Thursday, July 31, 2008
And why FactCheck.org misses the boat. The WSJ has an article about the Bush administration's efforts to define birth control as "abortion":
Dozens of Congressional Democrats -- including presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama -- have signed letters of protest blistering the proposal. His Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, declined to comment. [Emphasis mine]Don't think it could happen? The past seven years have made me realize anything is possible, no matter how egregious. There's a lot more to McCain's long, awkward pause than a simple brain fart.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Last week Mr. Slowpoke was reading the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail online when he came across the advertisement described in the first panel. (Unfortunately, I neglected to take a screen shot and can no longer find the ad.) The thought of America trying to lure businesses away from our more socially-responsible northern neighbor with entreaties of corporate welfare and desperate workers struck us as depressing and pathetic. I realize this sort of race to the bottom is nothing new, but it seems a particularly telling example of how far down the crapper we've gone.
While researching the Arizona Department of Commerce, I came across the website of a different (non-government) entity, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, whose "Good Bills/Bad Bills" page is a marvel of obliviousness to the public good. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, the very last "Bad Bill" is one requiring some divestment from Sudan. The bill is panned as a form of "over-regulation." I'm sorry, but if you're such a market fundamentalist that you can't see the problem with funding genocide, there is no hope for you. You're little more than a cult member in a suit, and you've demonstrated to me exactly WHY you need to have your ass regulated. Figuratively speaking, that is. I hope.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
A reader took issue with last week's cartoon about McCain's awkward moment after being asked about insurance coverage for birth control:
I noticed the nice flag saying 'Actual Response', pity you couldn't use the flag, 'Actual Question' since the reporter's question for that response was, "It's unfair that health insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control. Do you have an opinion on that?".A few points in response: first, Drooly's question posed to McCain is a paraphrase of the actual reporter's questions, since I couldn't fit her exact words into the comic. But I don't think the meaning is changed by my phrasing.
Secondly, the reporter was referring to a statement made by McCain campaign surrogate Carly Fiorina, who said "There are many health insurance plans that will cover Viagra but won't cover birth control medication. Those women would like a choice." FactCheck.org doesn't bother to mention this crucial tidbit until the very end.
Even if health care plans that cover Viagra but not the Pill are in the minority (apparently this was more widespread when Viagra first came onto the market), the fact that there are plans that don't cover the Pill is hugely problematic. State-level mandates have improved coverage for birth control, yet John McCain has voted twice against mandates at the federal level.
The right answer to the reporter's question would have been: "A plan covering Viagra but not the Pill would be absurd. We as a society should care about family planning, because it reduces the number of abortions and other problems that arise from unintended pregnancies. Duh!" But no, not only did he flub the question, but his campaign later issued the statement that he favored more market competition as the solution. Because, you know, the market has done such a fantastic job with health insurance so far!
FactCheck.org has a tendency to isolate literal facts to the exclusion of the broader context. In this case, we have a context where the Bush administration is trying to label the Pill and other forms of contraception as abortion. You can't make this stuff up! The fact that McCain has an atrocious record on reproductive rights -- and shows every intention of continuing to pander to the loons of the far right on these matters -- is, in fact, a legitimate concern.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
If you haven't seen the video clip of McCain flaking out after being asked about insurance companies covering Viagra but not the Pill, it's embedded below. I love the way he grumbles "I certainly do not want to discuss that" as though someone just asked him to describe his favorite sexual position (sorry to put that image in your head), instead of a simple question about health care that directly concerns half the population. Dude proved himself a fossil right then and there. And by fossil, I mean culturally old-school; Justice John Paul Stevens may be 88, but he's younger than McCain.
Also, did you hear the one about the Bush administration trying to officially label birth control "abortion"? Oh yeah. The Department of Health and Human Services is working on that spectacular perversion of science right now. As Amanda says over on Pandagon, this really is not about the fetuses anymore, but restricting the freedom to boink. (My phrasing, not hers.)
Sunday, July 20, 2008
That BBC Radio 4 interview with cartoonists (including Garry Trudeau!) is now online, but only for a week. You can listen to it here. It's a half hour long, and I gather the Cartoonists With Attitude section starts at 22:20. Unfortunately, some weirdness with my internet connection is kicking me offline every time I try to load it, so I haven't heard it yet.
There is one last thing I wanted to add about the New Yorker controversy (hey, I'm a political cartoonist, it's my job to be hyper-opinionated). Last fall, there was a big controversy at the University of Virginia over Grant Woolard's "Ethiopian Food Fight" cartoon that got him canned from the school newspaper. I argued that the cartoon, while not exactly tasteful, was not racist, and that he should not have been fired. The Washington Post asked New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff what he thought, and he gave this very cautious response:
I don't know if Mankoff had any hand in the cover -- I'm guessing not -- but I think that quote is pretty juicy just the same.
I just had to share this Toles cartoon:
My friend and talented colleague Barry Deutsch wrote a post questioning Ruben Bolling's and my position that the cover doesn't work for us because it can be too easily misinterpreted.
Who are these others? Where are they? Are they even 1% of the people who have seen the cover? After a firestorm of criticism based on the premise that somewhere, out there, are oodles of people misled by the cover image, shouldn’t Jen and Ruben be able to point to some actual, you know, examples? It seems to me that Jen and Ruben (and hundreds of others) have made up a boogyman — All Those Americans Too Uninformed To Understand The New Yorker Cover And Yet Informed Enough To Be Reading The New Yorker (or Political Blogs) — without having any idea of whether or not this person actually exists in significant numbers.Barry does, however, think that the cover is problematic in that it might make Black and/or Muslim readers feel "othered" even if they get the irony. So here's my response:
Who are these othered Blacks and/or Muslims? Where are they? Are they even 1% of the population that has seen the cover? How many Muslims read the New Yorker, anyway? ;)Okay, that will end my prattling on the subject. I hope.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I touched on this briefly last night, but it seems like the New Yorker controversy has largely boiled down to "humorless people who can't handle satire" vs. "people with a sense of humor who don't think we should dumb things down for the ill-informed."
Now, I've never been accused of dumbing down my cartoons. In fact, I've been told probably about 5% of the population of the country is capable of getting them (I think that's a little low, don't you?). One of my rules of thumb is that I don't cater to the lowest common denominator -- I will go with an esoteric gag if I think it's funny. The few people who get the joke appreciate it all the more.
People are trying to draw all these grand, abstract conclusions from the New Yorker debate: about the nature of satire, about political advocacy, about the slippery slope this creates for cartoonists who want to criticize Barack Obama, etc. But I don't think you can generalize so easily. This is about a particular image in a particular place and time. Just because I think the New Yorker used poor judgment doesn't mean I won't make fun of Obama in a future Slowpoke cartoon. I'm sure I will -- especially if he pulls another stunt like he did with FISA!
I don't favor censoring the New Yorker or firing Barry Blitt. As a fellow cartoonist, I confess I kind of empathize with the guy. But it was nonetheless a boneheaded cover given this presidential race, this country's history of racism, and the unrelenting falsehoods and innuendo spouted by our current media. Publishing an incredibly charged right-wing image with only the New Yorker logo to indicate irony was simply a naïve editorial decision. Anyone who thinks it is "obviously" ironic is ignoring the massive confusion and misinformation pervasive in our country right now. This has nothing to do with "dumbing things down" and everything to do with a prominent, virtually context-free placement of a loaded and very ambiguous image.
So, for those who are defending the New Yorker cover, you are welcome to your opinion, but please don't represent me as having a problem with "satire" or wanting to dumb things down for the masses.
The Columbia Journalism Review has interviewed a number of political cartoonists (and a couple editors) on the New Yorker controversy. Here's the list of artists/editors:
Let's see... nine dudes, zero women. I find that interesting, considering I run in the Village Voice, right in their backyard.
I haven't written about this much, but for all the hand-wringing about "Why aren't there more women political cartoonists?" I don't get the sense that the powers-that-be make much of an effort to seek us out. (And yes, I realize the reporter was female.)
Of course, cartoonists as a whole are often given the invisible treatment, as Tom Tomorrow points out regarding the NYT article that interviewed TV comedy writers about the New Yorker cover, and zero political cartoonists.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Not to be repetitive, but my colleague and One Nation, Oh My God! introduction writer Ruben Bolling has another superb post on the New Yorker controversy, in which he demonstrates how a David Horsey cartoon criticizing critics of the New Yorker cover actually backfires. (Agh, so many layers of meta!)
I take exception to Horsey's line that those questioning the New Yorker's judgment are "irony-challenged literalists" -- thought I will say that I've seen some disturbing overreactions, such as groups petitioning the New Yorker to pull the cover because of its "racist and sexist coverage" of the Obamas. No, it was attempting to criticize racism, albeit very ineptly.
A few days ago, John McCain called the Social Security system "a disgrace," and he wasn't just talking about its current financial shape (which actually isn't all that bad) -- but the whole shebang. I find it almost impressive that the Republicans are still pushing their privatization scheme, even in the midst of what appears to be a global economic meltdown. They really do seem determined to take away every last anchor of stability in people's lives. I guess when you've married into the Budweiser fortune, you don't have to worry about things like "the future."
A fretful thought I've been having lately: McCain seems about as comically bad a politician as Bush did during the first debate with Al Gore. I remember chuckling then at how mousy and awkward Bush seemed. Then everyone said he won the debate. As much as I think presidential races are personality contests, I would caution against any overconfidence that Obama will crush McCain because McCain is a big lame-o.
I think Cindy M. lends herself well to cubism.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I'm going to disagree with some of my fellow cartoonists and say the New Yorker depiction of Barack Obama as a Muslim terrorist and Michelle as an armed revolutionary is, while expertly drawn, dumb. Lefties can be incredibly unpragmatic this way. You can get away with this stuff in a cartoon, where there's enough context going on. But the sad fact is, many Americans are not informed enough to get the irony of the New Yorker cover -- and not because they're stupid; it's just the state of our democracy. The mainstream media has largely bailed on its duty to educate the public, and there are large numbers of people who believe the right-wing myths about Obama.
[UPDATE: My colleague Ruben Bolling has written a thoughtful examination of this, which states better what I was trying to express here. While the New Yorker cover made me groan, Bolling's "How America Was Destroyed" cartoon cracks me up.]
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
They get it!
Jen Sorenson falls into the wider ranging category that is typified by comedian Lewis Black. Granted, her cartoons show a liberal, that is, “tolerant” bent, but, in like an impatient conservative, she rails against stupidity in all its forms.
Wow. Found this item in the latest Brookstone catalog. I think Drooly Julie might like one:
You'll exercise core muscle groups, all right! Coming soon: the iDryHump.
Monday, July 07, 2008
My last trip up to New York was marred, both on the way up and the way back, by psychotic cell phone people. I have this uncanny knack for sitting near the one compulsive wanker on the bus or train car who has no less than a dozen conversations at a profoundly irritating volume. I really have trouble imagining what kind of lives these people lead that makes such endless pinging desirable, or even possible. I called exactly one person, Mr. Slowpoke, to let him know the bus was running late.
I coped by doing what I always do: turned my iPod up a little louder than I like, undoubtedly contributing to future tinnitus. (I'm careful not to turn my music up so loud that everyone around me can hear the tinka-tinka-tinka of high hats.) Still, their inane bleatings carried through the songs enough to drive me nuts. One definitely gets a sense of an escalating arms race between users of noisy technology and users of technology designed to block out noise. This is not progress, people. This is sickness.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
So the mustache of John Oates of Hall & Oates may be getting its own animated series. For the umpteenth time, enough with the mustaches already!
Via Daily Cartoonist
So last week Scalia wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court's ruling against DC's handgun ban. The thing that bugs me about Scalia and his ilk -- aside from their being culturally-ossified freaks -- is that they claim to be "strict constructionists" while being little more than big, fat right-wing activists. I've quoted this Adam Cohen piece from the NYT before, but it bears repeating:
Justice Scalia likes to boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads, even if it leads to results he disagrees with. But it is uncanny how often it leads him just where he already wanted to go.Now, I have no qualms with broader readings, since I find decontextualized absolutes rather silly. But it's fascinating how Scalia finds all kinds of nuances that are not in the original sentence. Can we finally just admit that he speaks through his anal sphincter?
Yes, this strip is a bit cruder than usual. Consider it my homage to George Carlin.
Another wacky ruling handed down by the court last week: the wingnut faction struck down a law allowing a candidate for Congress to accept higher campaign contributions if he or she was running against a wealthy candidate funding their own campaign. Here is the awesomely twisted logic:
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said that the amendment infringed on [the millionaire's] speech rights, because when he spent his own money — which the court considers to be speech — he was being penalized by having his opponent’s contribution limits raised.Relevant cartoon: "Earn Your Vote!"
Here's a photo from last week's gallivanting around with the BBC's Phill Jupitus, who rather amusingly kept getting recognized by all the Brits in NYC:
From left: Mikhaela Reid, Phill, Brian McFadden, Masheka Wood, and me.
And here's my less-than-stellar view of the Skatalites concert, complete with skanking dude (to be fair, he was a good skanker with a sense of boundaries, unlike an annoying beanpole who kept standing in front of us and skanking lamely):
Anyway, I'll be sure to link to the BBC documentary as soon as it's online.
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