In the 1990s, growing prosperity encouraged Americans to move beyond the controversial "trickle-down" economic policies of Ronald Reagan. Herb Block's work increasingly reflected a variety of national concerns: health care coverage, gays in the military, gun control, the tobacco industry and President Bill Clinton's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Lines in the sand
Milosevic's attacks in Croatia and Bosnia, and his practice of "ethnic cleansing" were too long ignored by the U.S. and its allies. Later, despite warnings from the NATO nations, Milosevic persecuted ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo. On February 23, 1999, Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders announced they had reached an accord, but NATO reserved the option to begin air strikes if the situation did not improve. Herb Block correctly figured that an intransigent Milosevic would not adhere to the agreement.
Speakers on behalf of the Kosovo massacred and homeless
On March 23, 1999, NATO and the United States ordered air strikes against the Yugoslav military after Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic refused to halt his campaign against Kosovo Albanians. The air attacks began on the night of March 24, hitting Yugoslav targets, including the capitol city of Belgrade. President Bill Clinton evoked images of Nazi atrocities during World War II to lend moral weight to the decision to attack Yugoslavia. The American people, in general, responded favorably to NATO's action.
Speakers on behalf of the Kosovo massacred and homeless, March 25, 1999. Ink, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (137) LC-USZ62-127455
"Kids these days! Craziness in schools movies, video games–terrible! Here–Try this dandy!"
This cartoon appeared shortly after the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, in which two teenagers shot and killed twelve of their fellow students and a teacher before turning their weapons on themselves. This horrifying event followed other widely reported acts of violence with firearms in U.S. schools. Herb Block comments, "Many joined the gun lobby in seeking causes everywhere except in the easy availability of firearms."
"Kids these days! Craziness in schools movies, video games–terrible! Here–Try this dandy!" April 28, 1999. Ink, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (118) LC-USZ62-126898
Crime and punishment
Herblock exposes inadequacies in sentencing by comparing the lengthy prison term meted out to a criminal involved in a drug use charge, with the relatively short term for the prisoner convicted of murder. The War on Drugs in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted in harsher terms for those involved in drug-related activities. By 1999, prison populations had swelled with those serving long mandatory sentences for non-violent offenses. The long sentences for the use of crack (cooked cocaine) compared to those for use of the more expensive cocaine powder illustrate another inequity. The American Bar Association reported that by far the majority of arrests were for possession rather than dealing, and that the stiffer sentences did not deter actual criminal activity.
"I don't know where your socks are, and if you keep coming in here with that cigar I'm going to call OSHA"
In January 2000 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration advisory made companies responsible for the health and safety of employees working from home. On January 5, the day the cartoon appeared, Alexis Herman, the Department of Labor Secretary, rescinded the advisory that had caused confusion among employers about what oversight they would be expected to provide for their telecommuting employees.
"I don't know where your socks are, and if you keep coming in here with that cigar I'm going to call OSHA," January 5, 2000. Ink, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (122) LC-USZ62-126923
"Just gunsmoke -- For a moment I thought somebody somewhere might be burning a flag"
Congress tried to make flag burning a crime while still refusing to pass legislation limiting the purchase of guns. In March 2000, the Senate once more considered a constitutional amendment, previously endorsed by President Bush, that would have banned "desecration of the flag," but once more fell just short of the necessary two-thirds vote.
"Put this on -- You're obviously not covered by the First Amendment"
On March 29, 2000, the Supreme Court upheld an Erie, Pennsylvania, ordinance that required nude dancers to wear pasties and G-strings. The Court maintained that nude dancing did not fall within the free speech protection of the First Amendment.
"Put this on–You're obviously not covered by the First Amendment," March 31, 2000. Ink, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white,. and overlays over blue pencil. underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (125) LC-USZ62-126930
"This must be that strange creature they mentioned in history class"
By January 2000, the stock market had experienced twelve years of almost unprecedented growth, an extended "bull" market, leading many to forget that the law of gravity had not been repealed for stock purchases. New investors had taken advantage of the boom in Internet technology to trade on their own, and the lifetime experiences of many investors, which did not go back to days of financial recessions, left them unprepared for the steep sell-off of stocks in April 2000.
"This must be that strange creature they mentioned in history class," April 6, 2000. Ink, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white,. and overlays over blue pencil. underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (126) LC-USZ62-126928
Greatest country on Earth
With the only superpower on earth enjoying record prosperity, Herb Block offers in this recent work some reminders of unfinished business and non-business.