Billionaire Buttinsky 2: Bloomberg Boogaloo

Billionaire Buttinsky 2: Bloomberg Boogaloo

I haven’t been doing many strips about the candidates lately, partly because I’ve grown weary of the circular firing squad. But I feel compelled to address Bloomberg. Questionable record of stop-and-frisk aside, I do not think he’s as electable as some people think he is. Politics is largely a personality contest based on perceived charisma. I’ve always liked Molly Ivins’ theory that a candidate needs to have at least a little Elvis. He or she needs to inspire people in an authentic way. Let’s just say Bloomberg is appallingly bereft of Elvis.

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The Sorensen Monologues

Selfie Surveillance

Burbling in the background of election and impeachment news have been disturbing revelations about a company called Clearview AI, which has been hoovering up photos people post to social media and selling them as part of a 3 billion-image facial recognition database to police departments. While the company currently does business in the US and Canada, Buzzfeed reported that it’s seeking to go global, which would entail working with governments known for human rights abuses.

Then there’s Amazon’s Ring, which shares doorbell camera images with police departments. Ring also has a platform for sharing the videos online with neighbors

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Who’s Going to Save Us?

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Joni Ernst said “I think this door of impeachable whatever has been opened… Joe Biden should be very careful what he’s asking for because, you know, we can have a situation where if it should ever be President Biden, that immediately, people, right the day after he would be elected would be saying, ‘Well, we’re going to impeach him.'” When asked what he would be impeached for, she replied “for being assigned to take on Ukrainian corruption yet turning a blind eye to Burisma because his son was on the board making over a million dollars a year.” As the article notes, this claim has been debunked. Since then, Ernst has tried to walk back her comments as “hypothetical,” but it’s clear that she believes in a conspiracy theory and her comments were threatening, whether she intended them to be or not.

The Show Must Not Go On

Truth be told, I don’t find the impeachment hearings terribly compelling at this point, as we already know what we need to know. Mitch McConnell’s kangaroo court mostly serves as a reminder of kangaroo courts past, from the Brett Kavanaugh “investigation” to the utter refusal to give Merrick Garland a hearing at all. But at the same time, we can’t let ourselves become blasé about this insane spectacle unfolding in front of us. This is a show trial, a feature of the worst regimes in world history, and it should be shocking to see this happening in the United States.

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School Lunches of the Future

The Trump administration announced its planned rule change on Michelle Obama’s birthday, which seems just gratuitously mean, but I suppose that’s the point. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue described the change as “common-sense flexibility” — “flexibility” that will allow kids to choose pizza, burgers, and French fries every day. This will have real consequences, as we see increasing numbers of kids develop Type 2 diabetes. 

Demonize the Eco-wise

This cartoon relies heavily on this NY Times article. In short, Australians have been fed a bunch of disinformation about the fires that are ravaging the country. While controlled burns help, the weather has been so unusually hot and dry that the windows to conduct them safely are fewer and fewer. (Here’s the Greens’ statement rebutting the smear campaign against them, if you’re curious.)

Not unlike a mass shooting leading to a spike in gun sales, we’re seeing a perverse dynamic of climate catastrophe being used to worsen said catastrophe. 

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The Big Dumb War Cycle

What worries me about our probable new war footing (aside from the mass death, etc.) is what happens domestically given our increasingly fact-free and lawless political environment. To say violence and abuses of power are likely is an understatement.

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The Obstetrician Inquisition

Lost in the impeachment shuffle of recent weeks are some eyebrow-raising stories of extremism at the state level. Voter purges in Wisconsin and Georgia should be headline news everywhere. Then there’s the insane Ohio bill banning all abortion outright, and threatening doctors with charges of “abortion murder” if they do not somehow magically re-implant an ectopic pregnancy. (Rewire has a deeper dive into the “science fiction” behind this idea from earlier this year.)

Once upon a time, we could laugh this sort of thing off, assured that it would never pass muster in the courts. But the judiciary is now stacked with Trump appointees, many of them far-right activists like the anti-choice Sarah Pitlyk, who has beefs with surrogacy and in vitro fertilization (and who is considered “not qualified” by the American Bar Association).

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The Collapse of Retro Trends

I needed a break from politics this week. I’ve been toying with this idea for a while — that the 2010s will be difficult to define aesthetically, since they’ve pretty much been a postmodern hodgepodge of previous decades. I’ve been particularly struck by the resurgence of large-ish, round wire-rimmed glasses that resemble my very first pair that I wore in the ’90s. Between this and the tackier excesses of the mid-to-late ’80s, it seems like some of the very worst style statements are now ironically in vogue. And yet, I am a fan of the high fade and Sabbathy stoner metal. And as I listened to some Steely Dan to get in the spirit of the yacht rock panel, I found myself wishing I was sipping champagne on a sailboat in Southern California in the late ’70s, forty years removed from this ghastly political moment. (You know things are bad when the ’70s malaise looks like paradise!)

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Impeachment Riddles

Running behind with posting this week, as I’ve been in Austin getting a bunch of stuff out of storage. This cartoon was mostly inspired by the fact that Trump’s support is holding steady even after a week of scorching impeachment testimony from some very brave public servants, which is not a good sign. 

A Brief History of Facebook

Facebook recently sponsored a Federalist Society event at which Brett Kavanaugh was the keynote speaker, despite objections from its own employees and public protests. The speech was understood by many to be an attempt to rehabilitate Kavanaugh’s image in the wake of credible sexual assault allegations. This comes on the heels of Facebook saying it would not vet political ads for accuracy and making white nationalist propaganda outlet Breitbart a “trusted” news source. Indeed, Facebook clearly seems to have chosen to cozy up to the authoritarian right rather than use its influence to defend democratic norms (or sexual assault survivors, for that matter).

Steve Jobs and internet developers of the early computing era came out of a sixties counterculture that saw decentralized communication and individual expression as a bulwark against totalitarianism. There is perhaps no clearer example of this than the famous MacIntosh “1984” ad that appeared during the Super Bowl. In the commercial, Big Brother gets smashed by the power of personal computing. In real life, we can see how Jobs’ utopian vision ultimately failed (with some exceptions in the area of social media activism). Increasingly, as massive technology companies like Facebook partner with the present-day, Russia-corrupted, disinformation-sowing GOP, they’ve become the very Orwellian entities that the Cold War-era developers thought they were rebelling against.

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Those Woke Kids Today

Stories about bad behavior by “today’s coddled youth” have been so cherry-picked, massively blown out of proportion and weaponized by Fox News, you’d think it was the biggest crisis the country faced instead of, you know, fascism and the end of democracy and destruction of the planet via climate catastrophe. So when someone supposedly on our side speaks in generalities like “woke culture,” they’re tapping into a frame that’s used to demonize the entire progressive movement.

The “plastic finger” line in the second panel is of course taken from the Jimi Hendrix song “If 6 was 9”, which contains the immortal lyrics:

White collared conservative flashing down the street
Pointing their plastic finger at me, huh
They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die
But I’m gonna wave my freak flag high

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Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.