Monday, December 31, 2007

Fighting Words: 12/31/07 Cartoon...

"The Democrat Whisperer"...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More on conservatism, 2008 election...

Speedy list of articles for this week's 'toon:
  • Gary Kamiya examines why Bush-era conservatives are so willing and eager to abandon their core principles in support of "Manichaean moralizing and militarist triumphalism." It has always been more than a little puzzling to encounter people who say they're "conservative" because they support small government and the principles of libertarianism, and then to hear them argue in support of George W. Bush, who is now officially the biggest spender to occupy the White House since LBJ.

    See also Harold Meyerson, who takes a look at the moral hypocrisy of the "Christianized" Republican party. We can thank the party's subordination to religious extremists for the freakshow that is the roster of Republican candidates for president... in particular, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

  • On the campaign trail (as always), Matt Taibbi says, "I think that’s part of this whole con of American politics. We’ve been convinced that it’s more important to vote against the guy on the other side than to vote for someone who supports your interests." See here for another interview in which Taibbi talks about (among other things) the advanced hawkishness of Rudy Giuliani, and here for a column where he offers this classic evaluation of Romney:
    Romney is an utter tool; he represents nothing so much as the very banality of our system of campaigning, a poll-chasing stuffed suit with a Max Headroom hairdo who will say (or won't say, for that matter) whatever the fuck it takes to get elected.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Fighting Words: 12/24/07 Cartoon...

"Alien Society, #6"...

Previous episodes:

Monday, December 17, 2007

More on baseball, Mitchell report...

I won't bore you with a huge list of articles for this week's 'toon. Chances are, if you're interested in this story, you've already kept up-to-date on it. I will bore you with my opinion, though... I take baseball seriously, dammit. The most telling aspect of the story, from my perspective, is that there were no real heartbreaking revelations in the Mitchell report... I already thought most of the guys named were arrogant jerks anyway. There was no Kirby Puckett or Tony Gwynn (my favorite players growing up). No Edgar Martinez or other prominent Mariners on those great teams from the 90's/00's. Just guys like Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, and Roger Clemens (didn't he try to bean his wife once in a family exhibition game?).

I think the records these guys get and the stats they amass should stand without asterisks or anything, but I don't think they should get into the Hall of Fame. On the one hand, you can't really pretend that the games they played in never happened. Is every hitter who Clemens ever struck out going to get his at-bats back? On the other hand, if Joe Jackson and Pete Rose can't get into the Hall, then there's no way McGwire, Bonds, or Clemens should get in. Joe Cowley makes a good point, when he says, "God forbid we mix the guys rubbing cream on their body with the racists, wife beaters, bat-corkers, adulterers and murder suspects that currently reside in a collection of dust and baseballs that is the Baseball Hall of Fame." However, it would be kind of hard to kick, say, Ty Cobb out of the Hall after he's been in for so many years. The voters still have a choice as to whether or not to let these steroid guys in.

The other point in their favor is that these players are still human, and humans do dumb stuff sometimes. But they're also extremely well-paid humans, and fans have the right to decide whether they like these guys or not. It's here where the real power of the Mitchell report lies... it really has no importance as a legal document. Allen Barra argues that Major League Baseball's real objective was make a public example of these guys, and to turn the steroids scandal into a huge spectacle so Congress would do the real investigating for them.

Fighting Words: 12/17/07 Cartoon...

"History Machine: Tradin' Baseball Cards"...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Rant On Newspapers...

This is the blog post that I intended to do in conjunction with this cartoon from a few weeks ago. Lo and behold, fellow Cartoonist With Attitude Ted Rall has beat me to the punch with an excellent three-part series of columns on the plight of newspapers and their content providers. I will add a few things here that have been bothering me, but be sure to check out Ted's columns. We have slightly different views on the future of the Internet for newspapers, but I think we share the same desire to see them work out their problems in a way that recognizes the importance of having quality content.

In the "Media Menu" cartoon, I describe newspapers as "wallowing in self-pity" as their product steadily shrinks into oblivion. Many people believe that print newspapers are an endangered species, not long for the digital world. Given the unlimited potential of the Internet as a method of communicating information, the growth of handheld wireless devices, and the simple truth that the print medium is an inefficient and wasteful means of conveying the daily news, I have to agree. Bill Gates recently made the claim that "reading is going to go completely online" sometime in the near future (although some like Cass Sunstein argue that "the Internet is making us stupid"). The countdown is on to see which major daily newspaper will be the first to kill its print edition. While most papers are seeing their print circulation steadily declining, some are finding that their worldwide online readerships far outweigh their print readerships. Likewise, while ad revenue in general is tanking, online profit margins (while still small) are "skyrocketing." Papers are beginning to work together to find new ways to make an online model work.

These developments notwithstanding, the overall consensus seems to be that the transition up to this point has been "mangled." One analyst says "there is absolutely no question that the next 10 years are going to be really bad for the newspaper business." As a result, papers continue to cut costs to the bone, as we saw recently when the Houston Chronicle cut out a full page of comics, and they are generally refusing to pay for any new content. They gingerly dip their toes into vast waters of the Internet (e.g. by jumping on the "blogging bandwagon") and hope like hell they won't have to incur any new costs.

It seems to me that there's an underlying resistance within the newspaper business to new blood and new ideas as we enter the brave new Internet world. Hal Crowther makes the point that while print newspapers may be expendable in the new world, tradition and professionalism are not. I have as much respect as anyone for the traditions of journalism and the people who came before me (I have a family history in the industry). However, Crowther also complains that journalists with 40 years of experience are being replaced by "volunteers," or "anyone with an Apple and an attitude." I would argue that the overriding reason for this (as Crowther himself notes later when he re-labels the newbies as "vigilantes") is today's journalists' neglect of their own standards of professionalism. Those who attempted to step into the void were motivated to do so after, time and time again, the media failed to represent our interests in the greater discussion on issues of consequence. As we witnessed the mainstream media lead the parade as we marched to war in Iraq, people like me stopped believing a damn thing they had to say and fled for bloggers like Juan Cole or Glenn Greenwald (who I would hardly call "amateurs") or watchdog sites like Media Matters. Or, some of us simply started to do the research and commentary ourselves.

The problem is that these new media "volunteers" cannot work for free forever, and they are getting impatient. This is precisely what makes the Hollywood writers' strike an interesting test-case for the future of online content providers. Sites like the Huffington Post cannot expect to continue getting their content for free without suffering a "revolt of the serfs." This is not the model for newspapers to follow.

What's the solution? Veteran newsman Charles Lewis believes the answer may lie in the models used by non-profit media organizations such as NPR and AP, which are "flourishing" today. By seeking contributions from readers, charitable foundations, and other sources, Lewis believes newspapers may be able to ease the transition until online advertising revenue can catch up to editorial payroll levels:
Civic-minded, wealthy individuals who believe in the concept of an "informed citizenry" and public service journalism -- local, regional, national, international...Great work itself will begin to attract "buzz" online, and other revenue sources could open up, from advertising, to subscribers/members, to paid partnerships with existing hollowed out media corporations desperately seeking content, etc.

One important detail that will need to be worked out is exactly what our commitment will be to the principle of "net neutrality." For a brief moment, when I started to grasp the dilemma facing newspapers today, I wondered whether this situation may be the flip-side of the net neutrality coin (a rare shift to the political right for me). Clearly, people are reluctant to pay for things on the Internet, which is why subscription walls have been failing for news sites. It occurred to me that in order to change the fundamental nature of the Internet, it might be necessary for service providers to put in place a system similar to pay cable TV in order to start generating some revenue for the people who provide the content. In other words, there may have to be some kind of "tollbooth" to get on the information superhighway. Blogger and net neutrality guru David Isenberg quickly helped bring this back into perspective for me:
I understand the impulse to say that if the newspapers can't pay you, maybe the telcos can. But I'd call this a bit Stockholm-ish . . . "look, the guards have bread, if we become their friends, and even act like them, maybe we can have bread too . . ."

The downside when NN goes away is fairly profound. The early scenarios, where the cablecos block bittorrent, which carries "the other video," to "manage" their networks, or where telcos sell "enhanced" connections so you can do VOIP instead of using their telephony, is just the beginning.

The Internet access providers' end game is to determine the "willingness to pay" for each transaction on "their" network and charge by that value -- it will be "yield management" on steroids. Along the way, once the machinery to do that is working, if a business partner (e.g., with a business plan that's cratering due to the Internet) has an interest in blocking or enhancing certain sites, or if a government wants to manage its citizens' information or behavior, well, hey, the Internet access provider knows who its friends are.

In other words, who do I trust more to treat me fairly: newspapers or giant telecommunications corporations? That's an easy one... since I'm pretty sure newspapers aren't currently helping the government to eavesdrop on my cell phone conversations.

Along with everybody else, I eagerly await a solution to the newspaper problem, whether it be through the help of philanthropic entities or a new, comprehensive ad revenue model specifically designed for the Internet. Either way, newspapers, it's time for you guys to step on the gas, stop wallowing in self-pity, and figure out how you're going to fix this problem.

More on Bush/Cheney Iran lies...

This week's 'toon may require you to have previously seen professional darts on TV to get the joke. Here's a couple of clips if you haven't had the pleasure. Funniest thing ever... a bunch of dumpy, sweaty guys playing a bar game, but the crowd and the announcers act like they're watching Michael Jordan in his prime. IT'S DARTS! I had a lot more British colloquialisms in the cartoon (as I understand them), but I had to weed them out because I didn't feel like the joke would translate well in written form.

Here are some articles:
  • Seymour Hersh had it a year ago that Bush knew there was no conclusive evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program. If you don't want to believe a Pulitzer Prize winner, then take it from Bush's own NSA, Stephen Hadley, who says that senior members of the Bush administration were told "beginning in July" about the new intelligence. Bush's excuse (which some call "preposterous"), that DNI Mike McConnell told him "they had new information" but didn't tell him what it was, even if true, is meaningless. The entire administration bears responsibility for what comes out of Bush's mouth... does anybody think he comes up with a single thought himself? When Bush made threats in October about the coming of "World War III," it was a lie and they all knew it. Do they deserve any benefit of the doubt whatsoever after Iraq and WMD's? Bush on Dec. 5:
    "The Iranians have a strategic choice to make,” Bush said in Omaha, Nebraska. “They can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities and fully accept the longstanding offer to suspend their enrichment program and come to the table and negotiate, or they can continue on a path of isolation that is not in the best interest of the Iranian people. The choice is up to the Iranian regime."

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this pretty much the same damn "choice" we gave Iraq when all along we were just going to invade them anyway??

  • Cheney (just back from another hunting trip) is now being forced to make the hilarious admission that he has "no reason to question the intelligence released this week showing that Iran is not an imminent nuclear threat." Even more ridiculous, he claims that his position "has not changed" that we need to deal with Iran "diplomatically." Riiiiiiight...

    Reportedly, Dick and his pals are "infuriated" by this "breathtaking repudiation of [their] policy arguments."

  • Greg Sargent has been all over the media's role in this one. The funniest thing I've seen: CNN was forced to postpone their "speculative documentary" titled "We Were Warned -- Iran Goes Nuclear." The show was described as being a "what-if scenario" where "fictional cabinet members" debate how to deal with the Iranian threat.

    Yeah... that's good journalism.

  • The truth is (and I believe people like Noam Chomsky have been saying this for years) that Iran is a rational actor, despite the scary stories told to us by Israel and the Bush administration. As such, the NIE found that "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fighting Words: 12/10/07 Cartoon...

"World Darts Championship"...

Similar 'toons:

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fighting Words News: Who am I?!?!

So yeah, I've been lying to you this whole time. Actually, not really... my middle name really is Benjamin, I've just never gone by that name in real life. When I started this whole crazy cartoon project, I thought I wanted a pseudonym to provide a little "personal zone" to keep ME separate from MY WORK. I just wasn't creative enough to think of anything besides my middle name. I've been thinking about dropping it for a while, though, since it has occurred to me that unless I'm a secret agent or a porn star, it's really kinda stupid to have a fake name. Really, I just want to give Fighting Words a little "evolutionary kick-start," so to speak...

Sorry, I swear I'll never lie to you again. Damn, just did it again...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More on Christmas, consumerism...

Quick list of articles for this week's 'toon:
  • Check out a damn funny article, by a City Pages writer who attempts to spend a whole week inside Minnesota's Mall of America. He's warned at the beginning, "spend too much time here, and you'll go insane." In the end... yeah, he basically goes insane.

  • I haven't seen the new Morgan Spurlock-produced "What Would Jesus Buy" yet, but I've seen some clips and read a few articles. While I'm a fan of Spurlock and I definitely agree with the message of this film (discouraging out-of-control Christmas consumerism), I don't think I'll bother to watch this one. I've never really been a fan of "prank humor," unless the purveyor is damn good at making some kind of comment about why the victim of the prank is a moron (think Borat or the Daily Show), and not just making the victim look like a moron for the hell of it. In this case, the prankster is a New York performance artist who calls himself "Reverend Billy" and walks around with a megaphone and a mock church choir hassling the $5.85/hour kids working the counter at Starbucks. I think this kind of satire would be better suited for a commentary on televangelism; here, it just seems pointless. Plus, Reverend Billy is not all that great at articulating the message. The interview he did with the always subdued and businesslike Amy Goodman was painful to watch (he called her "sister Amy" repeatedly, and she never cracked a smile).

  • Check out some great commentary on the enigmatic phenomena known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and why the media is complicit in forcing these corporate-invented pseudo-holidays down our throats.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fighting Words: 12/3/07 Cartoon...

"The Great American Yuppanzee, #3"...

Previous episodes:

Friday, November 30, 2007

More on Global Warming, IPCC report...

Articles for this week's 'toon:
  • The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their report last week, which spelled out the situation in stark and unambiguous terms. The team of scientific experts on the subject calls the evidence of global warming "unequivocal" and the need for action "urgent." The panel's head is quoted as saying that this is our "defining moment" and that "if there's no action before 2012, that's too late." Meanwhile, experts have reportedly been "stunned" at the loss of Arctic ice recently, to the extent that they predict the summertime Arctic could be completely ice-free by 2030.

    The IPCC spells out our options pretty clearly: either we take action NOW and take a small hit to the world's economic growth (which is offset by short-term benefits like improved health due to reduced pollution), or we roll the dice and risk what the world's top minds predict will be catastrophic consequences.

  • All of this can only leave one wondering how those who oppose any action on climate change are afforded any credibility whatsoever in this debate. What possible counter-argument is there? All that's left is a childish, responsibility-shirking retort along the lines of "but I don't wanna!" And yet, there they are, in the Washington Post's story on the IPCC report, which dutifully warns the reader that "some" people disagree with the findings.

    Which people, exactly? Well, the people who write op-eds like this one in Investor's Business Daily, which counter the science community's conclusions on global warming with a string of ad hominems and baseless accusations about the scientists' sinister hidden agendas (of course, there's no mention of the corporate community's possible agenda). Or the people who cherry-pick or misrepresent facts to argue that "carbon dioxide is actually good!" (except, y'know, where there's too much of it) or that global warming is actually due to "solar brightness."

  • While Bush has finally admitted that global warming is real, it appears that not much has changed in the administration's approach to the problem. While yet another story recently came out linking a top Bush contributor to excessive carbon emissions, Darth Cheney is again angling for more control over the administration's global warming policy.

  • Check out a fascinating review by Gary Kamiya of Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More on Pakistan and "Spreadin' Democracy"...

This week's 'toon is drawn from my initial reaction to the actions taken recently by Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan: really, they're not too damn different than some of the stuff Bush has been doing here for the past seven years. It's just a bit more conspicuous, and bit less of a manipulative, covert scheme to maximize his control. Of course, that doesn't make what Musharraf is doing right, it's just an interesting parallel.
  • If you've missed it, Musharraf has suspended Pakistan's constitution, arrested thousands of his political opponents (mostly lawyers, judges, and human rights activists), disbanded the Supreme Court (which was about to rule that he was ineligible to serve another 5 years as president), and shut down the country's independent news media. Of course, he's blamed the whole thing on the danger of terrorism, but privately admitted that his real aim was self-preservation. His main political rival, Benazir Bhutto, is not exactly universally loved.

    The funniest part about all of this is that, despite all that he's done, the Bush administration can't really decide if they think Musharraf is a friend or foe of democracy. Of course, "democracy" has nothing to do with it... the real question is whether Pakistan will continue to obediently kowtow to the administration's agenda in the "war on terror." Some reports have the U.S. "looking past" Musharraf in case he falls, and acknowledging him as "part of the problem." Publicly, though, Musharraf is still an "indispensible" friend (according to Negroponte), who has simply made a "bad decision" or two (Condi). Then there's Dubya, who yesterday said that Musharraf "truly is somebody who believes in democracy" and that he "hasn't crossed the line." Of course not... he's just doing what Bush does.

  • Check out Juan Cole's comparison of George W. Bush to Napoleon Bonaparte, both of whom "employed the same basic political vocabulary and rhetorical flimflammery, invoking the spirit of liberty, security, and democracy while largely ignoring the substance of these concepts." Bush's use of grandiose rhetoric, such as:
    "Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices; and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear." contrasted by examples like this:
    The American deployment of terror against the Iraqi population has, of course, dwarfed anything the French accomplished in Egypt by orders of magnitude. After four mercenaries, one a South African, were killed in Falluja in March of 2004 and their bodies desecrated, President Bush is alleged to have said "heads must roll" in retribution.
    ...When the assault, involving air power and artillery, came, it was devastating, damaging two-thirds of the city's buildings and turning much of its population into refugees. (As a result, thousands of Fallujans still live in the desert in tent villages with no access to clean water.)

    See also Alain Gresh on the administration's democracy spreadin' policy of "constructive instability," all part of their greater plan to turn the Middle East into America's "backyard."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Even more on Religion and the '08 Election...

I realized halfway through this week's 'toon that I probably swiped the idea of a mock magazine cover from some of Matt Groening's mid-80's Life in Hell cartoons. Lets just call it an "homage." On the bright side, it forced me to dig out some of those great old books, which were sitting in boxes collecting dust. Groundbreaking work.

  • As I started to talk about a couple weeks ago, James Dobson has refused to endorse Rudy and is threatening to back a third party candidate. This week's 'toon was still not the one I wanted to do on the candidates' toadying to powerful evangelicals, but it'll work for the time being.

  • So anyway, the major development since then is that Pat Robertson has now thrown his support behind his "very good friend" Rudy Giuliani (who Robertson once sued over New York's recognition of same sex domestic partnerships). It was an important decision for Pat, an immensely powerful person who regularly claims to speak for God. He was torn between his shared personal background with Rudy (both are cancer survivors), and the fact that he and Mitt Romney's wife have a common affinity for horses. Pat's a man of principle, though, and in the end, Rudy's self-proclaimed status as the hero of 9-11 was sufficient to satisfy Pat's hatred of Muslims.

    Regardless, there is clearly a bit of a tussle growing within the evangelical world. Pat on his endorsement of Rudy:
    He insisted that while some on the "fringe" of the social conservative movement may see Giuliani as an unacceptable nominee, the "core know better."
    Oh, snap. No he di'int...

    The Dobson camp's response:
    A spokesman at Focus On The Family similarly told us, "Anything about Pat Robertson we're not talking about."
    Oh it's ON now, beotch...

  • Meanwhile, just as Paul Weyrich and Bob Jones III had given their endorsements to Romney, televangelist Bill Keller says "a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan." Don't blame him though...
    "If people don't like what I say, go argue with God, don't argue with me," he told me. "I didn't write the book."


    He calls those Christian leaders who support Romney "Judases" and clowns. "They all come back and say, we're looking for the best president. He's the commander in chief, not the pastor in chief, blah blah blah," Keller said. "What they have done is, they have totally dismissed the fact that this guy's influence is going to lead people to hell."

    Thankfully, the Romney camp portrays the division in terms that the common evangelical will understand, reflecting the great importance that these people supposedly place on a person's faith:
    "It's Pepsi vs. Coke," said one Romney campaign aide, describing the differences between evangelical Protestants and Mormons. "But sometimes Pepsi and Coke have to team up to stop Starbucks from taking over the market." Starbucks, of course, represents secular America, which favors gay marriage, legal abortion and the minimization of religion in public life.

  • Check out Ted Rall's column on the pandering to Christian groups being done by the candidates from both parties, and Craig Unger's telling of the real story behind Bush's religious "awakening."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

More on journalism, media choices...

Lightning-quick list of articles for this week's 'toon. Everything except for newspapers... I've been working on a bigger post/rant about them...
  • Eric Boehlert writes that "the joke is on the press" when it comes to Stephen Colbert's "candidacy" for president. Boehlert makes this excellent point:
    That's because the press has decided to cover presidential candidates as celebrities, as personalities. This media phenomenon became enshrined during the 2000 contest, when the press announced that presidential campaigns were no longer about how candidates might function as presidents; what they might actually do as commander in chief. Instead, campaigns were about personalities -- which candidate was fun to be around and which one was authentic.

    However, Boehlert himself seems to miss the point a little, when he suggests that since Colbert is a comedian, he does not think elections are serious business. To be more specific, Colbert is not simply a "comedian," he is a satirist... he would not be making jokes about this stuff if he didn't think it was important. "Serious journalists" (and people who like to portray themselves as such) often lament the fact that so many people get their news from "fake news" shows like the Daily Show, but this minimizes the true power of political satire. It is commentary, that happens to use sarcastic humor as a delivery method.

  • Tim Russert is rightly being criticized for his handling of the recent Democratic debates, particularly when he asks questions like, "there's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values... I want to ask you a simple question. Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?" Paul Waldman says this encapsulates everything that is wrong with Russert, a guy who never misses a chance to remind people that he's just a regular Joe from Buffalo, but in reality is a guy who "stands atop the insider media establishment."

  • Check out an older article by Jack Shafer on the Fox News/talk-radio formula, which of course is not actually based on journalism but rather entertainment. Certainly, teasers for stories about Barack Obama making little children cry (which are later admitted to be untrue) would fall under this formula. Which is supposed to be the "fake news" again?

    Meanwhile, "serious journalist" Wolf Blitzer continues to hammer away on the Democrats for the "notion" that they are "weak on national security."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fighting Words: 11/5/07 Cartoon...

"Media Menu"...

I'm kind of on an alliterative roll lately with my media themes:

Friday, November 02, 2007

About Damn Time...

Veto override #1 is on the way.

Bush just doesn't give a damn who he's screwing these days, as long as he can try to stick it to Congress...

More on Iran attack innuendo...

Obviously, this week's 'toon is part a series that takes place in a parallel universe where the hippocratic oath doesn't exist.

Here are some articles:
  • Glenn Greenwald has an excellent, on-point blog post on the "intellectual cowardice" of neo-cons who make implied threats up to a point, but avoid being specific enough (even when pushed) to leave any evidence in case someone calls them psychopaths. In this way, they're not unlike political satirists... except I don't help formulate public policy. And I don't make psychopathic arguments...

    On the other hand, not all Bushies deal solely in innuendo. Every now and then, one of them slips up and makes a comment that gives us real insight into their thinking... something like "I hate all Iranians." Of course, I've already covered Norman Podhoretz, who "hopes and prays" that we "bomb the Iranians into smithereens." It is thanks to his influence that the administration's discussion on Iran "has lost all connection to reality," according to Fareed Zakaria.

    It has been abundantly clear for a while that the most visible force pushing for war with Iran is our sleepy Vice President. Apparently, Cheney and his staff are such big fans of war, they'll even root for a strike against American troops so they can go ahead with an "accidental" war:
    One member of Cheney's national security staff, David Wurmser, worried out loud that Cheney felt that his wing was "losing the policy argument on Iran" inside the administration -- and that they might need to "end run" the president with scenarios that may narrow his choices. The option that Wurmser allegedly discussed was nudging Israel to launch a low-yield cruise missile strike against the Natanz nuclear reactor in Iran, thus "hopefully" prompting a military reaction by Tehran against U.S. forces in Iraq and the Gulf. When queried about Wurmser's alleged comments, a senior Bush administration official told the New York Times, "The vice president is not necessarily responsible for every single thing that comes out of the mouth of every single member of his staff."

    I had to read that paragraph a couple of times, it's so freaking unbelievable.

  • If you're wondering how I can justify calling them psychopaths, do me a favor -- take a look at this picture. This may seem like a rather obvious question, but given what they've already done up to this point, at what point can we officially start considering our decision-makers to be bloodthirsty crazy-people? When exactly are they obligated as human beings to start wondering: what actually happens when we drop bunker-busters on neighborhoods? What happens when we destroy another culture that we know so little about?

    Not interested in the human toll of war? Not to worry... the Washington Post has you covered.

  • Retired four-star General Tony McPeak says:
    This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Brave New Designs

I contributed some designs to a T-Shirt contest being held by Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films, who make some great documentaries on important issues. Check out the designs here, and if you're so inclined, throw me a vote...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fighting Words: 10/29/07 Cartoon...

"On Their Deathbeds: Dick Cheney"...

It's a new one, I swear! See the previous episode:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More on Religion on the '08 Election...

This one was a repeat from a couple years ago, because I totally screwed myself like a moron on my cartoon schedule this week. My planned cartoon, which was about halfway done (I'll keep chewing on it... you'll be seeing it in the future), was on the pathetic toadying to the religious right being done by the Republican presidential candidates, especially by Rudy. It seems to me that this bunch of Republicans is even phonier than usual, partly because everybody except Rudy is resigned to losing. They're just half-assing at this point. Rudy, though, is spectacularly disengenuous... the man is just an incredible loser. He's going to be special... I really hope he's the candidate.

Meanwhile, the religious right (especially James Dobson) is pitching a fit because they don't think any of the Republican candidates have sufficient hatred for women and gays, among others. Dobson is threatening to throw his support to an unelectable third party candidate, which will probably split the Republican vote and kill his group's political influence for the forseeable future.

I'm lovin' it...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on Authoritarianism in America...

Quick list of articles and random notes for this week's 'toon, as I'm racing a dying battery thanks to yet another power outage. Seems the Pacific Northwest is now getting these "10 year storms" at least once a year now... and it's not even friggin' winter yet.
  • On authoritarianism, check out an excellent article on movement conservatism by Paul Krugman, and a 3-part series on conservative authoritarianism by John Dean (not his best-written work ever, but he makes some interesting points).

    Also, DNI Mike McConnell has been in the news a bit lately... here he asserts the White House position that any "debate" on the administration's shadowy surveillance programs "will kill Americans."

  • Speaking of surveillance, I was all set to link to this article about the Democrats holding firm on NOT giving retroactive immunity to telecom companies that dutifully handed over private information on their customers to the government. That was yesterday, this is today:
    At the start of the day, Democrats were confident that the measure would gain approval in the House despite a veto threat from President Bush. But after an afternoon of partisan sniping, Democratic leaders put off that vote because of a competing measure from Republicans that on its face asked lawmakers to declare where they stood on stopping Osama bin Laden from attacking the United States again.

    ...Democrats denounced the Republicans’ poison pill on Mr. bin Laden as a cynical political ploy and “a cheap shot.” But Democratic leaders realized that they were at risk of losing the votes of a contingent of more moderate Democrats who did not want to be left vulnerable for voting against a resolution to stop Al Qaeda, officials said.

    Holy shit. Add this to the failure to override Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill, and the Democrats are having themselves one hell of a week! (Note to idiot Democrats: I'm being sarcastic, you worthless jerk-offs.)

    In case you've missed it, the domestic surveillance issue came to the forefront again earlier this week, thanks to new reports that revealed more details about telecoms' involvement in the programs, including yet another report that these programs were initiated at least 6 months before 9-11.

  • On our inegalitarian society, Juan Cole says the Bush/Cheney model can more accurately be described as "Bonapartism," which he says means "the state rules in an authoritarian way and disregards the people, representing itself as the true representative of the business classes. In fact, it serves only a small spectrum of corporate cronies of the ruling elite, disadvantaging almost everyone else."

  • On torture and the "moral high ground," a NYT editorial asks a very simple question: Is this really who we are?

  • On detainees, the attorney who represented Jose Padilla wonders what would've happened if no one had bothered to fight on his behalf. This leads her to wonder:
    After all, if the government does indeed have the authority to hold citizens indefinitely, without formal charges or legal counsel, what good are our Constitutional rights to due process?

    Garrett Epps has the story of Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon lawyer who was thrown into a Portland lockup for two weeks and smeared in the press by the FBI, all seemingly based on the simple fact that he is a Muslim convert. Thankfully for the rest of us, he hasn't been wallowing in self-pity since then... he's been fighting the Patriot Act. And he's having some success.

    An interesting side-note from Glenn Greenwald on Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey, who apparently has shown a little bit of resistance to the administration on the issue of indefinite detention. Others maintain that Mukasey is not such a great guy.

  • On the emergence of new details on the megalomania of Cheney and Addington, brilliant writer Charlie Savage has a new book out on their 30-year quest to turn the presidency into a new American dictatorship.

    The new episode of Frontline, which I haven't watched yet, also has some new details on the power-madness of Cheney.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More on Supreme Court cases, Clarence Thomas' book...

Articles for this week's 'toon:
  • The Supreme Court reconvened last Monday, for what will most likely be another ugly term. You may recall, the most contentious cases from the last term were Parents Involved (public school integration), the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case (free speech), Ledbetter (pay discrimination based on gender), and Gonzales v. Carhart (abortion; see previous cartoon), the last two of which moved Justice Ginsburg to read her dissents aloud from the bench. Justice Breyer has accused the Roberts Court's conservative bloc of flouting stare decisis, and Arlen Specter claims there's going to be a Senate investigation of the decisions and of Roberts' and Alito's answers during their confirmation hearings.

    The upcoming docket should be a real doozy, though. The court will be answering questions on, among other issues, the Military Commissions Act (whether federal courts have jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees) and capital punishment (whether common lethal injection is "cruel and unusual" under the Eighth Amendment). Needless to say, stay tuned...

  • So Clarence Thomas has released his memoirs. Reportedly, within these pages he rehashes his infamous claims of racism in his 1991 confirmation hearings, compares himself to Tom Robinson from To Kill A Mockingbird, and comes off as extraordinarily bitter and slightly deranged (which is always good from a Supreme Court justice).

    Of course, among the first stops on his promotional tour was Sean Hannity's show (on the network owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the book publisher that gave Thomas a $1.5 million advance for his work) and a visit with his good buddy Rush Limbaugh (whose third marriage, which has already ended in divorce, was officiated by Thomas). So much for a sitting justice avoiding the "appearance of impropriety."

  • The always tactful Justice Scalia on Bush v. Gore back in January:
    "It's water over the deck — get over it."

    Meanwhile, Jeffrey Toobin reveals that Justice Souter seriously considered resigning after the decision was handed down.

  • The last square was a reference to the situation with renowned legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who was hired to be the dean of the new law school at UC Irvine, then fired for being "too politically controversial" (specifically, he wrote an op-ed criticizing Alberto Gonzales, although he's well-known for his commentary from the left), then rehired. I included this in the cartoon mainly to compare and contrast Chemerinsky's supposedly "controversial" actions with the behavior of the above justices.

Something occurred to me this week about doing caricatures of Supreme Court justices. Politicians may come and go... I'll probably have to stop talking about Bush and Cheney someday. But I can keep making fun of Scalia and Thomas FOREVER.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Overpaid Losers

Just as a reminder, in case you haven't heard this from me in a while: dear God, I love watching the Yankees get beat.

Especially in a crazy-ass game like last night's, where it seems the baseball gods themselves don't want them to win. Nothing quite as funny as seeing the Yankees implode because of a giant insect swarm on the field, while Jeter and A-Rod run around waving their arms and screaming "EEEEEWWW, bugs!"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More on Bush the Moron...

Pretty straight-forward cartoon this week... inspired by a few especially good gems from our favorite bad sitcom character who just happens to be real. No doubt you've already heard about most of these:
  • "The No Child Left Behind Act is working... as yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn..." (emphasis added)

    --Bush at a media event in New York, speaking to a group of schoolchildren.

  • "We're also talking to different finance ministers about how we can send a message to the Iranian government that the free world is not going to tolerate the development of know-how in how to build a weapon, or at least gain the ability to make a weapon." (emphasis added)

    --Bush at a recent D.C. speaking event.

  • "My advice to whoever will be our nominee is to reach out to the African-American community as well as other communities, because I believe we've got a very strong record when it comes to... fairness in justice." (emphasis added)

    --Recent Bush press conference.

  • "I heard somebody say, 'Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead!" (emphasis all his, which is what made it classic)

    --Bush in another recent press conference, in a bizarre attempt to justify the Iraq War.

  • Lastly, New York Times columnist David Usborne on Bush's recent address before the UN General Assembly:
    But the President, who used his appearance at the podium yesterday to call for a "mission of liberation" to bring democracy and human rights to countries under dictatorship or repressive rule, needs a little help in this regard.
    Heaven forefend that he mangles the names of Sarkozy, say, or Mugabe. We know this thanks to a snafu by the White House staff who mistakenly allowed a few journalists to glimpse a draft of the President's address complete with phonetic spellings in brackets to assist him with names of people and places. In the correct version for the press, they had been erased.

    ...[The] President's crib notes:
    Kyrgyzstan, KEYR-geez-stan
    Mauritania, moor-EH-tain-ee-a
    Mugabe, moo-GAH-bee
    Harare, hah-RAR-ray
    Sarkozy, sar-KO-zee
    Caracas, kah-RAH-kus

A lot of people complain that they're tired of the "Bush is an idiot" jokes, but I believe I will continue to enjoy talking about it long after he's out of office. It's the single biggest reason why he should've been gone a long time ago: he is not and has never been qualified to be President of the United States. All this quibbling about which scandal was the worst (Scooter Libby or the U.S. Attorney's scandal? WMD's or torture? Warrantless surveillance or tax cuts for billionaires?), when it should've been patently obvious to all of us very early on that the man lacked the intellectual capacity to appreciate the real-world consequences of the decisions he was making. Everybody knew he was simply a dimwitted frontman for extremists, we all knew nothing good could come of it, and yet all we could do was sit and watch events unfold. Who didn't know within 48 hours of Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast that New Orleans was going to get screwed on rebuilding?

Nonetheless, I think it won't be until we have a decade or two of separation from the Bush presidency before there is a real understanding within our society of just how embarrassing this chapter of American history has been...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More on Consumerism, Economic Inequality...

I'm pretty busy with a number of things right now, including getting ready to take off for Stumptown Comics Fest this weekend in Portland. I'll be doing a panel with Ted Rall, Matt Bors, Shannon Wheeler, Barry Deutsch, and Stephanie McMillan.

So, here's a very quick list of articles for this week's toon (which is a shame because some of them are damn good, and I'd love to blather on for a while... do yourself a favor and check them out):
  • See especially a really great piece by Bill McKibbon in Mother Jones called "Reversal of Fortune," about Americans' relentless accumulation of wealth and the correlation (or lack thereof) with just how happy we are.

    At the other end of the spectrum? "Freegans."

  • Paul Krugman argues that the administration's real goal this whole time has been simply to further economic inequality in America, and to find new ways to disenfranchise poor people. I agree.

  • Naomi Klein argues that the system that some fundamentalist capitalists (e.g. followers of Milton Friedman) seek in the United States not really capitalism at all, but rather corporatism. I agree with her, too.

  • Check out some great info on the modern-day scam of college loans:
    Median household incomes fell 2 percent between 2000 and 2006.

    Ccollege tuition rose 37 percent over the same period...

    The cost of private college is 57 percent of a median household income. That means that if a family with two children wants to send both kids to private college, it costs 114 percent of the household income...

    The behemoth Sallie Mae Corporation, manager of $123 billion in student loans, contributed $2.8 million to political campaigns between 1994 and 2006, two-thirds to Republicans.

    Sallie Mae’s profits nearly tripled from 2000 to 2006, from $500 million to $1.4 billion.

    ...Sallie Mae has one of the highest returns on revenue in the Fortune 500.
    But the government still subsidizes the interest rate and guarantees against default. No wonder Sallie is so happy.

    I found this especially interesting since I owe Sallie Mae a significant chunk of change myself. Congress is trying to pass a relief package to reduce the absurd cost of college tuition these days, but Bush has promised to veto. If he had his way, me and everyone else who's not in the upper .1% would be passing that shit off onto our grandchildren. Thankfully, it looks like he doesn't have the votes to avoid an override.

OK, that wasn't so quick... but you had to see that coming.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More on New Orleans, recovery...

Articles for this week's 'toon:
  • Bush was back in New Orleans last week, in an obligatory stop to mark the second anniversary of Katrina. And he brought good news to the townsfolk: he says things are "getting better" there! Just like they are in Iraq! (Speaking of which, if Blackwater gets booted out of Iraq, does this mean they'll have to go back to harassing the people of New Orleans for work?)

    Of course, the reality on the ground in New Orleans (as in Iraq) is a bit different than it is inside Bush's tiny, tiny brain. Workplace injustice is on the rise. FEMA is suppressing reports of dangerous levels of formaldehyde in their trailers. Federal aid is hopelessly stuck in a morass of bureaucracy, and Mississippi (with their redneck Republican governor) is getting a disproportionate share of the funds. Infrastructure in poor neighborhoods is gone, causing a dramatic rise in the crime rate and overflowing prisons. The overall death rate was up 47% last year. Shit, they've even got killer bees there.

    See my previous posts on some other Katrina/New Orleans issues.

  • Pulitzer Prize-winner and former N.O. resident John McQuaid has an excellent series of columns in Mother Jones about the Katrina recovery. In particular, he addresses the moral imperative of a "genuine national commitment" to protecting the entire U.S. coastline, not just New Orleans. He also takes a possibly sarcastic shot at those who suggest that we shouldn't be rebuilding New Orleans at all:
    Instead of addressing those questions, though, the national debate has stressed the idiosyncrasies of New Orleans. Some have written that French explorer Bienville made a mistake when, in 1718, he founded New Orleans on the fringe of a low-lying swamp dangerously close to Hurricane Alley. Others take it a step further and say that three centuries has been a good run, but it's time to give up. There's some truth to these statements—New Orleans' location on a low-lying, sinking river delta has indeed put it in a terrible predicament. But the underlying message is that Katrina was a fluke: that New Orleans' problems are unique and its existential concerns mostly irrelevant to the rest of the country. That may be comforting to people outside Louisiana. But it's not realistic.

  • One New Orleans author recently lamented how they're all "Oprah fodder," and how the superficial mainstream media had become a permanent fixture there. Personally, I don't want to be part of the deluge of generic, post-Katrina pop culture... but I also think it's important to keep talking about it. For example, I caught the last 40 minutes of K-Ville the other night... it's obviously a pretty silly show for the most part, but it I guess it was an honest attempt to deal with some of the issues.

    Fall is the time of year when I really miss living in New Orleans. While much of the rest of the country is kissing their summers goodbye, it's still beautiful in N.O.: mid-80's, and the humidity is even starting to die down. I haven't been back since the storm... but then, I don't have a taxpayer-funded jet to take me wherever I want to go. I suppose the best I can do is to stick to the issues, and to just try to convey why it's so important to me to begin with.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

What passes for turds these days...

Maybe I'm getting old or something, but this has got to be the worst friggin' song I've ever heard in my life. Straight to the top.

Seriously man, I grew up with "Ice Ice Baby" and "The Thong Song"... but I could actually feel myself getting dumber listening to this song.

Here's a pretty funny review of it, though.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More on Terror Rhetoric...

Articles for this week's 'toon:
  • So, as you're likely aware, Osama sent a new tape last week (two of them, actually). What cracks me up is how the media is reacting... not in a sober tone reflecting the significance of such an event in terms of national security and world affairs, but more like, "OhmyGod, did you see what Osama was WEARING?" or "that bad dye job on his beard is so passe." I guess there are some intelligence-related inferences that can be made from minute details like that... but this is a little ridiculous, don't you think?

    Of course, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh turned the tapes into an opportunity to call liberals and Democrats traitors.

    And then there's the White House response, which brought us right down to Osama's level and made the whole thing akin to a playground spitting contest between 8 year-olds.

  • The goal of this cartoon was to offer a comparison of Osama's "propaganda" with some of the recent gems from the experts in the genre: Cheney, Bush, and the rest of their team of scholars and gentlemen. First, Cheney gave a speech a few months ago (using language that would scare the crap out of John Rambo) in which he suggested that those who are in favor of withdrawal are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Then, while on his trip to Australia last week, Commander Cretin was overheard exclaiming that "WE'RE KICKIN' ASS!" in Iraq. He then challenged the Australian Prime Minister to a game of beer pong, with the loser having to run naked through the quad and around the girls' dorm.

    And then there's David Addington. A former White House lawyer by the name of Jack Goldsmith has a new book out called "The Terror Presidency," which portrays Addington as a deranged lunatic who says things like, "We're one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court." So you see, according to the Vice President's Chief of Staff, another terror attack would be a good thing! (By the way, my caricature is obviously not how Addington really looks... I wanted to give him a bit of a Charles Manson look.)

  • Check out Zbigniew Brzezinski on how the administration has created a "culture of fear" in America, a great commencement address by Mark Danner on the administration's use of wartime rhetoric, and Glenn Greenwald on the very real fear of many right-wingers that Islamists are coming to take over the country and impose sharia law.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More on Health Care...

Sources for this week's 'toon:
  • So, as you might have guessed, I finally got a chance to see Michael Moore's Sicko last week. I thought most of the film was excellent, a very impressive examination of the inequities of our health care "system" and comparative study of other countries' superior approaches to caring for the health of their citizens. I thought the most compelling argument for universal health care in the U.S. was the section on the old reliable, right-wing specter of "socialism," which of course is simply a code word to evoke the red scare. Moore gives a list of public services in this country which, by the definition of many on the right, would have to be considered "socialism." Mailmen? Socialists. Librarians? Socialists! Public school teachers? Socialists!! Police, fire, and military? SOCIALISTS!!

    Ralph Nader agrees that the movie is good, but now he wants to know where the movement for real change is going to come from. He laments the fact that movies only seem to stir up peoples' indignation on stuff for short periods of time.

  • Check out Paul Krugman's expose on the right's "socialism" bogeyman, as well as the Heritage Institute's efforts to attack proposals to expand SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program).

    The Heritage Institute's arguments against SCHIP are well summed up in this cartoon by August Pollak from a couple weeks ago... they take a perfectly reasonable sentence (like "nearly three out of every four children would be eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health care"), and simply add an exclamation point and/or tone of outrage to it.

  • Of course, when Sicko first came out, there were quite a few good columns on the subject, many of which were written by Krugman (predictably). In particular, he has us off to a good start in exposing the ultra-conservative underbelly of brand new presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

    Amanda Marcotte has Prezzidint Pipsqueak's quote on the subject, "people have access to health care in America... you just go to the emergency room." And, check out Barbara Ehrenreich's excellent post:
    Once, many years ago, I complained to the left-wing economist Paul Sweezey that America had no real health system. "We have a system all right," he responded, "it's just a system for doing something else." A system, as he might have put it today, for extracting money from the vulnerable and putting it into the pockets of the rich.

  • Turns out the Dubster himself was treated for Lyme Disease last year. I'm guessing he has pretty good coverage, though...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More on Bush Iraq Rhetoric, VFW Speech...

Articles for this week's 'toon:
  • Anyone see anything a little incongruous between recent claims that "the surge is working," and the almost daily reports of record-breaking suicide bombings in Iraq? Even Hillary is apparently lauding the surge as being successful. The reality on the ground seems to be quite different, as many who have directly observed events there say "we have failed on every promise."

    So there appears to be a great deal of doubt over whether the surge is producing any meaningful results, which would merit our continued presence in Iraq. The question is, for people who are so consistently and completely WRONG on important decisions like this, at what point do they totally forfeit the benefit of the doubt? Shoulda been a hell of a long time ago, shouldn't it?
  • Ari Fleischer's got a new little club of fun-loving guys, whose main goal is to produce ads connecting Iraq to 9-11, and then criticize people who ask them about it for "reliving old debates." Do yourself a favor and watch this clip of him on Hardball... never seen (guest-host) Mike Barnicle before, but he seems to have a knack for throwing out a good question every now and then.

  • So the Prezdint Professor-man gave a speech at the VFW national convention, where he gave us all a much-needed lecture on the simple lessons of America's past wars. You see, in Japan and Korea, we did whatever it took (think Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and the outcome was totally good. In Vietnam, we lost our will (after 15-some odd years of war) and retreated like a bunch of wussies, and the result was a total disaster. So, the reason Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket is the galling lack of will on the part of those who criticize the war (all 210 million of us)... it's our fault, not his. It's just that simple. Maybe if all of us anti-war types spent a little less time complaining and a little more time reading Graham Greene, we'd know what we are talking about.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Eat me, Apple

I may or may not have a "Moron" post for you this week, so you may have to do without articles for this week's 'toon. Devastating, I know... but my power adapter for my Mac Powerbook finally bit the dust, and all my articles are on my hard drive.

It looks like this has been a huge problem with Powerbooks, judging by the comments on the Apple store page. However, Steve Jobs' secret to generating profit has apparently been to manufacture substandard parts for his products, and then charge ridiculous fees for replacement parts. 80 bucks for a power cord?! As I recall, they gave me a similar explanation for why a new battery is not covered under my AppleCare policy, because the battery is considered an "accessory" that is "external" to the computer. Computers don't run very well without power, though, do they?!

Which leads me back to the title of this post...

Needless to say, I'm a little pissed at Apple lately.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fighting Words: 8/20/07 Cartoon...

"Media Machine!"...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More on wiretapping, the Protect America Act...

Quick list of articles for this week's 'toon:
  • See Charles Babington on the Protect America Act, which may effectively "grant the attorney general the ability to wiretap anybody, any place, any time without court review, without any checks and balances." Apparently, the Dems were in a hurry to get their August vacations started and didn't think this sounded all that important. But, hey, it's not like the administration just acknowledged that the little domestic surveillance programs that they'd previously admitted to were actually part of a gigantic spying operation involving data-mining and eavesdropping on (possibly) millions of ordinary Americans, right?


    Aziz Huq teaches us the 3-step dance that helped the administration push this bill through Congress.

  • Check out Joe Conason on our fading democracy, John Dean on a historical perspective on Bush's handling of free speech issues, and Joseph A. Palermo, who cites Chalmers Johnson when making the statement that we may be one terror attack away from a form of military dictatorship.

  • Here's a disturbing trend that you may want to think about before you go out to buy your iPhone: backdoors in all your favorite products for the government to spy on you. The possibilities are limitless. How about tiny microphones on to-go cups for your Starbucks lattes? Mini data-recorders in Trojan condoms?

    And what the hell is up with Apple? This is the second time I've read about something like this with them...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More Commercial Art...

I've updated my big Commercial Art post with a bunch of new entries to my portfolio, including more Democratic candidate designs (Nader and Biden), a company logo for a local cafe, a design for a gift shop in the Pike Place Market, a shirt design for an Aikido seminar this weekend, and a design I threw together for a shirt for next weekend's Hempfest in Seattle (hint: it's Dick Cheney smoking a doob):

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More on the Alaskan Way Viaduct...

Coincidentally, I was planning on doing something on one of Seattle's own disaster-prone bridges for this week's toon before the disaster in Minnesota happened...

For readers outside Seattle, the Alaskan Way Viaduct is a butt-ugly, elevated freeway in the downtown area that has been a source of great controversy over the years. The viaduct is one good ground-shake away from completely falling to the ground, possibly in a manner similar to San Francisco's Cypress Street Viaduct, which came down during the '89 Loma Prieta earthquake. For quite a few years now, local government entities have bickered like children over the best way to handle the viaduct problem, with little progress made on coming up with a final solution.

Clearly, doing nothing with the viaduct is not an option, unless we want to see the thing collapse in rush-hour traffic like 35W did in Minneapolis. Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire has decided that the only option is to replace the viaduct with an even bigger, "butt-uglier" elevated freeway to accommodate all the people who just have to drive their cars everywhere. Mayor Greg Nickels wants a super-cool tunnel to replace the viaduct, a tricky and expensive project that would probably end up bearing a disturbing resemblance to Boston's Big Dig. Both of these choices are wrong, though...

What's the right choice? Tear the sucker down!

The People's Waterfront Coalition site has a good roundup of the arguments and numbers involved in the fight over the viaduct. A new elevated freeway would cost $3 billion, and wouldn't be fully open until 2020. A new tunnel could cost at least $4.5 billion, and who knows when that thing would be completely done. For that kind of money, the best choice would be to tear down the viaduct and invest in making surface street improvements, redirecting traffic out into arterials, and repairing the crumbling seawall.

But most importantly, we could afford to finally start investing in public transit. Every time I visit Washington, D.C., I am really impressed with how easy to learn and use their metrorail system is. And every time I get back from a city like that, I find myself pissed off that we Seattleites (who are supposed to be "enlightened" on environmental issues) don't have something like that here. Seattle has a bus system, but it is extremely unreliable and, of course, vulnerable to traffic jams.

Nickels has received all kinds of accolades for being an "environmental hero" and a "rising green star," but take one look at the ridiculous traffic here and something doesn't smell quite right (literally and figuratively). Any promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Seattle are meaningless unless something is also done to break Seattleites of our car addictions. As Erica Barnett notes in an outstanding article, no other city in the world is building a new elevated freeway; in fact, cities like Portland, Chattanooga, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Sydney, Australia are actually tearing them down. By contrast, building a big new freeway here in Seattle would be "inducing demand"... people are gonna drive on it.

The viaduct runs right down the Elliot Bay waterfront, along property which would otherwise be extremely valuable were it not for the gigantic concrete monstrosity hovering over it. The new viaduct that Gregoire wants to build would be 71% larger than the current one, and would put 50% more of the waterfront in shade. Consider instead this vision of the waterfront, which would finally put this "amazing civic resource" to good use. An analogous situation would the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, which was demolished in favor of a surface street after the '89 earthquake. The result there has not been gridlock, but rather a decrease in traffic. People sought other options.

On March 13, voters in Seattle overwhelmingly rejected both the tunnel option and the new elevated freeway (the surface street option wasn't even included on the ballot). It looks like the State couldn't care less, though... they're just going to do whatever they want anyway.