The Sorensen Monologues

Eve of Battle

I can hardly stand to watch the reactions of the powers that be to Kavanaugh’s accusers, who are putting their lives at risk to speak out. It’s excruciating to see these women get slimed — and I’m not even experiencing this as a survivor of sexual assault. They are heroes in my book, even if they’re reluctant ones. After reading about the Yale allegations last night, I was imagining all the preparations these people have to go through before they tell their stories — lawyering up, steeling themselves against an overwhelming public backlash via every means of communication imaginable. It occurred to me that it must feel like preparing for war.



Kavanaugh’s Oath

We know Kavanaugh has lied multiple times under oath. Meanwhile, his accuser has passed an FBI polygraph test, can point to evidence in her therapist’s notes from 2012, and contacted the Washington Post before Kavanaugh was even nominated by Trump (so this is not an “eleventh-hour” accusation). Why should anyone believe him when he accuses her of lying? He’s lost any claim to credibility.

In case anyone is wondering who the woman in the cartoon is, that’s supposed to be Kavanaugh’s wife, since the spouse usually holds the Bible during the oath of office ceremony.



Kavanaugh suddenly possessed by spirit of honesty

In his response to Kamala Harris’s question about whether he thought “both sides” were to blame for the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Kavanaugh demurred, saying “the principle of the independence of the judiciary means I can’t insert myself into politics in either of two ways: commenting on political events or, in my view, commenting on things said by politicians.” This rhetoric is pretty funny coming from a man whose history suggests he’s a quintessential partisan player, apparently perjuring himself twice over stolen Democratic memos and participating in all manner of wingnuttery during the Clinton years.

There’s been a bit of controversy around Kavanaugh’s statement about “abortion-inducing drugs.” Some background: Priests for Life and other Catholic institutions sued to contest the Affordable Care Act rule that employer-provided insurance must cover contraception, or the employer must sign an opt-out form. During the hearings, Ted Cruz asked Kavanaugh for his opinion about the case. Kavanaugh, siding strongly with Priests For Life, stated “they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs.” Various fact-checking organizations are zeroing in on the words “they said” to imply that Kavanaugh is referring only to the beliefs of Priests for Life, and to sneeringly suggest that Kamala Harris and other Democrats are lying when they accuse him of conflating birth control with abortion-inducing drugs.

However, Kavanaugh’s use of the word “the” in the phrase “provision of the abortion-inducing drugs” implies identification on his part with the Priests for Life perspective. A more impartial, less affirmative way to speak about the scientifically-false belief of a religious group would be to use the phrase “their belief that these drugs cause abortion.” Kavanaugh did not distance himself from Priests For Life in this manner. This sort of casual conflation is exactly the sort of thing someone who opposes reproductive rights would say. Not to mention the fact that he sided with an employer who refused to allow their insurance plan cover birth control!

We know from science that birth control does not induce abortion. Yet Kavanaugh uncritically and unquestioningly repeated this falsehood that is commonly used by anti-abortion groups. No one who believes in a woman’s right to choose, in the context of the current American abortion debate, would phrase his or her answer that way. Advocates for reproductive justice and contraceptive coverage have every right to be concerned about Kavanaugh’s response. Ironically enough, the fact-checking organizations focusing just on the words “they said” are the ones stripping the issue of its full context.

For more on this, including further worrisome evidence of Kavanaugh’s opposition to Roe, I recommend this article in the New Yorker.



What are Dems undecided about Kavanaugh thinking?

To be fair, some Dems are trying to stop Kavanaugh. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to postpone the hearings scheduled for today, citing the possibility of criminal wrongdoing on Trump’s part and Kavanaugh’s apparent belief that presidents should not be criminally investigated. But half the Senate Democrats have not announced their opposition, which is not exactly helping in the getting-Republicans-to-flip department. I don’t hold out much hope for that, but it would be outrageous if the Dems couldn’t muster a unified front against a second Trump court pick. It’s remarkable how many politicians still seem to think it’s in their interest to play the “wait and see” game and pretend everything is normal. It’s like Merrick Garland never even happened.

There are many good Democrats, and I’ve long been critical of those who equate the two parties, but Dems really lose a lot of cred when so many of them splutter so spectacularly at such a critical time.



Don’t Tread on Me

It’s a “classic” from 2011 this week due to travel and some much-needed observance of Labor Day. But this point can’t get repeated enough. Here’s what I had to say in 2011:

I sort of feel like the tea party and progressives could almost find some common ground over the plight of ordinary people getting screwed six ways from Sunday in this economy. We share a disillusionment with Wall Street and, I would argue, concern with loss of community in the face of crushing bureaucracy. The general principle of localism seems like something we could agree on, to a point. But it all ends there, because the tea partiers, among their other philosophical shortcomings (and there are many), have a MASSIVE blind spot when it comes to understanding the way power works in this country. They refuse to see any abuses resulting  from unfettered, predatory, market-fundamentalist-style capitalism. Everything is the government’s fault. It’s such a simplistic view, it would be quaint if it weren’t also so harmful.



Wheel of Dystopia

I’m writing this after spending the day hunkered down indoors next to an air purifier, as I have the good fortune of being in Washington state while it’s home to some of the world’s worst air pollution. For the second year in a row, smoke from wildfires has rendered the normally refreshing air practically unbreathable. My primary source of entertainment these days is checking air quality monitoring websites for signs of ominous red and purple bulges making their way down from Canada. Fires in other parts of Washington aren’t helping.

As if things didn’t already feel apocalyptic enough, there’s something about these wildfire episodes, with their sickly grayish-orange skies and sense of entrapment, that truly give one the sense that the end of the Anthropocene is nigh. Scientists say that warming temperatures plus population growth in burn-prone areas are causing the surge in wildfires; meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is, of course, blaming environmentalists. Hard to see how we come back from this brink, since we’re already so far over it.



Summer Refreshment Gentrification

Since everyone is either on vacation or wishing they were on vacation this week, I felt like doing something more cultural and summery. Not that political horrors aren’t happening daily. We’ll be getting back to those shortly.

I believe the initial idea came from driving past a Jamba Juice and being mildly surprised that Jamba Juice still existed. Are there really enough people out there drinking Strawberry Surf Rider smoothies to sustain a franchise? It seems almost inconceivable to me. Seems like paleo-friendly meat smoothies would be all the rage now. They actually sell cones of meat in Spain. That’s my get-rich plan if cartooning fails.



Give and Let Die

I’ve been meaning to do a cartoon about crowdfunding healthcare for a while, especially after reading this excellent Mother Jones article on how it turns healthcare into a popularity contest. People with large social networks and compelling stories tend to get funded; those with less-marketable illnesses or a smaller circle of friends struggle. It’s shameful. Not that you shouldn’t try to help friends in need through a GoFundMe campaign, but this simply cannot be the future of healthcare in America.



Collusion Confusion

Pretty straightforward one this week. This child sex ring thing keeps coming up in Alex Jones’s conspiracy theories, with him accusing Mueller of being a pedophile recently.

In other news, I wrote and created artwork for a Nib animation that was published the other day — you can see it here (mine starts at the 0:57 mark). FOLLOW THE CRUMBS, MUFFINHEADS!



Let it Beef

Americans are gluttons for news stories about smackdowns, insults, and personal rivalries. Someone says something outrageous on Twitter? We’re all over it. As for slightly more abstract issues like gerrymandering, we just don’t get as worked up. Some of us do, to be sure. But if gerrymandering could be translated into a simple verbal insult, it might resonate with more people. In this cartoon, I’m of course referring to the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed Texas’s discriminatory redrawing of Congressional maps.

Did you know that sea cows once existed? Now extinct, the Steller’s Sea Cow roamed the Bering Sea before humans hunted it into oblivion. Unfortunately, the sea cow did not resemble an actual cow.



Pros and Cons of the New Supreme Court

While I applaud the efforts to block Kavanaugh from joining the Court, I can’t help but feel that particular pooch was screwed a long time ago. To mix metaphors horribly: the ship of judicial extremism has sailed, the horse of market fundamentalism has left the barn. There isn’t even a barn anymore — it’s now a big box store.

I keep thinking of this dude I met when I was in Wisconsin in September of 2016. He was determined to vote for Jill Stein to “send a message.” I pleaded with him for half an hour, citing the Supreme Court over and over, but in the end he seemed unconvinced. Roe was a stake, and nobody seemed to care.

If you want to feel alarmed, read this Daily Kos diary about Kavanaugh and the environment, and this NYT column about the Court’s evisceration of voting rights. This ThinkProgress post about voting rights is also good.



If Life Imitated Politics

The Supreme Court announcement happened a little too late for my deadline this week, but I’m not sure I have too much to say right now.

Mr. Slowpoke and I have often marveled how U.S. politics can be so awash in unreality while other aspects of life still proceed mostly according to the laws of empiricism. Certainly there are scams and lies in everyday life too, but the idea of truth still exists in many places where society needs it to function. Airplane mechanics: still reality-based (for now)! If other fields took the same approach to facts as the White House, we’d quickly devolve into total chaos. Alas, this may be the case soon enough as all regulation of business ceases.

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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.

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