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