The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for April, 2013

Rick Perry’s Explosion

In case you haven’t heard the backstory to this cartoon, my friend Jack Ohman, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee, drew a cartoon criticizing Perry’s flagrant opposition to business regulations in light of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. Perry has been visiting California, trying to recruit businesses to move to Texas, citing thes state’s lack of regulations and its low taxes. Perry fired back with a letter to the Sacramento Bee, calling the cartoon a “detestable attempt at satire” that mocked the deaths of the victims. Jack got a lot of hate mail, and even I had Twitter trolls accusing me of not caring about the lives of first responders after I defended the cartoon.

As any cartoonist knows, interpretations of one’s work may vary, but there is a point where subjectivity gives way to willful misreading. Anyone who thinks Ohman’s cartoon makes fun of those who died in West is suffering such poor reading comprehension as to be objectively wrong. This cartoon isn’t like a joke from a Jay Leno monologue — it’s serious. Deadly serious. Far from making light of the tragedy, Ohman is condemning Perry’s negligent attitude toward worker safety in the hopes of preventing more deaths in the future.

After prancing into California trying to lure its businesses away to an unregulated banana republic, Perry shouldn’t be surprised when a cartoonist in Sacramento bites him in the butt.

This whole controversy reminds me of the Tom Toles cartoon from 2006 that elicited a letter of condemnation from the Pentagon. Toles drew an amputee soldier to symbolize the worn-out condition of the U.S. Army, and was accused of making fun of soldiers themselves. Free advice for high-ranking officials angered by a cartoon: it’s generally best not to make a stink, lest you draw attention to the fact that you don’t smell so sweet yourself.


Cartoon Flashback: The George W. Bush Library

Cartoon about George W. Bush LibraryGiven the hoopla over the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library this week, I thought I would dig up this cartoon from 2007. Seeing Bush in the media again brings back memories of how gut-wrenchingly awful those eight years were. I don’t think history will be rewritten so that Bush is remembered as a good president, but it does seem that the extremism and lethal incompetence of that administration might be partly forgotten as time goes by.

After not seeing him for a while, I noticed that Bush’s facial features are becoming slightly exaggerated with age. His nose seems a little pointier and his ears a little bigger. He’s becoming even more of a caricature of himself than he was.


A Well-Funded Militia


The Gentrification Cycle

The last panel of this cartoon was inspired by a recent NYT article about the Belgravia neighborhood in London, where international jet-setters own much of the real estate. Multi-multi-million-dollar homes sit unoccupied for most of the year, leaving the streets deserted.

Here’s an idea. Let me suggest that the very finest properties be reserved for cartoonists and other artists, musicians and writers. Wealthy benefactors would take a cue from the Renaissance and pick up the tab, honored to support a rich cultural life in their city. The yuppies could then squabble over the crumbling fixer-uppers we leave unclaimed. (Yes, I’ve been spending too much time thinking about housing lately, and getting annoyed at gentrification.)


Chain of Fools

The Obama administration’s plan to cut Social Security benefits boggles the mind. In addition to being unnecessary and cruel, it’s politically disastrous.

Oh, but I’ve heard some downplay the political concerns. “It’s not like people going to vote for the Republicans, who’ve been trying to gut Social Security for decades!” they say. To which I respond: Do not underestimate the cluelessness of low-information voters. Remember in 2010 when the R’s convinced so many people that they were the great defenders of Medicare? They’re going to have a field day with this. (I don’t mean to imply that seniors are low-information voters any more than anybody else; I merely think many American voters tend to have short political memory, and are easily misled.)


Mockery of Justice

Hat tip to my friend Audrey Bilger, who collected some of Scalia’s more outlandish pronouncements about gay people for the Ms. Blog. Scalia thinks it’s perfectly Constitutional to ban not only gay marriage, but gay sex, on the basis of “morality.” Quoth Scalia:

“I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible–murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals–and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct.”

Let’s just stop right there. It’s well past time we decoupled the concept of “morality” from sexuality. There’s nothing immoral about sex between two consenting adults (setting aside matters of cheating while in a committed relationship). Scalia is still steeped in an archaic “Moral Values” conception of the universe — not that this comes as a surprise to anyone. Hey, I have moral values too, and they tell me that treating gays and lesbians like second-class citizens is wrong.


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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