Tag Archives: State Senate

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Senators Behaving Badly

Senatorial Rules of Conduct

The motto of California’s State Senate had might as well be changed to homines qui pravis — men behaving badly.

As Patrick McGreevy reports in The Times, three members are currently under suspension due to scandals.

Roderick Wright of Los Angeles County was convicted of voter fraud and perjury for lying about living in his district. Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco have been indicted by the feds, accused of influence peddling. Yee, who presented himself as a staunch proponent of gun control, has also been formally accused of offering to connect an undercover FBI agent posing as someone in the market for automatic weapons and RPGs with an international weapons dealer.

Smarting from these blows to their reputation, Senate leaders put their heads together and decided to recruit potential candidates from only the most morally upright, self-sacrificing Californians.

Just kidding.

Actually, they really did come up with a solution: a proposed list of 12 “Standards of Conduct” members would be expected to abide by.

McGreevy calls the standards “fairly common-sense.” Which is true. They’re so common-sense as to prompt the question: why do they need them?

Among the highlights:

  • “A Senator or officer or employee of the Senate shall not accept outside employment that is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his or her duties.”
  • “A Senator shall not use the prestige of his or her office, and an officer or employee of the Senate shall not use the status of his or her position, for material or financial gain or private benefit.”
  • “Each Senator and each officer or employee of the Senate has an obligation to be informed and prepared, recognizing all sides of an issue.”
  • “Each Senator and each officer or employee of the Senate has an obligation to make proper use of public funds.”

Um…duh?

May I suggest Rule 13? “Each Senator shall wear pants, or a skirt, or a pantsuit or other suitable article of clothing as to properly cover his or her private parts when conducting his or her duties in the Senate, with the exception of when nature calls, and then only in a suitable restroom and then with the latch firmly attached so that others may not observe.”

We have finally arrived, it seems, at the stage when it is no longer reasonable to expect behavior that society once considered so standard that it needed neither to be taught nor explained, much less enforced by law. Conflict of interest was always, obviously unethical. Diverting public funds for personal use was always embezzlement, clearly illegal, evidently wrong. Political service was a public trust; while one always had parochial, partisan interests to consider, it was a given that the greater good took ultimate precedence — at least that it should.

You know what would be a better way to improve the ethical standards of state senators than these painfully obvious Standards of Conduct? Subject them to an IQ test. Because if you don’t know this stuff by the time you’re old enough to run for public office, you’re too stupid to serve.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Bruised Egos in Sacramento

Bruised Egos in Sacramento

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It makes a bigger point about a more important issue.

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

Bitterly laugh, but still.

Appeared originally at The Los Angeles Times.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Bruised Egos in Sacramento

Bruised Egos in Sacramento

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It makes a bigger point about a more important issue.

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

Bitterly laugh, but still.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Anti-Swatting Bill

Anti-Swatting

I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).

This week: The State Senate has approved an anti-“swatting” bill. “Swatting” is the act of pranksters who make false 911 calls in the hope of prompting a heavily-armed police response, typically to the home of a celebrity.