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Connecting the Dots

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted August 21, 2010

Welcome to the Wealth Daily Weekend Edition — our insights from the week in investing and links to our most-read Wealth Daily and sister publication articles.

One name I’ll never forget from my college days is Ed Ballard. Ballard was a journalism professor of mine.

He was a grizzly old fellow that entertained us with wild stories about the happenings around the U-desk. And if you looked close enough, you could almost sees the ink stains on his wrinkled hands.

An old school newspaperman, I think journalism might have been something of a foreign word to him.

Of course, we didn’t know it at the time, but he wasn’t the only dinosaur in the room back then — we all were in a way, pounding out our stories in a symphony of clacking keys and ringing bells.

Twenty five years later, it’s not just the typewriter that has disappeared; but newspapers themselves. Nudged aside by the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, the business is in a state of terminal decline.

“Progress”… perhaps. 

But I have to tell you, there’s no screen in the world that can replace the feel of a newspaper in your hand and the ink it leaves behind. Buggy whip or not, that’s something younger folks will never quite understand.

And lost along with the daily news in print is the work of editorial cartoonists that could cut through all of the nonsense in a way a video never could — or ever will.

The most famous of them was undoubtedly Thomas Nast, widely recognized as the “Father of the American Cartoon.” A German by birth, his muckraking style single handedly brought about the downfall of Boss Tweed — all via the power of a finely sharpened pencil — not with words, mind you; but with powerful drawings that gave voice to the unspoken realities.

For good measure, Nast even gave us the images we conjur up today when “Santa Claus” or “Uncle Sam” worm their way into our brains.

That’s the power of a sketch, now lost to a culture in which print newspapers are entering extinction. In the age of the Internet, we simply don’t come across them the same way we did when we used to read the paper cover to cover.

These days, one of my favorite cartoonists is still Michael Ramirez. About his Pulitzer Prize-winning art Ramirez says: “An editorial cartoon is not just a funny picture. It is a powerful instrument of journalism, sometimes sharp and refined, its message cutting quickly to the point… ”

Much like this cartoon penned by Ramirez — short and to the point, it called the recovery out onto the carpet earlier this week:


But let’s face it. If you are willing to connect the dots, you didn’t need to see this particular drawing to come to the same conclusion.

Like a thousand points of light, the dots that make up this picture are scattered everywhere you look.

Here a few of the more recent ones:

I could go on and on… but you get the picture. There are enough little blue links out there to rival the Atlantic Ocean.

That has given way to a rising tide of voter anger that threatens to sweep the two-party system from its status quo moorings. Love or hate them, the Tea Party folks haven’t exactly sprung from the ether.

On top of that, I don’t think they are going away this time, which makes them an even greater force to be reckoned with in the future.

After all, as Sam Adams once said: “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”

And like Ross Perot before them, the Tea Partiers are working the same fertile ground left behind when the two-party system drives the bus off the cliff.

As for Ross Perot, that “giant sucking sound” of lost American jobs he warned about has certainly come home to roost — and is one of the reasons  the recovery we seek has been so illusive.


After all, people without jobs or enough income don’t buy much “stuff,” now do they? The people buying stuff is what keeps the whole thing afloat — and I do mean the whole thing.

So here we are, left to sit on the couch like a bunch of over-40 has-beens, drinking beer and reliving our glory days, while a bunch of young upstarts work to erase our names from the record books.

It’s kind of pathetic when you really think about it… But that’s what has come to pass for “progress.”

So whether you are right, left, or somewhere in between, remember that in November when all of the talk about recovery begins to fade.

After all, we’re not just citizens; we are heirs to the Revolution. Shaking things up once in awhile is our birthright.

At least that’s what Mr. Ballard told me.

Below are a few this week’s best investment ideas from the pages of this week’s top-read articles in Wealth Daily and our sister publication, Energy & Capital.

Enjoy the weekend,

steve sig

Steve Christ
Editor, Wealth Daily

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