The Sorensen Monologues

Electric Vehicles Gone Wrong

For a while there, I was somewhat willing to indulge the idea of gigantic EVs as a way to wean Americans off of fossil fuels. But my patience has worn thin.

I appreciate that the new Dodge Charger EV does not have a ten foot-high grille; however, it comes with an obnoxious feature called “Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust” which creates fake engine-revving sounds through a system of woofers and speakers and acoustic chambers, with a volume up to 126 decibels. According to the CDC, “loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears.” We’re not talking about the soft, whirring spaceship sounds that some electric vehicles emit as a safety feature. The last thing we need is more noise pollution, especially totally unnecessary sounds from an EV! 

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Floored

This is the second time in fifteen years or so that I’ve gotten stuck in an airport overnight. Passengers were sprawled out in every possible spot. Some were snoring loudly, a feat of sleep unimaginable in those circumstances, especially given the twice-hourly announcements to NOT LEAVE YOUR BAGGAGE UNATTENDED.

I’ve been to Seattle and San Francisco in recent months, but somehow the inequality in DC seemed more pronounced than I was expecting, and greater than I’d seen on previous trips. 

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“Cryogenic Nursery”

I’ve done so many cartoons over the years about blobs of cells being regarded as full human beings that it has become a challenge to find new ways to satirize this idea. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, the Alabama Supreme Court provided some new fodder with its recent ruling that IVF embryos are people. In a case involving the accidental destruction of frozen embryos, the court disturbingly referred to the embryos as “extrauterine children” kept in a “cryogenic nursery.” Needless to say, this is wreaking havoc on Alabama’s IVF clinics and upending the plans of many would-be parents.

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Using the First Amendment to End the First Amendment

In recent years, the First Amendment has been shoddily invoked to justify decisions that ultimately diminish its very raison d’être, quite possibly leading us to fascism. 

Alarmingly, we’re now seeing state-level absurdities such as Florida removing sociology as a core course in its college curriculum and replacing it with a course teaching the “historically accurate account of America’s founding.” Indiana’s Attorney General Todd Rokita has launched the creepily-named “Eyes on Education” portal for the public to report “indoctrination” in classrooms. The West Virginia House just passed a bill allowing for the prosecution of librarians if an “obscene” item falls into a minor’s hands.

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Forced Labor Funnies

This cartoon is based on the AP story entitled “Prisoners in the US are part of a hidden workforce linked to hundreds of popular food brands” that was published recently. (It’s a long piece, so if you’re in a hurry, you can check out their “takeaways” article summarizing the report.) To put it briefly, prisoners are doing a lot more labor in the food supply chain than I think most of us realized. While some inmates choose to work, many are compelled to do so under threat of punishment. The 13th Amendment allows involuntary labor as punishment for a crime, so the practice — which disproportionately affects people of color — can look an awful lot like slavery. The Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, where inmates do farm work, is literally located on a former slave plantation. These jobs often pay pennies or nothing at all.

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Signs Your Government is Committing Crimes Against Humanity

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir responded “Hague Schmague” after the world court allowed South Africa’s charges of genocide to proceed. Netanyahu’s Twitter account posted “Nobody will stop us – not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anybody else.” Whenever you hear government officials attempting to discredit The Hague, that is a huge warning sign that something has gone very wrong in that country. Yes, Hamas committed heinous crimes requiring a response, but Hamas is not the same as the whole population of Gaza, which is being indiscriminately slaughtered and starved to death. Journalists reporting on the carnage are being targeted as well.

For more background on the third panel about the State Department making human rights exceptions for Israel, see this Guardian article.

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The AI Journalism Awards

Almost overnight, the internet has become flooded with junky AI content (the word “content” really does apply here). I tend to do a lot of research for my cartoons, both image and news searches, and the top results used to be mostly trustworthy publications, or at least sites I was familiar with. Now I get walls of search engine-optimized garbage. A publisher of a tech website complained on social media the other day that AI sites are showing up in news results instead of their publication that employs actual human journalists. Amazon’s website has been notoriously plagued by AI-generated products, including fake books on Kindle. Sports Illustrated, which just got shut down (!), made news a little while ago for using fake AI-created writers with realistic biographies.

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Pundits Pave the Way to Hell

A few weeks ago, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump is ineligible for the ballot due to his attempt at insurrection. And then the mewling of the performatively unbiased pundit class began. Among the worst examples was New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who laughably wrote that insurrection was “not the most precise term. When I have the chance to use a longer description, I generally say that Trump attempted to secure an unelected second term.” Several others platitudinally argued that we should “let the voters decide” — as though we didn’t already go through that with the candidate in question, who very much did not respect the voters’ decision, and would likely never let them decide again.

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Billionaire Buttinsky on Campus

This cartoon was inspired by recent events at Harvard, but the same dynamic is happening at many universities. Harvard’s behavior is shameful, allowing a petty tyrant to rule the university with an iron fist. They need to reinstate Gay. It seems we’re knee deep into an authoritarian era even without Trump back in the White House. 

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Holiday Harangue

This cartoon is about the Texas abortion case in which 31 year-old mother of two Kate Cox had to flee the state to end a non-viable pregnancy that threatened her ability to have children in the future and possibly her life. I’ve been thinking lately about how extreme things have gotten, and how if you’d told me about some of these developments back in the ’90s, I’d have been skeptical. Also, there is this flawed idea that abortion is a “cultural” issue that is secondary to real, “material” concerns, like the economy, which I find infuriating because it doesn’t get much more real than your own body, or having to financially support a whole new human being. 

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Climate Newspeak

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the president of COP28 who also happens to be CEO of the UAE’s state oil company, made this and other disturbing remarks while speaking with three women at a She Changes Climate event. “Polarization” has become a weasel word for bad actors to stop legitimate criticism. The fact that we’re seeing it used by an oil CEO to deny climate science should set off alarm bells. The term erases differences in power, places dominant and marginalized groups on the same plane, and implies a false equivalence between violent movements and vulnerable people trying to defend themselves. In this case we see it being used to provide cover for corporate interests that are harming all of us. 

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Kissinger Karma

I find myself both deeply disturbed and morbidly curious about Kissinger’s philosophy of putting the world in the “correct” order without regard to human rights or international law. Isn’t this exactly how all brutal dictators think, from Putin to Assad to MBS to Xi and pretty much anyone else committing crimes against humanity? This “order over justice” approach only seems reasonable if you’re sure you’re never going to be on the wrong side of it. That’s what led me to draw Kissinger as the victim of his own doctrine.

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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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