The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for June, 2013

Painfully Wrong

Overwhelming scientific consensus holds that a fetus cannot feel pain before 24 weeks. But let’s face it: the current assault on choice isn’t really about perception of pain — it’s just another excuse to chip away at abortion rights.

What I’ve Been Up To: Reubens! Travel! Lightbulbs!

It’s been a while since I babbled about myself in this space, so here’s a giant autobiographical news dump for you. Last month I took a trip to the Pacific Northwest to get my stuff out of storage, and am happy to report that I have a proper drawing table again after many months of using any available surface. My office is slowly shaping up, as I make my way through a giant crap pile in the middle of the floor. My main problem is that I have no place to put the crap, meaning I need to go out and buy some more crap to put the crap in, and I really have no patience for that sort of thing.

Upon returning from the Northwest, I took off for Pittsburgh for the National Cartoonists Society annual Reubens Weekend. I almost didn’t go, but am very glad I did, because I won the NCS Award for Best Editorial Cartoons! The Reubens are often referred to as the Oscars of the cartooning world, except with none of the media coverage of the Oscars. Here I am holding my lovely plaque, which I look forward to hanging in my office as soon as I buy some nails.


I also had the pleasure of appearing on a panel that weekend with several luminaries from the daily strip world. From left is moderator Hilary Price (she stood on a chair while orating at one point, a technique I will have to try on a future panel), Terri Libenson, me, Cathy Guisewite, and Lynn Johnston.

Women in Cartooning panel at NCS Reubens Weekend 2013

Photo by Barbara Dale

Never in my wildest imagination as a wee youngster reading the comics page did I think I’d be sitting beside THE Cathy and the creator of “For Better or For Worse” at a conference someday. Afterwards, some of us went out for delicious sandwiches with french fries in them at Primanti Brothers.

A day or two after the Reubens, I found out that I am a finalist in this year’s Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Awards. I can really get behind this award-a-day plan. At risk of excessive horn-tooting, around this time I was mentioned in the New York Times, in a review of Victor Navasky’s book on political cartooning. I’m listed as an omission from the book, along with several prominent cartoonists whose absence from any book on political cartooning is frankly bewildering.

Right now I’m knee-deep in freelance work and home improvement projects without end. I did manage to successfully change the lightbulb in my refrigerator the other day, and now I can see my food again. This has been my greatest recent accomplishment, aside from the NCS Award.

Next week I’m off to Utah for the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention. Yesterday, I was the “guest cartoonist” for my colleague and all-around good guy Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake City Tribune; they ran my gun control strip from a few weeks ago. Stay tuned for further developments from the Beehive State.

Surveillance Bait

I find the NSA Prism program — what I know about it, anyway — to be problematic. But it does seem there’s a disconnect between public reaction to this particular scandal and our tolerance for the selling of highly-personalized data by tech companies in the private sector. I’ve read over the years about evolving technologies to offer individuals different prices and interest rates based on data collected through the internet; I have no idea how much this is actually happening, but the potential for abuse seems vast.

I’m not trying to suggest an either/or situation here in which government spying is OK and private sector data mining is not. The potential for abuse by the state is enormous and well-precedented.  But  Silicon Valley is no saint here; many tech libertarians seem to overlook this. Private data could be used to deny people health insurance and harm their credit — it goes beyond mere advertising. The arrangement with the Prism program just seems to me like foxes working with foxes guarding the henhouse.

Somewhat amusingly, while I was working on this very cartoon, I watched a music video on YouTube — The New Pornographers’ “Slow Descent into Alcoholism” — and immediately afterward was served Google ads for various detox programs. So there’s one particular data point on my record that might not be so accurate. At least, not currently.


Loan Bone

Interest rates on Stafford Loans could double from 3.4% to a usurious 6.8% if Congress fails to act by July 1. Many Senate Democrats want another extension of the current rate; Republicans want a variable rate pegged to the market at a higher figure. As Elizabeth Warren put it as she argued for giving students the same rate as banks:

“Right now, the US government is out there investing in large financial institutions, offering them money every single night [for] three quarters of 1 percent, and yet our students, if the government doesn’t do something, will be paying nine times that much,” Warren said to an audience of about 70 students and staff at the Northeastern Visitor Center.

Adding to the debt of poor college students at a time of ever-increasing economic inequality (and record low interest rates) while companies like Apple practice massive tax avoidance is simply ridiculous.

Those Lazy, No-Good Babies

As Paul Krugman noted in a recent column, the latest farm bill coming out of the House Agriculture Committee would kick around two million people off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In addition to being a massively-boneheaded austerity measure that hurts the economy, such a move would affect large numbers of children. Ah, those lazy dependents with their culture of dependence! I guess we should make them earn their food by scavenging dumps for scrap metal or something.

And yes, I was thinking of that Free to Be You and Me sketch “Boy Meets Girl” with Marlo Thomas and Mel Brooks as I drew this.

For more commentary on this and our crueler tendencies, Comic Strip of the Day has a good post.

Jen Sorensen is a cartoonist for Daily Kos, The Nation, In These Times, Politico and other publications throughout the US. She received the 2023 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning from the National Press Foundation, and is a recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. She is also a Pulitzer Finalist.



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