• Michael Ramirez/Investor’s Business Daily

Talking back to the papers . . .

Editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez’s unremitting enmity toward Barack Obama gives me a pretty good idea of what a lot of Republicans must have felt about Herblock back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s when Nixon was his favorite beady-eyed villain.

Editorial cartoonists aren’t in the business to make friends, and he doesn’t have one in me. But it’s not important except that I’m not disposed to give him a pass on the cartoon he drew last week for his home paper, Investor’s Business Daily. I saw it because the Tribune chose it to top last Saturday’s cartoon gallery.

Aaron Alexis, a computer systems technical at the Washington Navy Yard, opened fire on coworkers with a Remington 870 tactical shotgun on September 16 and killed 12 people before he was shot to death himself. Despite a history of serious mental illness he not only had his government job but also a secret clearance.

Exploiting the happenstance that the massacre occurred at a naval installation, Ramirez seized on the easy iconography of a serviceman saluting fallen comrades. The caption: “To the FALLEN HEROES at the NAVY YARD.”

Heroes? They were luckless victims. Or is he on to something? Is the only way to address the wholesale slaughter of Americans gunned down at work, school, and play to declare all these victims heroes and hope to make the rest of us envy them? The NRA wouldn’t object if we treated each new hero to a posthumous parade and marching band. Ramirez’s point may be that they paid the ultimate price for our Second Amendment liberty, because I guess in a way they did. But I don’t think Ramirez had a point.

Here’s an example of why I was reminded of Herblock.

Herblock, 1954:

  • “Here He Comes Now”

Ramirez, 2013:

On another front, the Sunday Sun-Times carried a major report on a construction boom in the Chicago public schools. There was this passage:

However, construction of the new school at 104th and Indianapolis will not be completed until 2016, in part because it’s located on a contaminated site near an expressway. The land was sold to CPS by a relative of former Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak (10th), whose conviction was tied to an unrelated real estate deal.

To anyone new to Chicago, that paragraph must seem shamelessly gratuitous. This wasn’t the real estate deal Fast Eddie got sent up for, it wasn’t even a deal he had anything to do with, and nobody saying the deal wasn’t legit—though, OK, the site’s a little hinky. But mention him anyway.

But where there’s smoke there’s fire. And where there’s no smoke, it just means someone was cooking with an electric oven. As someone in the ward told the Tribune last year when the deal went down, “Nothing gets done here accidentally in this ward, and nothing gets done without Ed Vrdolyak knowing about it.”

Lastly, I had a quizzical reaction to Rick Morrissey’s Sunday Sun-Times column on the ethics of sportswriters. He wrote:

It’s not easy telling an editor that the reason you’ve been beaten on a story is that your competition has sucked up to a player and has the journalistic scruples of a supermarket tabloid. Sounds like sour grapes. On the other hand, you sleep pretty well at night.

Well, that might depend on your job security, and your editor’s job security, and how big the story was, and whether the ad staff can recover the car dealer ad that used to run opposite your column. I’m not so sure you sleep so well at all.