The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for February, 2011

A Telling Chart

From ThinkProgress, about news coverage of Affordable Care Act rulings (click for full size):

media coverage of health care reform rulings

That danged liberal media strikes again!


This Week’s Cartoon: “A Teachable Moment”

Note: This post has been revised from the original in an effort to clarify facts about the Wisconsin budget.

If there’s one thing to understand about the Wisconsin battle, it’s that it’s not really about the budget, but a premeditated and politically-motivated attack on the teachers’ union. The teachers have already ceded to pay cuts — but now Walker is going to start firing them one by one if they don’t give up their bargaining rights forever. Never mind the fact that the Wisconsin budget was left with only a modest shortfall by Walker’s Democratic predecessor. To top it all off, Walker has added an additional $140 million projected shortfall to the next budget with his wealthy donor-friendly tax cuts.

After a commenter pointed out to me that Walker’s budget-busting measures were, according to Politifact,  not part of the current shortfall, it occurred to me that the first panel of the cartoon is misleading.  While I’d probably write it differently now, I still think the larger point — that he purports to care about the deficit while adding to it — is legit. And even if the current modest shortfall is not due to Walker, it’s clear that the Republicans are using the economic downturn to accomplish their long-sought political goals (union busting) even as they add to deficits themselves. [UPDATE UPDATE: some people are now saying Politifact is wrong (it's a few paragraphs into the post). I give up. Can we just call Walker a douchenozzle and call it a day?]

If you had any lingering doubts that Wisconsin is part of a broader movement to attack workers’ rights,  it’s important that Americans understand that Walker is in tight with the billionaire right-wing activists, the Koch Brothers, whose foundation Americans For Prosperity is picking ideological fights in several states:

The effort to impose limits on public labor unions has been a particular focus in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states with Republican governors, Mr. Phillips said, adding that he expects new proposals to emerge soon in some of those states to limit union power.

Even if Wisconsin teachers manage to preserve their bargaining rights, my feeling is that the bigger picture does not look good. The forces aligned against what few unions remain are just too powerful. In this Gilded Age we live in, moneyed elites have managed to convince millions of ordinary, struggling Americans to reject one of the last means of recourse workers have left. It doesn’t really matter if Scott Walker goes down — they have the ideological vision, and the willingness to take the heat for it. Something weak-kneed Democrats might want learn from.


Whitefish Trip Photos

Here are some photos I took while visiting Whitefish, Montana for my Oregonian story. Enjoy!

snow ghosts on Big Mountain

Snow ghosts on Big Mountain

snow ghost kangaroo

Close-up of the snow kangaroo

Looking down at Whitefish Lake

Looking down at Whitefish Lake

The Bulldog Saloon

EAT at the Bulldog Saloon

Non-Hostile Hostel sign

One of many signs from defunct businesses hanging in the Great Northern Bar

Whitefish depot at dawn

Whitefish Depot at dawn

I didn’t get to talk much about restaurants in my article, but if you do go to Whitefish, I recommend Wasabi Sushi, Piggyback BBQ, and the sandwiches at Montana Coffee Traders. I ate cheap, but well!


This Week’s Cartoon: Freelancer Riot At Huffington Palace

A rare one-panel Slowpoke. I was sure someone must have already done this idea, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

I often hear people say that Huffpo’s unpaid contributors were fools for doing all that free work in the first place. Which is mostly true, but overlooks the fact that Huffpo also seeks out work from published writers and cartoonists. And they simply refuse to pay. As Matt Bors blogged last week, Huffpo contacted him while he was in Afghanistan, filing comics for paying clients. They wanted to post his work on the site, but darned if they just didn’t have the budget to pay for it! Not only was Huffpo being unfair to him, but to the publications that were buying the work. He said no, but this sort of situation creates an unfortunate race to the bottom for freelancers and paying publications alike. Which is why I try to avoid clicking on any links to the Huffington Post if I can.

For further reading, I suggest this article in the Columbia Journalism Review about an earlier case of labor exploitation involving AOL.

Oh, and you can read my Huffpo-AOL comments and those of several other cartoonists over at Washington Post’s “Comic Riffs” blog.


Lara Logan Rocks

I actually linked to this video nearly five years ago, but it’s worth a replay now. The clip shows Logan being interviewed a highly condescending Howard Kurtz, who was needling her about why the reporting from Iraq was so “negative.” I came away from this very impressed by Logan, and was saddened today to hear about what happened to her in Egypt.

[UPDATE: Reading more about Logan, I see she's made some comments about Afghanistan that suggest she's been embedded with the military too long. But I still admire the way she handled Kurtz here.]


Travel comic in The Oregonian

Splash panel for Whitefish Montana comic

Now it can be told: I have my first graphic travelogue appearing in Sunday’s Oregonian, filling a full newspaper page and a half in the travel section. But you can see it online now! This is the most ambitious project I’ve taken on in a while, and I loved doing it. I’ll be posting some photos of the trip here soon.


Reader Mail, Surveillance Edition

Last week’s comic about the domestic use of aerial drones drew a number of interesting comments from readers. Here are a couple emails I received:

From Ogden Utah, TC writes:

The Aerial Drone comic hits particularly close to home! Our illustrious Mayor, Matthew Godfrey, has been trying to push the city council to approve a freaking blimp for surveillance purposes in our town.  It’s really smart. I think he’s trying to cover some of his more sinister ideas by pushing this asinine idea out in front.  I’m pretty sure our criminals run much faster than the blimp can fly.

TPM has more on that here.

Reader Bruce P, who I’m guessing is writing from abroad, who is writing from New Jersey, says:

In the second frame you have “Soon businesses jump on the bandwagon.” Here in my local Rite of Shoppes and the APe, they already have. Next to various products on the shelves are little boxes that extol the virtues of kitty crunchies, toilet paper, etc. These have a small video screen and a speaker to spout their drivel. They are motion sensor activated and trip when one gets within 3 feet or so of them. Life imitates art or vice versa….. None the less it is spot on.

Wow, I hope that doesn’t catch on further.


This Week’s Cartoon: “Year of the Mombies”

While much of the news media was rightly focused on Egypt last week, your friendly GOP-led House of Representatives was busy introducing a truly heinous bill called the “Protect Life Act.” This bill would allow emergency room doctors to let a pregnant woman die rather than perform an abortion to save her life.

This isn’t the pipe dream of some lone Bible-Belt crackpot from Upper Butt Scratch. The “Protect Life Act” is co-sponsored by one hundred Representatives, among them such right-wing luminaries as Paul Ryan and Ron Paul, whose libertarianism conveniently ends where ladyparts begin.

You know, we fight these battles year after year, and instead of seeing reason gradually prevail, we have a situation where the opposition only grows more radical and monstrous. It’s only a matter of time before these people are really running the show, and I shudder to think about what will happen.

On a cheerier note, look for one of my cartoons in the current issue of Ms. Magazine!


This Week’s Cartoon: “Drones Among Us”

I thought about doing a cartoon on Egypt, but at the time, I didn’t really have much to add beyond “Wow.” I will promise you one thing, though: if I do draw a cartoon about Egypt, it won’t involve the Sphinx, hieroglyphics, or King Tut. (I’m afraid to say I just found one depicting the Sphinx crying.  Really.)

This week’s installment is something of a follow-up to my previous cartoon about Predator drones, in which I envisioned using them to fight crime in the US the way we use them in Afghanistan (and Pakistan). Thanks to a tweet from a Slowpoke reader, I read this article about small drones being purchased for surveillance by the Miami-Dade police department. I guess I don’t have a problem with a SWAT team sending up a flying beer keg — that’s the nickname for the Honeywell T-Hawk drone, mind you — if they’re about to bust in on a house full of heavily-armed goons. But the thought of patrol by drone does seem a little weird on the face of it — so weird, in fact, the Department of Homeland Security won’t touch it (aside from the drones they use for border patrol, that is).

flying beer keg drone

Photo taken from WIRED, who got it from Honeywell. If you’re really curious/geeky, the Washington Post has a video of this thing flying through the air. Oh, the research I do for you people!


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.

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