Viva Las Vegas

Well, more accurately, Henderson. Along with fellow cartoonist-blogger Tom Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking and signing books at next week’s Vegas Valley Book Festival in Henderson, NV, a stone’s throw from Sin Strip, on Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25. I’ll be talking about my graphic travelogue “To Afghanistan and Back.”

More on the Comments Feature

Thanks for the e-mailed advice that I could add a comments feature while sorting out the asshole Bushites. But from what I hear, that would still require a lot more hourly monitoring than I’m prepared to devote to this blog. Maybe I could include a test to post that would filter them out, like quizzing them on why Bush lost the 2000 election!

The Horrible Truth About Art Comics and/or Postmodernism

Today’s New York Times puff piece on comix underachiever Art Spiegelman (Maus, bad New Yorker covers, nothing else worth mentioning) started me thinking about how artists work around their shortcomings. People like me, who have no shortage of ideas but aren’t the best draughtsmen around, end up doing smart, wordy cartoons for alternative newspapers using styles that allow us to avoid having to do a lot of detailed rendering. In other words, we work around our drawing handicaps.

Others have noticed that.

What people may not have noticed, or what I haven’t heard at any rate, is that a lot of trendy art comics types, like, say, Chris Ware and almost everyone working in contemporary fiction, work around their lack of ideas with a lot of dazzling artwork and typography.

Pick up a copy of Ware’s “Quimby Mouse” in a bookstore near you–don’t buy it, you’ll just want to bring it back–and you’ll see what I mean. The damned thingn is beautiful. Unbelievably pretty. And there isn’t a single idea in the whole goddamned book. But people buy it, and pretend that they “get it” when there’s nothing to get, because they feel stupid admitting that they don’t get it. And also because they can’t imagine that such an accomplished artist could be so bereft of original–hell, any–thought.

I’m thinking that postmodernism/deconstructionism is essentially a plot by folks without ideas to convince the world that an absence of ideas is itself an idea. The emperor, no clothes, you know.

So a world divided between idea people and art people has become a world divvied up between smart people who can’t draw and dumb people who can. Bee-yutiful.


Imagine my consternation upon publishing this week’s column. A few hours after writing the following…

Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad have carried out horrendous attacks in Israel. Many innocent people have been killed. But these groups don’t have WMDs. And they’ve never indicated an interest in attacking Americans.

this happens. Of course, there’s no evidence that a Palestinian group was involved. But the fact that it occured in Gaza sure makes it look that way. So I’m waiting for the inevitable e-mails that say “see? they DO target Americans!” Well, maybe they do…now. If so, that’s a new development, one that certainly wasn’t true when Bush implied that it was.

The Bushies have a lot of problems with the time-space continuum. They like to say, for instance, that Clinton made a strong WMD case against Saddam in the ’90s, so why are Democrats arguing against the same WMD case in the ’00s? The answer is that time passed: Saddam destroyed his WMDs in accordance with UN requirements between 1998 and 2003. The inspections worked.

Similarly, Hamas et al have never deliberately targeted Americans. At least not until now–and whatever they’re up to now doesn’t change the fact that Bush lied through his simian teeth.

Why No Comment Function?

When I was researching the whole blogging thing, a cartoonist pal strongly advised me against including a comment feature in my blog. After I spent a few months reading hundreds of political blogs, particularly among the minority of bloggers opposed to Bush’s fascist takeover, I understood why. A comment feature, in an ideal world, would allow people to discuss issues in a civilized way. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and what happens in reality is that a bunch of right-wing maniacs link to your blog and encourage their right-wing maniac friends, all of whom should be in Gitmo rather than running free, to post insults in the comments section.

Yes, there are people for whom the highlight of their day is to post “Ted Rall is a commie asshole” on the Internet. Those people are welcome to post such illuminating messages on their own blogs.

Central Asia Water Wars

Ah, the irony. There you are, sitting on top of the world’s largest untapped oil reserves, enough oil to put the Saudis out of business, so much Caspian Sea oil that the United States invaded Afghanistan just to run a pipeline from your oil to the Indian Ocean, and you just don’t have enough water. Seems the Soviets knew a few things that US-backed Third World autocrats don’t, eh? Anyway, check out the piece; it’s a telling example of post-USSR problems in Central Asia.

Best Bush Quote of the Day

There’s a sense that people in America aren’t getting the truth.

Believe it or not, that’s Bush claiming that things in Iraq are better than the media says. In reality, of course, they’re much worse, but Republicans are amazing. No matter how great they’ve got it, they never, ever stop. They’re like the Terminator. Even when they win, they press on for further gains. When Democrats win, which hasn’t happened for a long time, they consider the battle won and move on the next issue. Not Republicans. They’ve got the Iraq spin machine working wonders, but they insist that the media should tell everything–not just 95%–their way.

Everyone should learn from their over-the-top tactics.

Of Course It’s UnConstitutional

So the US Supreme Court is going to rule whether the McCarthy-era bastardization of the Pledge of Allegiance–the “one nation, under God” part was added by right-wing lunatics who thought they were differentiating the US from the “Godless” Soviet Union–will continue to be recited by millions of schoolchildren, many of them atheist.

Let’s hope the new, saner, post-sodomy ruling Supreme Court will do the right thing and affirm the 9th District Court of Appeals ruling that declared the Christianized Pledge unconstitutional.

This case represents an important opportunity to put a halt to a national effort aimed at removing any religious phrase or reference from our culture,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a law firm founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson.

Mr. Sekulow may have missed high school history, but this isn’t Afghanistan. We live in a secular country. Religion is a private matter. Neither the state nor its representatives should ever discuss religion in any form in a public forum. Duh.

Criticizing Israel Doesn’t Make You Anti-Semitic

Jon is one of the more thoughtful respondents who had a beef with last week’s cartoon about “Israeli Policy Fantasies”:

Generally i think you are right on target about Bush but you have got it wrong on israel and palestinians. How about a cartoon showing arafat as a 2-bit dictator refusing a very very nice deal three years ago? Where is the biting satire when it comes to blowing up people celebrating a holiday or a wedding or sitting at their kitchen table?

My friend’s mother was blow to bits during a Seder in Israel 18 months

ago. Are the Palestinians defending themselves in this case?

I appreciate that strong ideas need strong ,almost hyperbolic rhetoric at times; but i urge you to consider a biting attack on Palestinian duplicity. I am fairly left-wing like you but you are pushing a doctrinaire line almost as bad as the rightists.

Jon raises some good points. Yassir Arafat is a corrupt turd whose corruption nearly erases the good he has done as the world’s highest profile Palestinian revolutionary. And anyone who fails to deplore terrorist attacks by Palestinians against innocent Israeli civilians is heartless and immoral.

This cartoon, however, isn’t meant to present a fair and balanced look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s simply making fun of the absurd argument, heard repeatedly in the media, that Israel is justified in doing just about anything–assassinating public officials, building Berlin Walls, launching rockets that miss their targets, invading Syria–to “defend” itself.

An analagous cartoon could obviously be done from the other point of view, with a Jewish victim of Palestinian terrorism saying that he doesn’t mind losing his family because, after all, the Palestinians were “merely” fighting for independence.

So why didn’t I do such a cartoon?

Because, first and foremost, you don’t hear Hamas or the PLO arguing that Israelis shouldn’t mind getting blown up. But also because an editorial cartoonist’s job is to defend the defenseless against the powerful, and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel has the overwhelming advantage in military, diplomatic and political terms. No one needs to come to the aid of the Israelis; they’re doing a great job themselves.

American media coverage of the Intifada is so one-sidedly pro-Israel, however, that it’s important to balance things out now and then. If it were the other way around, if Palestinian atrocities were always brushed off as the Israelis were condemned, I’d be moved to do a cartoon from the opposite viewpoint.

Karl Rove’s Trifecta

Generalissimo El Busho only employs one brain among his besitary of Ford Administration retreads, underqualified hacks and Uncle Toms: Karl Rove. And today is a big day for the chief strategist. After engineering the Florida 2000 judicial coup d’état that installed his boss and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s coup lite in California, he’s just pulled off the sleazy Texas redistricting Democrats tried to stop by fleeing to New Mexico.

For those who didn’t follow the story, redistricting is customarily done after each Census. Last time was 2001. But Texas Republicans, noting that custom isn’t law, used their power in the state assembly to take advantage of post-2001 demographic shifts. Anything for a few extra GOP Congressmen–as if they didn’t have enough already.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…it’s technically legal. But much of what goes on in government is the result of gentlemen’s agreements; now that this one has broken down, look for more such shenanigans on both sides. Redistricing is expensive–and we, the taxpayers, pay for it.