My apologies for not having a fresh, home-brewed Coffee Break cartoon for you this past Friday. Last week I took a vacation to Asheville, NC, the Portland of the South, to let my ruined index finger convalesce, and did not prepare a cartoon in advance. I swear on my mother’s grave that I will not fail you this Friday. Sadly, this also means I will have to kill my mother.

On to critical matters.

I have at last completed the animated Weapon Brown commercial for my soon-to-be-monumentally-successful Kickstarter campaign. I don’t mind telling you that rarely has any project of mine come so close to resembling exactly what I had imagined, and I think you will all dig it mightily when it premiers, which should be around September 1st.

Between now and then I will be formatting the guts of the Weapon Brown book, commissioning pin-ups and drawing the covers. You, on the other hand, should be fishing in your grandmother’s purse for the money you will be sending my way. Remember: Kickstarter campaigns have tiers for those with mere pocket change and up to those with folding paper in their wallets and beyond. If I catch any of you pledging at less than the “Hope Diamond” level I will compel the world’s biggest domestic spying agency to collude with the telecom industry to monitor your phone conversations. As a warning, I have done this pre-emptively to several million of you.

Speaking of the absolute end of our civil liberties, would it be too much to ask the news media to pick a side in this unfolding justification for the coming revolution?


I’ll admit, I was as happy as a California campus shooter with an unregistered 50 round ammo clip when I heard that the IRS was poking around in the Tea Party’s colon, but a little less happy when it came out that Eric Holder’s Justice Dept. was scooping up intel on AP reporters. Then, I’ll admit, a bit happier when they targeted the guy from Fox News.

Now, however, on the day of Bradley Manning’s trial, we find out that an NSA whistleblower has sequestered himself in Hong Kong after dishing the dirt that the National Security Agency is basically operating as an American Stasi. I am unhappy yet again. And this time I think it is going to stick.

To recap: ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden has given evidence to the UK’s Guardian newspaper that not only is the US government actively gathering the phone records of uncounted millions of US citizens every day under an extremely spurious legal rationale, but also that another program, called PRISM, is doing much the same thing with our Internet data. The entire population of the United States of America is, effectively, under government surveillance.

It is not that any of us thought that unwarranted intrusions by the government had vanished with Obama. In fact, part of the Democrat’s spiritual malaise is owed to the fact that under Obama, none of the things that disgraced his predecessor have been eliminated or even, in most cases, repudiated. And the PATRIOT Act remains the law of the land, so how much could the situation have improved? I did an animated cartoon about this very subject when it was the Republicans who were in the driver’s seat, and the case I made seems to be exactly the way that this eavesdropping program is being conducted (at least according to the USA Today graphic I read which illustrated it).

No, it is not the domestic spying that is the issue today. It is the slow, slimy ease, like snails mating, with which we have become accustomed to this treatment. Look at the right-most headline of the above graphic: “Is this guy a hero or a traitor?” You can almost hear the Brooklyn hotdog vendor’s accent of CNN’s copy editor, “Ay! Oo the hell is dis guy rattin’ on da US of A over here?” And this is coming from the press! The same people that were being reamed by Big Brother just weeks ago suddenly can’t tell if a whistleblower, a person revealing the facts that they themselves exist to expose, is on their side or not.

That this revelation comes just as the trial of Bradley Manning begins is fortuitous. It will make it harder to sweep the entire subject under the rug. Manning, you will recall, was arrested in 2010 for releasing a trove of classified documents to WikiLeaks, a windfall for the press and the public. Amongst the disclosed documents were diplomatic cables which are considered by some to have been the match that lit the Arab Spring. Also made public was the famous “Collateral Murder” video, showing a slaughter committed by American helicopters in an Iraqi suburb in which over a dozen people were killed or wounded, including two correspondents for Reuters and several small children.

Now a new mouse has escaped the the Surveillance State’s maze with a fresh chunk of cheese, and after only just shitting on the Obama administration for alleged White House tampering with citizen privacy via the IRS, Congress is now doing a spit take over the excesses that they themselves have authorized against the People. This has led extremists of both parties, from Lindsey Graham to Dianne Feinstein, to come together in defending the NSA incursions which Hamilton Nolan of Gawker calls “the type of spying program that makes conspiracy theorists sound mild in comparison.”

A petition to pardon Snowden has received over 30,000 signatures on the White House website, but it won’t amount to jack shit. The inertia of authoritarianism, passing effortlessly from one administration to the next, will not be halted by mouseclicks. It will take more mice like Manning and Snowden, and still more mice like you.