Join editorial cartoonist Steve Benson and local cartoonist Brian Fairrington as they take a wacky look back at the big news events of 2014 through their cartoons.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. At the end of each year we look back at the top news events of the preceding 12 months through the eyes and ink dripping pens of two political cartoonist, joining us tonight for the cartoonist special are Steve Benson of the Arizona Republic and local cartoonist Brian Fairrington. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. Good to see you again.
Steve Benson: I came over to this interview and all I got was this free water.
Ted Simons: That's, actually, all you have gotten. You got more than the rest of us. What kind of year was it for a cartoonist?
Brian Fairrington: Oh, man, it was like 360 kaleidoscopict frenzied craziness. I thought it was a great year.
Steve Benson: Every year you think you cannot top the last one but it does. We had a lot, internationally and nationally, a bowl of iris, you know, everything, it was a big year.
Ted Simons: Optimistic, more negative than positive? Was it a darker year for cartoonists?
Brian Fairrington: I think it's been a darker year for the Obama administration and all the issues out of that. It may -- the economy is looking a bit better. So, you know, those issues will come. We're always going to have our plates full.
Ted Simons: Yeah, yeah.
Steve Benson: We don't care how positive it is. We don't really care. It is our job to turn it inside out and take it down to depression levels.
Ted Simons: Well, but it's going to ask, did you have to take it far down? Or was it already there?
Brian Fairrington: The motto is after the battle, you go down and stab the wounded, that's what we do.
Steve Benson: That's my line.
Brian Fairrington: Yes, I think he said it back in 1750.
Steve Benson: Well, during these uber, you know, cattle-prodded mid-term elections where everybody gets up their wazoo about something, it's amazing to see how intense and negative it gets. I just got a letter saying that I was dividing the planet with my cartoons. I thought really? Wow.
Brian Fairrington: Did you read my signature on it?
Ted Simons: Well, let's go ahead and see how it was when we get to the cartoonists, and we start with the V.A. scandal, and this was started, really, originated right here in Phoenix.
Steve Benson: Yes, and despite what CNN says, we, at the Arizona Republic, broke this story.
Brian Fairrington: What did CNN say?
Steve Benson: They are claiming they broke it, but they did not. But it has been, you know, we have this double list, this electronic list that was, you know, in the shadows of, you know, of all the people who had died or died, you know, waiting for care, and then you had this manufacturer list of supposedly everybody getting equal access and ready treatment. It was a scandal.
Brian Fairrington: It was really a black eye for Arizona. I mean, you know, especially the home state of John McCain, a war hero.
Ted Simons: And we have Chenseki step down.
Steve Benson: I didn't know that he lost half of his foot. I remember, where he was still standing, I mean, he put himself into the grave on that one.
Ted Simons: And Brian, you have the Korean Veteran, you know.
Brian Fairrington: Yeah, it's sad. Hopefully, the scandal will weed out any problems, I mean, we need to treat our Veterans as best we can, and this was a black eye.
Ted Simons: And Steve, with your four panel thing with the guy at the punch line at the end, how much can you do a punch line on something like that? How far do you go?
Steve Benson: It's interesting that, the resistance from a lot of vendors, not a lot, listen, you cannot prove it that, you know, we're the smoking gun, and it was all born out in the end. As tough as the commentary seemed to be, it was all focused on, you know, the scandal and why did it take so long for them to get rid of the V.A. here in Phoenix? I mean, this -- and not only was it here in Phoenix, but apparently, a systemic problem because all the way to the top of the channel 8, and then the other places around the country.
Ted Simons: Yeah, ok. Let's move on. We go to immigration and the executive action. Some refer to it as an executive order, but it's an executive action.
Steve Benson: Oh, yeah, civics 101 teacher? What's the difference? Anyway. We'll get to that later. Obama is an emperor, a king, anti-constitution, blah, blah. Listen, Bush and Reagan were issuing their orders, actions or whatever, back in the day. And I don't believe the GOP was sitting on the Whoopi cushion over that.
Brian Fairrington: Well, they got their feathers ruffled when they got the Feliz Navidad Christmas letter from the White House. They are up in arms about it and will make it an issue going into the 2016 race.
Steve Benson: But, that has a tinge of color to that joke that I thought was totally inappropriate.
Ted Simons: All right. And get off my lawn. This is --
Steve Benson: This has to do with the problem down on the border there in Texas where all these kids were being sent across the border, you know, by their parents on their own, you know, to meet up with the family, and always, people are going apoplectic. They want to put them on their, you know, maybe having changed their shoes or something, and, you know, I think the governor, not caring about being re-elected, can play the game however she wants. But, you know, she's up and down. She's really tough on CPS and things like that, but she waffles on a bunch of -- never really consistent. I think it's her inner staff that is her inner child.
Brian Fairrington: I think the problem with that is, I think Doug Ducey going into it is going to be just as bad on those issues as she has been. I think so.
Steve Benson: Why do you think that?
Brian Fairrington: Well, he's, in many respects, more conservative than she was, so I think that --
Steve Benson: That's a hard thing to say.
Brian Fairrington: Thank you.
Ted Simons: You spoke of Governor Brewer, obviously, 1062 was in the news, and she, definitely, came back and took care of business.
Steve Benson: I tell you, she's like, you know, the virus that won't go away. This was, actually, unconstitutional move, where you can deny people equal protection under the, excuse me, we'll get to it, the 14th Amendment, based upon your own religious preferences. Well, I don't want to treat them equally because God tells me not to, so there. I have had, actually, leaders call me and say my religious views trump the constitution.
Brian Fairrington: Well, any, any super conservative religious bible literist would believe that, and that's dangerous.
Steve Benson: That's why the founders said hey, we had this in Europe for hundreds of years.
Ted Simons: And we have Kathy Herrod Marching off to war, is that what that is? Is that what we're trying to get to with onward Christian soldiers here?
Steve Benson: Yeah, I thought that that's what we were talking about, I was way ahead of you.
Ted Simons: Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt your thoughts there.
Steve Benson: Yeah. She's, you know, the onward Christian soldiers, and just a goof.
Ted Simons: And executions in Arizona?
Brian Fairrington: Another story that started here in Arizona, like a lot of stories, and apparently, it was not a pretty sight with the inmate had to go through. There's got to be a better way.
Steve Benson: The better way is to end execution.
Brian Fairrington: Well, that --
Steve Benson: I have seen a live executions.
Brian Fairrington: I would not want to see that.
Steve Benson: He was live at the time. This is back when they knew the concoction of the chemicals would be, and it was a swift death, ok. Now, because Europe won't produce these executives for us anymore, and there is nobody in the United States that will do it, it's, basically, a laboratory experiment with every -- It violates the eighth amendment. See, I got that one right, the eighth amendment.
Brian Fairrington: Thank you, professor Benson.
Ted Simons: But, as far as the death penalty, the situations like there, do you think that some --
Brian Fairrington: Well, personally, I've always been on the fence about it. If I saw an execution, I probably would change my mind. It's not -- life in prison probably a worse punishment.
Steve Benson: It's keeper to put someone in prison for life. People say well, it's cheaper -- it's cheaper -- people say, these, you know --
Brian Fairrington: Cheaper --
Steve Benson: It's more expensive after all the appeals.
Brian Fairrington: It's more of a punishment to sit in a jail cell.
Steve Benson: That's not the purpose of punishment.
Brian Fairrington: But fiscally, it is cheaper.
Ted Simons: Let's continue, Ferguson was all over the place. You got two figures here.
Brian Fairrington: Despite evidence to the contrary, Steve through a great cartoon about it.
Steve Benson: Well, actually, what I was concerned about was the abuse of the process. People say the rule of law is the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury process was --
Brian Fairrington: Agreed, agreed. They should have put it in front of the Grand Jury.
Steve Benson: Any prosecutor, worth their salt, can do that. Then it goes to trial in an open court where A against B, you know, defense against prosecution. The prosecutor here --
Brian Fairrington: He was passing the buck. He should not have put it in front of a Grand Jury.
Steve Benson: But once he did, he should have done what they do in these situations, and that is to direct the Grand Jury to an indictment. He just did a document dump on them.
Brian Fairrington: He's passing the buck and did not want the repercussions.
Steve Benson: Welcome to Missouri.
Ted Simons: Brian, happy faces -- what are you saying?
Brian Fairrington: Well, they put on the "Al Sharptonization" of these kinds of issues. Despite the fact that --
Steve Benson: What does that mean?
Brian Fairrington: Despite the fact that there was three autopsy reports, despite the fact that the Grand Jury discovered that many of the witnesses were unreliable, they tried to paint a picture of this that was not accurate, and what about, you know, Pharrell, what about the bullying that Michael Brown had done? No one wants to take responsibility, this he want to paint him as an innocent victim who said he would never do that, yet a few minutes later he was --
Steve Benson: In the Grand Jury testimony, now that we have got a document on that one, we know what went on in the jury. There were so-called eyewitnesses lying, fudging, making things up on both sides, which then means that the way that you figure this out, is not for the prosecutor or for the defense. And to take it to trial. That's what should have happened.
Brian Fairrington: Well, it was politicized, and it should not have been.
Ted Simons: Indeed, and not only politicized, whether you thought it should have been, it was. And it gave way to protests, rising national protests.
Steve Benson: And they are going around the country.
Brian Fairrington: There have been other incidence on the heels of that. The case in New York. They should have indicted him.
Steve Benson: You know, and you have got a body cam, and instead of a cop. Here was this guy saying, 17 times, I can't breathe, and the officer says, well, I got up as soon as I could when he started saying that. It's a, if the camera proves otherwise.
Brian Fairrington: And this will motivate all municipalities to put cameras on the police officers, and they should.
Steve Benson: It will be too expensive, no --
Ted Simons: Back to the idea of what you can draw and can't draw and how you can draw. It's something like Ferguson and something like -- how sensitive do you have to be?
Brian Fairrington: In the case of Eric in New York, there was an iconic image of the police tackling him and the handout, and that was an iconic image and people recognized it, and that was portrayed a lot. And you want to capture that without, you know, of course have to watch other areas, but --
Steve Benson: That's why they tell you about icons, and it made it into an African-American woman so you take the issue of race and combine it with an iconic, you know, image that so many people relate to, and you have the cops beating it to the ground.
Ted Simons: We move to the elections, they did happen this year.
Brian Fairrington: Yeah. The Republican served up, you know, a head in the bed like the godfather to Obama, which may be a curse because now the Republicans have two careers to screw it up before the 2016 elections. Undoubtedly they will.
Steve Benson: They're folding like a soft taco on a hot Phoenix afternoon. They are not taking Obama to task over immigration. That was not in this bill that they just passed. And there is some other things where they backtracked on, and the Tea Party is going crazy. Welcome, Mitch McConnell, to the world of ruling your own herd.
Ted Simons: Welcome Steve Benson to Arizona's number one voting group, which apparently, doesn't vote.
Ted Simons: The independents outnumber -- traditionally, it's a traditional thing for Arizona, belligerent independents. They outnumber the Republicans and the Democrats, and they don't vote.
Ted Simons: Yeah. Also, regarding the election, prop 122, you know, we keep hearing more and more about this, this new confederacy going on. Do you buy into the confederacy?
Steve Benson: We can declare any law unconstitutional if it violates our constitution. This is Jefferson, Davis all over again, and I mean, you know, we will unilaterally just kind of saw ourselves off and float off to Hawaii. Wait, that's part of the country, too.
Ted Simons: You know, one of the aspects of the local election, the Arizona election, was Diane Douglas winning the construction, and common core.
Brian Fairrington: She got into office saying that she would repeal it, and she has no power to. It shows you how informed the voters were. But, you know, I think that a lot of parents are, you know, there is a lot of blow back because they cannot figure it out because of the teaching methods are a little complicated as opposed to the way that we grew up learning. I think that what they are trying to achieve is good, but there was a recent article in the New York Times about how a lot of teacher organizations across the country are blowing back on it, as well because they are seeing that the kids are, you know, they are turning off to the subjects when -- because of the teaching method underlying, particularly with math.
Steve Benson: The underlying core here is to synchronize a platform for education. It's not the communistic core or socializing education. It's a way of unifying our approach to teaching. There are a lot of thoughtful teachers who are in favor of it, and Diane Douglas is uneducated, and now she's the head of the education in office.
Ted Simons: One last election note here, and this was -- the Hupenthal situation must have been like shooting fish in a barrel for someone like you. Was that a snort laugh you did there?
Steve Benson: Well, he's sitting in his underwear in the dark of night in front of his computer cackling as he's setting out these anonymous -- this is this has been going on for a few years. What's he thinking? Excuse me. He's a Republican leader. He was not thinking.
Ted Simons: Isis, world events? I guess that the hooded figure is -- he's everywhere. He's -- we're going to see him in a few minutes.
Steve Benson: I had someone say this is the wildest cartoon I have ever drawn. The American Turkey as the country. It's a quick hit.
Brian Fairrington: That image of, what do they call him? He has a nickname, the guy --
Steve Benson: Bob.
Brian Fairrington: No. British Bob or something. They really do have a nickname, but that image has been sadly has become iconic, and people know what it means, and they recognize it, and it's played havoc on Obama a foreign policy.
Ted Simons: Is that too easy for a cartoonist?
Brian Fairrington: I have never seen this before.
Steve Benson: You have not seen him sitting on a gas can so don't give me all your gas, but listen. It got off to a rocky start but apparently, now, Isis can't move around. They are bombing them so now you get these people in Australia trying to take over a cafeteria so I think that morale is diminishing but this is the long thing.
Ted Simons: And one last note, you have the Isis as Hitler.
Steve Benson: And the Holocaust is unique in the history of the world, particularly, of course, for the 6 million exterminated, but when you get this maniac, who has the same mindset as the Arian brotherhood did, basically, taking over the world, and killing everybody who is not with you, you have got Hitler, I'm back.
Ted Simons: And lower oil prices are back. Lower gas prices are back.
Brian Fairrington: Enjoy it while it lasts. You know, and OPEC is in a panic, at least initially because the prices are falling, but I think that they have a strategy where they are going to let them crash so it wipes out and bankrupts the smaller people around, but that's -- ten years ago, they said that our oil reserves would be gone soon, and we have had this fracking industry that is booming that, and that's contributed to the --
Steve Benson: That's why we are having communities around the country, fracking, you know, is going on.
Brian Fairrington: So your tap water is a little warm.
Steve Benson: There is swarms of earthquakes, as the stratus settles.
Brian Fairrington: Shake, rattle and roll. But, they are getting big, fat checks, so that is mitigating some of the terrible devastation.
Steve Benson: As long as it produces jobs, let's go ahead and just kind of fracking the environment.
Ted Simons: That's a play on his cartoon.
Brian Fairrington: Thanks for reusing that.
Ted Simons: Yeah. Ok. We have got a toothless bear here. Russia and sanction and is a toothless bear.
Steve Benson: In hindsight it looks like that toothless bear of our sanctions is having an effect. While the electricity is still on in Russia, Putin is going on air and saying it's all the imperialist's fault. They are becoming more disaffected and disappointed in Putin.
Ted Simons: The next one I need to ask you to explain because it's an unnerving sight, and disquieting, and I can't figure it out.
Steve Benson: I think this is what -- the Keaton five was nothing. If they were dressed up in skirts, maybe it would have been something, but he got Putin, who has been sanctioned, right, and Putin imposes the sanction on McCain saying you cannot come to my country. McCain says oh, yeah, it's an honor to be sanctioned by you, oh, yeah? So you have these two beauty queens.
Ted Simons: Real quickly, when you draw something like there, do you just look at it and chuckle? Do you chuckle at your own work sometimes?
Brian Fairrington: He's the only one, by the way.
Ted Simons: The only one chuckling.
Steve Benson: There guy has -- he was born without a humor gene. He cut off a contact with our paper for years.
Ted Simons: Brian, Bolshoi virus.
Brian Fairrington: Panic has stricken the world and we're going to die of Bolshoi. That was the big sort of fear. It has been the bird flu in the past. Other diseases, and now it's ebola. It's one of those things, the media picks up with it.
Steve Benson: Did you notice the shape of the ebola virus? It has a double loop.
Brian Fairrington: Mickey --
Steve Benson: There you go, that's my idea. My fracking idea. So, drawing Mickey ears on Obama was great, and putting pink and blue in that thing, it was -- I was not impressed with the rollout of the Obama's approach to Ebola.
Ted Simons: Were you impressed with the way they never stopped covering the missing plane?
Steve Benson: They are still out there kind of --
Ted Simons: Like the Gilligan's island somewhere?
Steve Benson: Yeah.
Brian Fairrington: Yeah.
Steve Benson: Amelia Earhart on an island, you know.
Ted Simons: All right, let's move onto -- oh, boy, Bill Cosby, again, there is like shooting fish in a barrel for you. This is -- but again, this is a touchy subject.
Steve Benson: It's been going on here, is the tragedy of it all. You have these women who I believe have legitimate claims.
Brian Fairrington: The more they come out, the more the story is consistent. It's becoming Teflon.
Steve Benson: The trouble is the statute of limitations has expired. There is only one case that, perhaps, has some --
Brian Fairrington: In my generation, I was a teenager in the 1980s, grew up watching The Cosby Show and Fat Albert and all of that. The guy was one of the most trusted figures. He had a Cronkite status where he was universally beloved and trusted. At first the stories came out, and they have been known for a while and dismissed as a guy getting targeted and paying them off. But now, at this point, it's to the point of no return. Especially this last model, and towards the end of the year, it came out, Beverly Johnson, she's very credible.
Steve Benson: Right.
Brian Fairrington: It's really sad.
Steve Benson: The thing is that despite the statute of limitations, there is a consistency. The claim is made of -- by these women, separate and apart from each other, and not colluding on this.
Ted Simons: We move on, another disquieting topic, the NFL and spousal abuse. The NFL had a big problem with this, and it's really not going away.
Steve Benson: No, it's not. The Ray Rice fiasco where he clocked her. Everybody knew what he did, and the video got out, and they really knew what he did. And that's when Roger Goodell started feeling the heat. But, his lack of consciousness, his kind of shrugging it off. He drops her like a sack of potatoes, and drags her unconscious out the door.
Brian Fairrington: But the NFL's response wasn't really so much about curving domestic violence as keeping the sponsors and the money bags happy.
Steve Benson: That's the trouble, the sponsors and the money bags start saying we are walking.
Brian Fairrington: Right. That's the only reason they did anything.
Ted Simons: A question, when you do a big football play, you have to make a tiny head. You have to do that for the humor aspect. Am I correct on that?
Brian Fairrington: Yeah, just exaggeration. I ran out of space on the top.
Ted Simons: Ok. I just see things like that, and I go, I know why he did that. It's like, with the Chris Christie or something, you have got to make them huge, as opposed to --
Brian Fairrington: Like every time Steve draws me, he does it with a giant head.
Steve Benson: This is a picture of you before you grew your hair out.
Ted Simons: All right. You're last cartoon is a sad one because Wall Boy passed on to the greater kids' show in the sky. Talk about this.
Steve Benson: I was not here during, you know, my formative years, thank goodness.
Brian Fairrington: I grew up on that. We watched it constantly.
Steve Benson: The deep love in the Valley amazing. And it is still there, and of course, it --
Brian Fairrington: There was people like Steven Spielberg, for example, he was very influence, which surprised me they have not done a show, like a movie about him. It would make a great script.
Ted Simons: You think about Alice Cooper, Steven Spielberg, people that blossomed outside. They all, at least, were aware of and --
Brian Fairrington: And Arpaio stole the name, when you go to jail, you get a Latmo bag.
Steve Benson: It's more nutritious than whatever he had.
Ted Simons: We have a minute or so left here. As far as the changing nature of doing cartoons, technology changed everything about this craft?
Brian Fairrington: Well, the fundamentals are the same. Steve steals my ideas, and that's all going to be the same.
Steve Benson: Fundamentals.
Brian Fairrington: But Steve just came around in the digital age and bought a computer, and put away his horse and buggy.
Steve Benson: And three or four hours to my day, just to color the dang thing. It's cool to do color. That's the way --
Brian Fairrington: All newspapers want to go on the web and everything has to be full colored, and there was a period of time where unfortunately, a lot of the animation kick, we did that here, I think, a few years ago, and they had these guys change their boards doing full length animations once a week, and they wanted to, you know, to end it all, they did not want to do that.
Steve Benson: It's kind of tough. As they are cutting back staffing positions, in other words, the newspaper industry, then those who are left standing are now sitting all time during extra work, so there is this burnout, but --
Brian Fairrington: You were overpaid to begin with so they need to give you more stuff to deal with.
Steve Benson: You need the money to keep your air trimmed, buddy.
Ted Simons: That will do it, I think. Thank you very much. Good to have you back.
Brian Fairrington: Just for men.
Ted Simons: Good to have you both here. Thanks for the cartoons. Have a wonderful 2015.
Steve Benson: Thanks.
Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.
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In this segment:
Steve Benson:Editorial Cartoonist, Arizona Republic; Brian Fairrington:Cartoonist;