The Sorensen Monologues

Posting schedule

For the time being, I’m going to try to maintain a more regular schedule of posting my comic here on Monday night/Tuesday morning. My travels and editing work for Fusion have made posting a little unpredictable over the last several months, so to simplify things, let’s say Tuesday morning is the new time.

Natural Gasbags

One thing that got under my skin last week was a little remarked-upon NYT column by Joe Nocera making the Very Serious Person’s case for a Sensible and Balanced™ approach to fracking. Environmentalists are dismissed as prone to “hyperbole” and “teeth gnashing,” and fracking is referred to as “a blessing.”

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Health just reported on a study showing how hospitalization rates jump near fracking sites. In particular, heart disease, neurological problems, cancer, urologic problems, and skin conditions were much higher near fracked areas. This isn’t exactly the first time such health concerns have been reported on, but Nocera’s article euphemistically sweeps them under the rug, referring abstractly to the “disruption” and “local controversy” that fracking causes in communities.

Look, we’re way past the point where you can write an essay like this without explicitly acknowledging how gas companies have been bullying communities and destroying people’s health, homes, and finances in a manner that would make the Chinese ruling party proud. We’re not just talking about a few pinpoint locations. We’re talking about huge swaths of the country being made unlivable. But it’s so much easier to call the citizens of Denton, TX and Longmont, CO — who’ve been fighting a David and Goliath battle to keep fracking out of their towns — teeth-gnashing hippies.

Nocera cites Council on Foreign Relations fellow Michael Levi, who claims the dispassionate analysis mantle in coming down in favor of fracking. To his credit, Levi does describe the need for specific regulations — but offers no credible means of accomplishing these legislative goals. You show me companies abiding by the best of all possible rules, show me that communities are no longer having their health destroyed, and then let’s talk about fracking as a viable alternative. Coal is indeed bad, but this is not an excuse to ignore the completely unacceptable health consequences of fracking. I guess these communities are just supposed to wait for that brilliant federal regulation to come along any day now, right?

For a better perspective, I recommend Naomi Klein’s remarks given recently at the Vatican.

Pop Culture Periscope: San Diego Comic-Con Edition

I had a great time at this year’s Comic-Con, and this year had the honor of being a special guest. They even gave me an Inkpot Award, possibly the cutest trophy ever. Of course, it’s hard not to be amused by a certain level of silliness and entertainment-industry promotion at Comic-Con, hence the light satire intended by this cartoon. Like SXSW, it’s a convention that has grown beyond its original scope, with big-budget marketing efforts for TV shows and movies at every turn. But beneath that commercialized surface, there’s still a lot of cool stuff and great people.

San Diego Comic-Con Appearances


I’m honored to say I’m a special guest at Comic-Con this year. This means you can catch me on three (3!) panels if you’re going to the convention (it’s been sold out since forever). I have some awesome panel-mates! Here’s my schedule:

Thursday, July 9 • 2:00pm – 3:00pm, Room 9
Spotlight on Jen Sorensen” (probably the most intimate gathering of the three)
Herblock Prize-winning political cartoonist Jen Sorensen (Slowpoke), seen on Daily Kos and The Nib as well as in alternative newspapers around the country, will show her favorite cartoons and discuss her other job as comics editor for Fusion, a startup from ABC and Univision.

Friday, July 10 • 1:00pm – 2:00pm, Room 9
“Comic Strips in the Modern Era”
Everyone remembers reading their favorite comic strip on a Sunday morning and what a joy it was. Find out what comic strips are up to today with Lalo Alcaraz (La Cucaracha), Hilary Price (Rhymes with Orange), Jen Sorensen (editorial cartoonist), and moderator Andrew Farago (The Cartoon Art Museum).

Note: I will be signing at the National Cartoonists Society booth on Friday 7/10 from 3pm-5pm

Saturday, July 11 • 2:30pm – 3:30pm, Room 8
“Writing Engaging Non-Fiction Comics”
Nonfiction comics are a wide and blossoming field, with lots of exciting projects emerging all the time. The genre of nonfiction comics can include biographies of important historical figures, as in Peter Bagge’s Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story; political cartooning, as in Jen Sorensen‘s short and long-form work for numerous periodicals or long-running web serials about the history of hip hop, as in Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree. Calvin Reid (senior news editor at Publishers Weekly) will find out what it is that drew them to work in nonfiction and how they make it interesting for their readers.


Dawning of the Obvious

LGBT cartoonists respond to legal same-sex marriage

I put together a special roundup of comics and cartoons about the gay marriage ruling for Fusion, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Many cartoonists enthusiastically went beyond the call of duty, including the legendary Howard Cruse, Hilary Price, and Eric Orner (whose work is shown here). Go check it out!

The Right’s Rights: Supreme Court Outrage!

I was on a trip to Turkey last week, so I used a classic strip, in case you were wondering why there was no cartoon. I’ll be posting more about my adventures soon.

I found out about the ACA ruling in the Houston airport shortly after arriving back in the US. Not a bad way to re-enter the country! Of course, I would have preferred not to have had to worry about keeping my health insurance in the first place.

Pretty in Pain

As a wide-footed, cranky-toed woman, I have always been incapable of wearing high heels, and I’ve had doctors instruct me not to wear them. Of course, this sometimes makes me the least-fancy woman in the room.

More info on the study here.

TPP: Fast Track to Oligarchy

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or “TPP,” may sound like a boring subject to some Americans, but the details are alarming. Leaked documents show that the agreement would allow multinationals to sue any country whose laws they claim stand in the way of profits. These companies’ challenges to environmental regulations, worker safety laws, and other protections, would be hashed out in private tribunals that operate outside of established legal systems. Obama has staunchly defended the secret agreement and is pushing for fast-track approval, alienating many in his own party. Which makes me wonder: WTF?

Paul Krugman’s column from a couple weeks ago explains why concerns about threats to national, state, or local laws are not unfounded. Canada’s finance minister is challenging the Volcker Rule under NAFTA. Jim Hightower also has more on the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process, and how it’s being used by Phillip Morris to challenge anti-smoking laws in Australia and Uruguay.

Gigantic corporations already have more than enough power. Obama shouldn’t be pushing to give them even more, or belittling those who argue otherwise.

Comic on marijuana legalization

Over on Graphic Culture, I’ve been working with ace comics journalist Andy Warner on this excellent piece about a grower in California trapped in legal limbo. It’s a fascinating look at entrepreneurship while walking a very fine line until full legalization (probably) happens.


Facetime Fools

From the AT&T survey mentioned in the comic:

When you see the driver next to you looking at their phone, it’s no longer safe to assume they’re texting. New research from AT&T shows nearly 4-in-10 smartphone users tap into social media while driving. Almost 3-in-10 surf the net. And surprisingly, 1-in-10 video chat.

Great! Because 32,719 motor vehicle deaths a year — or 10.3 out of every 100,000 people — certainly isn’t enough.

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Jen Sorensen is a nationally-syndicated political cartoonist whose work has appeared in The Progressive, The Nation, Daily Kos, Austin Chronicle, NPR, Ms., Politico, and many other publications. The recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, she tweets at @JenSorensen.