Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 1/31/07

Artist's Statement

This cartoon emerged out of a rare opportunity to once more sit with a friend in a bar for hours saying funny things. Last week my old friend Dave Dudley slept on my couch when he was in town to conduct an interview. On those precious few occasions when Dave is free of professional and family responsibilities, what he likes most to do in all the world is to drink beer after beer after beer. So that is what we did. He and I sat down in The Magician, a pleasant bar a few blocks from my apartment, and, as in days of old, did nothing but drink beers and say funny things, which I scribbled down in my little notepad to steal. This is only one of them. (Yet to come is the Lord Humongous Clock: his meaty arms tick down the minutes ‘til Peak Oil.) Later that night I ate a hot dog called The Stoner Special, topped with chili, cheese, and crumbled Fritos.

Thanks to the many old friends I mostly ignored while working on this cartoon all weekend at the kitchen table of a cabin in the Poconos. Special thanks to Emma, who suggested that there should be somebody sitting in the hot tub the cow was drinking from. When an eight-year-old is pointing out what seem, in retrospect, like very obvious ways in which your cartoon could be made funnier it might give you cause to wonder whether it is time to consider putting down your pen. But, on the other hand, stealing ideas has been my M.O. for years now and I don’t think there’s any age statute on the books for plagiarism. So thanks, Emma! I’ll hand over your 10% of the profit the next time I see you. Try not to spend it all in one candy store.

I believe the math in panel 2 really does add up, more or less. According to (which also provides you with a list of more realistic spending equivalents than my own, for namby-pampy liberal pipe dreams like education and health care), we’ve spent 362 billion dollars on the war in Iraq.* The United States population just recently hit the 300 million mark. There are a thousand millions in a billion, so the cost of Iraq works out to over a thousand dollars per person. (Right? Someone check my work here. I know it’s just an estimate. I can’t bget any more precise than that. My previous attempts to use even the most rudimentary arithmetic as a metaphor in my artist’s statements have proven to be embarrassments.) Which comes out to one high-end flatscreen HDTV (anywhere between $400 and $1800, depending) per person, or one hot tub (currently retailing at well over $3000) per family. I’d really wanted to use lap dances as a unit of measure, but with lap dances still going for a mere twenty bucks a pop it’d just be too many. I mean, really: who needs twenty lap dances? As long as you’re willing to debase yourself, for that price you might as well spring for a top-quality call girl for the night. Plus I can’t see this dour, prim administration springing for even one lap dance for anyone--not with the President surrounding himself with a celibate harem of spindly lady lawyers and preaching abstinence in Africa. Big Bill, on the other hand… maybe that could be one of his pet projects as First Dude, just like literacy is for Laura. Lap Dances for New Orleans!

Really I only drew this cartoon because it afforded me an excuse to draw George Bush as a cross between Captain Nemo and Aquaman and Mr. Cheney as Saddam. It seems almost obscene even to mention the financial cost of the war, since that’s the most paltry and unimportant of the costs we’re paying for Bush’s dumb hubris and incompetence. Do I actually care how much imaginary money of the future we’re spending on Iraq? Not really--not unless we consider, as here, what we could have done with it if we’d known we were going to blow it on nothing anyway. (The same way I didn’t really care much the year I lost an appalling amount of virtual money on the stock market, until it occurred to me that, had I known it was just going to vanish as though it had never existed—which, in a sense, it never had--I might as well have taken it all out in cash and used it to fuck Claudia Schiffer. Only then did true grief set in.) But this is the concern that finally seems to have penetrated even the tough, tendony, desiccated little jerky hearts of Republican bean-counters. That and that it was losing them elections.

It always cracks me up ("cracks me up" in the sense of "infuriates and depresses") to hear Republicans act like hardheaded, down-to-earth fiscal realists when the Democrats propose one of their pie-in-the-sky social programs, health care for children or some such shit, demanding, "How are we going to pay for this? Where’s the money going to come from?" whereas they never, ever pose such questions if the money’s going to go toward killing tens of thousands of foreigners. This, of course, would be tantamount to treason. Conservatives don’t go in for utopian social engineering when it involves giving free money to poor people here—only if it means demolishing existing countries on the other side of the planet and building completely different ones in their place. Why the hell not? What’s stopping us? We create our own reality! We’ll be greeted as liberators. It’s a New American Century! Lap dances for every Iraqi!


*This figure is based only on congressional appropriations and doesn’t come anywhere close to the real total, which would include private contracts.

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