Hillary to be our next president, but I think it would be great if Bill became America’s first “first guy.”

How can you not like the man? He’s clever and witty. He was born into modest circumstances and, through his considerable wits, achieved a fine education and navigated his way into the biggest job in the world.

The truth is, I’d love to have a beer with him. I’d love to hear about the incredible experiences he has had in his truly remarkable life — but only if I am assured that my sisters are out of town.

If Bill ever does become first guy, we can only imagine what kind of trouble he might get into.

He’d probably stroll around the White House in a Hugh Hefner robe, chomping on roast beef sandwiches and winking at the staff. He’d probably ban children from the White House Easter Egg Roll and invite coeds.

Always a pragmatic Democrat, he’d outsource the White House kitchen to Hooters. He’d establish a Domino’s franchise in the Blue Room. He’d auction the Lincoln Bedroom to the highest bidder.

Goodness knows what his “first lady”-style mission would be. Michelle Obama promotes good nutrition for kids. Laura Bush promoted literacy. Barbara Bush promoted volunteerism. Nancy Reagan, as part of her “Just Say No” campaign, discouraged drug use.

I think Bill would embrace “Just Say No,” too — “Just Say No to Hillary.”

With Bill as First Guy, there would likely be many embarrassments.

While Hillary meets the leaders and dignitaries of other countries, Bill, like all first ladies before him, would be tasked with entertaining their spouses. What could go wrong there?

First ladies often direct remodeling at the White House. Under Bill’s direction, would the billiard room be turned into a beer-pong parlor?

What would happen if Bill takes “Department of Veterans Affairs” literally?

America is really struggling these days. Our economy continues to sputter and our debt keeps getting racked up.

Our government’s attempt to transform America’s health-care system is an unmitigated disaster and nobody knows how the chaos will further harm our already shaky economy.

Our freedoms are suffering now that the government is meddling with the most personal of matters, health care, and dictating how and when we go about getting it.

Boy, do we need some comic relief about now.

But, unlike many presidents before him, President Obama is just unable to provide it. Like or hate his policies, there just isn’t much about Obama that is very funny.

Like I said, I hope Hillary doesn’t become our next president, but if she does, Bill would become first guy and America would get its sense of humor back.

With Bill as First Guy, Hillary would need another “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — not for the military, but for the White House.

America would need to establish a special Secret Service detail — not to protect Bill from the public, but the public from Bill.

Bill would be good for the economy, too. T-shirt and bumper-sticker sales would soar. This one would be a best-seller:

“What happens in the White House, stays in the White House.”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Obamacare Backlash No Surprise http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/obamacare-backlash-no-surprise/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/obamacare-backlash-no-surprise/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 08:15:36 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=634446 Sheesh, what did they expect?

I speak of the backlash to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which passed along purely partisan lines. Not one Republican in the House or Senate voted in favor of it. More than half of the American people were against it in 2010.

140003 600 Obamacare Backlash No Surprise cartoons

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch

In fact, according to Politico, ObamaCare was the most partisan bill to become law in the past 100 years.

Politico points to a study conducted by JPMorgan’s Michael Cembalest, who reviewed major legislation that became law during the past century.

Cembalest reviewed a variety of bills that covered civil rights, entitlement programs, welfare reform, labor relations, tax preferences and a variety of other monumental and sometimes controversial, issues.

Consider:

The Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which gave the federal government the ability to create money, was controversial in its day — but it was supported in the House by 99 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans.

The Social Security Act of 1935, which did plenty to transform America, received support from 96 percent of House Democrats and 81 percent of House Republicans.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 received House support from 80 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats.

Heck, even the Revenue Act of 1913, which established the income tax and was, before ObamaCare, the most controversial bill in the last 100 years, received support in the House from 5 percent of Republicans (and 98 percent of Democrats).

“Regardless of what anyone thinks about its merits and failings, Obamacare has an ‘original sin’ problem,” says Cembalest in his report. “For the first time in 100 years, one party crammed down a bill with national implications without any agreement from the opposing party.”

And now our country has a real mess on its hands.

It’s not just because ObamaCare is hitting all kinds of obstacles as it is rolled out. Our incompetent government spent some $600 million on a website that still doesn’t work.

It’s not just because the president promised Americans they could keep their policies and doctors — as millions are seeing their policies canceled, forcing them to buy ObamaCare-compliant policies that cost two or three times as much.

And it’s not just because Americans are worried that the worst is yet to come as ObamaCare disrupts and remakes one-sixth of the U.S. economy — and that it is likely to continue to disrupt labor markets and inhibit economic growth.

It is mainly because our political class — in this case, the Democrats who had control of the House, Senate and White House in 2010 — disregarded the will of the majority of the American people and rammed through a bill without the majority’s consent.

Numerous polls show that more than half of Americans still do not like or want ObamaCare — and those numbers will worsen as more people find out their policies are not eligible for “grandfathering.”

Rage is growing among citizens, who are losing their policies. Many are speaking out to their elected representatives and demanding that ObamaCare be repealed or, at the very least, delayed.

More Americans are coming to the conclusion that it took tremendous hubris and arrogance for politicians to think that the federal government could remake the health-care sector without causing the massive chaos we are now witnessing.

And so the backlash not only continues, but is growing worse.

Yet, despite the backlash, ObamaCare’s creators are doubling down. The president is saying he didn’t say what he said — what he said over and over again about keeping coverage and doctors.

PR flacks are showing up on news programs, trying to convince average Americans they are not experiencing what they are experiencing.

This is what happens when you ram through a massive bill that is one-sided from the start.

Sheesh, what did they expect?

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com.. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Veterans Day — Quiet Sacrifice http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/veterans-day-quiet-sacrifice/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/veterans-day-quiet-sacrifice/#comments Mon, 11 Nov 2013 08:20:51 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=634371 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

By Tom Purcell

Ida Ayres never served a day in the armed forces, but she knows a thing or two about the sacrifices of war.

When we think of war and conflict, we think of the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way, as we should. But what about the parents, children, siblings and spouses who are left behind to worry and pray?

122071 600 Veterans Day    Quiet Sacrifice cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

“Through four wars, I have been the daughter, sister, wife and mother of men who served their country,” Ida explained to me.

During World War I, Ida’s father, Sam DiRenna, fought for the Italian army. DiRenna, who was born in a small town near Naples, was captured by the Germans and spent four years in a concentration camp. He survived by eating potato peels and garbage scraps. The Germans branded his forehead — a scar he retained for the rest of his life.

Thankfully, he lived. He was declared a hero in Italy for overcoming the brutality. He eventually settled in America. He sent for his wife. They gave birth to Ida and two sons, Angelo and Pasquale. Life was hard during the Depression years, but Ida’s family prevailed.

But then America was thrust back into war — a war in which both of Ida’s brothers would serve. In 1944 Angelo enlisted in the Navy. Pasquale followed in 1945. Angelo was stationed on the LST 1040 and Pasquale served on a carrier.

Their letters home arrived every three or four weeks, then Angelo’s letters stopped coming. Six months passed without a word. Ida was distraught, her mother barely able to function. Finally, word came that Angelo’s ship had been in a typhoon. But he survived.

Both brothers returned home and the world was finally settling down. The economy grew at record rates. Ida eventually would marry and have two sons. Her husband, Harry, had fought in Korea before she met him (he’d doctored his birth certificate and found himself on the front lines as a 16-year-old kid). After they married, he was called to serve another tour in Korea. Thankfully, he returned home safe.

But in 1966, her husband was called back again. This time he left his wife and two sons behind to fight in Vietnam. As an Army major, he was lucky to survive 12 months of dangerous air missions. In one battle his best friend had both arms and legs shot off right next to him.

In 1968, Ida’s oldest son Sam announced he was eager to join his father in Vietnam. Fresh out of high school at 17, Sam enlisted and became a medic. The young man saw some of the worst horrors that that war produced, horrors that are with him still.

Thankfully, both Harry and Sam made it home. Finally, she hoped, life could get back to normal. And for the most part, life did get back to normal. America went on to enjoy an amazing run of prosperity. We were riding high until 9/11, when we were thrust into conflict again.

And now Ida’s youngest son, Major General Tom Ayres, my childhood friend, has completed several deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. Army recently awarded him his second star and appointed him Deputy Judge Advocate General.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring deceased military personnel, who died serving their country. Veterans Day, however, is about thanking and honoring all members of the military, whether they served during times of war or times of peace.

This Veterans Day, as we thank and honor those who have served, we should also pay homage to people like Ida Ayres — the parents, children, siblings and spouses who have quietly sacrificed for their country.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com.. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Letter From Washington http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/letter-from-washington/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/11/letter-from-washington/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 14:10:04 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=634180 Dear American citizens:

Millions of you are asking why your health insurance policies are being canceled and the premiums and deductibles for your new policies are, for the majority of you, doubling, tripling or worse.

139672 600 Letter From Washington cartoons

Gary McCoy / Cagle Cartoons

You are particularly upset because President Obama said over and over again that your premiums would go down and you could keep your existing policies and doctors — promises for which The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Obama a four-Pinocchio rating.

But don’t fret, little people. Your government is hard at work making important decisions that you are simply too dumb to make for yourself.

Look, if you were not covered by your employer and purchased private insurance to provide protection and care for you and your family, you simply weren’t smart enough to go about it right.

Sure, you had the ability to choose freely among a fairly wide range of policies, coverage, premiums and deductibles.

Some of you preferred high-deductible policies that protected against catastrophic events. You got lower premiums that way. And since you were healthy and hardly needed to visit doctors, you may have thought such a plan made sense for you.

But you were wrong — and also very selfish — to choose such substandard plans.

ObamaCare makes sure your new policy meets 10 new minimum standards that include coverage for such things as mental health, drug abuse and maternity — even if you are a 51-year-old man who cannot bear children, you must pay for maternity care.

The fact is, in order for ObamaCare to work, healthy young people and middle-class people must purchase health insurance at higher costs to cover those who are uninsured or who have pre-existing conditions.

Sure, many argued there are far simpler and better ways to help the uninsured and Americans who were unable to get insurance due to pre-existing conditions — we could have addressed each challenge in a targeted manner.

Many said that dismantling a system that already covered 85 percent of Americans was the wrong way to go about it — that a giant bill, rammed through along highly partisan lines, was no way to “reform” America’s highly complex health-care system.

Many of these people are now gloating about the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare — they gloat, in particular, when they hear ObamaCare proponents say that they had no idea they would be paying for ObamaCare personally.

But these are temporary setbacks, little people. If you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.

It’s better now that the federal government is calling the shots. It’s better that the very smart and compassionate bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., are telling insurers and American citizens what they must do.

Yes, we knew your premiums would increase and be painful at first — for middle-class people who do not qualify for government subsidies, that is!

We knew that our disruption of one-sixth of the U.S. economy would cause all kinds of unpleasant consequences. But that is part of our master plan.

You see, to make ObamaCare the law of the land, the president had to tell you what you wanted to hear — that your premiums would drop and you would keep your policies and doctors — because you were too dumb to understand his grand vision.

It is the same vision many progressives have advocated for many years: Once enough pain is dished out, Americans who are too dumb to think for themselves will finally warm to a radical new government health-care system — one that terminates the private insurance companies that are raising your premiums and replaces them with Medicare for all.

Hang in there, little people. Smart people in Washington will soon come to your rescue.

Best,

Your benevolent federal government

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Satirical Halloween Costumes http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/satirical-halloween-costumes/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/satirical-halloween-costumes/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 06:32:28 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=633958 “The wife and I came up with so many Halloween costume ideas this year to satirize Washington politicians, but we aren’t sure which to choose.”

138042 600 Satirical Halloween Costumes cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

“You speak of a relatively recent trend in which adults pick or create Halloween costumes that mock or satirize current events and popular culture. Robert Thompson, a pop-culture expert and the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, explained the trend to me.”

“What do you mean, ‘trend’?”

“The origins of Halloween date back to pagan times. During harvest celebrations, the Celts dressed up in costumes to ward off ghosts and demons. As Christianity spread, the Catholics introduced All Saints’ Day. The holy evening before All Saints’ Day — All Hallows’ Eve — embraced many of the Celtic traditions. Today, we call it Halloween.”

“Thompson said the golden age of Halloween for kids happened in the post-World War II years. That trend continued into the 1980s. But in the last 25 years, Halloween has been reclaimed by adults.”

“It’s one of the few days of the year when you can be politically incorrect and make fun of bad ideas — though this year, the wife won’t let me dress up as a hobo.”

“She stopped you because she felt you’d be mocking the homeless?”

“No, because I was going to wear my regular clothes.”

“I see. The economy is still affecting many of us. Surely you have some other ideas to mock politicians in Washington?”

“I was thinking of dressing up like a big dollar bill — then I’d keep falling down.”

“A clever way to mock America’s weak dollar. Surely your wife is OK with that one?”

“Nope. She figured, correctly, that I came up with that one so I could conceal my consumption of adult beverages. It’s hard to slip anything past the wife.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, it’s a real shame, because I was going to get her to dress up like a lady of the night with dollar bills pasted all over her.”

“I’m stumped. What would she be?”

“Loose money! The wife and I also thought about dressing up in straitjackets with stethoscopes hanging around our necks.”

“Doctors under ObamaCare?”

“Almost everyone under ObamaCare. Then the wife and I were going to strap a bunch of red balloons under my armpits and see how high I could float.”

“America’s ballooning debt? Very clever.”

“The one idea I really liked was to dress up like a runaway locomotive with the wife in the passenger car, screaming about things being out of control and nobody being in charge.”

“To reflect a runaway federal government in which nobody appears to be in control? Not bad. Look, I don’t mean to tell you how to express yourself on Halloween, but maybe you might want to consider skipping politics. In these divided times, you’re likely to offend someone. Why not focus on popular culture and have some fun?”

“I’m all ears for any suggestions.”

“Well, imitating characters from ‘Breaking Bad’ is a popular choice. ‘Duck Dynasty’ beards are selling like hotcakes. ‘The Walking Dead’ is making zombie costumes very popular. ‘Game of Thrones’ is also very popular.”

“Dressing up like ‘Game of Thrones’ characters would be the ultimate way to satirize American civilization.”

“How so?”

“The show’s fictional setting is reminiscent of the Middle Ages, which resulted from the fall of the once-great Western Roman Empire, which collapsed because it couldn’t control its spending.”

“You really are taking the fun out of Halloween this year.”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Why Spy on France? http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/why-spy-on-france-2/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/why-spy-on-france-2/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 07:03:04 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=633725 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

The French daily Le Monde alleges that the US National Security Agency has spied on French diplomats in Washington and at the UN. I contacted my French informant, Pierre Le Paint, to learn more about the incident.

136430 600 Why Spy on France? cartoons

Patrick Chappatte / International New York Times

“What could America possibly have to gain by spying on the French?” I said.

“The people currently running your government admire our country,” said Pierre. “We have many cradle-to-grave government programs and powerful government unions. Our unemployment is nearly 11 percent — even in good economic times, unemployment rarely goes below 7.5 percent! — and we have excessively high taxes on the rich.”

“Regrettably, some Americans do admire such things, but I don’t see why we’d have to hack your computers for this information.”

“I will tell you, then, the real reason they would do it: romance!”

“Romance? You’re losing me, Pierre.”

“Look, now that the American economy is bogged down by new regulations, a growing government and massive debt, it remains stagnant. With so much less work to do, Americans finally have free time to learn how to woo a woman. This requires secrets that only French men know.”

“You’re saying American men are poor at the art of romance?”

“Of course, you fool. Tell me: What would a typical American male consider to be a romantic date?”

“That’s easy. We pick up our better half about 7 p.m., go to the diner for a couple of burgers, knock down some pins and brew at the bowling alley, then have 75-cent nightcaps at the American Legion.”

“Clumsy oaf! This is not what women want! Let me share with you the basics on how to woo a woman. First, you promise to take your lady to a special place, but you don’t tell her where.”

“We American men have the promise part down pat!”

“Then, you go to a fine winery and find yourself a fine French wine. Not too dry, not too sweet.”

“I already have a jug of that stuff in my refrigerator.”

“Then, as you walk to her place, you stroll through the fields until you pluck a lovely flower.”

“Are graveyard flowers acceptable?”

“And as you approach your beautiful lady’s home, you prepare yourself for her.”

“Double-check your deodorant?”

“No, you American peasant! You must MENTALLY prepare yourself for her! You close your eyes and dream of a faraway beach in the South Pacific.”

“I do that when I’m at work.”

“Then you picture yourself lying on the sand. And you imagine that you open your eyes and see a stunning woman, a mermaid, splashing about in the sea.”

“Did you say mermaid?”

“She is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. You stand and run into the water to be near her, but she laughs at you and swims away.”

“What if she starts smacking you with her flipper?”

“She will not smack you, idiot Yankee! You must long for the mermaid, and as you are, you ring your lady’s doorbell. Your lady will open the door. She will see the longing in your eyes and think you are longing for her!”

“If you say so.”

“You give her your flower and wine, kiss her, then take her to a fine French restaurant, where you will charm her and whisper sweet nothings into her ear.”

“Let me get this straight. You are suggesting that the U.S. government hacked into the French presidential office to find out French secrets on how to woo women?”

“Of course, but mainly your government was after the greatest French secret of all!”

“And what would that be, Pierre?”

“How to woo women without your wife finding out about it.”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Does Obamacare Cover Sticker Shock? http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/does-obamacare-cover-sticker-shock/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/does-obamacare-cover-sticker-shock/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 07:10:07 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=633687 Rebecca was stunned when she opened her mail last week.

Her insurance carrier, Highmark BCBS, said her health insurance premium would rise 40 percent this year and her policy would be canceled on Dec. 1, 2014.

138611 600 Does Obamacare Cover Sticker Shock? cartoons

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Allie)

She had purchased the policy in 2009, after her husband had passed away from lupus, which he’d contracted 10 years before. His employer’s insurance covered virtually all of the $1.1 million cost of his care during the last 66 days of his life.

With three children to raise, Rebecca knew how important it was to have good coverage. Her husband’s company covered her for three months after he died. That gave her time to buy her own coverage with Highmark — though paying the $400 monthly premium would not be easy.

She worked two or three jobs to make ends meet — jobs that allowed her to be home when her kids got home from school. She was thankful to receive $1,300 a month in widow’s benefits from Social Security, which her husband had paid into for years (she will soon lose these benefits when her youngest turns 16). Her combined income is $47,000 a year.

By scrimping and saving, she has been able to pay her mortgage and insurance, feed her kids and get the oldest two through college (thanks to several loans she is repaying).

So, she was stunned when she found out what her new insurance policy would cost.

The Highmark representative explained that her new policy had to meet all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). It would have to cover things she does not want or need — such as mental health problems, substance abuse and maternity care.

She asked the representative to help her choose a policy similar to what she had. The closest match he could find was a comprehensive PPO policy.

Her deductible would go from $1,200 to $1,500 per person, but her family deductible would increase from $2,400 to $5,000.

Her 90-percent copay would rise to 80 percent. Instead of being responsible for only 10 percent of her medical bills, after the deductible is met, she would be responsible for 20 percent. Her maximum out-of-pocket costs would soar from $2,000, after deductibles, to $12,000.

Her premium would go from $400 to $884 per month — an increase of almost $6,000 per year.

If she or one of her children were to get ill, as her husband did, her out-of-pocket costs would run about $24,000 a year.

Surely there are subsides for people in Rebecca’s position?

Not in her case.

If her three children were younger, she would be eligible for a $6,000 tax credit. But her two oldest kids have just entered the workforce and their combined income disqualifies them.

If she covers just herself and her youngest child, her $47,000 income is still too high to qualify for subsidies.

She is too proud to accept subsidies in any event. She doesn’t want taxpayers picking up the tab for her coverage. In fact, ObamaCare subsidies will cost taxpayers $1.9 trillion over the next decade.

Her only solution is to find a full-time job that provides benefits — if she can find an employer that offers them. Employers, too, are seeing their premiums soar.

Virtually everyone agrees our country needs to help the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions get coverage and care.

However, ObamaCare is essentially forcing those who buy their own insurance to pay double or triple costs to cover those without insurance or who have pre-existing conditions — and a good many of these middle-class people will not qualify for subsidies.

The shame here is that there are creative ways for the government to solve the problem by establishing guidelines while unleashing market forces. This is demonstrated by Medicare Part D, a successful entitlement program that provides drugs to the elderly poor.

Under Part D, seniors are free to choose among a variety of benefits, costs and plans offered by private insurers. According to the Heartland Institute, Medicare trustees estimated a 2013 average monthly cost of $61 — the actual costs are HALF that.

In any event, lots of people are getting sticker shock as they learn how much their premiums will increase. And despite the president’s promises, many people will not get to keep their current coverage.

Just ask Rebecca. Rebecca was stunned when she opened her mail last week.

Her insurance carrier, Highmark BCBS, said her health insurance premium would rise 40 percent this year and her policy would be canceled on Dec. 1, 2014.

She had purchased the policy in 2009, after her husband had passed away from lupus, which he’d contracted 10 years before. His employer’s insurance covered virtually all of the $1.1 million cost of his care during the last 66 days of his life.

With three children to raise, Rebecca knew how important it was to have good coverage. Her husband’s company covered her for three months after he died. That gave her time to buy her own coverage with Highmark — though paying the $400 monthly premium would not be easy.

She worked two or three jobs to make ends meet — jobs that allowed her to be home when her kids got home from school. She was thankful to receive $1,300 a month in widow’s benefits from Social Security, which her husband had paid into for years (she will soon lose these benefits when her youngest turns 16). Her combined income is $47,000 a year.

By scrimping and saving, she has been able to pay her mortgage and insurance, feed her kids and get the oldest two through college (thanks to several loans she is repaying).

So, she was stunned when she found out what her new insurance policy would cost.

The Highmark representative explained that her new policy had to meet all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). It would have to cover things she does not want or need — such as mental health problems, substance abuse and maternity care.

She asked the representative to help her choose a policy similar to what she had. The closest match he could find was a comprehensive PPO policy.

Her deductible would go from $1,200 to $1,500 per person, but her family deductible would increase from $2,400 to $5,000.

Her 90-percent copay would rise to 80 percent. Instead of being responsible for only 10 percent of her medical bills, after the deductible is met, she would be responsible for 20 percent. Her maximum out-of-pocket costs would soar from $2,000, after deductibles, to $12,000.

Her premium would go from $400 to $884 per month — an increase of almost $6,000 per year.

If she or one of her children were to get ill, as her husband did, her out-of-pocket costs would run about $24,000 a year.

Surely there are subsides for people in Rebecca’s position?

Not in her case.

If her three children were younger, she would be eligible for a $6,000 tax credit. But her two oldest kids have just entered the workforce and their combined income disqualifies them.

If she covers just herself and her youngest child, her $47,000 income is still too high to qualify for subsidies.

She is too proud to accept subsidies in any event. She doesn’t want taxpayers picking up the tab for her coverage. In fact, ObamaCare subsidies will cost taxpayers $1.9 trillion over the next decade.

Her only solution is to find a full-time job that provides benefits — if she can find an employer that offers them. Employers, too, are seeing their premiums soar.

Virtually everyone agrees our country needs to help the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions get coverage and care.

However, ObamaCare is essentially forcing those who buy their own insurance to pay double or triple costs to cover those without insurance or who have pre-existing conditions — and a good many of these middle-class people will not qualify for subsidies.

The shame here is that there are creative ways for the government to solve the problem by establishing guidelines while unleashing market forces. This is demonstrated by Medicare Part D, a successful entitlement program that provides drugs to the elderly poor.

Under Part D, seniors are free to choose among a variety of benefits, costs and plans offered by private insurers. According to the Heartland Institute, Medicare trustees estimated a 2013 average monthly cost of $61 — the actual costs are HALF that.

In any event, lots of people are getting sticker shock as they learn how much their premiums will increase. And despite the president’s promises, many people will not get to keep their current coverage.

Just ask Rebecca.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Real Deficit’s in Leadership http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/the-real-deficits-in-leadership/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/the-real-deficits-in-leadership/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 07:10:02 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=633468 “Man, this government shutdown is making America look foolish.”

“I agree with you. I am certainly no fan of the shutdown. But the division in Washington is a reflection of the division in our representative republic.”

“I think it’s a reflection of a total lack of leadership among our politicians in Washington.”

138739 600 The Real Deficits in Leadership cartoons

Luojie / China Daily

“You speak the truth, and there is plenty of blame to go around. When President Obama ran for office, he convinced voters that he would bring civility to Washington and transcend partisanship. He said his administration would be the most transparent in history.”

“That didn’t work out so well.”

“That is unfortunately true. The president chose to push three major bills — the stimulus, ObamaCare and banking reform — through with virtually zero support from the other party. ObamaCare is still unpopular with a large number of Americans. He had to assume there would be a backlash.”

“You are talking about the tea party people?”

“Yes. The media love to portray these people as close-minded or even racist, but the vast majority of them are good middle-class people who are afraid that their children and grandchildren will never know the opportunities they enjoyed as young people if America doesn’t get its finances in order.”

“Cheers to that!”

“The backlash to Obama’s policies resulted in Republicans taking over the House in 2010 and some seats in the Senate, and putting lots of fiscal conservatives in office. Many won on a promise to stop ObamaCare. Sen. Ted Cruz really rocked the boat when he promised House Republicans he could get the votes in the Senate to defund ObamaCare.”

“And so we’ve had a shutdown?”

“Yes — House Republicans initially voted on a spending bill that would fully fund the government but defund ObamaCare. Then Republicans voted to delay its implementation for one year. Then they asked that nobody, particularly Congress and its staff, get special waivers to pay for ObamaCare.”

“That doesn’t sound unreasonable. It’s not fair that politically connected people and groups are getting waivers or funding credits that millions of us will never get.”

“Now, we are approaching the debt-ceiling deadline this Thursday and Republicans hope to negotiate various entitlement and spending reforms with the president as part of a new debt-limit deal.”

“I thought President Obama established a commission to come up with proposals on how to do that.”

“That is correct. During his first term, the president established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — also known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission. The bipartisan commission offered several sensible ideas to get our government in order over the long term. Unfortunately, the president has pretty much ignored the commission’s findings.”

“We are on an unsustainable path, aren’t we?”

“Absolutely unsustainable. David Walker, a political independent who was the nation’s top auditor in the Government Accountability Office, told the Seattle Times how bad our financial situation really is. He said our debt is $17 trillion, but our unfunded promises for Social Security and other entitlement programs total $73 trillion.”

“That’s a lot of cabbage.”

“Walker has several ideas to address the spending challenge and many mirror the findings of Obama’s commission. Some are not horribly painful and can be enacted over time. For instance, to salvage Social Security, he recommended that we index the retirement age to increases in life expectancy. Or, to bring in more tax revenue, cut down on the exemptions and deductions that disproportionately benefit the wealthy.”

“Sounds reasonable to me.”

“It isn’t just reasonable. It is completely necessary. Real reform requires extraordinary leadership and that leadership has to come from the president. He is the only leader in Washington for whom all Americans had a chance to vote, according to Walker. He has the bully pulpit.”

“What if he doesn’t take the lead on these issues?”

“Then one day in the future, when we can no longer borrow or print money, we could have a government shutdown that will make this one look like a picnic.”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Perils of Nasty Netiquette http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/the-perils-of-nasty-netiquette/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/the-perils-of-nasty-netiquette/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 12:32:49 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=633287 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Boy, is technology making us ruder.

I read with great delight a Wall Street Journal story about a couple of Boston lawyers. One, a 24-year-old woman, sent an e-mail to an older, established lawyer declining a recent job offer.

The older lawyer, miffed the woman would e-mail a rejection after she’d already accepted the job orally, fired off a reply. He said she wasn’t very professional.

135486 600 The Perils of Nasty Netiquette cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

She replied that if he were a real lawyer he would have had her sign a contract.

He replied, suggesting, in so many words, she was a snot. She sent one last e-mail reply: “blah, blah, blah.”

Still miffed, the older lawyer e-mailed the exchange to a colleague, who forwarded it to another and soon the entire Boston legal community read it. It was featured on “Nightline” and in the papers, and now you’re reading about it here.

This latest example of technology-enabled rudeness reminded me of a similar situation that occurred seven years ago.

Just after I’d moved to Washington, D.C., I joined a large writers’ organization. Since I was new to town, I decided to start an informal monthly happy hour to meet other writers — or, to be more precise, women writers.

I got permission from the writers’ organization to send an e-mail out to all 4,000 members. Several folks e-mailed me back and we soon established a time and place to meet. Nearly 40 folks attended the first event — one that would turn out the be the last event.

As it went, one woman there was particularly attractive. I soon found myself in competition with another writer fellow, who was also trying to win this lass’s attention. She soon made it clear that she preferred women — not that there’s anything wrong with that — and that she had no interest in either of us knuckleheads, and that she came only to discuss the writing craft.

Soon after she landed her blow, the other fellow and I quickly realized the pickings were otherwise slim. The other women there were either much older than we or otherwise didn’t strike our fancy. It never occurred to us that they might have come to meet men.

One woman, a woman of overpowering verbosity, soon had us pinned up against the bar. For the rest of the evening she shoved a dozen opinions at us on every subject under the sun. It was the first time in my life I was happy to hear the words “last call.”

The next morning, I got an e-mail from the other fellow. He thanked me for organizing the event, then said, “and for goodness sakes, for the next happy hour, don’t invite any more loud obnoxious (expletive)!”

I was surprised at the rudeness of the fellow’s e-mail. That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t. It was the beginning.

Instead of e-mailing his response to me, you see, he unwittingly sent it to all 4,000 members of the writers’ organization, some of which, much to his poor luck, were also women of overpowering verbosity.

I don’t know how many e-mail responses came that day, but they surely topped 100. The story-line was clear. Our heroine, who was so viciously attacked, did nothing to deserve her fate and, incidentally, it’s typical of misogynistic men to be threatened by intelligent women.

As for our villain, he was dubbed an idiotic male rogue. He should not only apologize, but he should resign from the writers’ organization, give up writing, and move to another city, where, hopefully, something bad would happen to him.

In any event, technology is driving massive gains in productivity and efficiency. It only makes sense, then, that it would make us more efficient at being rude.

So the next time you feel compelled to mock someone who has done you no wrong, turn off your computer. Pick up the phone and do it the old-fashioned way.

In that case, you can offend only one person at a time.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com.. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Incomprehensible Sums http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/incomprehensible-sums/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/incomprehensible-sums/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 07:10:19 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=633255 I remember when a billion used to be a number so big nobody could comprehend it, though it is still a massive number.

According to Snopes.com 1 billion seconds equals 31.7 years. A billion seconds have elapsed since 1981.

One billion minutes is equal to 1,901 years — which would take us back, almost, to the time Jesus Christ roamed the Earth.

134960 600 Incomprehensible Sums cartoons

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons

One billion hours is equal to 114,000 years — which would take us back to the Stone Age.

In more recent times, our inability to comprehend the sheer magnitude of 1 billion has been eclipsed by our inability to comprehend 1 trillion.

One trillion is equal to one thousand billion.

Our federal deficit has been averaging nearly $1 trillion since the collapse of 2008 — causing us to rack up more than $5 trillion in new debt.

In order to cover our nearly $4 trillion annual budget, the U.S. Treasury spends about $1 billion every two hours — accumulating $1 billion in new debt about every eight hours.

ABC’s Jake Tapper tried to simplify these incomprehensible numbers. He compared America’s finances to a typical American’s finances. By removing eight zeros from America’s $3.8 trillion budget, he came up with a sum of $38,000.

Now if you are a retiree, you are probably getting by OK if you are able to spend $38,000 a year — unless your finances are as messed up as America’s.

Though you are spending $38,000 annually, your income is only $29,000 — you are growing your debt by $9,000 every year.

What’s worse is that you already owe nearly $170,000 to creditors. Paying off that amount of debt with $38,000 in income would be hard under any circumstances.

But of course your income is $29,000, not $38,000, so you must borrow about $175 a week to keep up with your expenses.

In other words, the U.S. government is growing our debt by $175 billion a week, which is producing around $1 trillion in new debt every year.

Still not comprehending how much $1 trillion is? Then you’ll like this description by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, from his book “Notes from a Big Country.”

Bryson asks his readers to guess how long it would take to initial and count 1 trillion dollar bills if you worked without stopping.

“If you initialed one dollar bill a second,” writes Bryson, “you would make $1,000 every 17 minutes. After 12 days of non-stop effort you would acquire your first million. Thus, it would take you 120 days to accumulate $10 million, and 1,200 days — something over three years — to reach $100 million. After 31.7 years you would become a billionaire. But not until 31,709.8 years elapsed would you count your trillionth dollar bill.”

We all understand that very large numbers are OK so long as they add up. So long as we have trillions of dollars coming in to the government to balance out the trillions of dollars we have going out, we should be OK.

But that is the frightening part. We are not even close to covering our spending. Our economy has not recovered enough to generate the growth and tax revenue we need to pay our bills.

Piling on new entitlement programs and lots of new regulations, rules and mandates certainly isn’t helping the recovery.

And so we limp along racking up debt and our leaders are doing little to address this incredible challenge. In fact, we have racked up more than $11 trillion in new debt since George W. Bush assumed office in 2002. We are the proud owners of nearly $17 trillion in debt, a startlingly incomprehensible sum.

Yet too few people worry about it. Who can blame them? After all, $17 trillion is only 17,000 billion dollars.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com.. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Needed Blue-Collar Horse Sense http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/needed-blue-collar-horse-sense-2/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/10/needed-blue-collar-horse-sense-2/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 12:37:59 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=633082 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

The article in The Washington Post filled me with hope: There’s a trend toward college-educated people getting into the trades.

131841 600 Needed Blue Collar Horse Sense cartoons

Mike Keefe / Cagle Cartoons

One 29-year-old fellow in Washington, D.C. — he has a degree from Notre Dame — considered going to law school, like many others in the lawyer-saturated town.

After watching his friends work long hours as paralegals — and watching his lawyer pals sign their lives over to their firms — he did something sensible.

He became an electrician’s apprentice.

He’s not alone. The Post says more 20-somethings are forgoing the white-collar world to become plumbers, electricians, mechanics and carpenters.

I think it’s great.

This country was designed by people who worked with their hands.

Ben Franklin started off as a printer’s apprentice, a messy job. His trade helped him master communication, business management, politics and human nature.

George Washington, a farmer, toiled in his gardens to cross-breed the perfect plant. He was forever trying new ways to cultivate and harvest his crops.

Many of our Founders were farmers. They were humbled by the unforgiving realities of nature.

Hands-on labor made these fellows sensible and innovative. Their good sense is evident in the practicality of the Constitution.

We have lost touch with such common sense.

The shift happened over many years, of course. Industrialization moved Americans to the cities and, gradually, to paper-pushing jobs in the service industry.

Now we’re a country of white-collar snobs with an underdeveloped understanding of how things work.

The snobbery starts in high school. Parents and guidance counselors both point kids toward college and white-collar careers — they save the blue-collar careers for the kids whose grades aren’t so hot.

It makes no sense.

A skilled laborer earns more than many lawyers do — and likely enjoys his work more. Show me a dozen lawyers and I’ll show you 11 people who have considered driving a cab for a living.

Skilled laborers are good for our country — white-collar folks are not always so good.

Consider an important white-collar maxim: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle then with BS.”

I’ve seen highly skilled BSers establish long careers without producing anything of any value.

Blue-collar workers cannot BS their way through their work for very long.

An electrician mixes up the hot wire and ground wire only once.

A carpenter is kept honest by his level — he measures twice, cuts once.

A plumber’s skill is evident when the water valve is opened and the pipes don’t leak.

Blue-collar workers have no choice but to develop horse sense — to develop efficient ways to solve real problems.

There was a time in America when many white-collar jobs were also infused with horse sense. An employee started as a bank teller right out of high school. He’d work his way up, through performance and sound judgment, to the highest levels of the organization.

Now any old Ivy League graduate can become an investment banker and put his company, and country, at incredible risk as he pursues a multimillion-dollar commission.

I hope more college-educated folks leave the white-collar world to become skilled laborers.

I hope we stop glamorizing careers on Wall Street, the legal profession and many other paper-pushing businesses.

I hope more people use their hands to produce something of value every day — and use their practical, decision-making abilities to help resolve other challenges we face.

If we don’t get a serious infusion of blue-collar horse sense, God help this country.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Size Matters http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/size-matters-2/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/size-matters-2/#comments Tue, 01 Oct 2013 05:47:32 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=633011 Q: Is the government too big and powerful? Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?

A: Ah, yes, you speak of a recent Gallup survey that found 60 percent of Americans think the federal government has too much power — a full percentage point higher than the previous high recorded in September 2010. Gallup’s Joy Wilke did a fine job breaking down the survey data.

129231 600 Size Matters cartoons

Loujie / Cagle Cartoons

Q: Yeah, and I’ll bet that percentage has jumped lots more over the past few decades.

A: You are correct. In 2005, about 50 percent of Americans felt the government was getting too big and powerful — 10 percent less than now.

Q: What I want to know is who are the 40 percent or so who do NOT think the government has gotten too big?

A: That’s an interesting question. Thirty-two percent now say the government has the right amount of power and 7 percent say it doesn’t have enough.

Q: Not enough! Who the heck are the 7-percenters?

A: There are always some people who think the government can solve all our problems. Thankfully, their numbers are not growing. They have been at 7 percent since Gallup started tracking this big-government issue.

Q: I’ll bet the survey reflects a high level of division among conservatives, moderates and liberals.

A: That is also correct. Republicans tend to think government is doing too much, whereas Democrats tend to agree that government can do good. Of course, Republicans and Democrats have gotten mighty polarized since President Obama took office in 2009.

Q: That makes sense. Obama embraced all the big-government security initiatives of President Bush, then gave us a massive new entitlement program, ObamaCare.

A: Yes, and these measures have the country more divided than ever. However, Republicans’ and Democrats’ views have generally become more polarized since Obama took office. In 2002, the two parties were about equally likely to view the federal government as too powerful, at 36 percent and 35 percent, respectively, with independents, at 45 percent, most likely to say this.

Q: And now?

A: Right now, 81 percent of Republicans think the government is too powerful. But 38 percent of Democrats agree that the government is too powerful — the highest percentage since President Obama took office.

Q: I can see how politics factors in, but hopefully, the data reveal that some people don’t let their political views affect their concerns?

A: Thankfully, that is true with some. As Bush grew the government in the war on terror, both Republicans and Democrats began reporting increasing unease about government gaining too much power — with the NSA and other government agencies now out of control, there is good reason to be concerned.

Q: If so many Americans are concerned that the government is getting too big and powerful, why do so many keep voting for bigger government?

A: Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, offers some interesting insights on that in his book “Gross National Happiness.” After mining reams of data, he found very different viewpoints among conservatives and liberals.

Q: What did the data reveal?

A: They showed that conservatives hold more traditional values — faith, marriage, family, freedom, hard work. They believe in the individual and just want to be left alone.

Q: And liberals were the reverse?

A: That is correct. Liberals see government as a way to right perceived wrongs. And they vote for politicians who promise to impose more rules, regulations and mandates on the people who make them unhappy. But you have to admit, Republican politicians these days are just as likely to use the largess of the federal trough to promise voters goodies in return for their votes.

Q: Our federal government is going to keep getting bigger and more powerful, isn’t it?

A: Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Ostentatious Baby Names http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/ostentatious-baby-names/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/ostentatious-baby-names/#comments Wed, 25 Sep 2013 14:45:48 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=632804 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

What’s in a name? Way too much these days where babies are concerned.

112588 600 Ostentatious Baby Names cartoons

Bob Englehart / Hartford Courant

According to The Wall Street Journal, parents are obsessing over what to name their kids. They’re hiring consultants, applying mathematical formulas and software programs and even bringing in nutty spiritualist types.

One couple hired a pair of consultants to draw up a list of suggestions based on “phonetic elements, popularity and ethnic and linguistic origins.”

One woman paid a “nameologist” $350 for three half-hour phone calls and a personalized manual describing each name’s history and personality traits.

Another spent $475 on a numerologist to see if her favorite name had positive associations, whatever the heck that means.

Why the obsession over children’s names? One baby-naming expert says that we live in a market-oriented society. That by giving your kid the right name — the right branding, if you will — he or she will have a head start in life.

Oh, brother.

Look, I know these parents mean well. I know they’re trying to do what is best for their kids. I know they think a special name will help the rest of the world know how special their kid is.

But they’re doing more harm than good.

Take one couple. Mom and dad went to great lengths to come up with this name: Beckett. The name sounds reliable and stable, says the proud dad. The “C-K” sound is very well regarded in corporate circles, he says. The hard stop forces one to accentuate the syllable, which draws attention to it, he continues.

But he overlooked a very important consideration: Beckett is going to be getting wedgies well into his 40s.

I’m no expert on child rearing, but it seems to me if you want to give your kid a leg up in life, it’s better to give him a simple, traditional name, not one that stands out.

I’m 51, at the tail end of the baby boom, and here are the names of my high school friends: Tom, John, Jeff, Bill, Bob, Rich and Tim. We had one Clint and he has a brother named Reid, but that was as daring as things got in those days. Any of these are good names for boys.

As for girls, why not use my sisters’ names: Kathy, Krissy, Lisa, Mary and Jennifer. How about Lauren, Linda, Elizabeth or Sandy? Or, if you want to get bold, go back a few generations to the early 1900s: Gertrude, Helen, Ruth, Margaret and Beatrice (my grandmother).

The reason is simple. If you really want your kid to be special, a name is not going to do it. Your kid is going to have to earn it. She is going to have to work hard and sacrifice. She’ll have to try and fail and eventually find her place — find whatever she’s good at — and then work harder to develop her talents.

It will be easier to do that if she is humble. And it will be easier for her to be humble if she doesn’t have a name that makes her think she’s precious and special and God’s gift to the universe (such as Nevaeh, which is heaven spelled backward).

It’s nobody’s fault that we’re screwing up kids’ names — we’re screwing up a lot of things. We’re doing it because we’re able to. We’re able to because the American experiment has produced untold wealth — which shifted our focus from trying to subsist, as our parents did, to fretting over what to name our kids.

We have to knock it off, though.

I was lucky my parents named me Tom. That is my dad’s name, too. I knew early on I had to live up to it. With such a name, I never took myself too seriously — I knew I wasn’t the center of anybody’s universe. I turned out half decent as a result. And I never did get a wedgie.

I doubt things would have turned out that well if my name was Michelle or Gilad.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com.. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Why Duck Dynasty Viewers Flock http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/why-duck-dynasty-viewers-flock/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/why-duck-dynasty-viewers-flock/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 12:58:25 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=632756 Like millions of Americans, I’ve become a “Duck Dynasty” fan.

“Duck Dynasty,” as you surely are aware, is an A&E reality show that presents the Robertson clan, the long-bearded owners and operators of Duck Commander in West Monroe, La. Duck Commander hand-makes duck calls.

Duck Dynasty Why Duck Dynasty Viewers Flock cartoonsThe story is a rags-to-riches one.

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, started his duck-call business some 25 years ago. The avid outdoorsman was dissatisfied with the duck calls that were then available, so he made his own.

He did about $8,000 in revenue his first year, but slowly built up the business over the next few decades, hiring a lot of relatives along the way.

His son, Willie, took over the company and has grown it to a $45 million annual business — one that has made the Robertson family mighty wealthy. They were wealthy before “Duck Dynasty” became a hit cable show that draws record-breaking numbers of viewers.

Many media critics have been speculating as to why the show is so popular — and some, such as Rolling Stone, say the show and the characters are nothing but a big con. As usual, so many in the media are getting it exactly wrong.

It’s true that each episode is scripted and staged with fairly typical sitcom plots. But what is also true is that the Robertsons are totally authentic characters.

There are Phil and Kay’s three bearded sons, who all work at Duck Commander, their wives and kids and, of course, Uncle Si, a gray-bearded Army veteran who is daggone colorful and funny.

These people are unapologetically religious. They believe that when you marry, you really do become one flesh. Their families are intact and functional, and the show celebrates these simple values.

The characters are politically incorrect and unapologetic about that, too. They happily go into the woods to shoot, skin and cook their dinner.

Unlike most sitcoms on TV these days, the fathers are not dribbling idiots. They are respected by their kids. And grandfather Phil is respected by his grandkids.

The characters are all self-deprecating and don’t mind being the butt of the joke — because it is clear they are all in on the joke and having a grand time creating the show.

It is orderliness that draws us in — the orderliness that is missing in too many American homes that are broken up by divorce or headed by single parents. In the case of the Robertsons, order is made possible by their faith.

And nobody understands that better than Phil.

He explains in his autobiography that he was not a good man in his 20s. He quit teaching — he has a master’s degree in education — and ran a bar. He frequently got drunk and into trouble and was not very nice to his wife and young kids.

But he eventually found his way to church and his Christian faith transformed him. He became a changed man and has since tried to live his life according to the Bible.

Media critics compare “Duck Dynasty” to typical sitcoms, but if there is any one show it should be compared to, it is “The Waltons,” another fine show about a functional, intact family.

Much like “The Waltons,” most “Duck Dynasty” episodes show the entire Robertson clan sitting around the dinner table and saying grace before they break bread together.

It is their togetherness that draws in viewers. We like the way they celebrate simple, traditional values with humor and self-deprecation. We like the way orderliness guides their lives and brings order to their families.

You have to be a cynic to miss the obvious reason so many viewers are tuning in. And most big-city media critics are too cynical to understand what “Duck Dynasty” is really about.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Health Really Is Everything http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/health-really-is-everything/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/health-really-is-everything/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 12:38:16 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=632516 His neck and underarms were swollen. His skin itched, particularly on his arms. Sleeping at night was impossible.

The symptoms started five years ago. He was 50 then. He’d been fit and healthy all his life. The diagnosis was not pleasant.

71473 600 Health Really Is Everything cartoons

Adam Zyglis / Buffalo News

He had contracted chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a cancer, says mayoclinic.com , of the blood and bone marrow — bone marrow being “the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.”

CLL affects a group of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which help the body fight infection. It produces abnormal, ineffective lymphocytes. The abnormal cells may eventually crowd out the healthy cells, killing the patient.

The silver lining: CLL typically progresses more slowly than other types of leukemia. Initially, doctors monitored the disease’s progress. He would not receive his first chemotherapy treatment for six months.

The treatment eased his symptoms quickly. He was symptom-free for almost one year. But the abnormal cells continued to multiply. His second chemo treatment staved them off for five more months.

One challenge with chemo is that the body quickly becomes resistant to it. Doctors have to apply different chemo blends to overcome resistance. For the next few years, the different blends worked well.

Until November 2012.

His leukemia transformed from a chronic disease to a more aggressive form, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). AML multiples abnormal cells at an aggressive rate, posing a real concern for the patient.

But he still had plenty of hope.

All he needed was the right chemo treatment to beat back and stabilize the illness. Then he could receive a bone marrow transplant from a donor.

That procedure would “help re-establish healthy stem cells by replacing unhealthy bone marrow with leukemia-free stem cells that will regenerate healthy bone marrow,” says mayoclinic.com .

He had a donor lined up and took a heavy dosage of chemo, but he did not stabilize. He lined up another donor and was almost ready for the transplant, but his body failed to stabilize again.

Now he is fighting for his life.

His doctors are pulling out all the stops, applying the most aggressive blends of chemo they have. But the AML has resisted and gotten stronger. The doctors say there is only a 20-percent chance the new treatment will work.

What’s worse is that chemo wreaks havoc on the body. Each aggressive treatment requires a lengthy hospital stay. That is where he is as you read this.

His name is Don Krieger, a friend of mine and my family’s for more than 40 years. He’s one of the funniest, most cheerful people you could ever meet. And all who know him marvel at the grace and humor with which he is fighting this disease.

I share his story for the simple reason that he, and so many like him, could use our prayers. Prayer works.

I write about him because we can all do something to help him. We can consider becoming bone marrow donors to help heal others like Don (go to marrow.org).

At the very least, we can donate blood on a regular basis. Patients like Don need whole blood almost daily.

But mainly I write about Don because he is an amazing father, husband, son, brother and friend. Those of us lucky to know him can’t image a world without him in it.

Don knows better than most that too many of us take our blessings for granted. He knows that this old maxim is true: “If you have your health, you really do have everything.”

We pray that he beats the odds and makes it back to good health.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, for more info contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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A Pencil’s Point http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/a-pencils-point/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/a-pencils-point/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 07:05:08 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=632326 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!

Now is a good time to revisit the 1958 essay in which Leonard Read examined how a pencil is made — and how it is miraculous that a pencil is made at all.

The standard pencil begins when a cedar is cut down. Ropes and gear tug it onto the bed of a truck or a rail car.

123048 600 A Pencils Point cartoons

Paul Zanetti / Cagle Cartoons

Think of all the numberless people and skills involved in mining ore to produce steel and refine the steel into saws, axes and motors, wrote Read.

Think of all the people who grow hemp, then transform it, through various stages, into a strong rope.

Think of the untold thousands of people who produce the coffee the loggers drink!

The logs are shipped to a mill and cut into slats. The slats are kiln-dried, tinted, waxed, then kiln-dried again.

How many skills were needed to produce the tint and the kilns, Read wondered. What about the electric power? What about the belts, motors and other parts at the mill?

The pencil slats are shipped to a factory. A complex machine cuts grooves into each. A second machine lays lead into every other slat. Glue is applied. Two slats are sealed together as one, then cut into lengths that form pencils.

The lead alone is complex, he explains. It’s not really lead. To produce it, graphite is mined in Ceylon. The graphite is packed and shipped, then mixed with clay from Mississippi. It is treated with wetting agents — such as sulfonated tallow, which is formed when animal fats chemically react with sulfuric acid.

The pencil receives six coats of lacquer. Lacquer has numerous ingredients, including castor oil. Think of all the chemists needed to create the paint — think of all the castor bean growers needed to produce, refine and ship the oil.

The brass end that holds the eraser in place is a marvel. Miners need to first extract zinc and copper from the earth. Experts transform those materials into sheet brass, which is then cut, stamped and affixed to the pencil.

That brings us to the eraser. It is made from “factice,” wrote Read, a rubber-like product that is produced by rapeseed oil from the Dutch East Indies reacting with sulfur chloride.

To be sure, an awe-inspiring amount of work goes into producing a pencil. Millions of people collaborate to produce it — millions ply their unique trades and skills — yet they have no idea they are collaborating.

Each is merely exchanging his small piece of know-how for the money he needs to buy the goods and services he wants, wrote Read.

More amazing is this: No one person is capable of making a pencil. Not even the president of the pencil company.

No one person could possibly manage the millions of people — and the millions of decisions they freely make — who produce the ingredients that become a pencil.

Despite the absence of a mastermind, billions of pencils are made every year. They’re produced with such humdrum efficiency that every one of us takes pencils for granted.

The pencil, explained Read, is the triumph of human freedom — a triumph of creative human energies spontaneously responding to human necessity and desire.

There never was a need for a presidential commission on the production of pencils.

Without one government program, the need for pencils arose. Without any meddling from an Ivy League bureaucrat, the pencil was invented, produced and sold — the demand for pencils was met.

It is a folly for any man, or group of men, to think of producing something as incredibly complex as a pencil. How much harder must it be to produce a car — one that consumers will want to buy, anyhow?

Read concluded his essay with this advice: The best thing our government can do is leave our creative energies uninhibited — remove the obstacles that prevent human creativity and innovation from flowing freely.

Not create more obstacles by using taxpayer dough to take over a private company.

Thank goodness our government hasn’t taken over any pencil companies yet. It would be that much more costly and difficult to write to our congressmen.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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It’s (No Longer) A Jeep Thing http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/its-no-longer-a-jeep-thing/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/its-no-longer-a-jeep-thing/#comments Tue, 10 Sep 2013 13:58:25 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=632292 I became upset when I got word.

Jeep, reports Automotive News, is shifting its focus away from hearty off-road 4X4′s to, mostly, dinky little two-wheel-drive cars that ride smoothly on paved roads — the kind of cars Europeans like to drive.

136000 600 Its (No Longer) A Jeep Thing cartoons

Daryl Cagle / Cagle Cartoons

This is what happens when an iconic American brand is sold to a European automaker, such as Fiat — and I, a Jeep owner, am not happy about it.

I bought a brand-new Jeep Wrangler ragtop about one year ago. I needed it, in part, because I live atop a steep road in the country and my prior car, a 2010 Nissan Maxima sports sedan, was horrible in the snow.

I love my Jeep.

The very first Jeep was created in 1940 by the American Bantam Car Co. in Butler, Pa. It was an innovative and highly effective design that would contribute greatly to our success in World War II.

After the war, Jeep became a beloved American brand — for more than six decades, it has retained its unique look and style.

We Jeep owners are a proud lot. We drive, arguably, the most capable 4×4 vehicles on Earth. We are confident that no matter the weather or conditions, we will prevail — and joyfully use our winches to get stuck drivers out of ruts.

We don’t want a smooth ride on paved roads. We take pride in our Jeeps’ kidney-bouncing suspension that favors functionality and performance over the comfort preferred by more fragile, uninteresting human beings.

We don’t want quiet, either. We love to unsnap our roofs and enjoy endless “hours of pleasure” driving around “in God’s great open spaces” — as it was put by Henry Ford, founder of the only current American car company that didn’t accept government bailouts.

To own a Jeep Wrangler is to be a member of an exclusive club. Every time I pass another Wrangler owner, I give and receive the “Jeep Wave.” It consists of either a raised hand waving or four fingers extended upward from the steering wheel. It is at once a greeting and a salute.

So I find it upsetting that the new owner of one of America’s most treasured icons intends to make Jeeps that will no longer be real Jeeps — and even more upsetting that it is our government’s fault.

See, due to gross mismanagement common to two of the “Big Three” U.S. automakers, Chrysler, of which Jeep is a part, accepted a government bailout in 2009.

As part of its government-managed bankruptcy, Chrysler was sold to Italian automaker Fiat SpA. Fiat, if you are not aware, is the maker of the dinky little Fiat 500, a car so small that drivers “wear it” more than drive it.

And when the U.S. Treasury exited Chrysler by selling to Fiat, it failed to recoup $1.3 billion of the initial $12.5 billion that American taxpayers “invested” in the company — which is also upsetting.

According to Forbes, Chrysler would have performed much better had it said “no” to the government bailout. A study by economist Brian Kelleher Richter and colleagues Adam Fremeth and Guy L.F. Holborn concludes that the bailout reduced Chrysler’s post-bailout sales by 20 percent — because its reputation was diminished and no small number of potential customers were unhappy about the bailout.

And so it is that a European car company now owns Chrysler and its Jeep division and is gearing up to add non-Jeep Jeeps to its proud line — including a two-wheel-drive “baby” version of my beloved Wrangler.

I hope the drivers of that dinky little knockoff don’t have the gall to wave to each other.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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A New Yorker’s View of Gun Control http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/a-new-yorkers-view-of-gun-control/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/a-new-yorkers-view-of-gun-control/#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 07:15:12 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=632059 During my last visit to New York City, I stumbled into an unexpected discussion about its restrictive gun polices.

The discussion occurred after I ducked into a coffee shop. The place was empty except for three transit employees.

136153 600 A New Yorkers View of Gun Control cartoons

Gary McCoy / Cagle Cartoons

“I don’t know why the kid shot me,” said one of the men. “But I got myself some protection now.”

Curious, I introduced myself and asked the fellow about his story.

“One day three years ago,” he said, “I’m sitting in my Brooklyn neighborhood in my 2008 Lincoln, eating a sandwich.

“This kid comes up to the passenger side and tells me how nice my car is. A lot of people compliment my ride, so I think nothing of it.

“But then he tells me to give him the keys. I think he’s kidding, so I laugh. He pulls out a gun — a 9-mm handgun, I think.

“I tell the kid I don’t want no trouble. I open the door to start getting out. But then I make a big mistake. When he reaches through the window to grab my keys, I grab the keys before he can get them.

“He says, ‘I’m gonna pop you, man!’ I look into his eyes and they’re black as death. Then BOOM!

“The next thing I know, I wake hooked up to all kind of wires in the hospital and the doctor is telling me how lucky I am. The bullet hit me in the right shoulder and passed out the left armpit — just missing my heart.

“That was three years ago, but I’m OK now. I guess it wasn’t my time to go.”

I was spellbound by his story and the matter-of-fact way he told it, but his story grew more fascinating when he told me how he now is breaking the law to protect himself and his family.

“In New York,” he said, “the gun laws are so strict, the majority of people who have them are the criminals. Maybe if you’re a small-business owner or have some other valid reason for protecting yourself, you might get a permit to carry. But if you’re a regular guy like me, forget about it.

“But I live on the Brooklyn-Queens border, and in that part of town there’s only one way to protect yourself — you got to let the punks know you’re packing heat.

“So I bought myself a street gun that I carry with me everywhere. Lots of the decent people in my neighborhood are carrying illegal guns. It’s the only thing we can do.”

The fellow knew what he was talking about.

A Cato Institute study found that 60 percent of criminals would not attack if they knew a potential victim were carrying a gun.

In New York City, though, it’s the criminals, not the innocent civilians, who are often armed. Of the estimated 400,000 illegal guns that flood the city, most are in the hands of the criminals.

Thus, if you can’t get a permit to carry — which is difficult to do in New York — and you choose to arm yourself for personal protection, you become a criminal.

“What if you use an illegal weapon to shoot someone who tries to shoot you or steal your car?” I asked the transit worker. “Won’t you face charges yourself?”

“Maybe so,” he said, “but at least I’ll be around to do the explaining.”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Regulation Without Representation http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/regulation-without-representation/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/regulation-without-representation/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 07:05:19 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=631847 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

“President Bush is the first president to accomplish what?”

93537 600 Regulation Without Representation cartoons

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons

“He’s the first to propose a budget that tops $3 trillion. He was also the first to propose one that topped $2 trillion. Now the budget is about $4 trillion. America is the proud owner of the largest government on Earth.”

“That’s a lot of government.”

“It gets worse. Clyde Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says that ‘the government’s reach extends far beyond the taxes that Washington collects and the deficit spending at which it excels.’ He’s talking about the cost of government regulations. He explains in detail in ‘Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.’”

“How do government regulations cost us money?”

“In some cases the federal government imposes new rules and regulations on lower governments, and those governments must raise taxes to cover the cost of compliance.”

“I see — the old bait and switch.”

“And complying with regulations costs private-sector organizations big money, too. They pass the costs along to us through increases in the price of consumer goods.”

“So regulations end up costing us hard money just as taxes do?”

“Precisely. Crew’s report calculates that regulatory compliance costs hit $1.16 trillion in 2007 — an amount almost half the size of the federal budget itself. Federal regulations gobbled up nearly 10 percent of what the U.S. economy produced last year.”

“That’s a lot of gobbling.”

“In 2007, nearly 3,600 new rules and regulations were added — since 1995 when the ‘small-government’ Republicans took over Congress, 51,000 rules and regulations have been added!”

“Small government, my eye.”

“The Federal Register, which contains all the rules and regulations, is more than 80,000 pages thick — down a touch from previous years, but still massive nonetheless.”

“Where do all those regulations come from?”

“It all starts with lawmaking. In response to a social or economic need or problem, Congress passes a law. The appropriate regulatory agency then interprets that law and writes regulations that define how the law will be implemented.”

“Can you provide an example?”

“The FDA creates its regulations under the authority of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, the Controlled Substances Act and several other acts created by Congress over the years. Based on the acts, the FDA creates specific regulations that determine what food and drug companies can and cannot do.”

“Do you mean government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and cannot do?”

“Yep. There are more than 50 regulatory agencies in the federal government and each is empowered to create and enforce rules and regulations that are backed by the might of federal law. Individuals, and organizations, can be fined or thrown in jail for violating them.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“It is ominous, which is why regulators must be kept in check. But where regulations are concerned, Crews says nobody is doing that.”

“So how do we keep the regulators in check?”

“Disclosure and accountability. Crews argues that regulatory costs should be accounted for just like federal spending. Cost-benefit analysis should be provided before a regulation is imposed. And when a regulation will cost more than $100 million to comply with, the Congress should be required to vote on the regulation BEFORE it becomes binding.”

“Sounds like common sense to me.”

“He also argues that Congress should create a regulatory report card to monitor regulatory agencies. And while they’re at it, the Congress should create a bipartisan commission to expose and eliminate harmful regulations. In other words, we should ‘end regulation without representation.’”

“That Crews fellow has some really good ideas, but isn’t he overlooking the primary benefit of an incredibly thick Federal Register?”

“What’s that?”

“If the Iranians don’t shape up, we can threaten to drop it on them.”

 

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Why Obamacare Is Good For Me http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/why-obamacare-is-good-for-me/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/why-obamacare-is-good-for-me/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 12:42:28 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=631749 I hate to say it, but ObamaCare has been good for me.

Now, I know our economy is still struggling — Gallup says the unemployment rate just jumped to nearly 9 percent — and I know ObamaCare uncertainty is making many employers wary of hiring.

134227 600 Why Obamacare Is Good For Me cartoons

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons

But I also know that new opportunities exist for people like me who provide communications services for companies that now prefer to outsource much of their work — rather than hire full-timers.

And my business is dandy.

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

It all goes back to World War II, when the government imposed wage and price controls. Companies were unable to raise wages. To attract good employees, they began offering health insurance.

As the economy boomed after the war, powerful unions were able to demand ever-better health policies for their members — and companies attracted the best employees with “Cadillac” insurance benefits.

That’s when health-care inflation began to soar. Before World War II, health insurance had been designed to protect people against catastrophic events — most were high-deductible policies. People paid for doctor’s-office visits and prescriptions out of their own pockets.

And because they spent their own money, they shopped around for the best care at the lowest possible cost. They helped keep the cost of care in check. But as millions of employees no longer had to pay directly for doctor’s-office visits and prescriptions, costs began to soar.

Add to this an aging population, medical innovations and the massive expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, and America was soon spending a rapidly increasing amount on health care every year — at a rate about two to three times higher than the overall inflation rate.

But as health-care costs soared, the cost for companies to hire employees also soared. Consider that an employee who earns $70,000 in annual salary is probably costing his employer closer to $100,000 in total compensation — a number that is set to jump as ObamaCare is driving up insurance rates for many.

Employers can avoid these costs, however, by not hiring full-time employees — and by hiring part-timers, temps or turning to services like mine.

Health reform could have worked out so much better.

What I had hoped for was a program by which the government establishes some needed guidelines, then mobilizes the private market to compete — much like the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit for low-income seniors, a huge entitlement success story since it was passed in 2003.

Under Part D, seniors are free to choose among a variety of benefits, costs and plans offered by private insurers. According to the Heartland Institute, Medicare trustees estimated a 2013 average monthly cost of $61 — when the actual costs are HALF that.

ObamaCare offers some features — state exchanges — that encourage competition among private insurers, but it is largely a command-and-control model always preferred by bureaucrats. Have you seen the complex form individuals must complete to make use of the exchanges? Such an approach stifles the real competitive creativity and efficiency that has long been missing from the American health-care system.

And so we are saddled with another gargantuan entitlement that is puzzling private employers and making many of them wary of hiring full-timers — one reason the high unemployment rate persists.

Oh, well, the massive government disruption has been good for some — consultants who help companies understand the massive number of ObamaCare regulations, and people like me who provide corporate communications services that full-time employees used to.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Good Old Neighbors http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/good-old-neighbors-2/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/good-old-neighbors-2/#comments Wed, 21 Aug 2013 07:05:42 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=631566 Exclusive Excerpt from: “An Apple Core, a Toilet: Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood” by Tom Purcell

I drove through my old neighborhood last week.

It is like many suburban neighborhoods that sprouted up in the 1960s. Many of the people who moved there grew up in the city. All of them wanted big yards in which their kids could play. Many wanted to be near St. Germaine Catholic Church and its elementary school.

14334 600 Good Old Neighbors cartoons

Arcadio Esquivel / Cagle Cartoons

We moved into our new house in 1964, when I was 2. It was a basic, square house — brick on the bottom, white siding on the top — designed for raising children.

And there were a lot of children. I was born at the tail end of the baby boom. Neighbor kids were everywhere. The Gillens had four; the Bennetts, three; the Greenaways, four; the Kriegers, five …

It was a traditional time, to be sure. Fathers worked and worried about the bills. Most mothers stayed home and worried about the kids.

But there was less to worry about then. Moms ran the neighborhood. Kids were free to play.

One summer, the fad was to make skateboards by nailing old roller skates onto two-foot pieces of 2-by-4. So many kids rode their skateboards down Tracy Drive, the pavement turned gray.

When the young families moved into their new homes, a lot of work needed to be done. Grass, shrubs and trees were planted. Concrete patios and driveways were poured. Porch roofs were built, basements remodeled into family rooms.

Most of the fathers were in their 20s then. They spent Saturdays helping each other. They enjoyed breaking a sweat and drinking a few ice-cold beers.

Most every decision these young parents made was based on the needs of their children. The principles they lived by were simple. They treated their children as little souls that God gave them to watch over. They wanted them to have a solid moral foundation and good education. Most of us attended St. Germaine School.

Despite the struggles these parents encountered — all people, rich and poor, encounter struggles — most stayed married. Most believed they would be together “until death do us part.”

More than a decade ago, after my parents moved out of the neighborhood, they threw a party for the old neighbors in their new house. I tended bar at the event.

The last time I had seen many of these people had been more than 25 years earlier, when I was still a lad myself. At the party, I had a chance to learn about these good people.

Every person in that room was a child of the Depression who came from nothing. One told stories of how the row house he grew up in was freezing cold in the morning. He wouldn’t get out of bed until he heard his father go down to the basement to fire up some coal.

Another told me that for nearly 20 years of his marriage, he worked three jobs — 60 hours a week — to keep up with the bills. He wouldn’t buy his first new car until he retired at 65.

In spite of the fact that they hadn’t saved much money and worried about their futures, they married young, had families right away and worked hard.

They scrimped and saved and gradually built a wonderful world for themselves and their children. And every one of them raised children who are all doing well in life.

These good people are in their 70s and 80s now. They’re retired and living the good life. They have plenty to celebrate.

It was my honor to spend an evening with them.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Fidel Goes To Confession http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/fidel-goes-to-confession/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/fidel-goes-to-confession/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 07:10:16 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=631528 After celebrating his 87th birthday last week, semi-retired communist dictator Fidel Castro did something nobody expected him to do: He contacted Pope Francis to hear his confession.

“Forgive me, pontiff, for I have sinned. Is 65 years since last confession.”

114840 600 Fidel Goes To Confession cartoons

Arcadio Esquivel / Cagle Cartoons

“Sixty-five years!” said the pontiff. “This is going to be a long one. Go on, Fidel.”

“As a boy, I once cheat on an exam.”

“Yes?”

“As a teen, I once steal a melon from market.”

“Yes?”

“And in 1959, I and my rebel forces squash evil dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista so common man could share wealth of great Cuba, and to ensure sharing, I imprison and kill my enemies, seize most property and become new dictator of Cuba!”

“Have you ever considered cutting back on your caffeine, Fidel?”

“Then in 1961, great Fidel rise against Yankee imperialists and win victory at Bay of Pigs! For many years, Fidel squash American attempts to dispose of him. And today, Fidel’s great revolution continues! In my country, wealth is shared between rich and poor.”

“Wealth, Fidel. What wealth?”

“Cuba boasts largest fleet of 1950 Studebakers in all of Caribbean.”

“Look, Fidel, confession is about truth. The truth is that your country is a wreck. Your buildings are falling down. Your people eat scraps. Nobody has ever ridden a flotilla from Miami to your shores.”

“What you getting at, pontiff?”

“You, sir, are on the wrong side of truth and history. How many communist countries have to fall before you realize that central planning doesn’t work?”

“Pontiff, you speak words of American capitalist pigs!”

“Hel-loooo! Anybody home? Fidel, the Soviet Union has unraveled. Your $5 billion annual stipend is gone. Yet while your people live in squalor, you live in splendor, drinking wine and sleeping on silk sheets.”

“Dictator must keep up appearances.”

“But not only are your people poor economically, you have bankrupted them spiritually.”

“Spiritually?”

“You discouraged the practice of religion, Fidel. You seized paintings of Jesus Christ from your people’s homes. You shut down the Catholic schools, even though you received an excellent education in one. And only in the later years of your dictatorship did you begin allowing people to worship God openly.”

“With all due respect, pontiff, your mythical God is not solution to any problem. All problems are economic. Only reason Cuba not richer is because of evil American embargo against my people!”

“Fidel, I dislike the U.S. embargo because it hurts the poor worst of all. But the primary reason your people suffer is because of you. You have imposed a system on them that stifles freedom, creativity and spirituality.”

“But Fidel’s revolution not complete! You will see, pontiff! Day will come when forces of history overturn your mythical God and Cuba’s classless society be heaven on Earth!”

“Look, Fidel. There is right and there is wrong, and each is measured by our God. Whether or not you believe in God, the only way to prosper and be at peace is to align ourselves with human truth.”

“Truth?”

“America is far from perfect, but its political system is closer to truth than yours is, Fidel. Freedom is the only path to prosperity. And if you set your people free, great things will follow.”

“Fidel thanks pontiff for hearing confession, but Fidel can never agree with you.”

“And I cannot complete your confession if you are not contrite. All I can say is that it is good that you allow your people to hang pictures of Jesus Christ in their homes again.”

“Pictures of Jesus Christ? But Fidel thought they were pictures of Fidel!”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Why I Sometimes Long For The Cold War http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/why-i-sometimes-long-for-the-cold-war/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/why-i-sometimes-long-for-the-cold-war/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 13:49:50 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=631278 I’ve been thinking about the sorry state of American culture, and that made me reminisce about the Cold War.

132399 600 Why I Sometimes Long For The Cold War cartoons

Taylor Jones / Cagle Cartoons

You remember the Cold War. It brought us espionage, alliances with cheesy dictators and a devotion to making bombs. And throughout it all, we lived in constant fear that the Soviets were going to blow us up.

Ah, the good old days!

The fear of nuclear holocaust had its upside. It drove us closer to our God and to our families. We paid our bills on time. We treated our fellow man with more respect. We did the things people are likely to do when they worry that, at any moment, they may be meeting their maker.

The economy wasn’t bad, either. Thanks in part to the buildup of arms under President Reagan, everyone had a job, even my college buddy Faz. He graduated with the lowest mechanical engineering grade-point average in Penn State history, yet he got work designing shell casings for torpedoes at a Virginia plant.

Our love lives were better. During the Cold War, most women didn’t want to be shipped to faraway places to lie on their bellies and get shot at by communists. They wanted men to do that. And when President Reagan called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire,” American men were getting dates in unprecedented numbers.

Sure, the Cold War had a few drawbacks. The Bay of Pigs was no picnic. And most people got tired of letters to the editor from nutty guys who wrote: “Why don’t we build a large pair of glasses and set them across our great nation? Then we can say to the Russians: You wouldn’t fight a country with glasses, would you?”

For the most part, though, the Cold War was about a constant fear that kept us in check. But things took a bad turn in 1985 when Gorbachev turned the Soviets into a bunch of softies. He talked about freedom. His government stopped telling the press what to write. By 1989, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and that ruined everything.

Without a great enemy to unite us, America turned its focus inward. We began to squabble among ourselves.

Environmentalists formed powerful organizations to make us feel guilty for driving our cars and heating our houses. Animal activists made us feel awful for eating dinner. Other groups told us we were racist anti-multiculturalists.

Women turned on men. Now, we never know — after we compliment a woman — whether we’ll be greeted with a smile or a lawsuit.

Today, we are more divided politically and culturally than at any time in my 51 years. We have 24/7 media fanning the flames of our discord to gin up ratings and ad revenue. Nobody is getting along.

We’re so blinded by our inwardness, we overlook the fact that the Earth is still filled with evil forces, and we are still but one nuclear explosion away from utter chaos and worldwide unrest.

Free of such real worries, we’ve elevated matters of small importance into great affairs as we have downplayed matters of truly great importance — debt, deficits, spending and inability to address all three — that may soon be our undoing.

Were we a more thoughtful and reasonable people, we might make the intelligent decision to set aside petty matters and come together to focus on the real problems. That would take leadership, however, which we are badly lacking these days.

That’s why, in these divided times, I long for the simplicity of the Cold War. How grand it was when worried children were taught to huddle under their desks and adults were kept honest by genuine worries.

Boy, we could use another Cold War about now.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Great Minds on Government http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/great-minds-on-government/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/great-minds-on-government/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 13:08:09 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=631139 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Too many of our political leaders see government as the solution to our challenges. If only they paid more consideration to what some of our great minds had to say about government.

135382 600 Great Minds on Government cartoons

Jeff Parker / Florida Today

My favorite quotations reveal a general wariness of government — a key principle upon which our republic was founded:

“A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take everything you have.”

– Barry Goldwater

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country — against his government.”

– Edward Abbey

“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.”

– Edmund Burke

Well, Eddie, you got that right. Before we allow President Obama to commence “making government cool again,” we may want to consider this:

“The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it’s so rare.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan

“Government is inherently incompetent, and no matter what task it is assigned, it will do it in the most expensive and inefficient way possible.”

– Charley Reese

“Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.”

– Leo Tolstoy

Sorry, Leo, but folks often forget how unpleasant government can be. Just ask someone who recently got audited for supporting the wrong political party.

Here is where government is really effective:

“The government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, then hand you a crutch and say, ‘See, if it weren’t for the government you wouldn’t be able to walk.’”

– Harry Browne

“Government’s view of the economy can be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

– Ronald Reagan

“Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer.”

– Ludwig von Mises

We citizens must be more skeptical about well-meaning politicians. We must look past their flowery words to understand what they really may be up to:

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”

– H.L. Mencken

“One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.”

– Thomas Reed

“A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

– George Bernard Shaw

Excellent quote, Georgie. You described the 2012 elections more accurately than 99 percent of America’s journalists — and you’ve been dead since 1950.

Look, it’s long been time that America gets back to the basics. American citizens must stand up and demand a return to the principles of SMALL government:

“That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”

– Thomas Jefferson

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

– Patrick Henry

“Our best protection against bigger government in Washington is better government in the states.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

Unfortunately, Dwight, we abandoned that concept some time ago. Unless Americans wake up and remember the origin of our greatness — it’s the people, not the government — we are poised for the government to expand more, and take more and control us more.

Humorists understand the ramifications better than anyone:

“The primary function of the government is — and here I am quoting directly from the U.S. Constitution — ‘to spew out paper.’”

– Dave Barry

“The difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”

– Will Rogers

“Did you ever notice that when you put the words ‘the’ and ‘IRS’ together, it spells ‘THEIRS?’”

– Unknown

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Marriage is Alive And Well – For Some http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/marriage-is-alive-and-well-for-some/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/08/marriage-is-alive-and-well-for-some/#comments Wed, 07 Aug 2013 07:10:14 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=631091 Boy, are some Americans losing interest in marriage these days.

According to a National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) study, the U.S. marriage rate is on the decline.

120137 600 Marriage is Alive And Well   For Some cartoons

David Fitzsimmons / Arizona Daily Star

Whereas 92 out of 1,000 single women married in 1920, only 31 out of 1,000 are marrying today.

In a 2011 study, the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Americans were married, compared to 72 percent in 1960 — the marriage rate has declined by 60 percent since 1979.

Social scientists offer a variety of reasons for the shift. Younger people are much more likely to cohabitate than marry. Some prefer to remain single and focus on their careers and themselves. And the down economy has caused no small number of couples to delay their wedding day.

And then there is the “soul mate” factor, a modern construct.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, explained to The Associated Press that single people today have a high degree of “expressive individualism.” They are demanding an unrealistic level of fulfillment from their mates.

It wasn’t so long ago that a fellow could get by without movie-star looks and a captivating personality — even a bald, chubby guy could win the affections of a nice lady, so long as he had a good heart and was a CPA.

But nowadays, many single people are holding out for the perfect person — perfect looks and personality — and the good-hearted CPA isn’t likely to make the cut.

The fact is, no one person can ever live up to our high soul-mate ideals — so, many people remain single.

Which doesn’t bode well for single men or women — though single women fare far better than single men do.

Married men are physically, emotionally and financially healthier than their single counterparts. They avoid risky behavior.

They’re much less likely to wake up in a pile of dirty laundry, still clutching the tequila bottle they began drinking from just before the party broke up.

The fact is, marriage is good.

Married people produce happier, healthier children. Marriage produces stable, thriving communities. Happily married people enjoy more gratifying sex lives.

Married men live longer than single men — though their wives may tell you it only seems longer.

And there’s something to be said for having a lifelong partner to support, and be supported by, as you go through life’s rough patches.

Mark Twain said there is no greater beauty and sweetness than the closeness and camaraderie of a husband and wife who hold deep affection for one other — a closeness single people are without.

Interestingly, the NCFMR study found that the most educated Americans still champion marriage.

In the last five decades, there has been only a modest decrease in the number of college-educated people getting married — which likely correlates with the down economy.

The biggest marriage drops have come among those who do not hold even a high school diploma — those who may be likely to lose government benefits if they do choose to marry.

In any event, though marriage rates are declining overall, marriage is doing very well among the college-educated.

So enthusiastic are they about the benefits of marriage, they spend every waking moment trying to pair up single people.

They push single women at us single men tirelessly — oftentimes, not very attractive single women.

I understand it’s worse for single women. Their mothers, aunts and married sisters tell them their biological clock is ticking, they’re going to turn into spinsters and they’ll end up old and lonely and die of a broken heart.

Married people can be so heartless.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Summer Camp http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/summer-camp-2/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/summer-camp-2/#comments Wed, 31 Jul 2013 11:58:22 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=630883 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Dear Mom and Dad,

It’s been less than a week since you dropped me off at summer camp. You better come get me ’cause I’m in big trouble.

134092 600 Summer Camp cartoons

Randy Bish / Pittsburgh Tribune Review

On my first day, I was feeling homesick. So I found a piece of wood and began carving it with my Swiss Army knife the way Daddy showed me.

Well, one of the counselors yelled at me to “freeze.” He took my knife, then patted me down. Then he marched me off to the camp director. The director said, who did I think I was bringing a lethal weapon, a symbol of pain and death, into her camp? Then she gave me a “verbal warning.”

The next day, Billy Johnson and I got bored, so we went into the woods to play. We turned a couple of branches into guns and made bullet noises as we fought the bad guys. Sure enough, we got marched off to the director. The director said there’s so much war in the world because boys like us are taught to “celebrate” it from an early age. She said we should be ashamed of ourselves and that we were lucky she wasn’t sending us home.

So I figured I better stay out of trouble. But then I got in trouble at lunch. I began to say grace out loud, just like you taught me, and I was carted off to the director again.

She wanted to know who I thought I was imposing my beliefs on others. She said my actions showed how “ignorant” and “insensitive” Americans are to other cultures; then she gave me another warning.

Believe it or not, things got even worse the next day. We were weaving baskets and I was sitting next to Mary Allison, the prettiest girl I ever saw.

“Mary,” I said, “you’re so pretty you make me smile from ear to ear.”

Well, sure enough, I was carted off to the director again. She said I really crossed the line this time. She said my behavior was not only “boorish,” but against the law. She said I should be sued for sexual harassment.

By the way, what is a “gender terrorist”?

I was pretty uptight by that point. But I was able to forget about it the next day when we played kickball. I kicked the ball really far and I got a grand slam. I was so happy, I said, “We win! We win!”

Sure enough, that got me another trip to the director’s office. This time she said I was “insensitive” to the players on the other team. She said I hurt their “self-esteem.” Then she asked me if Daddy was a Republican.

By this point, I figured I’d better just keep to myself. So I got a jar out of the cafeteria and went into the woods. I caught a bumblebee in the jar and put some flowers in there to keep him happy. I was poking holes in the top to let fresh air in when I was hauled off to the director again.

This time, she was really mad. She said, who did I think I was giving a “death sentence” to an innocent bee? She said I had no respect for the Earth and that it was people like me who were responsible for climate change. She said I’ll be lucky if the world doesn’t end before I collect Social Security.

She said I better get with the program — that there is no place in this world anymore for “thoughtless,” “restless,” “insensitive” boys like me. She said if I mess up one more time, she was kicking me out of the camp.

By the way, what is Ritalin?

Anyhow, you better plan on coming back to get me. Tomorrow everybody is going for a hike in the woods. And I already picked some flowers to give to Mary Allison.

Your son,

Tommy

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Age(s) of Happiness http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/ages-of-happiness/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/ages-of-happiness/#comments Tue, 30 Jul 2013 12:18:29 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=630837 Get this: Happiness among human beings peaks at age 23, tanks at 55, then peaks again at 69.

So says a study by the Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, as reported by the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper.

The findings make sense to me.

At 23, you are brimming with life. You are confident your future includes great riches and fame, a lovely wife and a perfect family and home.

61144 600 Age(s) of Happiness cartoons

Arcadio Esquivel, La Prensa, Panama

As you move along, though, it doesn’t take long for the disappointments to begin piling up. The study concludes that most 23-year-olds overestimate their future life satisfaction by about 10 percent — or considerably more than that.

Pretty soon, your life is filled with meanie bosses who are under pressure to turn a profit — that’s if you are able to find a job in our stammering economy weighted down by government rules, penalties and costs.

Still, when you’re young, you think you have lots of time to figure it out. But, as it turns out, you have way less time than you think.

One day, you’re just out of college, trying to extend your active college social life. Pretty soon, your focus shifts to making something of yourself. You are either at work or school all the time.

Before you know it, you are 30. The college kids you were once among now view you as an old-timer. You don’t feel old, though. You’re still living in Mom and Dad’s basement!

And while you try to find your way through your 30s — marriage and children and lots more debt — suddenly, you are 40. How did that happen?

For a few years, you remain calm. You are still somewhat young — still have your dreams to chase.

But as life — which involves speeding tickets, colds, high tax bills, unexpected household expenses and a dizzying mix of highs and lows — takes over, you realize you have little spare time.

And then, you are 50. Good God, a half-century? A half-century is supposed to be a long time — but it didn’t take so long at all.

Your expectations for the future are not what they once were. You spend less time looking forward and more time looking back.

Your mistakes and regrets come into sharp focus. If only you had done this or that. If you are lucky enough to still have your parents, as I am, you are sad to see what age is doing to them.

You long for your childhood when they were young and strong — when times were simpler, and they surely were if you were lucky enough to grow up in the ’70s. (I had a grand time writing and publishing a book about my experience, “Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood.”)

You worry about the future more than you ever have. You are wiser and pay attention to the news. You are saddened, even angered, by our country’s inability to address its core problems — spending, debt, deficit, money-printing.

You worry about the future that your children and grandchildren will know. Will they live in a country with fewer freedoms, lots more government rules and a perpetually stagnant economy, as is the case in Western Europe?

So it makes sense that one’s happiness would tank at 55.

We celebrated my father’s 80th birthday on Sunday. He told me that when he hit 50, time took off like a rocket. That makes me cranky, too.

It’s going by too fast. I’m not accomplishing enough. My country is not accomplishing enough.

If I can hang on until I’m 69, will my happiness peak again?

I hope so. I hope our country comes to its senses and is able to unleash the ingenuity and prosperity we need to pay for all the promises we have made.

But at 51, I have my doubts, which is troubling — I still have four years to reach my peak crankiness.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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My David Cassidy Hair http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/my-david-cassidy-hair/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/my-david-cassidy-hair/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 07:05:34 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=630592 Exclusive Excerpt from: “An Apple Core, a Toilet: Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood

First-wave baby boomers will begin turning 67 this year — and they’re STILL imposing their ways on younger people, such as tail-end boomers like me.

Though maybe I’m still upset about the David Cassidy haircut my sisters made me get in 1973.

80787 600 My David Cassidy Hair cartoons

Cam Cardow / Ottawa Citizen

Like every teen girl then, my sisters were smitten with Cassidy. They exploited my chief insecurity to get me to cut my hair like his.

“If you part your hair down the middle and feather it over the sides, you’ll be able to hide your big floppy ears,” they said.

And so it was that I would do the unthinkable: I would become the first kid in St. Germaine School to don the Cassidy look.

I pedaled my bike three miles to the unisex hair salon. I approached the salon’s owner, a cranky middle-aged woman with a cigarette dangling from her lip, and set a pile of crumpled bills and coins on the counter.

“Make me look like David Cassidy,” I said.

She clipped and she cut, she styled and she set. She applied goops and sprays of every kind.

When she finished, she turned the chair around so I could see in the mirror what she had done. I didn’t look a whit like David Cassidy.

I looked like Danny Bonaduce.

I pedaled home as fast as I could and I hid in my room the rest of the day. I finally had to come out when my father called me down for supper.

I took my seat to his right. He sensed something was off immediately.

As he washed his burger down with man-sized gulps of Pabst Blue Ribbon, he kept looking over to me.

“What the hell happened to your hair?” he finally said.

“I got it cut.”

“But it’s parted down the middle.”

“Yes.”

“Who parts hair down the middle?”

“The unisex hair salon.”

“The uni-what?”

“A place that cuts hair for both men and women.”

“You went to a lady’s hair salon!”

“A unisex salon.”

“But your hair is parted down the middle!”

My David Cassidy haircut was as painful for my father as it was for me. Our suffering had a common source: first-wave baby boomers.

Since the first boomer was born in 1946, boomers have been setting the pace. They’ve foisted their politics, their music and their clothing on younger generations.

Now, as they begin pushing 70, they’re foisting all kinds of problems on us.

As millions retire, they will stop contributing to Social Security and begin receiving payments. Our taxes will surely rise to keep their cash flowing.

That’s because older boomers have the numbers to demand lots of government goodies from politicians eager to trade taxpayer dough for votes.

Will hair transplants and facelifts be paid for by government-directed healthcare programs?

Though it’s not like older boomers are broke. Dow Jones reports that many have amassed a fine nest egg — which they do not intend to leave for their kids.

Some will sell their suburban homes and flock to resort areas in other countries — further driving down the value of homes here, while driving up the home values elsewhere.

To be sure, younger generations have spent their lives fighting off the influence and agitation of the older boomers, and we’ve failed at every turn.

It wasn’t until my mid 20s that I finally got rid of my David Cassidy haircut. I told the hairdresser to try something modern and original.

She cut my hair short and slicked it straight back. When she spun my chair around to show me her work, I was horrified by what I saw.

I looked like Eddie Munster.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at Cari@cagle.com.. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Recess For Kids and Adults http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/recess-for-kids-and-adults/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/recess-for-kids-and-adults/#comments Tue, 23 Jul 2013 07:15:21 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=630576 Life for kids is harder today than ever before, and I offer up proof: According to a variety of news reports, many elementary schools are eliminating recess.

Why would schools do such a heartless thing? Well, these days, teachers are expected to teach kids everything from manners to self-esteem. Teachers need to use recess time to slip in a little math and science.

129558 600 Recess For Kids and Adults cartoons

David Fitzsimmons / Arizona Daily Star

Besides, recess is nothing but a lawsuit waiting to happen. When kids get hurt on the playground, lawyers jump out of bushes — so you can’t entirely fault schools for eliminating playtime, and that’s a shame.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, kids were allowed to be kids. In the summers, we played from morning until dark. Unlike today’s youngsters, we annoyed our parents by spending too LITTLE time in the house, prompting two common demands:

“You better be home on time for supper!”

“You better be home when the street lamps turn on.”

Recess was a big part of my life at St. Germaine Catholic School. Every day, we had a nice long break to run like wild animals out in the parking lot. It was the only place where a kid could build up enough footspeed to outrun the nuns.

It was on the playground that I developed self-esteem by becoming the king of keep-away. We played kickball, caught football and played “it” tag. And we were so refreshed afterward, we were able to endure the torturous math and science lessons that made up the rest of the day.

But kids don’t get to be kids much anymore. They’re shut inside a classroom from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. As soon as they get home, the structure continues.

Because many parents only have one or two children, they’re able to lavish them with lessons. Kids don’t play soccer, they go to soccer school. They don’t play pickup baseball, they go to the batting academy. They have piano lessons, chess club, math tutoring and so on.

That’s why recess is more important now than it ever was. Kids need the free time to explore and play and run free. It’s the only chance they have in their rigid universe to let loose and learn how to socialize with other kids, uninterrupted by adults.

But I argue it isn’t just kids who need recess. Adults should begin to embrace it, too. So many of us are so busy keeping up with the pressures of our specialized jobs — juggling schedules, working long hours to keep our jobs or working two or three jobs to keep up with our bills — that maybe we should have a little free time to blow off steam, too.

Where’s the president on this one? I thought he felt our pain. In fact, I’m surprised President Obama hasn’t proposed something like a Federal Recess for Adults Act, which would provide federal funds to allow adults to play — and penalize companies that refuse.

Regardless, it would be a good idea for adults to spend one hour each day hitting the fields and playgrounds. Liberals could play catch with conservatives. Feminists could jump rope with stay-at-home moms. It would improve our understanding of each other and improve civility in our political debate.

Heck, maybe if the president spent an hour each day playing hopscotch with conservatives in the House, he’d open up multiple opportunities to find consensus on the many unresolved issues our country is facing.

So, it’s a bad idea to take recess from children — and a great idea to expand it for adults.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to break for lunch and catch Frisbee with a radical progressive.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Window Fans http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/the-window-fans/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/the-window-fans/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:45:46 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=630362 Exclusive Excerpt from: “An Apple Core, a Toilet: Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood” by Tom Purcell

Even on the hottest nights of the summer, my father knew how to make our house ice cold.

133718 600 The Window Fans cartoons

Sean Delonas / Cagle Cartoons

We lived in a modest two-story home typical of the ’60s and ’70s — red brick on the bottom, white aluminum siding on the top. There were four bedrooms upstairs and a master bedroom downstairs (my parent’s room, which we added onto the back of our house in 1972).

Only one house in our neighborhood had air conditioning back then. It was locked up tighter than Fort Knox.

Most houses were wide open all summer. This allowed the outside sounds to come in and the inside sounds to go out.

I woke every morning to the sound of birds chirping, a dewy chill in the air. I’d hear sausage sizzling in a neighbor’s kitchen. A screen door slamming, a car starting, a father lumbering off to work.

The afternoons were quiet — the older kids went on bike hikes or swimming at the community pool — but as evening arrived, the sounds came alive again. At dinner time, kids were called home through a variety of shouts, chants, bells and horns. Pork and chicken sizzled on grills. Families ate and talked on back porches.

As darkness fell, a range of new sounds echoed throughout the neighborhood: a dog barking; a motorcycle downshifting on some faraway hill; Bob Prince and Nellie King broadcasting Pirates games on the radio; a baby crying; a couple squabbling…

And window fans humming.

My father was a master at driving the hot, stale air from our house. He installed an industrial fan in the attic that sucked the hot air upwards and pumped it through a roof vent. Then he put a window fan in the downstairs bedroom to pull cool air inside.

It took him years to perfect his method, but by closing some windows and doors and adjusting others to varying degrees of openness, he tuned our house like a fine violin. He could drive down the temperature 15 degrees or more in a matter of minutes.

I remember coming home on summer nights when I was in college. I’d open the front door and be greeted by a burst of cool air. Sometimes my father would be in the kitchen, leaning on the countertop with his elbows as he ate his favorite snack — peanut butter crackers and ice-cold milk.

He’d hand me the peanut-butter-smeared knife and I’d smatter a couple of crackers. As we chomped away, we’d mumble through a conversation about college or the Pirates or a variety of other conversations sons had with their dads in the kitchen such nights.

Other times, my father and mother would be lying in bed in the back room, the lights off, the television light flickering as Johnny Carson delivered his monologue, the window fan humming. We’d chat for a spell before I headed up to bed.

I went to the hardware store to buy a window fan recently. I put it in my bedroom window and have been trying different adjustments to maximize the coolness in my place. Its sound transports me to a time and a place that I’ve been longing for lately.

It reminds me of the constant presence of my father, who spent years tweaking and perfecting the world to make things better for his kids. He was an old-school dad. He lacked skill at articulating his love, so he dedicated himself to showing it.

I know now how profound his presence was. It established order where chaos and emptiness would have been. It permeated every nook and cranny of our home and our lives. It is in me still — it guides me still.

That’s why I shut off the air conditioning most summer nights and run the window fan instead. Its wobbling hum fills me with peacefulness and calm — and reminds me how blessed I was to have such a dad.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Rooting Out Government Leakers http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/rooting-out-government-leakers/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/rooting-out-government-leakers/#comments Tue, 16 Jul 2013 14:11:16 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=630325 The name is Monday. Agent Monday. I have an important job to do.

Back in 2011 President Obama issued an executive order to root out security violators within the federal government — people like Edward Snowden, our most recent leaker of government secrets.

134312 600 Rooting Out Government Leakers cartoons

Arcadio Esquivel / Cagle Cartoons

The president ordered federal employees to report suspicious activities among their co-workers — any unusual behaviors, strange attitudes, financial troubles or unprecedented travel common to people who sell or leak secrets, the lousy rats.

I am the lead agent in charge of investigating such people. My phone has been ringing off the hook.

My first call took me to the Department of Health and Human Services. The people there have been interpreting Obama’s massive 2,700 page health care law to write new regulations. It has ballooned to 20,000 pages of mandates and penalties that weigh 300 pounds and stand 7 feet tall.

“One of our employees read through every page and he’s been acting odd ever since,” a bureaucrat told me. “He worried that the new rules will bankrupt the country.”

“He leak this information to anyone?”

“No,” said the bureaucrat. “When he tried to sneak the stack of regulations out the door, it fell on him, causing his unfortunate demise.”

“Serves him right,” I said, smiling.

Just as I settled the ObamaCare case, my phone rang. An employee was acting out of line at the IRS.

“She has been coming in early and staying late,” said the IRS bureaucrat. “We’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Has she been targeting, harassing and auditing conservatives?” I said.

“No.”

“Does she spend money lavishly on expensive conferences and silly training videos?”

“No,” said the bureaucrat. “That’s the problem. She refuses to do so. What a killjoy.”

“Sounds like someone who is planning to sing.”

“Unless someone makes it look like she was embezzling funds and her reputation is ruined?”

“I like how you think,” I said.

Just then my phone rang again. We had a potential rat at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’ve tried to keep it quiet,” said the EPA bureaucrat, “but we’re using every means possible to re-interpret existing laws to create new regulations.”

“Let me get this right,” I said. “Since the president can’t pass the restrictive environmental laws he wants, his EPA is just making up new rules?”

“That’s right,” said the bureaucrat. “We issued a slew of new regulations to curb U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, which we believe contribute to global warming. Coal plants are shutting down left and right.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“We have an employee who is criticizing our lack of openness,” said the bureaucrat. “He says in a constitutional republic, new laws cannot be arbitrarily created in the executive branch — which is essentially what we are doing. He says we are being unconstitutional.”

“Good God,” I said. “You have been infiltrated by a conservative. He’ll surely contact the press and sing.”

“We expect not,” said the bureaucrat. “Since he was a conservative, it wasn’t too hard for a government psychiatrist to diagnose him as mentally unfit. We put him on forced disability.”

“Nicely played,” I said.

Some argue that government leakers are not the real problem our country is facing. The real problem is that our government has gotten too big, powerful and intrusive.

They argue that the recent scandals are not isolated incidents — that the scandals are what big government looks like.

Maybe so, but that is not my concern.

My only concern is this: I am Agent Monday and I have an important job to do.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Lessons From The Photo Box http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/lessons-from-the-photo-box/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/lessons-from-the-photo-box/#comments Thu, 11 Jul 2013 07:05:32 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=630160 Exclusive Excerpt from: “An Apple Core, a Toilet: Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood” by Tom Purcell

Here’s something you should do if you haven’t done so in a while: visit your mother and father and get out the old photo box.

63320 600 Lessons From The Photo Box cartoons

Jiho / France, Cagle Cartoons

Surely you have one. Ours is in my parents’ hall closet. It’s in a sturdy old Pabst Blue Ribbon beer case.

Lucky for me, I needed some photos for a humor speech I am giving about growing up in the ’70s and I had a reason to go through the old photos.

As my mother and I dug through the box, I came across a black-and-white photo of a little girl. She’s holding a stuffed toy as she looks, suspiciously, into the lens of the camera.

That photo was taken 75 years ago, when the girl had her whole life before her. She didn’t know yet that one of her sisters would be struck with polio 12 years later, that her father would die at 49 just a month before her wedding, or that she’d have six healthy children and 17 grandchildren.

That was my mother’s picture. It was taken when she was 2.

I found my father’s black-and-white high-school graduation photo. He was trim and handsome — a thick head of hair. The photo had red coloring around his lips. When I asked my mother what it was, she explained.

When he was away in the Army, she used to kiss the photo. The red coloring was her lipstick.

My parents’ wedding photos are striking — both of them so young and attractive. She was 19 and he was 23. They had very little money, but it was 1956, a time of hope and optimism. They were intent on building a life together.

Many other photos from over the years show that they succeeded.

The old Polaroids, in their greenish, yellowy hue, documented so many instances in their lives: the new home built in 1964; Jingles, our beloved mutt dog born in 1972, getting a bath, which she hated; birthday parties, Christmas mornings and many other family events.

The newer photos document the thinning and graying hair, the high school and college graduations, the surprise party we threw for my father when he turned 50 and, eventually, the surprise retirement party.

These photos transport me right back to those moments I knew as a kid, both sad and happy: the cold January day in 1972 when my grandmother died and my father sobbed; the sound of my father driving around the neighborhood calling out for our dog the time she disappeared for three days; the Friday evenings sitting around the dinner table laughing with my sisters about everything and nothing at all.

It’s bittersweet to go through the old photos. They make me sad. They reflect the speed with which time is passing — the speed with which time is aging us all and, in the process, taking so many people I love away from me.

But those photos fill me with calm. They make me remember how blessed I have been to be given the family I was given — how blessed I’ve been to go through life with such a colorful cast of characters.

They bring perspective and clarity — they help me see the long view, something I forget to do far too often. They remind me that every day really is precious — every moment is.

That is all a photo is, too: a snapshot of a moment in time. It locks our world and our lives in place, so we can see and feel and understand the deep meaning in them.

Our fast-paced world is in desperate need of such perspective. As our markets crash and our politics get ugly — as the media report every day on the various ways the sky is falling — we need to stand above the fray. We need to keep hold of ourselves.

I know a perfect way to get started.

If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents in your life, go to their house and get out the old photo box.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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An Education in Debt http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/an-education-in-debt/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/an-education-in-debt/#comments Tue, 09 Jul 2013 14:46:53 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=630073 I don’t understand what they are thinking.

I speak of the nearly 37 million Americans who owe roughly $1 trillion total in student-loan debt — most of it FEDERAL student-loan debt. And that’s for loans taken out before the interest rate on new, federally subsidized student loans doubled a little over a week ago.

133834 600 An Education in Debt cartoons

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch

The numbers are staggering. According to the informational nonprofit American Student Assistance, the average student-loan balance stands at around $24,300. A rough breakdown shows that:

• 4.175 million borrowers owe more than $28,000.

• 1.67 million borrowers owe more than $54,000.

• 501,000 borrowers owe more than $100,000.

• 167,000 borrowers owe more than $200,000.

I sure hope these people aren’t English majors.

But it gets worse. When you factor in credit cards and money bummed from family members, says CNN, each member of the Class of 2013 owes an average of $35,200.

Why do students owe so much these days? The main reason: Tuitions have been soaring, far outpacing both medical and cost-of-living inflation for more than 30 years.

Recent tuition increases are in response to state-funding cuts. Many states, which have to balance their budgets, are giving state universities less — and to cover the shortfall, state universities have increased tuitions.

Universities are able to keep increasing tuitions, in part, because lax lending policies allow most any student to borrow more to cover the increased costs.

A sixth-grader can see the correlation between easy borrowing and the steady increase in college tuitions. To wit: School tuitions have continued to soar because they are able to.

And boy, have some student-loan borrowers racked themselves with debt.

Don’t many of us know someone who borrowed thousands of dollars for culinary school — and now makes 10 bucks an hour?

We know of college graduates with jobs that don’t require college degrees working second jobs to come up with the $1,000 or more they need to meet monthly student-loan repayment obligations.

That goes for those who are paying back their loans. Nearly 10 percent of student-loan borrowers are defaulting.

I was lucky to graduate from Penn State in 1985 owing only $7,500 in student loans.

Had I been able to borrow lots more, I surely would have tried. Then I could have lived in the lap of luxury, the way many college kids do today.

I surely wouldn’t have worked during my college days as a stonemason, dishwasher, janitor, handyman, grass-cutter and bouncer — though as a bouncer, I received the most respect I ever got, then or now.

To raise additional funds, I went to a medical clinic twice a week and sold my plasma. They sucked out my blood, spun off the plasma, then gave me my blood back — for $10.

Those lousy plasma donations nearly killed me, though — my mother, who dedicated her life to giving her children good health, almost strangled me when she found out why I was so pale.

I managed a rooming house during my senior year. It was a big old dump of a place, complete with cockroaches in the kitchen, but I lived there almost free to slash my costs.

My mentality was shaped by my father, a child of the Great Depression. My father has always shunned debt and favored hard work.

When he learned I had become an English major, he begged me to take up something more practical. I was the only person ever to graduate from Penn State with a major in English and a minor in air conditioning/heating.

In any event, we are finally reaching a point where younger generations are questioning the high costs of college education. Is the massive debt worth it?

I don’t know the long-term answer to that. But if you borrow thousands of dollars to become an English major, you might want to minor in welding.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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For The Fourth of July — Declare Independence From Government http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/for-the-fourth-of-july-declare-independence-from-government/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/07/for-the-fourth-of-july-declare-independence-from-government/#comments Tue, 02 Jul 2013 13:27:20 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=629812 In the course of human events it is necessary, now and again, to reaffirm some of the thoughts and principles we have lost sight of.

114499 600 For The Fourth of July    Declare Independence From Government cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

And so it is that we need to renew our independence. More than 55 percent of Americans now receive some form of federal government benefit — and many of us need to get off the dole.

I cite the findings of Richard Vedder, a professor emeritus of economics at Ohio University and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

In The Wall Street Journal, Vedder argues that more Americans are not only becoming more dependent on government benefits, but that their dependence is adversely affecting the growth of our economy.

Consider: From the mid-17th century to the late 20th century, Vedder says, the American economy’s growth averaged a robust 3.5 percent a year. Compare that to economic growth for the last quarter, which was revised down to 1.8 percent.

A key reason for the stumbling economy: Fewer able-bodied Americans are working because government programs give them incentive not to. Vedder offers four examples:

• Food stamps, now known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Approximately 48 million Americans receive food stamps — 30 million more than in the year 2000.

• Social Security Disability. This program was established for people with genuine needs, but its numbers are soaring. In 1990, 3 million Americans received such payments; today, there are nearly 11 million — 6 million have been added since 2009 — despite widely reported fraud and abuse.

• Pell Grants, which pay people to go to college instead of entering the workforce. The concept sounds reasonable enough — educate people so they get better jobs and pay more taxes — but Vedder says nearly half of college graduates now work in jobs that require no college degree.

• Extended unemployment benefits. Vedder says that since the 1930s, unemployment insurance has been about lending a short-term hand to folks losing their jobs. But in the past four years, the traditional 26-week benefit has grown to a year or more — peaking at up to 99 weeks in some states.

Vedder’s argument makes sense. When government incentivizes people to stay home rather than seek work — when it gives them the opportunity to avoid jobs where pay and conditions do not meet their expectations — they will avoid work, and that will have a negative impact on the economy for all of us.

Which is why we need a renewed declaration of independence — from our own government.

The American dream has long been about the freedom to pursue one’s own passion and success — not about being lured into the trap of getting by on a variety of federal and state programs.

And make no mistake, many more Americans are enjoying expensive government goodies — grants and tax breaks for crony capitalists, health insurance provided to employees tax-free, low-interest mortgages and deductions for vacation homes backed by Uncle Sam, etc. — than we like to admit, and these costs are killing us.

The American dream requires a robust economy that affords every American an opportunity to find meaningful work, but an undisciplined government carrying high debt and deficits stands in the way of a robust economy.

Heck, our government was formed to secure our unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — not to inhibit them.

If we have any hope of carrying on the American dream, we have to declare our independence from government all over again. We all have to get our hands out of the government cookie jar and scale back government goodies across the board.

I hope and pray that we have the will to get our affairs in order, so that younger generations may freely pursue their dreams, but I worry plenty these days.

And I wish you a happy Fourth of July.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Dinner Bells And The Other Lost Sounds of Summer http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/dinner-bells-and-the-other-lost-sounds-of-summer/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/dinner-bells-and-the-other-lost-sounds-of-summer/#comments Thu, 27 Jun 2013 11:48:57 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=629638 Exclusive Excerpt from: “An Apple Core, a Toilet: Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood” by Tom Purcell

I long for the sounds of summer I knew as a kid.

In the ’60s and ’70s, you see, most of our neighbors kept their windows open day and night, allowing the outside sounds to come in and the inside sounds to go out.

114325 600 Dinner Bells And The Other Lost Sounds of Summer cartoons

Frederick Deligne / Nice-Matin, France

I woke every morning to the birds chirping outside my window screen, a dewy chill in the air. I’d smell my father’s pipe, which he smoked while he read the paper downstairs. I’d go down to greet him. Sometimes he’d make scrambled eggs and toast covered with butter, and we’d eat while the birds kept on singing.

The evening sounds were equally powerful: a dog barking; a motorcycle downshifting on some faraway hill; people out on their porches listening to the Pirates play on the radio; a baby crying; a couple talking; children laughing; a window fan humming.

Sounds carry far in the summer air. One family on the hill — they had three adult kids still living at home — entertained the whole neighborhood with their cussing and bickering:

“You’re an idiot!” one would shout.

“No, you’re an idiot!” said another.

“Shut up the both of youse!” the old man would yell. He told our next-door neighbor once he couldn’t understand why his kids were so rude to each other, the lousy idiots.

The sounds I miss the most, though, were the shouts and chants and bells that families relied on to call their kids home for supper.

In those days, kids didn’t participate in one adult-run activity after another. We didn’t sit inside air-conditioned homes playing video games. No, we were out in the hills roaming and exploring and creating all day long.

We collected scrap wood and built shacks. We damned up the creek and caught minnows and crayfish. One summer, we built a motorized go-cart with some scrap items from a junked riding mower and a couple of two-by-fours. It was one of the great engineering feats in my neighborhood’s history.

Occasionally, we’d fib to our mothers and ride our bikes 20 miles farther than we said we would. Or we’d pluck some baby pears off a tree by Horning road and whip them at cars. Every now and then, a car would screech to a stop, and we’d sprint through a creek aqueduct that ran 200 feet beneath the neighborhood.

There was only one major rule a kid had to abide by: you’d better be home in time for supper.

Every kid had a unique sound to call him home. My father went with a deep, booming, “Tom, dinner! Tom, dinner!” I could hear him a mile away or more.

When moms did the calling, they always used full names. They always sang, too, as my Aunt Jane did: “Miiiiiikkkeeelllll, Keeeeevvvviiiiiinnnnn, suuuuuppppppeeerrrr!”

The Givens boys, up on the hill across the railroad tracks, were called in by a large bell. The clanging sounded off at 6 every night, giving us the sense that a river boat was making its way up the Mississippi or a chow wagon was calling in the cow hands for some grub.

One family used a riot horn. The piercing “hrmmpppphhhhhh!” could be heard for miles. There was no way that kid, attempting to explain why he was late for supper, could claim he didn’t hear it.

These mystical summer sounds have been gone a long time now. How wonderful it would be to bring them back.

At least one month every summer, why don’t we cease every structured activity for our children, cancel every tournament, and end every adult-run event.

Let’s turn off the television and computer. Let’s shut down the air conditioner and un-shutter the windows and doors.

Let’s allow our kids to go out into the hills to roam and play and discover all day long. That will require us to call them home at dinner.

And our shouts and chants and bells will breathe some much needed music into the sweet summer air.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Catholic School Incisive, Not Divisive http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/catholic-school-incisive-not-divisive/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/catholic-school-incisive-not-divisive/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 14:26:48 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=629548 I don’t know what President Obama was thinking.

Speaking in Northern Ireland last week, he said Catholic schools are divisive: “If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden —that too encourages division and discourages cooperation.”

125405 600 Catholic School Incisive, Not Divisive cartoons

Kap / Cagle Cartoons

Begorrah! What was he thinking?

I was lucky to attend a Catholic elementary school through the eighth grade. I didn’t know it at the time, but our church and our school reflected a religious tradition that was brought to America by millions of immigrants, many of whom arrived to work in Pittsburgh’s mines and steel mills 100 years before I was born.

The immigrants built magnificent Catholic churches that were the centerpieces of their communities — churches that advanced simple values that seeped into the local culture: Be charitable and kind, tell the truth, take care of those less fortunate, don’t cheat on your taxes.

And they built Catholic schools. My parents bought our house because it was within walking distance of St. Germaine Catholic School and Church. They wanted us to receive a solid education — something parochial schools still do way better than public schools — and be taught solid values.

And boy, were the nuns determined to teach us both.

The nuns were all business, you see. Their business was to work us hard in math, science, reading and writing. They had no interest in or patience for obsessing — as too many adults do now — over our precious little egos and self-esteem.

When they weren’t ramming home our lessons, they were teaching us to embrace the virtues: prudence, temperance and courage. They taught us about the competing ideas, too, the Seven Deadly Sins, and demanded we fend off every one of them: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.

And when they weren’t ramming home lessons or virtues, they made us sit up straight and keep our shirts tucked in. They made us say “please” and “thank you.” They didn’t suffer fools gladly — they didn’t suffer fools at all.

We envied the public-school kids. They got to wear blue jeans and tennis shoes to school — not uniforms and hard shoes. They didn’t fear their teachers half as much as we feared ours — and nowadays, public-school teachers fear their students.

Though the old Catholic school was often unpleasant for a daydreamer like me, I have incredible, fond memories of my time there.

My older sisters, both fine artists, helped me create a beautiful picture for art class, but Sister Mary Angela refused to believe I created it alone — it was hard to fool the nuns.

Tommy Guillen and I got into big trouble on the last day of classes one year for riding our bikes to school and locking them out front.

And my eighth-grade nun confronted me in front of the class when I got a “B” on a test that she knew — had I studied for it — I should have gotten an “A” on.

Looking back, I realize that my Catholic school experience was marked by clarity, order and a sense of purpose — the seriousness of our teachers made us feel that we really were on Earth for a special reason and we’d better do our best to accomplish it.

That is why Obama has it wrong about Catholic schools: They teach tolerance, kindness, compassion and understanding — concepts central to Christianity — not division.

And while many of us former Catholic-school students frequently fail to live up to these high standards, we know when we have crossed the line.

We know when Obama has, too.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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He’s Not a Hitter, He’s a Baby Sitter http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/hes-not-a-hitler-hes-a-baby-sitter/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/hes-not-a-hitler-hes-a-baby-sitter/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 12:44:24 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=629312 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

“Let’s go, he can’t hit, he can’t hit.”

“Stop the game! How dare you suggest that the batter, an innocent 12-year-old child who only wants to make contact with the ball, cannot hit! Have you considered how your ridicule will harm his self-esteem? As the umpire of this game, I forbid you to utter such taunts again. Play ball!”

132951 600 Hes Not a Hitter, Hes a Baby Sitter cartoons

Bill Schorr / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Schorr)

“We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher!”

“Stop the game! I see the other team is just as offensive. How dare you suggest the pitcher lacks the skill to throw the ball over the plate. Perhaps, through no fault of his own, he has an affliction that causes his skin to itch. I don’t want to hear that again. Play ball!”

“Swing battah, swing battah, swing!”

“Stop the game! How dare you make the batter swing before he is good and ready. Do you have any idea how hard it is to hit a little white ball with a bat? How dare you try to embarrass him while his family watches. I better not hear such words again. Play ball!”

“We want a pitcher, not a glass of water!”

“Stop! A glass of water! You’re suggesting the pitcher is weak and unstable like some clear fluid? Do you have any idea how hard it is to throw a ball over the plate knowing the batter might hit a home run? How would that make you feel? No more water comments. Now play ball!”

“He’s not a batter, he’s a broken ladder!”

“Stop the game! Broken ladder! You’re suggesting the batter is skinny and gangly the way a ladder is? What’s worse, he’s like a broken ladder? The next kid who makes a ladder comment will be ejected from this game. Play ball!”

“He’s not a pitcher, he’s an underwear stitcher!”

“Stop! An underwear stitcher! Has it occurred to you that the pitcher may be from a poor family? Maybe he has only one or two pairs of underwear that his mother has to repair. How dare you make fun of someone who has so much less than you. Now play ball!”

“He’s not a hitter, he’s a baby sitter!”

“Stop! Baby sitter! What is that supposed to mean? That a boy can’t be sensitive and caring and still hit a baseball? Or that if he is sensitive and nurtures a child then he can’t hit at all? How dare you. Now play ball!”

“Whoop de do, you throw like my sister Sue!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! It’s not enough for you to attack someone’s self-esteem, but now you bring gender politics into it. Now you suggest that girls are not equal to boys? Is that it? Is that the kind of world you want to live in?

“It’s no wonder that Little League associations around the country are banning taunting and chatter. MSNBC reported on the trend. Something must be done to stop some kids from assailing the self-esteem of others.

“I know some believe the chatter ban is outrageous. They say chatter has been a part of baseball — it pulls kids together and keeps them from daydreaming.

“They say traditional chatter is useful. Baseball teaches children lessons about life — teaches them about competition, success, failure and adversity. They say that in the real world, some people will root against you — that chatter exposes kids to this concept in a harmless way.

“They say that the ban has little to do with kids anyway. The kids can handle the gentle ribbing. It’s the parents who can’t handle it. And since many parents have micromanaged every other aspect of their child’s life, they’re trying to micromanage Little League baseball, too.

“Maybe that is true, but I want you to know this. As long as I am umpiring this game, there shall be no more taunting of any pitcher or any hitter. Now play ball!”

“He’s not a catcher, he’s a nose scratcher!”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at Cari@cagle.com.. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Immaturity and the Modern Male http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/immaturity-and-the-modern-male/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/immaturity-and-the-modern-male/#comments Tue, 18 Jun 2013 13:52:03 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=629289 Get this: A new study finds men don’t mature until age 43. If only my father could have enjoyed such a luxury.

Great Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reports that the study, commissioned by Nickelodeon UK, examined differences in maturity between men and women. It found both sexes agree that men are far less mature and women reach full maturity 11 years sooner.

97045 600 Immaturity and the Modern Male cartoons

Cam Cardow / Ottawa Citizen (click to view more cartoons by Cam)

Some examples: Men still have their mothers do their laundry, laugh when they burp or break wind, snicker at dirty words and don’t know how to cook even the most basic meals.

Compare such modern males to my father.

He was 3 when his father died in 1937 — in the thick of the Great Depression.

His mother had to work full-time to support him and his sister, and she worried constantly about them both — particularly about my father.

He was immature when males are supposed to be, as a boy, and he got into a bit of mischief, pulling pranks and doing the things boys used to do.

He once told me that he and his lads thought it a funny idea to set a large rock onto trolley tracks. A trolley made a spectacular noise when it hit the rock, scraped along and nearly jumped off the tracks — but luckily, nobody got hurt.

My father’s mischievous ways were finally tamed in the ninth grade when his school’s football coach persuaded him to join the team. The coach became a father figure to my dad — who discovered a talent for carrying a football with power and speed. (He was inducted into the Carrick Football Hall of Fame about 15 years ago.)

Football taught him responsibility. It matured him.

He was only 16 when he met my mother and that matured him, too. His dream was to marry her and, soon out of high school, he began searching various opportunities so he could provide for a family.

He passed on college football scholarships, disappointing his mother and coach, to try his hand at pattern-making and plumbing. His plans were interrupted when he got drafted into the Army, but when he returned two years later, he found a secure position with the telephone company.

By the time he was 23, he was married, with his first daughter — to be followed by five more children over the years.

His entire life was devoted to working hard to provide for his family. He never kept more than $5 a week for himself to buy an occasional cup of coffee.

It’s amazing how rapidly things have changed from his generation to today’s.

My father will be 80 next month. Until he retired, his entire adult life was about work and sacrifice. His only respite was enjoying a few ice-cold beers when he got home at night or an after-dinner nap on the back porch. He was fully mature in his 20s — a maturity born out of necessity.

Perhaps if my father had been born in the modern era, he would be just as lackadaisical as today’s males. But then again, my father had to mature to win my mother’s heart, so they could have a home and a family and a good long life together — and that is exactly what they accomplished.

In any event, it is true that modern males are maturing later, which explains this joke:

Q: Why are men so much better at psychoanalysis than women?

A: Because when it is time to go back to their childhood, men are already there.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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For Father’s Day http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/for-fathers-day/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/for-fathers-day/#comments Sun, 16 Jun 2013 07:05:42 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=629177 Exclusive Excerpt from: “An Apple Core, a Toilet: Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood” by Tom Purcell

I don’t know what I was thinking: In 1973, when I was 11, I flushed an apple core down the toilet, an action I would come to regret.

113558 600 For Fathers Day cartoons

Bill Day / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Day)

As it went, my father had remodeled our basement into a family room. He installed the inexpensive pine paneling common to the times. He also built a small bathroom, which would be the bane of his existence for more than 30 years.

My father, always looking to save a buck — he had six kids to feed, after all — bought the cheapest toilet he could find. It never did work right. He spent much of his spare time unplugging it.

Armed with this knowledge, then, it is remarkable I did what I did.

One Sunday morning, after chomping on a large Washington apple, I lay on the family room couch, too lazy to go upstairs to the kitchen to dispose of it. (My father warned against throwing apple cores in the downstairs garbage can, as they would draw ants.)

About then I noticed, some 12 feet away, that the toilet lid was up. In a moment of insanity, I aimed the core at the toilet and flicked my wrist. The core floated majestically in the air, a perfect trajectory, and landed in the center of the bowl with a satisfying “kir-plunk!”

I flushed it and never gave it another thought.

Six months later, another clogging was reported with that toilet. As fate would have it, this happened on a Sunday morning. I lay on the couch, holding another Washington apple. I watched television, while my father fought to free the plug.

But nothing would free it. The plunger failed, but not before my father was soaking wet. Two jars of Drano had no effect. Even the plumber’s snake, which my father always borrowed from the Krieger’s next door when all other measures failed, was unable to dislodge the blockage.

In a fit of rage, my father unbolted the toilet from the floor. In one mighty heave, he lifted it off its mount and set it in front of the television. My mother was there by now, desperately trying to calm him. I walked over for a closer look, horrified by what I was about to witness.

My father knelt before a black hole in the floor. Despite mother’s protestations, he reached his mighty paw inside it, then his forearm, then his biceps. His head was now pressed against the damp floor, the veins in his temples ready to explode.

His eyes lit up. He had something. He carefully removed his biceps, then his forearm, then his paw. He was on his knees now staring at his clenched fist. He unpeeled his fingers slowly. In the center of his palm was a black, rotten apple core.

I could go into detail about my father’s incredible reaction — how he ran through the house shouting, “Who the hell flushed an apple core down the toilet?” I could describe the shock and horror he felt when he discovered that I, his 11-year-old son and only hope in carrying on the family name, was the imbecile who did it.

But I won’t. I will tell you I was paralyzed with fear that day, a fear born out of respect. My father loved me and wanted the best for me, I know now. He wanted me to master basic virtues — certainly to master common sense — and I’d failed him.

At the time, it would have been great if he were a father like the hapless idiots portrayed on television these days. But lucky for me he was, and still is, a man. Unlike too many fathers today, he was firm and strong and unafraid to confront me and discipline me in the unpleasant challenge of preparing me for life.

The hard feelings the apple core incident caused have mostly been forgotten. Still, every now and then I receive a call late at night. I answer and hear a familiar male voice:

“Why the hell did you flush an apple core down the toilet?”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Countering Government Intimidation http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/countering-government-intimidation/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/countering-government-intimidation/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 07:10:59 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=628996 “Admit it. You’re a dirty rotten conservative!”

“That’s false. I eat tofu for breakfast.”

“But we found your name on a donor list of a group that sought 501(c)(4) status to promote the founding principles of the U.S. Constitution!”

132946 600 Countering Government Intimidation cartoons

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch (click to view more cartoons by Beeler)

“You’re mistaking me for someone else with the same name. I listen to Barry Manilow records.”

“We also found your name on another donor list of a group seeking 501(c)(4) status that wanted to promote the findings of the Bowles-Simpson Commission. This group was established by President Obama, who promptly ignored its sensible recommendations for fiscal sanity.”

“That wasn’t me. I like independent French films in which the beautiful female protagonist concludes life isn’t worth living.”

“Just admit who you are: a tea-party rabble-rouser who stands in the way of the progressive movement.”

“That’s not so. I like activist government. And I often yell at my barista for over-steaming the milk in my latte.”

“Who do you think you’re fooling? You write a weekly newspaper column in which you routinely express concern for runaway government spending.”

“You’re confusing me with some other fellow. The only thing I do routinely is attend Cher concerts.”

“Admit it. You think the government should drop ObamaCare and start over with a sensible bipartisan approach that doesn’t produce so many unintended consequences.”

“That isn’t so. I consider it my patriotic duty to pay higher insurance premiums to support a program that is doing the opposite of what it promised: to rein in soaring health-care costs. I even read John Maynard Keynes speeches in my leisure time.”

“You don’t fool me, conservative. I’ve seen your tax returns. You surely think your income taxes are too high.”

“That isn’t so, either. It is my duty to pay high taxes so that politicians can dole out billions to crony capitalists who waste it on alleged ‘green’ technologies that end up not working. I even once picketed an oil company for making too much money.”

“Nice try, you cut-government-spending fool. You probably think you have a right to keep and bear arms, too, because your conservative mind is paranoid and fearful.”

“The truth is, I’m fearful of guns, and even though I live in a more rural area — it could take a while for my police department to arrive in the event of a burglary — I would never arm myself for personal protection or go through the proper training to ensure gun safety. Also, I gave up meat and fish and eat only vegetables.”

“You’re mighty clever for a small-minded conservative, but I see right through you. You’re fearful of an ever-expanding government, because you believe that as government grows, it can’t help but inhibit personal freedoms.”

“That’s not true. President Gerald Ford was wrong when he said, ‘A government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have.’ I think our government SHOULD put it to people who are well-off and buy votes by giving that money to others. And I’m the founding member of a Teddy Kennedy fan club.”

“I’m onto your game. You’re concealing your real convictions and beliefs because you fear your government will use powerful agencies to target and intimidate you. You’re doing what many conservatives who feared being audited or otherwise harassed did in the run-up to the last election. You actually believe what Thomas Jefferson said: ‘When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.’”

“That isn’t true. And as proof, I display an ‘I Love Jimmy Carter’ bumper sticker on my car.”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Games Behind the Olympic Games http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/the-games-behind-the-olympic-games/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/06/the-games-behind-the-olympic-games/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 13:09:15 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=628734 Washington, D.C., is in the grip of scandals, the economy is stumbling and a host of other challenges are weighing me down — which is why I prefer to dwell on more obscure subjects, such as a battle raging behind the scenes over the 2020 Olympics.

127659 600 The Games Behind the Olympic Games cartoons

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star-Tribune (click to view more cartoons by Sack)

According to the Toronto Star, the International Olympic Committee shocked the world recently when it dropped wrestling from its list of core sports for the 2020 games — in favor of other sports more likely to interest younger viewers.

Well, the wrestling folks aren’t going down without a fight. Wrestling is competing with seven other sports for a single 2020 opening: baseball/softball (baseball, cut in the past, is fighting for a new spot), squash, inline speed skating, sport climbing (rock climbing), wakeboarding (a form of water skiing), karate and wushu (kung fu fighting).

Personally, I think any of these eight sports would make for a great Olympic event. Sure, I might prefer racquetball over squash, but baseball is a great American-invented sport, inline speed skating is a blast to watch, rock climbing is scary and exhilarating, wakeboarding is hugely entertaining, and who doesn’t want to see karate and kung fu fighting?

Besides, the choices could be plenty worse.

Yahoo News reports that, with the popularity of TV dancing contests, some are pushing to add ballroom dancing to the Olympic roster.

Sure, the games have not traditionally included “artistic” events, but ballroom enthusiasts argue that rhythmic gymnastics — in which gymnasts jump around with hoops, batons and brightly colored fabric — has been added to the Olympic list.

Sure, ballroom dancing requires athleticism and finesse. It is an art form celebrated by American greats Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Then again, any American “sport” in which you can blow out a knee by tripping over the buffet table probably shouldn’t quality as an Olympic event.

That brings us to pole dancing — that’s right, pole dancing. According to the British newspaper The Independent, some hope this “sport” made popular by women who shed their clothes in smoky bars can one day become an Olympic event.

I’d pay good money (again) to see that.

Which brings us to bowling.

Chuck Pezzano of The Record, a New Jersey newspaper, says the bowling people have made several attempts to have their sport added to the Olympic roster over the years. During the 1936 games, they staged exhibitions and tournaments. Though well-received, bowling did not make the cut. They staged another exhibition at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, also without result.

Bowling “features men, women and children, (and is) well organized in more than 100 bowling federations around the world. There are no barriers because of size, age, sex or language. Rules are fairly simple … . A country with thousands of bowling centers or a nation with one can develop a team or an individual to qualify for one of the events, despite limited budgets,” Pezzano writes.

Better yet, bowling requires tremendous balance and stamina — only a true competitor can drink three pitchers of beer and still bowl a perfect 300.

Still, bowling has made little headway toward becoming an Olympic sport and is not likely to.

In any event, as America’s capital goes into scandal overdrive and the country continues to go to hell in a handbasket, I wish all eight competing sports luck as they vie for a spot in the Olympics.

I will continue to follow their behind-the-scenes battles closely — as they offer a welcome respite from the sorry state that America’s people, economy and politics are in these days.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Demonstrate Loyalty and Support http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/demonstrate-loyalty-and-support/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/demonstrate-loyalty-and-support/#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 07:15:11 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=628469 Imagine you are a 19-year-old Marine. You are riding in a Humvee with four other Marines — your friends — when an improvised explosive device (IED) explodes.

Two of your friends die instantly, but you are “lucky.” Though bloodied and bruised, you survive to fight another day.

112434 600 Demonstrate Loyalty and Support cartoons

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch (click to view more cartoons by Beeler)

You will fight many more days, too. With our military stretched thin at hot spots across the world, our servicemen and women are serving more deployments than ever — some, as many as seven deployments during a 12-year span — and enduring more stress than ever before.

The nature of war fighting has changed, after all. Unlike in traditional ground wars, today’s fighting men and women are battling insurgents. Attack can come at any time, from anywhere: IEDs, snipers, rocket-propelled grenades, firefights, ambushes, suicide bombs.

If you’re “lucky,” you will survive more close scrapes. Sure, you will carry scars of war, but you will make it home.

If you’re unlucky, you will be killed, severely wounded or maimed. More than 6,500 soldiers have died during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars — more than 50,000 have been wounded.

Many of the wounded have suffered damage so severe, they are medically discharged and sent home.

Imagine the transformation. One moment, you are strong and healthy. The next moment, a blast goes off and you are without an arm or a leg, or shrapnel is lodged in your brain.

Back home, you are withdrawn. You don’t want to talk about what you experienced with anyone — family, friends or Department of Veterans Affairs doctors — because they can never understand.

You bottle up all the memories inside you — you try to bury the pain — but you probably will not succeed.

You are likely to suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — flashbacks, nightmares and disruptive memories that you cannot control — or, worse, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which can cause a host of cognitive and emotional problems.

You likely find it hard to transition to civilian life. You may be tempted to turn to alcohol, drugs or worse — the suicide rate among active and retired veterans is 22 a day.

There is a reason why nearly half of our 2.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are unemployed — and more than 12,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets are homeless.

But you are a veteran. You don’t want pity. You were a trained warrior. You volunteered to serve. All you want is to talk with other veterans who experienced what you experienced — to reach out to a network of people who can provide you with the skills and support you will need to successfully transition back to civilian live.

Well, thanks to retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Tom Jones, such support is available.

Six years ago, as part of the Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial support to wounded, injured and critically ill members of the U.S. armed forces and their families, Jones established the Semper Fi Odyssey Transition Program (outdoorodyssey.org/leadership-programming/veteran-programming/semper-fi-odyssey/).

The Semper Fi Odyssey Transition Program provides returning wounded Marines with six intense days of training and curriculum to prepare them for life after military service and strengthen their mental, physical, spiritual, emotional and social well-being.

The program is conducted by team leaders, a good many of them who had been wounded, injured or critically ill warriors themselves who’ve successfully transitioned to civilian life.

By the end of the week, participants develop actionable road maps and plan for life to guide their transitions, as well as networks of mentors and friends who will provide ongoing support — support that is essential to helping those who have served their country embrace the skills they will need to serve their families, communities and careers.

We must take time to pay homage to the men and women who have served, particularly the wounded, injured and critically ill veterans who need a little added support.

Donate to the Semper Fi Fund ( semperfifund.org ) or contact the organization to learn how you can volunteer.

Better yet, hire one of these veterans to work for your company. They have received world-class training, and developed impressive workplace skills, during their service.

It would be one small way we can demonstrate our loyalty and support to so many young and women who have paid a high price to secure our freedoms.

As the Marines like to say: Semper fidelis!

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Man Bags For the Modern Male http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/man-bags-for-the-modern-male/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/man-bags-for-the-modern-male/#comments Wed, 22 May 2013 07:10:04 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=628255 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

What to get for the contemporary male who has everything? The Man Bag.

46455 600 Man Bags For the Modern Male cartoons

Arcadio Esquivel / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Esquivel)

The Man Bag is a high-style satchel — a purse, though its creators hate when you call it that. It’s designed to hold the modern man’s wallet, keys, sunglasses, iPod, cell phone, body spray, hair goop, diary and whatever other junk he totes around these days.

Why was the Man Bag created? According to manbag.com, three fellows — Brian, Peter and Thai — “were tired of being ribbed for carrying their gadgets around in hand bags. The torment reached a boiling point one night when Thai was called a ‘pursey’ at a party.”

That fellow who insulted him was lucky Thai didn’t yet have a sturdy Man Bag to smack him with.

So the three tormented fellows designed a special bag for men (they call theirs the MAN-n-BAG) and now sell it through their Website. The concept took off. The Nightline people said it’s the latest trend in men’s fashion. A GQ style editor they spoke with explained why:

“Once you’re out in the work world, do you really want to carry a backpack when you’re wearing a suit? At the same time, most guys don’t want to be like their dads and carry a briefcase.”

Which is precisely the problem.

Modern fellows don’t want to be like their dads — masculine fellows who defined themselves by their actions, not their high style. Fellows like my father.

My father has long known that if a thing doesn’t fit into a man’s pockets he shouldn’t be carrying it. He carries his keys in his right front pocket. He carries his change in both pockets, so he can dangle it with both hands while shooting the bull with the butcher, the mechanic and anybody else he encounters in daily life.

My father’s wallet is what a real man’s wallet should be — thick, fat and worn. It holds only the basic items a man needs to get through life: license, money and a yellowed photo of my mother from 1953. He keeps his wallet in his right rear pocket.

Nobody taught my dad to carry his keys, change and wallet this way. Nobody taught me, either. It’s hard-wired into male DNA. It is what men have always done because it is what we’re supposed to do.

But the genetic code is being rewritten in sensitive new-age men, such as the fellow who wrote a testimonial to manbag.com: “My chiropractor suggested your MAN-n-BAG because sitting on my overstuffed wallet was misaligning my spine.”

Ah, yes, we’re at war with tough-guy terrorists and our fellows are getting injured by their wallets.

I’m not certain how the American male has evolved to such a sissified state, but I have a hunch. The reason dates back 40 years or more, when the feminist movement kicked into high gear.

Yes, feminism brought us many good things. Women deserved equal opportunity and they’re doing well. But some feminists weren’t content with just that. They wanted to destroy the enemy — the American male.

First they convinced us we were wrong, that we weren’t socialized properly as boys. They changed the socialization process. They changed the education process, too. Their goal was to make us more sensitive and emotional — more like women.

Boy, have they succeeded. Now men spend hours fretting over their looks and style — they spend thousands getting their hair primped, their skin moisturized, their eyebrows waxed. They cry at baby showers and clap the first time junior uses the toilet to do No. 2.

They carry purses.

Well, nuts to that. Look, men, we need to get hold of our testosterone. Women are different from us. It’s best that way. It’s best that we distinguish ourselves from them in our actions, manner and dress. They carry purses. We don’t.

So what to get for the contemporary fellow who has everything? A thick, fat, worn wallet that he’ll knowingly slip into his right rear pocket.

It may misalign his spine, but at least he’ll have one.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Scandal Advice From The Master http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/scandal-advice-from-the-master/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/scandal-advice-from-the-master/#comments Tue, 21 May 2013 13:17:14 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=628226 Bill Clinton, wearing a white toga and a crown of gold, sat in a garden while attractive women fed him grapes. President Obama, having just suffered the most devastating week of his presidency, sat nearby, seeking advice in the art of telling whoppers. Using the Socratic method of teaching, Clinton began to tutor his new student.

Obama: Teacher! My woe is great.

131802 600 Scandal Advice From The Master cartoons

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star Tribune (click to view more cartoons by Sack)

Clinton: Tell me, my pupil.

Obama: It is true you told many exaggerations and frequently stepped well beyond the bounds of truth, yet your approval ratings prospered. This had been the case with me, too — until last week. Suddenly, many are second-guessing my words — even my friends in the media are turning on me!

Clinton: Well, it is not conceivable that you just learned about the IRS scandal by hearing about it on the news. I laughed out loud when I heard that one.

Obama: Teacher, you are the undisputed master of political rhetoric. You have engaged in activities that would have ruined lesser men, yet you are still loved by many. You must help me master such rhetoric or I may be in trouble.

Clinton: My student, I have been waiting for you to come to me. I will now share with you what I have shared with no other human being about the art of politics.

Obama: Please, teacher.

Clinton: I pose to you this question, student: What is the nature of truth?

Obama: I’m a brass-knuckle Chicago politician, teacher. How would I know?

Clinton: Excellent, my pupil. For the truth is the first thing one must abandon to be effective in politics.

Obama: Teacher?

Clinton: I ask you, student: If a man were convicted of a crime he did not commit, would he not proclaim his innocence with great vigor?

Obama: Yes, teacher, he would do so to pronounce the truth, and in so doing, he would make a convincing case.

Clinton: Yes, and for a man, then, to be persuasive in political rhetoric, he must speak with the same vigor as a truthful man.

Obama: But what if that man is not telling the truth?

Clinton: This is why a man must abandon the truth, student, so that he doesn’t know when he isn’t telling it.

Obama: You are good, teacher! But where I really need help is getting people to believe my words again. I tried to feign anger over the IRS scandal — I tried to show outrage — but people find it hard to believe a couple of low-level agents took it upon themselves to harass some 500 conservative groups. I tried to tell reporters that I did call the Benghazi incident a terrorist attack from the beginning, but they’re certainly not buying that. What am I doing wrong?

Clinton: Your words and storylines are not consistent, my pupil. Keep the stories simple, and do not keep adding elements to them. Consistency is thus: If a man never tells the truth, how can other men determine when he is lying?

Obama: Excellent, teacher! But I worry. Now that AP reporters are aware my administration was snooping on them, many in the press are coming after me. Right or wrong, a new storyline is forming about me: that my administration used the might of the IRS to attack conservative opponents and help win the election. That we put politics above all regarding Benghazi and misled the American people, also to win the election. That my people and I really are hardened Chicago politicians who abuse our power to squash any opposition. My credibility is at stake. How can I return to the level where, when I spin the yarn, my words are effective and persuasive and nobody mocks my exaggerations?

Clinton: You do so the same way I did.

Obama: Teacher?

Clinton: Practice, practice, practice.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at carii@cagle.com. Send comments about this column to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Big Spenders http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/big-spenders/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/big-spenders/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 07:05:59 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=628021 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

I don’t know who they are, but I’ve got to hand it to them. I’m too cynical to do what they do.

I speak of the Americans who, every year, donate money to pay down America’s national debt.

The Bureau of the Public Debt — part of the Treasury Department — began allowing such donations in 1961. According to Title 31, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code, any citizen is free to give a “gift” to Treasury, under the condition that the money will be used only to pay down the debt.

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Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Allie)

Last year, the government received $3 million in such gifts. Who are the gift-givers? Nobody knows for certain.

Mckayla Braden, senior adviser at the Bureau of the Public Debt, told me that all the bureau does is tally the totals. It keeps no records on the number of individuals who give or the average amount.

Braden was able to share some interesting details and anecdotes with me:

• Gift-givers generally mail in checks — rarely do they include a note of any kind.

• Sometimes they donate their tax-refund checks, after signing the checks over to Treasury.

• Occasionally, someone leaves a large portion of his or her estate to the government. That happened in 1992, when the largest gift on record, $3.5 million, was received.

Over the years, Braden was able to learn about some of the givers.

In the early ’90s, a teacher sent in a large jar of dimes and nickels. The teacher explained that she’d conducted a class exercise on the national debt. Her students had contributed what they could.

Braden remembers one gift-giver who mailed a small money order from a convenience store.

She remembers another fellow who mailed in $10 or $20 every payday. He did so for years.

Though little is known about the gift-givers — it isn’t entirely clear what motivates them — Braden got a sense that most are patriotic people who want to do their own small part to help their country.

“Small” is, unfortunately, the right word.

For the past decade, Treasury has received between $2 million and $3 million in gifts every year. But our debt, growing a few trillion a year, now stands at about $17 trillion.

If our debt remained fixed at $17 trillion — and if we applied $3 million every year to pay down that debt — it would take 5.6 million years to pay it off.

And that is with zero-percent interest.

Besides, the gift donations technically aren’t paying down the debt anyhow. All the donations are deposited to the receipts ledger of Uncle Sam’s general fund.

Since we’re running large deficits, the donations simply reduce the amount of money our government will borrow.

The last thing I want to do is give our spendthrift government an opportunity to spend even more.

Nonetheless, I wish more people were as thoughtful as the silent givers — particularly the people who are so eager to expand our government and raise our taxes.

Hey, big spenders, here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is. You can send your own money to Treasury right now. Just go to www.pay.gov.

How about it, big spenders.

Hello?

Just as I figured.

No wonder I’m such a cynic.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Speech To The Best Graduating Class Ever http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/speech-to-the-best-graduating-class-ever/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/speech-to-the-best-graduating-class-ever/#comments Tue, 14 May 2013 07:15:58 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=627958 Students, faculty, family members and friends, it is my great honor to deliver your commencement speech today.

It is my opinion that our society must take every opportunity to praise our young people for their hard work and accomplishment, and that is why ceremonies such as this are so important to our country’s future.

131543 600 Speech To The Best Graduating Class Ever cartoons

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star-Tribune (click to view more cartoons by Sack)

It was not so long ago, after all, that a more conservative America saw things differently. What a harsh place America once was — particularly for our young students.

So primitive were educational practices when I was young that our gym teachers forced us to play dodgeball and other competitive games. Can you imagine how humiliating it was to have children whipping big rubber balls at your torso, and if you got hit and failed to catch the ball, you “lost”?

Our teachers enjoyed pitting us against each other inside the classroom, too, with competitive quizzes and spelling bees. They kept score, too, which humiliated the losers and greatly damaged their self-esteem.

Hard as it is to fathom, my generation played keep-away during recess. One kid carried the ball and everybody else tried to rip it away from him. It was a game about individualism; there was no teamwork, and there were no rules or adults to intervene. It was you against everybody else — and it was most unpleasant.

Well, dodgeball, scorekeeping and keep-away are relics of the past. Fortunately, enlightened adults are much more involved with children now, and we are able to spare children the harm their self-esteem would suffer from games and competitions.

Thankfully, many enlightened adults are the parents who have contributed greatly to the accomplishments of today’s graduates.

It was you who stood by, protecting your sons and daughters from every one of life’s ills and heartaches. It was you who praised them for every little effort and sought to pump them up with their own self-importance and self-worth.

It was not so long ago that parents were not so enlightened. Some parents once believed their children needed to figure out some things out on their own. They actually wanted their children to spend time with friends without adult supervision, so they could learn to socialize on their own.

They actually wanted their children to go sled-riding without adults keeping them safe, so they could learn to play and to engage with nature on their own. Thank goodness those days are gone!

There are some who criticize the way many parents and adults coddle today’s children. They criticize “helicopter parents” who constantly hover over their children and come flying in the moment their child meets with any challenge or adversity.

There are some who argue that our coddling is not doing our children any favors — that our constant intervention in our children’s lives is inhibiting their ability to learn how to invent, discover and grow on their own, and how to make decisions and adjustments on their own.

They say our efforts to bolster self-esteem, by prohibiting competition and by continually giving our children praise, ceremonies, awards and commendations for every silly thing, are setting them up for failure as adults — that survival in adulthood will require real performance and results.

They say that too many awards and ceremonies dilute the meaning of real accomplishment and achievement — that events like the one we celebrate today are really designed for the enjoyment of the adults, who feel the need to live vicariously through even the most minor accomplishments of their children.

To them, I say: Hogwash!

And congratulations to the kindergarten Class of 2013!

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari Dawson Bartley at cari@cagle.com. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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100 Years is Enough For Me, Pal http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/100-years-is-enough-for-me-pal/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/100-years-is-enough-for-me-pal/#comments Thu, 09 May 2013 07:04:36 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=627798 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Here’s one potential advance in science that has me worried: human beings may eventually live a really long time.

According to the World Future Society, we are in the early phases of a superlongevity revolution. Thanks to advances nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation, scientists may eventually learn how to keep humans alive from 120 to 500 years.

97045 600 100 Years is Enough For Me, Pal cartoons

Cam Cardow / Ottawa Citizen (click to view more cartoons by Cardow)

Which prompts an important question: Do we really want to live that long?

Sure a longer life would have its upside. I’d love to have my parents around forever. I’d love to swing by for Sunday dinner for at least 100 years more.

It would be great if we were able to keep fellows like Jimmy Stewart, Johnny Carson and Dean Martin around.

It would be even better if we were able to keep around people with great minds, such as Einstein, who could unlock the mysteries of the universe.

But a longer life would have its downside. Do we really want baby boomers, who are now beginning to retire, to vote government benefits for themselves for several hundred years?

And what of our younger generations, kids who are notorious slackers? Mother to son in year 2075: You’re 100 years old! When are you going to move out and get a job?

I’m 51 and already showing signs of fatigue. In my experience, life is largely made up of colds, bills, speeding tickets and people who let you down. These experiences are connected together by a series of mundane tasks. The drudgeries are occasionally interrupted by a wonderful meal, a really good laugh or a romantic evening with a lovely woman.

Then the mundane stuff starts all over again. Who wants several decades of that?

Besides, if we live 100 years or more, how are we going to pay for it? Living is expensive. Are we going to work 50 years, retire, burn through our nest egg, then sling hamburgers for a century or two?

On one hand, I think it’s great we humans are getting better at improving our health and life spans. But on the other hand I know this: DYING is what makes life most worth living.

Would you enjoy a movie if you knew it was going to play for 24 hours? No, what makes the movie enjoyable is its ending. And it better end within two hours or we all start squirming in our seats.

The key to human happiness, you see, is not an abundance of a thing, but the lack of it. Doesn’t pie taste better when we know it’s the last slice? Doesn’t a football game capture our attention more when it is the last of the season — the one that determines who goes out the winner and who goes out the loser? Isn’t a comedian funnier when he exits the stage BEFORE we want him to go?

Hey, futurists, I’m not sure we want to stick around too long. If you believe in God, as I do, this is just a testing ground anyhow. This is just practice. It’s like two-a-day football drills. We must first prove ourselves during the agony of summer practice to earn our rights to play in the big game. Do we really want to spend 500 hundred years running wind-sprints in summer practice?

When I look up to the stars, I can’t help but sense there are better places to go. But it’s not until we check out of Hotel Earth that we’re able to enjoy a place with more amenities and better service. My religion says that place is Heaven, which I figure I’ll get to sooner or later — after doing a tour of that other place.

Though I don’t think Purgatory will be so bad. My friends will be there.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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No-Fault Internet Addiction http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/no-fault-internet-addiction/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/no-fault-internet-addiction/#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 07:15:40 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=627695 Online chat host: Good morning, cyber pals. As you know, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the psychiatric “bible,” is to be released this month. It will include “Internet-Use Disorder” — also referred to as Internet addiction — as a condition recommended for further psychiatric study. Our guest today is Dr. Adam Von Cybercruncher, America’s leading authority on Internet addiction.

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Angel Boligan / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Boligan)

Dr. Adam: Hello, all. More people are spending hours online to the detriment of their families, friends, jobs and other responsibilities. But as is the case with many psychiatric disorders, it is not their fault.

Host: OK, let’s open up for questions from our cyber pals.

MotherMary: My young children think I’m an Internet addict, but I think they’re the ones with the problem. They’ve been banging on my door for hours, muttering something about food.

Dr. Adam: They are young and don’t understand your challenges, Mary. Group counseling will help.

IowaSusan: My husband spends every waking moment typing notes to his friends in online chat rooms. He avoids me and the kids, and he doesn’t do any chores around here.

Dr. Adam: Please be more sympathetic, Susan. Have you considered group counseling?

BuffaloBill: First, my wife replaced our portrait of our children with one of Bill Gates. And I think she is seeing another man on the Internet!

Dr. Adam: What makes you think that?

BuffaloBill: She received a dozen roses from somebody named Bob7135.

Dr. Adam: It’s not a big deal, Bill. Marriage is hard and people get bored. It is to be expected that your wife might fantasize about a better life with a stranger. Try to understand.

EliteEllen: My husband used to be an adventurer. We traveled to exotic places. Now, we go nowhere, because he refuses to leave his computer.

Dr. Adam: Get thy family to a therapist.

SuperDad: Dr. Adam, I bought smartphones for all three of our children and they spend hours locked in their rooms, texting people. My wife thinks this is not good, but I like it, because now I can communicate with them by text and don’t actually have to be with them.

Dr. Adam: Your wife is living in the past, SuperDad. Perhaps she can join you in family therapy.

Vince: Dr. Adam, with all due respect, aren’t you overdoing it with all this talk of addiction?

Dr. Adam: Internet addiction is a serious problem, Vince. Those afflicted by it are helpless, just the way some people are made helpless by alcohol and others are sent out of control by gambling. There are many addictions in life, and this is but another.

Vince: Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Adam. I agree that some people can’t handle alcohol or gambling. But for the vast majority of us, might we not be making some excuses?

Dr. Adam: Excuses?

Vince: Look, I don’t doubt some people are addicted to the Internet and electronic devices. But it seems to me that many of the people who overdo it on the Internet — or overdo other vices, for that matter — are often just being selfish and lazy.

Dr. Adam: What are you getting at, Vince?

Vince: When I was a kid, we used to call most “addictive” behavior slothful behavior. Most people who overindulged at the expense of their families and responsibilities were being inconsiderate at best and rude at worst. Nowadays, nothing is anybody’s fault.

Dr. Adam: Ah, you are a Republican. Like so many closed-minded people, you are a square who is addicted to living in the past. You need to get to a therapist.

Host: Well, that’s all the time we have, cyber pals. In our next chat, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of conducting an online affair.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com.Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Why American Sensibility Is ‘Distressed’ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/why-american-sensibility-is-distressed/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/05/why-american-sensibility-is-distressed/#comments Wed, 01 May 2013 07:10:26 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=627453 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

I turned 51 last week and it’s official: I have turned into my father.

The world makes less sense to me every day. My fellow man puzzles me more every day.

47876 600 Why American Sensibility Is Distressed cartoons

Mike Keefe / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Keefe)

I cite exhibit A: crappy stone walls. I know a woman who paid $10,000 to have a small stone retaining wall built along her driveway.

Now I used to be a stonemason — I rebuilt close to 200 such walls during my high school and college years — and I was shocked to learn that hers was a new wall. It was buckling and full of gaps. Not one stone was properly cut or faced.

It’s the latest craze, she told me — walls that have an old, authentic look. This is because people suddenly want the outside of their homes to look as “distressed” as the inside.

“Distressed furniture” is the latest trend in interior design. People are buying brand-new tables and dressers, bringing them into their garages, kicking and scratching them, then covering them in a lumpy, flaky paint.

I called my sister, an interior designer, to learn more about this peculiar trend. She said people want the antique look, but because real antiques are hard to come by, the next best thing is to buy something new and make it look scuffed and tired and worn.

This causes my father to rise up in me as I say, “What the …”

But nothing is more puzzling than our next item of distress: distressed jeans. That’s right, there is actually a product the fashionistas refer to as “distressed jeans.” These are jeans with tears and gaping holes that, according to The New York Times, sell for upwards of $600 a pair.

Even in Pittsburgh, land of common-sense people, a lousy pair of trendy jeans runs upwards of $200. I talked with the owner of an upscale jeans store and she told me the jeans with holes in them aren’t as popular as the ones with paint splattered all over them.

“Jeans splattered with paint?”

“Yes, they’re all the rage.”

“But they have paint on them!”

“Yes!”

Just as I was ready to concede that the American experiment is spent and all will soon be lost, she told me about another jeans trend: dirt-washed jeans. That’s right, the jean manufacturer washes them in dirt. They have pebbles and clumps of clay in the pockets. And Americans, many of them educated and from good homes, willingly exchange their hard-earned dough for them.

The dirt-washed jeans are almost as popular as the grease-smeared jeans, she continued (and I’m not making this up). The jean manufacturers actually smear grease all over the jeans, so that people who buy them can be as fashionable as the guy in the pit at the Jiffy Lube.

I asked the jeans-shop owner to help me understand why people are buying such products. She said that manufacturers are always trying to be hip. When something hits — when the trendy crowd just has to have it — the manufacturer can charge huge markups.

Well, I understand that, I told her. But why? Why are people dumb enough to buy these things? Why are Americans spending so much money for items that sensible Americans used to donate to Goodwill or toss in the garbage?

She had no answer. Let me take a stab at it.

As we work exhausting hours in gray cubicles doing bland service work — as we move into cookie-cutter houses in the thick of suburban sprawl — and as fewer of us know any sense of craftsmanship or what it is like to sweat or work with our hands, we long for anything authentic — even if it’s fake.

But what do I know. At 51, I have effectively become my father. Puzzled as I am by the latest trends, my thoughts have shifted to more practical matters.

Such as finding a couple of suckers willing to pay me 200 bucks for my greasy, paint-stained jeans.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Reverse Psychology vs The Nanny State http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/reverse-psychology-vs-the-nanny-state/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/reverse-psychology-vs-the-nanny-state/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 07:10:41 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=627410 Get this: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban the sale of cigarettes — now legal to people at age 18 — to people younger than 21.

Yeah, that ought to work!

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Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star-Tribune (click to view more cartoons by Sack)

Bloomberg, as you may know, has become the nation’s poster child for nanny-state policies. He wants to ban the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces — but a judge overturned the proposal. The city is appealing.

He has already banned, or tried to ban, trans fats, smoking in public places and salty foods. And now he wants to prevent anyone under 21 from legally buying cigarettes within New York City.

I know the mayor has good intentions. Our modern food supply, much of it processed to taste good, is filled with unhealthful things. There is a reason obesity is at epidemic levels in America.

But the mayor’s attempts at outright bans will not resolve the problem. He is going about it all wrong.

Look, government has never done well in the banning business. Remember when it tried to ban alcohol?

That effort turned millions of ordinary citizens, including my Irish ancestors, into lawbreakers. They had to make their own hooch in homemade stills.

Prohibition also resulted in the growth of massive organized-crime syndicates. Not-so-nice fellows, such as Al Capone, became bloody rich selling illegal booze to thirsty customers.

Cigarettes offer another example. Every time a government body increases tax rates on smokes — Bloomberg is trying to increase the cost of a pack to nearly $11 in New York City — all it does is grow the black market for tax-free cigarettes.

So I have a proposal for Mayor Bloomberg — a reverse-psychology proposal. Rather than ban the behaviors he wants to stop, government should promote them.

Bloomberg should establish programs and committees tasked with encouraging 18-year-olds to smoke if they haven’t yet started. The city could conduct seminars on the benefits of a good puff and explain how cigarette purchases generate tax revenue that supports many wonderful government causes.

He should reintroduce smoking in public places, including restaurants and pubs. Heck, why not make smoking mandatory in these places and establish an undercover police force to fine those who fail to light up?

Once he has that smoking initiative under way, he can begin to encourage use of salt and trans fats in city restaurants. Better yet, he can require that high levels of each be used in every dish.

And rather than ban large sugary drinks, he ought to go the other way: Ban the small ones, require food providers to sell drinks by the bucket, and fine those unable to drink it all.

It wouldn’t be long before the public would be going out of its way to break every rule — by not smoking, by eating low-fat, low-salt foods and by eschewing sugary drinks of every kind.

Of course, such an approach would never happen. That is because most of the nanny programs coming out of our cities, states and now, the federal government, often have little to do with getting actual results.

What they are mostly about is busybodies’ need to make the rest of us bend to their will under the might of government power — as is the case with so many government programs that produce unintended consequences.

There is widespread agreement that the American food supply and American vices are causing a world of woe, and we need to debate ways to resolve it. One thing is for certain: Nanny-state government policies will never work.

I’d suggest we ban them, but that would only get us more of them.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Beware the American Prom http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/beware-the-american-prom/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/beware-the-american-prom/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2013 07:05:40 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=627178 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Proms sure have gotten expensive these days.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, high school kids spend nearly $4 billion annually for dresses, accessories, flowers, beauty products, limos and other prom-related items. The average couple spends upward of $1,000 for the one-time event.

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Angel Boligan / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Boligan)

That got me thinking about my own prom in 1980.

I didn’t know my date very well. She was in my photography class, pretty and, more important, available. We arranged a pre-prom meeting to get to know each other. We played tennis on a blistering-hot day, then headed back to her house for something cold to drink. After she berated her sister for drinking all the Tang, she turned her turret on me.

“I heard about you, a regular class clown,” she said. “You better not show up in a limo, wear a top hat or cane or do anything else to embarrass me.”

I knew right away things were going to work out fine.

Still, I wanted to impress her. I was running a stone-masonry business in those years and was making a lot of money for a kid.

I figured I’d use some of my dough to impress her.

I bought her the finest corsage in our high school (it cost $45, a lot of money then). I bought a box of frozen steaks, snacks and other refreshments for the after-prom party. But my investments turned out to be bad ones.

On the afternoon of the prom, my friend Gigs and I — we double dated — took a drive to the prom hall to make sure we wouldn’t get lost later. Later that evening, we picked up our girls for photos and false enthusiasm. We were late for dinner (we got lost) and the awful night was under way.

I’m certain my date didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on her dress as girls do now, though I remember she looked great. The truth is, I can’t remember what she was wearing because I hardly saw her all night long. She and the girl Gigs came with spent most of the night in the ladies’ room while Gigs and I counted how many times the hard-rock band played “Cocaine” (nine).

Finally, around 11:30 p.m., the dance was over. Unlike teens these days, we didn’t use our credit cards to retire to the honeymoon suite. We took the girls home. But our suffering was just beginning.

We picked up our dates early the next morning and drove to a country cabin where my friend Cook was having an after-prom party. The cabin was a two-hour drive, but it took us five (we got

lost). My date didn’t utter a word until about 2 p.m., when she challenged Gigs and me to a tennis match.

I took it as a good sign. It wasn’t.

Gigs is an outstanding athlete and I’m no slouch myself. Once the game got under way, our testosterone got inflamed. Every time we scored, Gigs and I high-fived each other, laughing loudly. We creamed the girls, and after the match they refused to talk to us.

Gigs and I spent the rest of the day tossing a football and eating the steaks I brought. Around dusk, the girls found us and told us it was time to leave. We got home five hours later (we got lost) and the torturous affair was finally over.

So I have some advice for prom-goers this year: Hold onto your money. Don’t be the unwitting dupes of savvy marketers. They know that kids your age have big allowances and overworked, guilt-riddled parents who will cough up the dough if you ask them.

Through programs and advertisements on MTV, they’ve been rushing you into adulthood for years. They exploit the prom to cash in on your insecurity and peer pressure. They convince you to buy teeth whitener, expensive cosmetics and other unnecessary junk designed to fatten their bottom lines.

But don’t give in. Save your money. Be content that you’re about to have one of the worst experiences of your young life.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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That’s America to Me http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/thats-america-to-me/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/thats-america-to-me/#comments Tue, 23 Apr 2013 07:15:46 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=627154 I listened to a Frank Sinatra tune this week — “The House I Live In” — and enjoyed a renewed desire to fight on.

Sinatra performed the patriotic song in an 11-minute movie short that was made in 1945, shortly after the conclusion of the war.

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Angel Boligan / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Boligan)

In the short, Sinatra steps out of a recording studio into an alley, where he confronts a group of kids chasing a smaller boy. He learns that the smaller boy was being picked on by the others because of his religion.

Sinatra explains to the kids that it is un-American to dwell on what makes us different. Rather, we must celebrate the many unique characteristics we have in common — the characteristics that make us very strong as a nation.

To illustrate his point, Sinatra sings “The House I Live In”:

What is America to me?

A name, a map, or a flag I see.

A certain word, democracy.

What is America to me?

More than just a democracy, America is a representative republic. It was designed to put the power in the people’s hands — people like Sinatra’s Italian-born father, who understood how lucky he was to be American when, for many years, his birth country had been run by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

The howdy and the handshake,

The air and feeling free.

And the right to speak my mind out,

That’s America to me.

The howdy and the handshake speak of a civility and friendliness that we are losing in modern America. Our government has expanded considerably and the sense of feeling free is not so great as it once was. Though people are still able to “speak their minds,” they run the risk of coming under assault for the ideas they speak.

Take Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon who had been director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 36 years. His commonsense thoughts on the highly charged issues of the day so agitate some on the left that he was recently forced out as commencement speaker at the university his work made famous.

The things I see about me,

The big things and the small.

The little corner newsstand,

And the house a mile tall.

It’s hard to imagine now, but envy had never been a big part of the American spirit. America was a place people came to rise on their own merits. Most of our early immigrants were too proud to take handouts — all they wanted was the opportunity to work and prosper and make a better life for their children.

Sinatra’s father couldn’t read or write. He became a fireman and eventually a pub owner and lived a good life. But look at the remarkable life his son went on to live — a life and career that could be possible only in America.

The words of old Abe Lincoln,

Of Jefferson and Paine.

Of Washington and Jackson,

And the tasks that still remain.

The American Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 — 156 years before Sinatra recorded “The House I Live In.” Most Americans were still very much aware of the unique ideals upon which the country was founded — most realized that, despite America’s many imperfections that still needed to be worked out, it was a blessing to be an American citizen.

It was a blessing to have God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In 2013, I dare say, most Americans have little understanding of the ideas and principles that make our country exceptional, and far too many are eager to give up our freedoms in exchange for the promise of free government stuff.

A house that we call freedom,

A home of liberty.

And it belongs to fighting people,

That’s America to me.

That’s America to me, too. And we better fight harder if we hope to maintain the principles and blessings that have made our country great.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Wit and Wisdom of Will Rogers http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/the-wit-and-wisdom-of-will-rogers/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/the-wit-and-wisdom-of-will-rogers/#comments Wed, 17 Apr 2013 07:10:39 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=626916 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Things are mighty heated these days. Tempers are flaring and minds are closed. Here’s the solution: the wit and wisdom of Will Rogers.

“The short memory of voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”

“We’ve got the best politicians that money can buy.”

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Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle (click to view more cartoons by McKee)

“A fool and his money are soon elected.”

Rogers spoke these words during the Great Depression, but they’re just as true today. With 24-hour news channels, our memories are shorter than ever. And in the mass-media age, the politician who can afford the most airtime frequently wins.

“Things in our country run in spite of government, not by aid of it.”

“Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing. That was the closest our country has ever been to being even.”

“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

Today, unfortunately, we’re getting more government than we’re paying for. We cover the difference by borrowing billions every year.

As the king of the velvet-tipped barb, Rogers never intended to be mean, but to bring us to our senses. One of his favorite subjects was to remind the political class that it worked for us, not the other way around.

“When Congress makes a joke it’s a law, and when they make a law, it’s a joke.”

“You can’t hardly find a law school in the country that don’t, through some inherent weakness, turn out a senator or congressman from time to time … if their rating is real low, even a president.”

“The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other.”

That’s for certain. I used to fault the Democrats for cronyism and reckless spending. But that was before Republicans took over.

Rogers’ thinking on American foreign policy really hits home today:

“Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

“Diplomats are just as essential to starting a war as soldiers are for finishing it. You take diplomacy out of war, and the thing would fall flat in a week.”

“Liberty doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in speeches.”

Rogers was born and raised on a farm in Oklahoma. His wit reflected the heart of America — the horse sense, square dealing and honesty that were the bedrock of our success.

“When a fellow ain’t got much of a mind, it don’t take him long to make it up.”

“This country is not where it is today on account of any one man. It’s here on account of the real common sense of the Big Normal Majority.”

Franklin Roosevelt, a frequent target of Rogers’ barbs, understood how valuable Rogers’ sensibility was during the years of the Depression:

“I doubt there is among us a more useful citizen than the one who holds the secret of banishing gloom … of supplanting desolation and despair with hope and courage. Above all things … Will Rogers brought his countrymen back to a sense of proportion.”

A sense of proportion is clearly what we’re lacking right now. We need to get it back quickly.

Not five years ago, we were attacked by people who hold an ideology we’re still having trouble getting our arms around. At first we were united, but now we’re badly divided. Nothing more brightens the day of those who wish us harm than division.

Just as bad, we’ve got a rapidly aging population — a Social Security and Medicare train wreck is just over the horizon — and there is no shortage of other woes we must resolve if we expect the American experiment to keep on rolling.

But instead of working to resolve our challenges, we snipe and point fingers and make absurd accusations. We forget we’re not Democrats or Republicans, but Americans.

What we need now more than ever is the calm, clear perspective of Will Rogers. He offered some sound advice on how we can get started:

“If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Higher Our Tech, The Ruder We Get http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/the-higher-our-tech-the-ruder-we-get/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/the-higher-our-tech-the-ruder-we-get/#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 07:15:39 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=626861 Get this: Social media are making us ruder.

According to Reuters, social media users face “an increase in rudeness online with people having no qualms about being less polite virtually than in person.”

100020 600 The Higher Our Tech, The Ruder We Get cartoons

Taylor Jones / PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view more cartoons by Jones)

I think our rudeness began ticking up with the introduction of another technological innovation: the telephone.

As phones became commonplace in American homes, people could communicate miles apart with each other — rather than being face-to-face.

People are much more likely to say things over the phone that they would never try to get away with saying while looking you in the eyes.

Technology continued to evolve, and so did our opportunities for rudeness. When answering machines become widely available in the ’70s, people initially considered them rude.

Callers had the sense that the people they were calling were using the devices to screen their calls — and they were, so callers often hung up before leaving a message.

The telephone company solved that problem with the introduction of “*69″ — punching in *69 to retrieve the number of the last person to call you.

Boy, did that technology make us ruder. I remember coming home once from a business meeting to find someone had hung up on my answering machine without leaving a message. I dialed *69, retrieved the number and called.

The phone rang four times before an answering machine picked up. A woman’s recorded voice said, “Hello, Bill and I aren’t in right now … .” I had no idea who the woman was, so I hung up.

I returned home again later that day to discover another person had hung up on my machine. I dialed *69, retrieved the number and called. I got an answering machine — “Hello, Bill and I aren’t in right now … .” — and hung up.

A few moments later, my phone rang.

“Hello,” I said.

“Who is this?” said a woman.

“Who is this?” I said.

“You called me and hung up!” she said. Ah, it was Bill’s wife!

“You called me and hung up!” I said.

“*69 took me to you!” she said.

“*69 took me to you!” I said.

The woman uttered some profanities, then hung up.

Caller ID quickly made both answering machines and *69 obsolete. Before long, everyone was screening calls. How rude.

The cell phone kicked rudeness into high gear. People are happy to make and take calls at the library, the movie theater and anywhere else they can annoy their fellow man.

Email is another innovation that is still doing damage. People dash off notes in anger, in which they say things to friends, loved ones and suddenly former bosses that they would never say in person.

Then there’s text messaging — the art of pressing both thumbs against a miniature keypad to bastardize the English language.

If you try to have a face-to-face conversation with a younger person, you cannot do so without him or her texting five or more people while you chat — behavior that used to be considered awfully rude.

And now, with social media, rudeness has a public forum. In haste, we type and post messages we would never say in person — messages that sometimes destroy relationships and reputations, particularly when those messages go viral.

It’s true that there are many reasons for the breakdown of civility. Judith Martin, Miss Manners, says good manners are the philosophical basis of civilization. When manners are strong, people restrain their impulses to be rude and abrasive — regardless of the form of communication they use.

But when manners are weak — and they are weak in societies in which the government determines behavior with a growing list of laws, rules, regulations and punishments — they are a reflection of the health of a civilization.

And where rudeness is concerned, our civilization isn’t looking so healthy.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Financial Responsibility, Obama Style http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/financial-responsibility-obama-style/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/financial-responsibility-obama-style/#comments Tue, 09 Apr 2013 07:15:35 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=626581 Get this: President Obama has proclaimed April as National Financial Capability Month.

After all, who better than Obama — who has added $6 trillion to the national debt so far — to help “every individual take ownership of his or her financial future”?

127300 600 Financial Responsibility, Obama Style cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle (click to view more cartoons by McKee)

Well, so worried am I by the financial path the president and our other “leaders” are taking us on, I’ve become an expert on “financial responsibility” — the way the government does it, anyhow. I fielded some questions from readers to help them be as financially responsible as our government.

Q: Tom, I spend more every month than I earn. Should I create a budget to bring discipline to my spending habits?

A: There’s no need for a budget. Budgets are stressful. They force you to make adult decisions about where to allot your limited funds. Just spend as you wish and borrow to cover any shortfalls.

Q: Tom, I just graduated from college with $150,000 in student-loan debt and $30,000 in credit-card debt. I expected to get a high-paying management job, but I am working part-time at a burger joint. I have not been paying my bills and my credit is horrible. How can I buy my dream home?

A: You’re in luck! The Obama administration is pressing banks to lower lending standards again, so that people like you can buy homes now! What could possibly go wrong?

Q: I got a debit card, but it doesn’t seem to work at ATMs anymore. My bank said that is because I have a zero balance. Should I get a credit card instead?

A: Absolutely. Interest rates are so low right now — our government is doing clever things to hold them down — that you can borrow money at record low rates. Borrow as much as you can and enjoy life! Sure, when rates eventually go back to normal, you’ll be in a heap of trouble — much like our government will be — but worrying about the future is a drag.

Q: I am spending about 25 percent more than I earn on boats, cars, vacation homes and more. Do I have a spending problem or a revenue problem?

A: You clearly have a revenue problem. Too bad you can’t tax your neighbors or create money out of thin air, as the government does. Maybe you can issue bonds and sell them to people in other countries, then use that new money to spend even more.

Q: The wife and I set up a trust fund to pay for college for our kids, but we couldn’t resist borrowing and spending all the money in it. We were wise enough to replace the money with IOUs. The IOUs are as good as cash, right?

A: Our government surely thinks so. Take the Social Security trust fund. As money has been put there over the years, Congress has borrowed from it to make up for deficits in other government spending. The trust fund contains IOUs from one branch of government to another. To repay those IOUs, the government will have to tap taxpayers for more dough — just as your kids will tap you for the dough when it is time to redeem those IOUs. But that won’t be for a while, so relax.

Q: Tom, your advice is horrible. The country is spending and borrowing at unsustainable levels. The economy continues to struggle because there is no serious effort to tame entitlement programs and bring fiscal order to our government. Government borrowing is crowding out private investment. The direction we are heading may have terrifying consequences in the not-too-distant future.

A: Yeah, I know, but if most American voters aren’t worried about it, then I won’t let it get me down. Besides, if things get bad enough in America, I figure I can always move to Cyprus!

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Taxing Quotations http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/taxing-quotations-2/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/taxing-quotations-2/#comments Wed, 03 Apr 2013 12:58:43 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=626304 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

I found something on the IRS Web site I never expected to see: quotations from great minds on taxes.

The first two agitated me:

91781 600 Taxing Quotations cartoons

John Cole / Scranton Times-Tribune (click to view more cartoons by Cole)

“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice

“The power of taxing people and their property is essential to the very existence of government.” — James Madison, U.S. president

Hey, fellows, I don’t mind paying taxes for a civilized society. It’s paying for the uncivilized part that grates on me. And I’m happy for the existence of our government, but, goodness, why does its existence have to be so big?

Here is a telling quotation from Frederick the Great, an 18th-century Prussian king:

“No government can exist without taxation. This money must necessarily be levied on the people; and the grand art consists of levying so as not to oppress.”

Yes, Freddy, levying without oppressing is a grand art — much the way it is an art for a loan shark, while collecting interest, to break all five fingers without harming the wrist.

Two of our thinkers, in their effort to be profound, end up sounding absurd:

“Like mothers, taxes are often misunderstood, but seldom forgotten.” — Lord Bramwell, 19th century English jurist

“To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men.” — Edmund Burke, 18th century Irish political philosopher and British statesman

Hey, Brammy, my dear sweet mother may be misunderstood and I’ll never forget her, but I don’t remember the government ever bringing me milk and cookies after clearing out my bank account.

And if somebody can explain to me what the heck Burke is trying to say, the first beer is on me.

Three of our thinkers make great sense, though:

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” — Albert Einstein

“Taxation WITH representation ain’t so hot, either.” — Gerald Barzan, humorist

A tax loophole is “something that benefits the other guy. If it benefits you, it is tax reform.” — Russell B. Long, U.S. senator

Ah, now we’re getting to the thick of it. Our tax code is the hardest thing in the world to understand. It was made that way because our representatives, seeking favor and dough, slipped in gobs of loopholes for their buddies.

Our government calls this “tax reform,” and it is the reason our tax code now runs, according to the Cato Institute, 61,000 pages in length and takes the average American nearly 30 hours to comply with.

One quotation made me sad:

“Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is really quite as satisfying as an income tax refund.” — F.J. Raymond, humorist

Well, F.J., next to being shot at and hit, nothing is quite as unpleasant as the sizable checks I’ve had to write every year since I became self-employed in 1993.

The concept of taxes agitates me so much, particularly this week as I am buried in a pile of receipts, that I was drawn to the more humorous quotations:

“I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is I could be just as proud for half the money.” — Arthur Godfrey

“People who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women.” — Unknown

“The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf.” — Will Rogers

The IRS is quick to point out that it in no way endorses any of these quotations. I don’t fault it for being cautious. Enforcing our incomprehensible laws, rules and regulations is the hardest job in the world. The IRS is often blamed for the mess that Congress made.

Still, I’m sure the IRS wants to keep a distance from this:

“Where there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.” — Plato

Well, then. I guess tax woes have been around for a while.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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A Political Dropout Confesses http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/a-political-dropout-confesses/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/04/a-political-dropout-confesses/#comments Tue, 02 Apr 2013 07:20:15 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=626253 After feeling guilty of late for losing interest in America’s political landscape, I decided to go to confession.

“Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. Like so many low-information voters, I am having trouble maintaining interest in what is going on in Washington.”

“Explain, my son.”

128897 600 A Political Dropout Confesses cartoons

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch (click to view more cartoons by Beeler)

“Father, polls by the Pew Research Center and others routinely show that the percentage of Americans who closely follow politics and government is relatively low. Only about one-third of Americans are informed.”

“You’re saying that 70 percent of Americans aren’t paying close attention to what’s happening in Washington?”

“Yes, father. What’s worse is that the majority of Americans have no awareness or concern about the big issues of our day: our debt, runaway spending and deficit. None of these will get fixed if the majority doesn’t care.”

“This is not good, my son. In a representative government, the representatives need to be closely monitored by the people. So why haven’t you been paying attention?”

“Like many other Americans who do keep closely informed, I feel somewhat powerless, father. Keeping informed these days is painful.”

“Painful?”

“Our government and political leaders keep making one stupid move after another — moves that are taking the greatest country in the history of mankind in a direction that may sink us, just as other great countries have been sunk throughout history.”

“Some examples, my son?”

“Spending is the biggest one, father. How long we can sustain these massive deficits is anyone’s guess. Now we have a new federal entitlement, ObamaCare, that will drive up costs and spending all the more — when we already have trillions of dollars in unfunded future liabilities. How are we going to pay for this?”

“I see.”

“Regulations are another area of concern. Small businesses in America, the lifeblood of our economy, are under assault. Every year, they must comply with hundreds of new regulations — 854 new ones in 2012, according to Forbes. It is getting harder to create the jobs our country needs, jobs that will produce the taxes we need to pay our bills.”

“This is not so good, my son.”

“Worst of all is that there appear to be no consequences. Politicians can do whatever they wish, good or ill, and they pay a very small political price. There are so many people who vote now who are not paying attention to politics. Any politician with the proper celebrity appeal can win their votes, regardless of what he or she does in office.”

“And this is why you are tuning out of politics?”

“That is correct, father. I am a wee bit despondent, I do admit. It is painful to follow politics and I find myself tuning out every chance I get. I have decided to turn my attention to more trivial matters, such as enjoying pints of Guinness at my favorite Irish pub and talking about sports and my favorite television shows.”

“My son, I understand your guilt. The heart of a democracy is the people, and the people’s participation and interest in the governing process are critical.”

“It is the truth, father.”

“When nearly two-thirds of a country is asleep, that cannot bode well for that country’s future — particularly one that is grappling with severe challenges that could well sink our future if they are not addressed right now.”

“I know it, father, but I have to go right now. There is a beer and hot wing sale at the Irish pub. I better get there before the other low-information voters eat all of them.”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Springtime In Washington, D.C. http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/springtime-in-washington-d-c/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/springtime-in-washington-d-c/#comments Thu, 28 Mar 2013 07:15:36 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=626080 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Ah, springtime has arrived in Washington, D.C.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is under way. The cherry trees, 3,700 of them given to America by the Japanese in 1912, are in full bloom.

128907 600 Springtime In Washington, D.C. cartoons

Aislin / The Montreal Gazette (click to view more cartoons by Aislin)

One incident involving the trees reminds me why Americans are so wary of Washington.

In the spring of 1999, you see, some culprits had been chopping down cherry trees.

The National Park Service, in a state of high alert for days, finally identified the tree fellers: three beavers, who decided to construct a dam in the Tidal Basin.

In a normal city, this situation would have been dealt with swiftly. The beavers would have been trapped, transported to another location and released.

In fact, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), not known for common sense solutions, suggested exactly that.

But Washington is no normal city.

No sooner was PETA’s idea floated than experts began crawling out of the woodwork. One said it would be tragic to separate the three beavers, since they’re likely from the same family.

Another said you can’t move beavers to a new colony because the new colony — beavers are Republicans? — would reject the freeloaders. Besides, what’s the point of being a beaver if you don’t have any buddies to plug up storm sewers with?

A third expert said that, all things considered, the most humane solution would be to euthanize the beavers.

Boy, did the public react negatively to that suggestion.

This is because beavers are cute. Their cuddly television presence clouded the public’s ability to address the problem rationally.

The fact is that if beavers looked more like their pointy-nosed cousins, rats, even PETA would have lined the banks of the Tidal Basin with rifles and shotguns to take out the varmints before they felled more beloved trees.

By that point, PETA returned to form. It demanded the beavers be allowed to continue damming the Tidal Basin — to hell with the cherry trees and the fact that “Tidal Basin” would need to be renamed “Tidal Wave.”

The hullabaloo went on for some time before the Park Service finally hired a professional trapper. The trapper caught the beavers and they were carted off.

You’d think that would have been the end of it. But not in Washington.

Activists, suspicious of what the Park Service really did with the beavers — Guantanamo Bay? — demanded their location be divulged.

That prompted the Park Service to issue a statement. It said that, due to the publicity surrounding the case, the beavers were moved to a “safe house,” which, apparently, is some kind of beaver witness protection program.

The beaver incident illustrates how convoluted and confusing things can get in Washington — simple ideas and solutions that work everywhere else are twisted and contorted and made unrecognizable there.

That’s why the fellows who founded this country had the right idea when they sought to keep most of the decision-making out of Washington — keep it among the people and within the states.

But the birds running the government right now don’t see it that way. They have Washington butting into every aspect of our lives.

Alas, springtime has arrived in Washington. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the cherry trees are in full bloom.

And all I can do is worry about what that nutty town is going to meddle with next.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Not the Devil But Silver-Tongued http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/not-the-devil-but-silver-tongued/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/not-the-devil-but-silver-tongued/#comments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 07:25:24 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=626071 The devil is in the details.

Maybe I’d better explain.

As it goes, the hit History Channel show, “The Bible,” was recently called out because the actor playing the part of Satan, Moroccan-born Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, looks eerily similar to President Obama.

128657 600 Not the Devil But Silver Tongued cartoons

Eric Allie / PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view more cartoons by Allie)

I don’t think Obama is the devil, but he surely has one characteristic that old Beelzebub is known for: a silver tongue.

See, many people think that if they met the devil in person, he’d be a foul-smelling, abrupt and frightening creature. The fact is, he’d appear to be the exact opposite.

He’d wear a Brooks Brothers suit and display a charming smile. He’d be affable and compassionate, and charm the socks off the unwitting.

He’d certainly NOT have our interest at heart — he’d only want to use us to achieve his own selfish goals — and many of us would probably never know it. Many would think he is our savior.

There’s no doubt Obama makes a lot of people feel this way — even though he has delivered the opposite of his many grandiose promises.

I vaguely recall talk of “hope and change” — how he’d magically cross the political aisle and bring the parties and the country together — yet we are more divided now than at any time in my lifetime and Obama has been the most partisan president in modern history.

Is not our division the result, in no small part, of the class warfare he waged to win a second term?

I vaguely recall him being elected in 2008 to address our financial crisis and get the economy going again. Instead, he gave us a massive new entitlement program and spent billions of borrowed stimulus dollars — yet unemployment is still high and economic growth remains incredibly stagnant.

Despite our massive debt, deficits and future entitlement obligations, our sweet talker in chief now assures the masses that America no longer has a spending problem. He says we have already cut spending plenty; what we need to do is raise taxes to get things cooking.

Sure, he overplayed his hand on the sequestration cuts — which cut about $84 billion from our massive $4 trillion in annual spending. The gloom and doom he prophesied aren’t coming to pass, and his poll numbers have suffered some.

But the fact is, Obama has been successful, over and over, at saying one thing and doing another and paying a very small political price for the difference.

Gosh, I feel sorry for Republicans. Sure, they have their failings — and were careless and reckless in spending the last time they controlled Congress and the presidency — but they are now on the regrettable side of calling for sensible reductions in government growth and for sensible reforms to taxes and entitlement programs.

What we need is a giant bipartisan effort to address those very things, led by our president, but Obama wants nothing to do with it.

Republicans are in the regrettable position of, say, having to tell an obese fellow he needs to lose weight or he’ll get diabetes, or hardened arteries, and may even suffer a heart attack five or six years down the line — while Obama promises the fellow a buffet dinner.

As I said, the guy is a maestro at saying one thing and doing another. Most in the media continue to NOT hold him to account for that — or for the many ways he is NOT leading us on the many problems we must address (spending, deficit, entitlements, tax reform).

Obama is not the devil, but, boy, does he have the silver tongue.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Income Tax 101 http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/income-tax-101/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/income-tax-101/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 07:15:17 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=625665 Ah, the income tax preparation season is upon us.

You’re probably wondering why you have to spend a couple of weekends barricaded in a room, sorting through receipts in the faint hope of complying with our confusing income tax laws.

2172 600 Income Tax 101 cartoons

Jeff Parker / Florida Today (click to view more cartoons by Parker)

The income tax first came to America in 1861. Americans paid it to help finance the Civil War, but come 1871 — six years after the war — the tax was repealed.

Some politicians, however, took a liking to it. They tried for the next 20 years to reinstate it. But the Supreme Court shot down the income tax as unconstitutional.

By 1913, however, the income tax weenies finally won. The 16th Amendment was passed and the income tax was signed into law.

Here’s how it worked: Only those who earned more than $3,000 — a lot of money in those days — had to pay. And they only had to pay about 1 percent. The highest rate, for those who earned $500,000 or more, was only 7 percent. As you well know, these low tax rates didn’t last.

By 1918, the top rate — the highest rate imposed on the highest earners — rose to a whopping 77 percent. Why? So America could finance World War I. And did the rates drop back to pre-war levels when the war ended?

Nope. The top rate did fall from 77 percent to 25 percent — but that still was 18 points higher than the top rate before the war.

Then Franklin Delano Big Government came to town. The top rate shot back up to 78 percent by 1936. In the 1940s, another war came along and the top rate skyrocketed to 94 percent. And did taxes go down following World War II?

Nope. This time, the top rate stayed above 90 percent — into the early 1960s.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy got elected by promising to get America moving again. He pushed for — but didn’t live to see — the top rate reduced from 90 percent to 70 percent under the Revenue Act of 1964, and his reductions did spur economic growth.

So, when politicians realized that lower taxes resulted in more growth and productivity, they eagerly reduced income taxes further, right?

Ha, ha! Nope. The income tax wasn’t reduced again until Ronald Reagan took over. In 1981, the top rate was reduced to 50 percent. In 1986, in return for elimination of loop holes, the top rate was reduced to 28 percent.

Reagan’s tax reductions helped spur the longest peacetime period of growth in American history.

Which brings us to the present. Today, the top federal income tax rate stands at 39.6 percent. But that’s still lower than the top rates of the past, right?

Not exactly.

First, loopholes that allowed taxpayers to avoid paying taxes were eliminated in 1986. Even though rates were higher in the past, actual taxes paid were lower. I stumbled across my father’s 1959 tax return; after his many deductions, he paid only 2 percent of his income in federal taxes.

Second, Social Security and Medicare taxes have increased rapidly over the years. Taxpayers pay an additional 15.3 percent of their income to support these programs. (The Social Security tax was only 1 percent when the program began.)

Third, Americans are paying taxes in several ways that many are not even aware of. We pay taxes on gas, utilities and phone usage. We pay property, sales and transfer taxes. And our states, counties and municipalities also tax our incomes.

Add it all up and you’ll discover that for every dollar you earn, you are lucky to keep even 50 cents.

That’s something to muse about as you are barricaded in a room all weekend, getting your income-tax return in order.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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How NOT to Honor St. Patrick http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/how-not-to-honor-st-patrick/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/how-not-to-honor-st-patrick/#comments Wed, 13 Mar 2013 07:15:46 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=625428 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day is upon us.

That means but one thing: time for Americans to over-celebrate the Irish tradition.

108348 600 How NOT to Honor St. Patrick cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle (click to view more cartoons by McKee)

I speak of the goofy Leprechaun hats, the gaudy green buttons and scarves and the propensity to drink excessive amounts of alcohol at fake Irish pubs while trying to be authentically Irish.

Though I’m not entirely without guilt.

Eight years ago in a gentrified section of Washington, D.C., I visited a fake Irish pub a few weeks before St. Patrick’s Day. My group included my cousin, my friends Bergen, Bell and Reid, and a woman we’d just met who bore a striking resemblance to Paula Jones (of the Clinton-era scandals).

Our efforts at pretending to be authentically Irish were going well until Bergen ordered up a fresh round of Guinness. That’s when the disaster occurred.

“Paula Jones” was wearing a white sweater — her favorite white sweater, which she’d paid $80 for at bebe’s in Chicago. Bergen, in his eagerness to get at his Guinness, knocked a full pint of the oil-black brew onto what quickly become a chocolate-white sweater from bebe’s in Chicago.

Having five sisters, I knew we had to get that sweater soaking in something or it would never see whiteness again. Bell ran off to get a bucket. I got the manager to supply a free Leprechaun T-shirt so our guest could change. My cousin trembled visibly, while Bergen was clearly saddened by the loss of his full pint.

Just as we managed to get our female guest dry, get her chocolate-white sweater soaking in soda water — we set it on a table behind us — and continue to pretend we were authentically Irish, all heck broke loose again.

Drug dealers, who had been openly plying their trade across the street — we watched them through the window — were suddenly the target of police, whose cars came roaring down the street from every direction.

So curious were we about this scene, we forgot about the sweater. Thus, we failed to notice that the busboy had picked up the bucket in which the sweater was soaking and proceeded to fill it with dirty glasses, silverware, greasy napkins, etc.

Thankfully, my cousin saw him and began shouting. This headed off the busboy’s subsequent actions, which would have involved the swabbing of dirty tables with an $80 chocolate-white sweater from bebe’s in Chicago.

There was no time to savor our success, however, as another crisis was under way. Our female guest was suddenly overcome by itchiness, an affliction, apparently, that results when Guinness dries on the skin. (Sunburn she’d received during a recent vacation had also contributed to her malady.)

So loudly did she complain — she had passed through “denial” and was well on her way to “anger” — that our efforts at pretending we were authentically Irish were in jeopardy yet again.

I quickly began searching the pub for mayonnaise, which, I’d thought, would remedy her itching. I didn’t realize until afterward that my reasoning had been muddled by an abundance of Guinness and my hopes of rubbing mayonnaise all over her skin had more to do with my needs than hers.

It was about then that the cook came running out of the kitchen, shouting about shots being fired in the alley. Our group had had enough. We rose in unison, grabbed our sweater bucket, hailed a cab and got the heck out of there.

The Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a more dignified manner than Americans do. Most people go to Mass, take in a parade, then enjoy the rest of the day with family — they don’t get out of hand the way we do.

It is true that one out of four Americans can trace his heritage back to the rolling green hills of Ireland, but do we have to mock our fine heritage by wearing gaudy hats and scarves, getting rip-roaring drunk and singing supposed Irish tunes, such as “The Unicorn Song”?

“The Unicorn Song” illustrates my point perfectly. It was written by Shel Silverstein. He was Jewish.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Many Woes of Telecommuting http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/the-many-woes-of-telecommuting/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/the-many-woes-of-telecommuting/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 07:55:55 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=625386 Last week, Best Buy joined Yahoo to ban employees from telecommuting — a subject on which I am becoming an expert.

As a self-employed writer, I telecommute every day. Thanks to the Internet and my cell phone, I can work for clients from anywhere — my home office, a coffee shop, a campsite in the woods.

And it’s starting to get to me.

128199 600 The Many Woes of Telecommuting cartoons

Larry Wright / PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view more cartoons by Wright)

Initially, I thought I’d achieved a dream. I wear blue jeans every day. I set my own schedule. No longer do I waste time in rush-hour traffic or sit in office meetings as colleagues lick the boss’s boots.

But it can sure be isolating at times.

A year ago, I moved back to a house I own in the country. Sometimes, I spend long mornings and afternoons alone there — just me and my computer. I find myself craving basic human interaction.

Last week, for instance, a telemarketer called. In the past, I rushed such people off the phone, but no longer.

Telemarketer: “Would you like to buy the Acme security service?”

Me: “No, but how’s the weather where you are? I hear spring is coming late this year.”

Working from home has also caused me grief from my neighbors. I overheard them talking about me one day.

Neighbor 1: “Do you think he’s in the witness protection program?”

Neighbor 2: “I don’t know, but he should get a pet.”

They think a dog would give me needed company during the day, but I don’t want the responsibility, as I am often not home.

I did try to hire a 24-year-old Swedish nanny, but, regrettably, the nanny agency assured me I had to have a family to hire one.

A month ago, some religious fanatics knocked on my door to give me pamphlets and magazines.

Religious fanatic: “You are doomed to hell if you do not read our pamphlets. Will you support us with a donation?”

Me: “No, but I hear it’s going to rain tomorrow. Would you like some coffee? Do you think I should put rose bushes in the planter?”

There are other problems caused by working alone out of one’s home. On the rare occasions when local clients visit my home office, I’m embarrassed to give them directions.

Me: “Make a sharp left at Homer’s bug zapper.”

Client: “OK?”

Me: “Then turn right at Orville’s compost pile.”

So, I’m not so enamored with the home-office concept anymore.

Humans don’t like to be alone. We are social animals — so social, in fact, that I’m beginning to think Best Buy and Yahoo are onto something: that it is better to spend long days confined to corporate cubicles than it is to work in total freedom, isolated at home.

But both companies are bucking a trend that is surely here to stay.

According to a recent Census Bureau report, more workers are telecommuting than ever before — some 13.4 million in 2010, compared to 9.2 million in 1997.

With fewer employees taking up costly office space, more companies are boosting productivity and reducing costs — and they don’t want to give up such gains.

And like every issue these days, telecommuting has become a political issue. The less you drive your car to the office, the fewer carbon emissions you put into the air.

Thus, the telecommuting trend will likely continue.

So, if you still dream about working from home, be careful what you wish for. Before long, you’ll be craving conversations with telemarketers, religious fanatics and anyone else who will listen.

Which reminds me: The postal carrier will be at my house soon. I need to get the coffee started.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Needed This St Patricks’s Day: Ronald Reagan http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/needed-this-st-patrickss-day-ronald-reagan/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/needed-this-st-patrickss-day-ronald-reagan/#comments Wed, 06 Mar 2013 08:15:18 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=625100 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

It was on St. Patrick’s Day 1988 when an unexpected visitor arrived at Pat Troy’s Irish pub in Alexandria, Va — President Ronald Reagan.

For 27 years, it’s been a favorite watering hole for Washington insiders. Some of Reagan’s advance men had been regulars. They secretly arranged the president’s visit.

108008 600 Needed This St Patrickss Day: Ronald Reagan cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle (click to view more cartoons by McKee)

Just before noon, the pub was half-packed when Reagan and his entourage arrived. As news got around, the pub quickly filled to capacity. While Reagan enjoyed a pint of Harp and some corned beef and cabbage, Troy was so busy tending to patrons, he didn’t have time to react to his famous patron.

“He had an energy about him that put you instantly at ease,” Troy told me. “He made it easy to carry on as though he was just another patron, so that is what I did.”

Troy took the stage and led the audience in “The Wild Rover.” He directed sections of the audience to compete with each other to see which could sing and clap the loudest.

“You have to clap louder, Mr. President,” he said to Reagan, prompting the president, not used to being given orders, to laugh.

Troy next led the audience in “The Unicorn Song.” While Troy sang the words, the audience mimicked the animals referenced in the song:

“There were green alligators and long-necked geese, some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees. Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born, the loveliest of all was the unicorn.”

Reagan turned to watch a group of young women act out the song. His face showed curiosity and delight — he’d never seen this song performed before.

But that was how he was: At the same time he was the world’s most powerful man, the man who felled communism and restored American optimism, he was a man of youthful innocence who found immense pleasure in the simplest things.

When Troy finished, he handed the president the microphone. The normally raucous crowd became extraordinarily quiet.

Reagan spoke off the top of his head. He graciously thanked Troy for having him for lunch. He said it was a great surprise. He talked about his father, an Irishman.

“When I was a little boy, my father proudly told me that the Irish built the jails in this country,” he said, pausing expertly. “Then they proceeded to fill them.”

The crowd laughed heartily.

“You have to understand that for a man in my position, I’m a little leery about ethnic jokes,” he said. The crowd roared. “The only ones I can tell are Irish.”

He talked about a recent trip to Ireland. He visited Castle Rock, the place where St. Patrick erected the first cross in Ireland.

“A young Irish guide took me to the cemetery and showed me an ancient tombstone there,” he said. “The inscription read: ‘Remember me as you pass by, for as are you so once was I, and as I am you too will be, so be content to follow me.”

As Reagan paused, the crowd eagerly awaited his follow up.

“Then I looked below the inscription, where someone scratched in these words: ‘To follow you I am content, I wish I knew which way you went.’”

The crowd roared loud and long, causing the president to deadpan to his advance men: “Why didn’t I find this place seven years ago?”

The pub visit was videotaped by Reagan staffers and released to Troy 10 years after Reagan left office. I watched that video and got to see a snapshot of pure, unscripted Ronald Reagan.

It shows how powerfully and eloquently the man was able to engage any audience, large or small, just by being his genuine self. As we begin the process of selecting our next president, we sure could use another fellow like him.

I’ll be sure to offer up a toast to the Great Communicator as I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year:

“To follow you we were content, and grateful for the way we went.”

—–

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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My Mother and Father School the Senate http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/my-mother-and-father-school-the-senate/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/my-mother-and-father-school-the-senate/#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 08:20:13 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=625078 “All right,” said my mother, standing before the members of the U.S. Senate, “it’s time for you to get your act together.”

“That’s right,” said my father. “You fools haven’t passed an annual budget in more than three years!”

127598 600 My Mother and Father School the Senate cartoons

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch (click to view more cartoons by Beeler)

“What is this thing you call a ‘budget’?” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

“For the love of God,” said my mother. “A budget is a framework that sets priorities for spending based on the income or revenue one receives. In the case of the government, it allocates funds among different programs in a rational and organized manner.”

“That is correct, dear,” said my father. “The budget process brings discipline to spending. Since there is a finite amount of income, a budget forces an individual or organization to make tough decisions.”

“Sounds like a lot of work,” said Reid.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work, but it must be done,” said my mother. “It’s because my husband and I established a disciplined budget every year that we managed to raise six children on a single income.”

“It was our duty to our children to create and follow a budget,” said my father. “It is the duty of the Senate to work with the House and the White House to do likewise.”

“We don’t need a budget,” said Reid. “We keep passing short-term continuing resolutions, which are funding the government just fine.”

“Horsefeathers!” said my mother. “By passing short-term budgeting resolutions, you are not addressing the deficit, which will be just shy of $1 trillion again this fiscal year. You are not addressing the need to reform taxes to eliminate red tape, broaden the base and increase revenue. You are not doing your jobs and you should be ashamed of yourselves for the uncertainty you are visiting on our shaky economy.”

“How does this budgeting thing work?” said Reid, with a puzzled look on his face.

“First,” said my father, “you look at how much money you are bringing in. Then you make sure the important items are covered. In our case, they included our mortgage, utility bills, food and savings for a rainy day. Regrettably, we hardly ever had money left over to pay for fun things, such as vacations, new cars and other niceties, so we cut those from our budget.”

“You cut niceties! Why didn’t you just create more money like our government does?”

“For the love of God,” said my mother. “You numbskulls in Washington need to get your heads examined. You are spending this country into oblivion. You are running up debt at an unsustainable level. At some point, this country will no longer be able to print or borrow enough money and the whole thing will come crashing down — and it will be because you lack the discipline to produce a simple budget.”

“But we can’t prioritize spending and cut government programs!” said Reid. “People who like these programs voted for us to keep growing them. If we go through a budgeting process, members of the Senate will go on record showing which priorities they favor and which they don’t. That’s bad politics.”

“Bad politics is what the country needs right now,” said my father. “My wife and I have been disciplined about spending throughout our marriage, because we worried about our children’s future. We managed our affairs sensibly and are happily retired, and our children do not have to worry about our future. But the Senate must produce a budget right now to save our country’s future.”

“Budget,” said Reid. “What is this thing you call a ‘budget’?”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Navigating the Second Amendment http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/navigating-the-second-amendment/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/03/navigating-the-second-amendment/#comments Fri, 01 Mar 2013 08:05:24 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=624931 “When you get mugged, there are certain rules you must follow,” my friend and his wife explained to me as we walked from a Washington, D.C., pub to their condo.

“When I get mugged?”

“Muggers are polite when you follow their instructions, but they get surly when you are rude,” said his wife.

126909 600 Navigating the Second Amendment cartoons

Gary McCoy / PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view more cartoons by McCoy)

“How can you be rude to a mugger?”

“Ignoring the mugger is rude,” said my friend. “This will give him license to strike you with a blunt object.”

“I see.”

“Making eye contact is also rude,” said his wife. “Look only at the mugger’s feet.”

“Why not just run?”

“Running might affect the mugger’s self-esteem,” said my friend. “You’ll give him little recourse but to club you with a blunt object.”

“Then what should I do when we get mugged?”

“Always make an offering of some kind,” said his wife.

“Hand over my watch?”

My friends laughed.

“You don’t wear a watch in this city!” said his wife. “You give up your wallet.”

“But my wallet contains my license, credit cards and other vital information.”

“You don’t hand over your real wallet,” said my friend, looking at his wife like I was an idiot. “You give up a dummy wallet. You carry your real wallet in your sock or your underwear.”

“I keep my credit cards in my bra,” said my friend’s wife.

“What if the mugger looks in your sock?”

“Muggers never do that,” said his wife. “They’re eager to complete their transaction, so they can move on to the next mugging.”

“Can’t you call for a policeman?”

“Ha!” said his wife. “If you can find one.”

“How about Mace?”

“If a mugger catches you reaching for Mace, that gives him license to —”

“Strike me with a blunt object?”

“Precisely,” said my friend.

“What if you were able to carry a gun?”

“The gun laws are very strict here,” said my friend. “It seems the only people who have them are the police or the criminals.”

“But a few years ago, the Supreme Court held that D.C.’s handgun ban violated individuals’ Second Amendment right,” I said. “The court affirmed that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’ in federal enclaves.”

“It did?”

“The Supreme Court also ruled on a similar case from Chicago, which is not a federal enclave. It affirmed that the Second Amendment provides Americans with a fundamental right to bear arms that cannot be violated by state and local governments.”

“So the average law-abiding citizen is now permitted to own a handgun anywhere in America?”

“Local jurisdictions are still free to impose a variety of restrictions,” I said. “However, plenty of lawsuits will follow as the details are worked out. In D.C., for instance, law-abiding citizens may own guns but are not permitted to carry a concealed weapon as they walk home.”

“Too bad,” said my friend. “If the muggers feared we had a gun, they might be inclined to leave us alone.”

“But then again,” said his wife, “if the mugger discovers we have a gun, that might give him license to —”

“Shoot us with a blunt object?” I said.”Whatever the case, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said the right to self-defense is fundamental to the American conception of ordered liberty. It would appear you could use more ordered liberty in your neighborhood.”

As we approached their condo, my friend and his wife sprinted to the door. They scanned for suspicious movement in the shrubs, then ushered me inside and slammed the door.

“We made it!” said his wife.

“That was a close one!” said my friend.

“You have developed an interesting process for dealing with muggers in Washington, D.C.,” I said. “How long have you lived here?”

“We moved in last Friday,” said my friend.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Are Humans Getting Dumber? http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/are-humans-getting-dumber/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/are-humans-getting-dumber/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 08:10:25 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=624736 “The report said people are getting dumber — at least I think that’s what it said, but the big words kept throwing me off.”

“Ah, yes, you speak of a recent study by Stanford University researcher and geneticist Dr. Gerald Crabtree. He believes human beings are undergoing intellectual decline.”

51282 600 Are Humans Getting Dumber? cartoons

Angel Boligan / El Universal, PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view more cartoons by Boligan)

“We are?”

“Writing about the study in the Natural Society Newsletter, Mike Barrett says that, according to Crabtree, our cognitive abilities are the result of ‘the combined effort of thousands of genes.’ If a mutation were to happen to anyone, it could damage intelligence — and Crabtree thinks such mutations have occurred.”

“Which reminds me: Honey Boo Boo is on tonight.”

“Says Crabtree: ‘I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues.’”

“Perhaps, but I’m confident I’d beat the Greek at beer pong.”

“Crabtree says part of the reason people are dumber now is that Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest — the strong survive and the weak are weeded out — is no longer as relevant.”

“Well, Darwin didn’t survive, either, so what does he know?”

“Look, Crabtree is just arguing that the stronger and smarter are no longer necessarily able to dominate society, whereas the weaker and dumber are better able to survive and thrive than ever before.”

“Well, somebody has to run Congress.”

“Barrett, the fellow who wrote about Crabtree’s study, suggests there are additional reasons for people getting dumber. For starters, he says our water and food systems are contributing to lower intelligence. We pump fluoride into our water to prevent tooth decay, but some studies find it has an adverse effect on neurodevelopment in children.”

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

“Barrett cites other studies that show pesticides, which end up in our food supply, are ‘creating lasting changes in overall brain structure … that have been linked to lower intelligence levels and decreased cognitive function.’”

“Maybe so, but who wants to eat an apple with a bunch of wormholes?”

“Barrett also cites studies that show a correlation between consuming processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup and IQ decline in children. Fructose may sabotage learning and memory.”

“I don’t know about IQ decline, but processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup make me cuckoo — cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”

“There is plenty of debate on whether or not pesticides and processed foods are doing as much damage as some researchers claim, but I think we can agree there are other things that are making humans dumber.”

“You’re not going to take away my video games again, are you?”

“Television is the biggest culprit. Every week, American adults spend 34 hours sitting in front of the tube, which trains their minds to be inactive and lazy — whereas reading a book or solving a puzzle helps develop critical thinking.”

“Who needs to think anymore? I rely on the major media to tell me what to think.”

“Regrettably, there is a frightening amount of truth in what you say. There is less critical thinking today. The less critical thinking there is, the easier it is for people to be easily persuaded by television and social media — and the less likely they are to make sound, intelligent decisions about the houses they buy or the politicians they vote for.”

“But back in 2008, everyone was buying houses they couldn’t afford and making a bundle! It wasn’t my fault I bought a mansion just before the bubble burst — or voted for ‘hope and change’ that has never come.”

“My point exactly.”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Smoked By ObamaCare http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/smoked-by-obamacare/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/smoked-by-obamacare/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 08:15:41 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=624430 Boy, do I feel sorry for smokers these days.

Smoking used to be so fashionable and hip in the James Dean and Steve McQueen days.

Women who smoked used to be sexy. No sooner did they pull a Virginia Slim out of a cigarette case than men would rush at them with lighters.

41038 600 Smoked By ObamaCare cartoons

R.J. Matson / PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view more cartoons by Matson)

Even when smoking was cool, people knew it wasn’t healthy. Some unhealthy smokers sued tobacco companies for concealing the unhealthful effects of sucking carcinogens into their lungs — and not one prevailed.

That changed in 1998, when 46 states sued the four biggest tobacco companies to recover Medicaid costs for tobacco-related maladies. The states won big. The tobacco industry has been nicotine-coughing up billions of dollars to the states ever since.

Or, to be more precise, smokers have been nicotine-coughing up billions. A pack of cigarettes costs five or six bucks. Taxes account for more than half of that price.

In any event, over the years, smoking has lost its coolness appeal among the public. Anti-smoking groups have made tremendous gains banning smoking in public places. To date, 38 states and all 60 of our biggest cities have public smoking bans in place.

To be sure, the anti-smoking sentiment is one of the few bipartisan issues left. People on both the left and right loathe smoking the way people used to hate polio and communism.

Many people on the right, sick of dining in restaurants where smoking was still allowed, were all for government bans on the legal activity. Didn’t secondhand-smoke studies warrant it?

Many people on the left were for such government bans, too, for the simple reason that they love when the government tells people what they cannot do — except when it involves smoking marijuana.

And so it is that the bipartisan anti-smoking mob has relegated smokers to secondary-human-being status.

Smokers are shunned at family gatherings and sent to the garage or the street, so as not to stink up the house.

Even corporate CEOs who smoke are sent to the alleyway, where they mingle with other smokers like hapless pigeons.

And just when smokers thought things couldn’t get worse, boy, are they getting worse.

Government regulators, who are now interpreting President Obama’s Patient Protection and (ha ha!) Affordable Care Act, have determined that smokers should get hammered by insurance companies.

Starting next year, health insurers will be permitted to charge smokers who purchase individual policies up to 50 percent more for their premiums.

A 60-year-old smoker will pay, on average, $5,100 more than he is paying right now.

Why? Well, the fellow’s smoking could cause him to have health issues, which others in the insurance pool would ultimately have to pay for.

Since he is a higher risk for the insurance pool, shouldn’t he be required to pay more?

Many in the anti-smoking mob, on both left and right, surely think so — as they miss the larger point: If our federal government has gotten so big and meddlesome that it can single out a particular citizen who has freely chosen to use a legal product as a vice, what CAN’T our government do?

How long before chubby people and snack-cake eaters and people who like to hang-glide over mountain cliffs are also singled out by the government?

How long before the government in a big city, such as New York, bans salt and large soda drinks?

Oops, that has already happened.

Yeah, I feel sorry for smokers, but the way things are going, we’ll all be mingling like pigeons in alleyways, secretly enjoying snack cakes, salty snacks and sugary drinks and hoping the government doesn’t catch wind of it.

—–

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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For Presidents Day – George Washington Makeover http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/for-presidents-day-george-washington-makeover/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/for-presidents-day-george-washington-makeover/#comments Wed, 13 Feb 2013 08:20:42 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=624187 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

“What do you mean America’s youth don’t know who George Washington was?”

“Dude?”

106659 600 For Presidents Day   George Washington Makeover cartoons

Taylor Jones / PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view more cartoons by Jones)

“He was our first president, our best president and one of the primary reasons the experiment called America was able to work. But of course they don’t teach you that in school anymore.”

“Dude?”

“Scholars and historians deemed Washington to be our greatest president in a Wall Street Journal survey. But another survey shows that Washington’s coverage in history textbooks has declined to less than 10 percent of what it was in the early 1960′s.”

“Dude?”

“Sure, to your generation Washington was just a boring old guy. He isn’t as captivating as the pop singers, movie stars and professional athletes you worship. That’s why the people at Mt. Vernon, Washington’s estate, had to raise $110 million dollars to reshape Washington’s image.”

“Dude?”

“The Mount Vernon people constructed a new orientation center, education center and museum right on the grounds of Mt. Vernon. These new facilities, which opened in October, 2006, feature the story of a younger, studlier George Washington.”

“Dude?”

“The presentations are designed to appeal to short-attention-span kids like you who get most of their information from MTV. A 15-minute film uses action-packed techniques to feature Washington’s significant accomplishments.”

“Duuuuude?”

“No, the film and multimedia presentations do not feature Washington blowing up terrorists, nor does Arnold Schwarzenegger costar. But they do tell the story of a remarkable man.”

“Dude?”

“Did you know that Washington was born into a modestly well-to-do family? What little education he got was given to him by his father and stepbrother. He was a farmer and surveyor and through some inheritance, shrewd business dealings and hard work, he grew his fortune.”

“Dude?”

“From early on he was a natural leader. He had an imposing presence, standing nearly 6’3″ at a time when the average man was about 5’8″. And he was invincible. During one battle in the French and Indian war, four bullets ripped his coat and two horses were shot from under him, yet he was unscathed.”

“Dude?”

“He represented the rebellious American spirit, you see, and he led the charge to break away from the restrictions and regulations of the British. In 1775, he took command of our motley crew of an army and led it in a war that lasted six grueling years.”

“Dude?”

“And, dude, he didn’t have much chance of winning against the British. Nonetheless, he used American ingenuity to completely outwit them. He retreated when they expected him to fight, he fought when they expected him to retreat. Many historians believe that no other man could have won this war. Without Washington, America’s history would have been completely different.”

“Dude?”

“After he beat the British, he was so popular he could have become a king. Instead, he used his immense power to help establish our Constitution, which grants power to us little folks. Then he reluctantly became our first president. He wanted nothing to do with the job, but knew our fledgling government needed his leadership to survive.”

“Dude?”

“After eight long years as president, Washington finally returned to his beloved Mt. Vernon to farm and enjoy life. But he lived only three years in retirement before dying at the young age of 67.”

“Dude?”

“The point is, dude, that one man can make a remarkable difference in the world. Washington was truly a hero — a man who lived his life by simple virtues and a sense of duty. Without Washington, the experiment we call America might not have worked.”

“Dude?”

“That is why the people at Mt. Vernon have gone to so much trouble to make sure we don’t forget Washington’s incredible story. I urge you to visit Mt. Vernon soon and learn all you can about this remarkable man. Now do you have any questions?”

“Dude?”

“Oh, for goodness sakes. Yes, it’s true that Washington grew hemp, also known as marijuana. But he used it to make rope and clothing. He didn’t smoke it!”

“Duuuuude!”

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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The Cut Is In The Mail http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/the-cut-is-in-the-mail/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/the-cut-is-in-the-mail/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 08:25:24 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=624098 It’s Nixon’s fault.

I speak of the financial woes of the U.S. Postal Service, and the news last week that its hopes to cut Saturday mail delivery to save a few billion dollars a year.

126786 600 The Cut Is In The Mail cartoons

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star-Tribune (click to view more cartoons by Sack)

As it goes, President Nixon, tired of strikes by then-government postal workers, signed the Postal Reorganization Act into law in 1971. It established the Postal Service as a quasi-private organization required to pay its own bills with revenue it earns selling stamps.

To the Postal Service’s credit, it has not, for the most part, needed taxpayer money to fund its operations. Taxpayer money, says PBS, “is only used in some cases to pay for mailing voter materials to disabled and overseas Americans.”

But thanks to technology, the postal business isn’t as lucrative as it used to be. Few people write and mail letters anymore. I used to spend three hours each months writing checks to pay my bills and dropping 15 or so payments in the mail — now I do online checking in about three minutes and the funds are transferred electronically, free of charge.

Annual USPS revenue, which peaked in 2008 at $75 billion, is down to $65 billion and will continue to decline as fewer people use the mail. Our struggling economy also is doing the Postal Service no favors.

Compounding USPS woes is a congressional mandate from 2006. It requires the Postal Service, through 2016, to make an annual pre-payment of $5.5 billion into a fund to cover health-care costs for future retired employees.

Unlike Medicare, Social Security or any other government organization, the Postal Service is required to put money into a real “lock box” to fund future liabilities — rather than let future taxpayers worry about covering the costs.

The $5.5 billion pre-payment, however, only accounts for about a third of the Postal Service’s $15.9 billion in losses in fiscal 2012. No matter how you look at it, the Postal Service is bleeding red ink by the tanker load.

That doesn’t bode well for the 550,000 people employed by the Postal Service — America’s third largest employer, in fact, behind the federal government and Wal-Mart. And I feel sorry for these folks.

It’s not their fault the Postal Service is unable to adapt to modern times — unable to find ways to sell new products and services to post offices’ nearly 1 billion annual visitors.

Most postal employees are crushed under the weight of outmoded business processes and bureaucratic inanities. They lack the organizational support to serve customers as well as they would like. They are unable to help their employer grow and thrive.

But here is the real problem postal workers face: Because the Postal Service is technically an independent entity, the federal government won’t extend it billions in printed money to cover its budget shortfalls — as our government does with every other government organization.

If only the Postal Service were still a full government organization, it wouldn’t have a worry in the world — for the moment, anyhow.

Consider: Our government’s annual deficit has been in the $1 trillion range for five years running. What’s another $15.9 billion? All we’d have to do is print another $15.9 billion to cover the Postal Service’s shortfall.

Actually, we’d only have to print another $10.4 billion. Because if the Postal Service were fully a government organization, nobody in Congress would make it put aside $5.5 billion a year to fund the needs of future retirees.

There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on to explain the Postal Service’s budget woes. I say blame it all on Nixon.

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©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Valentine’s Day – When There Was Romance http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/valentines-day-when-there-was-romance/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/valentines-day-when-there-was-romance/#comments Wed, 06 Feb 2013 12:20:27 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=623832 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Hey, pallie, what the heck happened to romance?

I use the word “pallie” in deference to the great Dean Martin. A few summers ago, just before the annual Dean Martin Festival in Dino’s home town of Steubenville, Ohio, I decided to compare today’s hits with his.

I started with the No. 1 song on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 list, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira. This song was a hit, no doubt, because of its eloquent lyrics:

1523 600 Valentines Day   When There Was Romance cartoons

Arcadio Esquivel / La Prensa, Panama

Nobody can ignore the way you move your body, girl

And everything so unexpected — the way you right and left it

So you can keep on shaking it

No. 2 on the list was “Ridin’” by Chamillionaire, a rap performer. Here’s a little taste of that song’s poetry:

Tippin’ down, sittin’ crooked on my chrome

Bookin’ my phone, tryin’ to find a chick I wanna (slang expletive)

No. 3 on the list was “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado, a song brimming with love and affection:

You expect me to let you just hit it

But will you still respect me if you get it

Ah, modern romance. Things sure have changed since Dino dropped off the charts. Now I know why: Romance is dead.

Whereas the top three hits above celebrate human nature at its most base — wiggling one’s hips to stoke male arousal, looking for “chicks” to satisfy your urge, or wondering if a fellow will stick around after he samples the goods — Dino’s simple music spoke to the heart.

Consider the lyrics to “Amore”:

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie

That’s amore

When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine

That’s amore

Amore means “love” in Italian, a mysterious and magical energy that every human longs for. Love is the basis of many of Dino’s songs. It’s nowhere to be found in the three hit songs I just referenced.

In 1964, when The Beatles’ new sound was making them the most popular band on Earth, Dino knocked “Hard Day’s Night” out of the top spot. He did so with “Everybody Loves Somebody,” an old-fashioned song that resonated with all age groups:

Everybody loves somebody sometime

Everybody falls in love somehow

Something in your kiss just told me

That sometime is now

Whereas many of today’s hit songs celebrate fear, anger and cynicism, Dino’s songs celebrate sweetness and innocence. His songs are idealistic and uplifting. They are ROMANTIC.

Dino’s songs celebrate the subtle dance of the spirit between a man and a woman — the magic that occurs when two complementary natures collide.

They celebrate mystery — the deep interest and curiosity a man holds for a woman and a woman for a man.

They celebrate hopefulness — they focus on the future, on the hopes that one day a special person will enter your life and sweep you off your feet, a person you will love forever.

The simple, intense lyrics of his song “Sway” sum up this longing well:

Other dancers may be on the floor

Dear, but my eyes will see only you

Only you have the magic technique

When we sway I go weak

I know Dino had his peccadilloes in his personal life, but his music remains untainted. With every passing year, as coarseness seeps into our culture a little more, his songs hold more power over me.

We need to get back to the spirit of his music — the spirit of romance. I can’t think of a better day to do so than Valentine’s Day.

All we have to do is observe older couples who fell in love years ago, when Dino was still king of the charts. I marveled at the eloquence of such couples at the Dean Martin Festival a few summers ago.

As the Dean Martin impersonator began to sing — a fellow so convincing you’d think the old crooner was there in the flesh — they sauntered to the front of the stage, holding hands, then began to slow dance. They began to sway with a sweetness and easiness that couples knew long ago.

When there was romance.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Say it Ain’t Joe http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/say-it-aint-joe/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/02/say-it-aint-joe/#comments Tue, 05 Feb 2013 14:45:18 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=623779 Maybe he’s just what America needs. Then again, maybe not.

I speak of Vice President Joe Biden — who, according to Politico, is “intoxicated” by thoughts of being inaugurated as president in 2017. He’d be delighted to “finish what Barack Obama started.”

56970 600 Say it Aint Joe cartoons

Taylor Jones / PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view cartoons by Jones)

Well, who better to finish what President Obama started than Uncle Joe? I’ll bet he’d be even better at runaway government spending, lack of budget discipline and total disinterest in addressing entitlement growth, tax reform and other essentials for getting our economy going.

I’m certainly no fan of Obama’s policies, but here’s one area where he really falls short: He’s not funny.

Bill Clinton was funny. He reminded us, said Dennis Miller, of the guy in the college fraternity who used to tap the keg.

President George W. Bush was plenty polarizing during his two terms, but he was funny, too. The press filed reports every time he bumbled his words. And Bush gave late-night comics almost as much material as Clinton.

“As you all know,” said Jay Leno after Bush left office, “George Bush is no longer president, so they’ll be no monologue (tonight).”

There was a lot of truth in Leno’s statement. Obama doesn’t make good fodder for late-night comics. That’s partly because late-night comedy writers tend to skew left and largely agree politically with him.

But it’s also because there’s not much funny about him.

During the last presidential campaign, says the Daily Beast, citing a study by George Mason University, late-night comics did twice as many Romney jokes as Obama jokes — David Letterman did five times as many.

The Romney jokes pulled no punches. With the exception of Leno, however, the Obama jokes hardly ever made Obama the butt of the joke. Here’s a typical example:

“Yesterday, Mitt Romney’s son Tagg said that during the debate he wanted to punch President Obama for calling his father a liar,” said Conan O’Brien. “He also wants to punch his father for giving him the name Tagg.”

Which brings us back to Biden.

If there’s anything most people agree on in these polarized times, it’s that every time Biden speaks, he delivers gifts from the comedy gods:

“If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30 percent chance we’re going to get it wrong.”

“When the stock market crashed (in 1929), Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.’” (FDR’s first inauguration wasn’t until 1933, and nobody had TVs to watch in 1929.)

“Stand up, Chuck, let ‘em see ya,” said Biden to Missouri state Sen. Chuck Graham, who is confined to a wheelchair.

Yes, old Joe is a tremendous source of humor, though here is something that is not so funny: He actually could become president — and could continue the spending, government expansion and lack of leadership Obama has started.

Obama’s machine was skillful turning out new voters — many of whom don’t worry about things like debt, deficits and potential economic collapse. That machine just might put an old political character like Joe into the nation’s highest office.

My preference is for a bold, results-oriented reformer, such as Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — someone with the guts to attack our problems boldly and ideas that will get the needed results.

I worry that the majority will reject such ideas, however, and that our transformation into a slow-growth, high-tax, high-debt, European-style state is inevitable.

Ah, well, if old Joe becomes president, at least we’ll get some decent late-night jokes out of it.

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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Privacy? What Privacy? http://www.cagle.com/2013/01/privacy-what-privacy/ http://www.cagle.com/2013/01/privacy-what-privacy/#comments Wed, 30 Jan 2013 08:20:44 +0000 Tom Purcell http://www.cagle.com/?p=623490 Exclusive Excerpt from: “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” by Tom Purcell

Ring. Ring.

“Hello, this is Tom.”

“Happy birthday to you, Tom!”

“Who is this? How did you know it was my birthday?”

111946 600 Privacy? What Privacy? cartoons

Mike Keefe / PoliticalCartoons.com (click to view more cartoons by Keefe)

“Your birth date is public information — it’s listed on your voter registration card. But that’s not important. What is important is that I’m here to help you.”

“Help me?”

“We feel it’s time for you to upgrade your computer, Tom. It’s taking you forever to surf through the Web sites you visit.”

“You know which Web sites I visit?”

“Of course. Not long ago, America Online got into trouble for releasing such information. We had a good laugh when we learned your favorite search terms are: Madonna, bikini, before she turned 40.”

“This, sir, is an outrage.”

“We’re just trying to help. Incidentally, that 27-year-old flight attendant you met in the online chat room?”

“What of her?”

“She’s 64 and married.”

“You have no right to —”

“Don’t get excited, Tom. According to the free blood pressure clinic you visited — you remember filling out that card, don’t you? — your blood pressure is awfully high.”

“You know my blood pressure?”

“Of course. There are lots of ways to get that information now. Didn’t you know that security cameras and other devices mounted in public places are now able to check vital signs?”

“My vital signs!”

“Absolutely. Some surveillance systems can identify you by how you walk. And special programs can track your eye movements. Retailers use them to get a better idea of what shoppers are looking for.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“As serious as a heart attack, Tom. Which is why you ought to cut back on the corn chips. Do you really need to eat three bags a week?”

“You track my corn chip purchases?”

“That discount card the grocery store gave you is quite revealing. Incidentally, you forgot to redeem your coupon on the free devil’s food cake. I’ll send another if you’d like.”

“What you’re doing is surely against the law!”

“Law? There are no laws to prevent us from knowing about you. Everything you buy with your credit or debit card is incredibly easy for us to track — and most of the things we do to track you are legal.”

“They are?”

“Yes, and every time you fill out any form, your personal information is stored in computers and shared with goodness only knows who.”

“Without my permission?”

“Of course. And did you know that your Social Security number has more than 40 congressionally approved uses? You can’t drive, vote, apply for a job or open a bank account without revealing that number. That’s a godsend to people like us.”

“But this is immoral!”

“A typical statement from a 50-year-old, single, middle-class Catholic conservative who tends to vote Republican.”

“Have you no shame, sir?”

“I’m not the one who is 12 months overdue at the library on ‘How to Win Over Women and Influence Courtship.’”

“I’ll report you to the press.”

“That’s a good one, Tom. The press is eager to criticize the government for monitoring phone calls and wire transfers, when there are hundreds of other threats to privacy that the press hardly ever talks about.”

“Then Congress must write new laws to protect us.”

“That’s an even better one, Tom. In the electronic global village in which we all now exist, technology is moving so rapidly that no law can keep up with it. The only way you can protect your privacy is to stop giving out ID numbers, stop using computers and stop using your credit cards.”

“I can’t afford that kind of inconvenience.”

“Neither can I, Tom. Which brings us back to the reason I called. I have some products to help you upgrade your computer.”

“There are only two things I want from you: your name and phone number.”

“Sorry, but I can’t give you that information. That information is private.”

—–

©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” and “Misadventures of a 1970′s Childhood,” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Cari@cagle.com or call 800 696 7561. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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