Thursday, January 31, 2008

More on The Surge...

Really trying to pare down the content of these Moron posts. As any freelancer or cartoonist will tell you, the amount of time you have to do the things you want to do is finite. After you do the actual work (i.e. the cartoon), and the various little administrative business chores every week (organizing and whatnot), there are very few hours left to work on the big projects that will grow your business. These Moron posts are one of the things that should go for me... but I know I would have a hard time not talking about the issues I'm dealing with in at least a bit more detail than I cover in the cartoons.

So anyway... man, this week's cartoon was a pain. For some reason, it took forever for me to get this one together. I think it's because I have never really been into "high fantasy" medieval tales of knights and wizards and stuff. I've never seen any of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter movies from start to finish. Cartoons like this one are a lot easier, because I've been a giant Star Wars nerd my whole life and I know those movies backwards and forwards.

A few snippets:
  • Scott Ritter:
    The success of the surge is pure fantasy, a fancy bit of illusion that would do David Copperfield proud, but not the people of Iraq or the United States. The surge addresses events in Iraq based upon short-term objectives (i.e., reducing the immediate level of violence) without resolving any of the deep-seated, long-term issues that promote the violence to begin with. It is like placing a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound.

  • Faiz Shakir:
    the right wing is already beginning to declare victory. In November, after a trip to Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) began declaring that "we've succeeded militarily." His traveling companion, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) agreed, bellowing that "we are winning" because "we have made progress" in "one of the most remarkable turnarounds in modern military history."

  • Glenn Greenwald:
    No matter what else is true, our sprawling imperialism -- as has been true for every Empire in history -- is simply unsustainable. The very idea of staying in Iraq for the next several decades with tens of thousands of American troops, while we lavishly fund the grotesquely corrupt and un-American Private Republican Army of Blackwater, is both infeasible and self-destructive.

  • Juan Cole:
    When viewed from the vantage point of grand strategy, the Iraq War is as much a failure as it has always been. If someone came to you six years ago and said that for only $2 trillion, you could have for your colony a burned out country, a failed state, and a semi-permanent incubator of terrorism and hatred against the US, would you have ponied up the money? That's what you've got, and that is what it cost you. Detroit could have used some of that money. New Orleans could have used some of that money. [emphasis added]


    And anyway, if the US government had thrown the $2 trillion and more that Iraq will end up costing at green energy development, both we and the earth would have been far better off.

  • Andrew Bacevich:
    In President Bush's pithy formulation, the United States is now "kicking ass" in Iraq. The gallant Gen. David Petraeus, having been given the right tools, has performed miracles, redeeming a situation that once appeared hopeless. Sen. John McCain has gone so far as to declare that "we are winning in Iraq."

  • Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith:
    President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

  • One more thing: check out this incredible chart from the NYT on the military and police deaths in Iraq last year.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No... oh, no Rudy... say it ain't so

Yeah, like everyone who actually cares about issues, I'm bummed about Edwards dropping out. But I'm really upset about Rudy. The man had ZERO chance of winning, and would have provided endless amounts of rat-faced entertainment throughout the unbelievably long slog that will be the 2008 campaign. Transparently unqualified? Check. Mentioning 9/11 every third word? Check. Possible mob ties? Check. Dammit, don't drop out, Rudy!

Everybody: Ruuu-dee, Ruuu-dee, Ruuu-DEE, Ruuu-DEE!, RUUU-DEE!, RUUU-DEE!!, RUU-DEE!!...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fighting Words: 1/28/08 Cartoon

"The Legend of Iraqia"...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fighting Words News: I'm Web-Literate...

No "moron" post this week, as the cartoon was a repeat. Trying to head off at the pass some minor creative burnout...

However, after months of dabbling, I have finally become comfortable enough with Dreamweaver that I was able to overhaul the Store page all by my lonesome. I plan to devote a couple hours a week to getting better with this stuff, so be on the lookout for all kinds of developments on my site: ads, a donation button, this "MySpace" fad I've heard about, moving the blog to my server, and, hopefully, new products (including a book!). Most importantly, I can finally give my awesome friend and webmaster Jim a break, since he's been doing this stuff for me for free all this time.

How momentous is this development for me? Let me put it this way: I teach a kids' class in Aikido, and one of them was telling me the other day that he is fluent in Dreamweaver and has already created a few websites (confirmed by his dad). So, I have finally reached the level of computer expertise of a modern-day 10 year-old. I'm so proud of myself...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fighting Words: 1/21/08 Cartoon

"Back to the 80's!"...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More on CNN's "reality TV" stars, election coverage...

God I love making fun of CNN. They're so... so... awful.

Articles for this week's 'toon:
  • If you watched even a few minutes of election coverage last week, chances are you felt like me... that if they talked about Hillary's "meltdown" or uttered the phrase "change agent" one more time, it would take all your strength not to put a freakin' axe through the TV. Even more, the mainstream media seems to have no problem reporting on the phenomenon that is their own hysteria (and the public backlash taking the form of votes that contradict the pundits' predictions), and then going right back to the business of acting all hysterical-like.

    Danny Schechter on what he calls "electotainment:"
    [Americans are] tired of self-promotional media exploitation and anchor-pimping/corporate news brand-building with staged events that do little to engage us with real choices and issues, but instead provide on-air “talent” with another chance to show how much smarter they are than everyone else.
    I would argue that their real obsession is with showing just how much access they have, how "plugged-in" they are. See John King below.

  • So the leader of the self-proclaimed (REPEATEDLY) "best political team on television" is, of course, he of well-groomed facial hair... the one they call "Wolf" (I've read in various places that his real first name is "Leslie"... none of them are very reliable sources, but it's enough for me to make a joke about it). Matthew Yglesias argues, with good cause, that "Blitzer doesn't care about informing the public about the issues -- he actually objects when candidates try to explain their views on broad immigration policy issues -- he's just interested in trying to embarrass the candidates."

    Glenn Greenwald has been arguing lately that the media, and CNN in particular, are absolutely in love with John McCain. Here is Greenwald (in a different post) making his case:
    [I'm focusing] on the fact that the traveling press corps endlessly imposes its own narrative on the election, thereby completely excluding from all coverage plainly credible candidates they dislike (such as Edwards) while breathlessly touting the prospects of the candidates of whom they are enamored.
    Apparently, John King took exception to Greenwald's criticism of him in one of these recent posts, and pitched a fit in an e-mailed response. As Greenwald points out, King's defense is a pretty common one from the mainstream media, pointing to criticism from the right as evidence of just how "balanced" they are, and implicitly boasting about how important they are. I remember reading similar reasoning in an interview with Aaron Brown, just before he was shitcanned for being unwatchable. Of course, none of that has anything to do with their real job as journalists... seeking the truth.

    Case-in-point: the infamous "diamonds or pearls" debate question. Jamison Foser points out that while media outlets like CNN have found time in the debates to ask about the candidates' Halloween costumes and Dennis Kucinich's UFO sighting, there has been a dearth of questions on issues that are actually important. There has been basically none on probably the most vital issue we face today, global warming.

  • And then, of course, there's the rabble that has no place being within 10 miles of "serious journalism"... your Kristols, Roves, Becks, and Matthewses. I could not believe my freakin' eyes the other day when I turned on CNN and saw none other than Ralph Reed. Are you serious?? Wasn't it just a few months ago that his high-placed role in Jack Abramoff's sleaze ring was revealed? Not even a period of exile so he can be "rehabilitated" from the scandals that (should have) left him completely discredited?

    People like John King may like to pretend they are serious journalists, but as long as they share the desk with people like Ralph Reed, it's all just one big "reality" show.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fighting Words: 1/14/08 Cartoon...

"Real World: CNN"...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It has to start some place, it has to start sometime...

Something caught my eye in the latest issue of National Geographic. In the Dec. issue, check out the article on "Bethlehem 2007"... specifically the photo of the gas station on a "once busy commercial street," now fenced off on the Palestinian side of the Israeli security wall. You can't really see it in the online version of the photo, but in the print version, you can see that someone has scrawled a Zach de la Rocha quote from a Rage song on the wall.

For some reason, that just blows me away. That would have to be the ultimate form of flattery for an artist.

More on CIA Torture Tapes...

Some articles for this week's 'toon:
  • My reaction to the CIA torture tape-destroying scandal: why exactly would you make a tape in the first place? Of course, every sane person in the world already knows that torture is reprehensible, particularly when the person you're torturing is borderline retarded... it's hardly a surprising revelation about our psychopathic government these days. What's truly shocking to me is that they would be so stupid that they'd make a videotape and leave it sitting around to be leaked. It's clear they knew they were doing something wrong, or at least something that would be perceived badly by the public. Reportedly, the tapes were destroyed because "officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy." Likewise, it should've been clear that the tapes were going to be leaked to the public at some point... simply because everything of that nature is eventually leaked. Supposedly, the tapes were made as an "internal check," but nothing I've read has expounded on this explanation.

    So, in other words, it sort of reminded me of a celebrity making a sex tape...

  • I found this article in the Los Angeles Times particularly funny. The article describes the CIA as being "almost tribal in nature," in the sense that "they believe that no one else will look out for them so they have to look out for themselves." As a result, Jose Rodriguez, the head of the agency's clandestine service, felt he was "doing the right thing" by ordering the destruction of the tapes because he was protecting the identities of undercover agents. The obvious question here is: if these are people who act according to such righteous ideals, then why the hell were they torturing people?

  • Was it illegal? You bet your ass:
    In the course of the last few years, we have seen a number of wannabe macho federal prosecutors utilize obstruction statutes to go after businessmen (a couple of investment bankers and accountants come to mind) who were a bit too quick to turn to the shredder, usually under circumstances which were extremely ambiguous. The prosecutors used all the power and force associated with their office to attempt to criminalize these acts. This case is quite different. It is openly, clearly and undeniably criminal obstruction.

    Reportedly, the judge in the Moussaoui case is seriously pissed, as the administration told her before the tapes were destroyed that they didn't exist at all. Likewise, in 2005, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy ordered the administration to safeguard “all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.”

    All of this is to say nothing of the fact that "legality" of the practice of torture by our government is entirely based on John Yoo's torture memo, which Scott Horton argues "as worthless a determination as has ever appeared within a rifleshot of the Potomac."

Monday, January 07, 2008

Fighting Words: 1/7/08 Cartoon

"C.I.A. Film School"...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

First, I'd like to thank Vishnu...

I had an idea on my list of "cartoons to do" about Mike Huckabee as a fundamentalist Hindu... a commentary on the total vanishing of any notion of religious pluralism in our political discourse.

Ted Rall beat me to it. Great 'toon... check it out.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

More on Democrat Whispering...

My guess is that the Dog Whisperer is one of those shows that people just don't "get" unless they have a dog themselves. This is unfortunate, because I think the "training" that Cesar does on that show is more beneficial to the humans than it is to the dogs. Personally, I am obsessed with that show... the techniques that he uses really click with me. Of course, it helps that I have the best dog on the face of the earth. And nobody can prove otherwise, dammit.

Anyway, I'm going to try to make these "Moron" posts a bit less substantive for a while, as I'm finally starting to make some tangible progress in my behind-the-scenes Fighting Words business. A couple of points that I wanted to make about this week's 'toon, though:
  • Glenn Greenwald has been all over the subject of congressional Democrats' misconduct lately. His argument is that "the Democratic Party in Congress is largely controlled and led by those who have enabled and affirmatively supported the worst aspects of the Bush foreign policy and the most severe abuses of our country's political values." Specifically:
    The Washington Post reports today that the Bush administration, beginning in 2002, repeatedly briefed leading Congressional Democrats on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees -- including, at various times, Jay Rockefeller, Nancy Pelosi, and Jane Harman -- regarding the CIA's "enhanced interrogation methods," including details about waterboarding and other torture measures. With one exception (Harman, who vaguely claims to have sent a letter to the CIA), these lawmakers not only failed to object to these policies, but affirmatively supported them.
    Jay Rockefeller was one of the key Democrats briefed on the torture methods who never objected. But it's far worse than that. In September, 2006, Rockefeller was one of 12 Senate Democrats to vote in favor of the Military Commissions Act, one of the principal purposes of which was to explicitly authorize the CIA's "enhanced interrogation program" to proceed (even though it continues to be illegal under the Geneva Conventions).

    Also, Greenwald makes this point about Dianne Feinstein:
    Two months ago, Dianne Feinstein used her position on the Senate Intelligence Committee to enable passage of Bush's FISA amendments, granting the President vast new warrantless surveillance powers.
    Last month, Feinstein used her position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure confirmation of Bush's highly controversial judicial nominee Leslie Southwick, by being the only Committee Democrat to vote for the nomination (The Politico: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein had emerged as a linchpin in the controversial nomination").
    This week, Feinstein used her position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to enable confirmation of Bush's Attorney General nominee by ensuring that the frightened Chuck Schumer didn't have to stand alone.

    Why would she do this? Check out a previous Greenwald post, where he suggests it may have something to do with her husband getting rich off her political connections.

    Meanwhile, Harry Reid seems to think that the real political enemy today is "[Chris] Dodd and his allies," not George W. Bush. This after the former threatened to filibuster Reid's feverish attempts to capitulate to the administration on a bill that would have given retroactive immunity to telecom companies that broke the law when they helped the government spy on us.