Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Postscript to last weekís cartoon: Several readers wrote in with their own addenda to the list of kickiní grievances against George Bush. Cheryl wrote, "And this is for blaspheming scientific data!" Cybele wanted me to give him an extra kick "For making My Pet Goat a title infused with irony and derision, at least for the next twenty years." Another reader sent me a tacit suggestion in the form of a link to an aluminum baseball bat.
Iím writing this artistís statement in Tompkins Square Park on a lovely Memorial Day morning. Basically, The Pain is on vacation this week while I move from Winter H.Q. in Manhattan back to my Undisclosed Location on the Chesapeake Bay for the summer, so you get this crappy cartoon. Itís the closest Iíve ever come to drawing a mainstream, family-daily editorial cartoon, except for the flatus. When George Bush gave his prime-time speech in immigration policy a couple of weeks ago my friend Ben and I went out of our way to find a bar with a TV that would be uncrowded enough that we could control programming and volume. (You canít imagine what a pleasant novelty it is to have to go out of your way to find a bar with a TV---thatís one of the advantages of New York.) As usual, the Presidentís speech was devoid of content. As far as I could ascertain, he was just trying to sound reasonable and moderate and Presidential and change the national subject to anything other than the blood circus in Iraq. Although I had tuned in specifically to scrutinize his face for signs of stress or weariness or some vague recognition that his Presidency was now in the steaming shithole of history, instead, inevitably, I ended up feeling sorry for him. He was trying so hard to make sense. As has been noted before, I am an idiot. This is a stupid visceral reaction that shouldnít affect our sane moral response to this President and his administration. Read this Memorial Day story in The Times about children whose parents were killed in Iraq and then try to think of one good reason why George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, and all the other architects of the invasion shouldnít be hanging from lampposts on Pennsylvania Avenue.
In hopes of compensating you for this cartoon, let me direct you all to our new, fully updated and refurbished letters page, complete with photos of me and the lovely Ms. Phelætia Czochula-Hautpänz and crazy go-go music! Thanks to Phelætia for her prompt and thoughtful attention to all my reader mail, to Sam Holden for the photos, and to Webmaster Dave for the update, slideshow, and the crazy go-go music. Go to work, Miss Hautpänz!
Let me also pad out this artistís statement with a few book recommendations. A reader recommended John Perkinsís Confessions of an Economic Hit Man several weeks ago, and itís really essential reading, a rare tell-all from an insider in the global corporatocracy. Perkins describes in clear detail how the American Empire functions: we colonize countries not through expensive and cumbersome conquest but by loaning them staggering sums to modernize, which loans render them so cripplingly indebted to the United States that they become, in effect, satellite nations. Also these modernization projects are contracted exclusively to American corporations, so that most of that money comes back to us, the rest further bloating the ruling junta or family and ensuring their dependence on the U.S. On paper the economy grows, even though the gap between rich and poor invariably widens and life gets worse for the impoverished majority. The few national leaders who have resisted this process have been called communists or drug lords or terrorists and overthrown by CIA-sponsored coups, died in freak accidents, or, as a last resort, deposed in military invasions. This, he ventures to suggest, is Why They Hate Us.
But the book Iím currently boring friends, colleagues, and strangers in bars by enthusiastically describing is Matt Taibbiís Spanking the Donkey, which I came across entirely by coincidence during a google search on spanking. Itís a collection of Taibbiís essays on the 2004 Presidential election, originally published in the New York Press, Rolling Stone, and The Nation. He is the only worthy successor to Hunter S. Thompson that Iíve read. If you enjoy these artistís statements you will love Taibbiís writing more, since he is smarter and funnier than I am and actually knows things instead of just having opinions. He even joined the Bush campaign in Florida to gain some understanding of the Republican mentality. (His insights are surprising; they resent Democrats because they think of us as the cool kids.) He concludes that the worst consequence of the 2004 election is not that Bush was reëlected--although he acknowledges that Bush is a moron and a monster--but that it reaffirmed the fiction that presidential campaigns mean anything. Always, he argues, weíre given a choice between two Ivy-League millionaire stuffed suits who are wholly owned by corporate America and differ only over the very narrow range of legislative quibbles that pass for issues. I myself would not go quite this faróundoubtably we would be living in a very different, and far better, world if Al Gore had been President for the last six years instead of El Fucko. Weíd have done something about global warming, for starters, and more than two thousand Americans and thirty thousand Iraqis would still be alive, which is no small matter. But are the Democrats going to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, or create a single-payer universal health care system, or get us out of Iraq now that weíre in? Donít kid yourself. Theyíll do exactly what the Republicans do: whatever their corporate campaign donors tell them to. Ultimately, Taibbi believes, the Democrats canít win elections because they donít have any vision to offer America beyond consumer choice, sexual freedom, and the existential blahs. The Republicansí vision is childish and barbaric vision, but at least they have one. Also there is an interview with Osama bin Laden in which Osama confesses, "I lie awake at night worrying that [George Bush] is sillier than me."
Next up on my reading list is Dark Ages America, by Morris Berman. This should cheer me up.