Happy New Year everyone!
My published cartoon output has slowed down over the past few months as I’ve taken the time to work on some longer and more difficult pieces.
I’m working with BFAMFAPhD to create a 4 page comic dealing with the costs of higher education, and particularly of art degrees. They’ve done some amazing work and I highly recommend checking out the BFAMFAPhD’s video on the economics of art degrees and working artists.
I’m working on a piece on mass incarceration and the criminal justice system, which has proven to be one of the toughest and most heartbreaking topics I’ve ever researched.
I’ve also done some fun work with Artifact Cider, in Springfield, MA. I collaborated with friend and designer Brian Wood. We made this label recently, and are currently working on another for the company now.
Head over to The Gabbler to check out a collaborative piece on the 2016 Election
The arrest and death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore by the hands of the police outraged the country, and mobilized thousands of citizens to protest against police brutality. The majority of the protests were peaceful and unnoticed, until some individuals became violent and damaged property. The media swarmed into Baltimore, though the direct and indirect causes of the rioting were neglected. Instead, the media pointed their cameras at the fires, and characterized a movement of citizens mobilizing to address serious grievances in their communities as looters and thugs. While the national attention could have been an directed to illuminate the economic and political context in the American city in general, the coverage provided little but rubbernecking and thinly-veiled racism. When the fires were put out the coverage stopped, but the problems in Baltimore remain.
A cellphone video of a South Carolina police officer shooting an unarmed black man in the back prompted national outrage and criminal charges against the officer. The event has increased the calls for police to wear body cameras in their interactions with the public.
But would a police-worn body camera have held Officer Michael Slager accountable for killing Walter Scott?
There is a growing movement to outfit police officers with body cameras that can record their interactions with the public. Calls have been made for the cameras by the parents of Michael Brown, and by many police chiefs across the nation. President Obama proposed getting 50,000 body cameras to police stations nationwide.
The White House quotes a study conducted in Rialto, California, that found a 60 percent drop in use of force and an 88 percent drop in complaints against officers after the introduction of body cameras. In San Diego, according to a report released by the city, complaints and use of personal body force incidents decreased by about 40 percent and 45 percent.
However, a recent Fusion investigation found that in two of the five cities studied, the introduction of police-worn body cameras showed little effect. Fusion also found that the footage is generally used for the benefit of the police officer, rather than citizens issuing complaints.
This surprised me at first, but then I took at a look at the companies that make these cameras. Benefiting cops is certainly how the body cameras are marketed.
The companies that make the cameras pitch them as tools to protect police officers against erroneous claims. In marketing materials for body cameras made by Taser, the company writes, “When your honor is on the line, don’t let a 3-second cell phone clip define you.”
With the cameras and the rules that govern their use in control of the police, you see many of the problems that you might expect. Officers almost always control the record button, so there is no guarantee that any incident will even be caught on footage. If it is recorded, problems often still arise. Radley Balko, a journalist who covers civil liberties and criminal justice, highlighted how San Diego Police Department will not release any footage it considers to be part of an investigation. And too often, the footage is claimed to be unavailable.
Balko wrote in August: “There have been too many examples in which an officer has “forgotten” to turn on a camera, a camera has coincidentally malfunctioned at a critical time, or video has gone missing.”
For these reasons, a body camera video of the killing of Walter Scott would likely have been kept out of the public’s eye. Body cameras have definite potential to create a record of critical interactions between police and citizens. But until there are strict rules governing their use and impartial oversight of the recorded footage, using cell phone cameras might still be necessary for citizens to hold police accountable.
Will the Iran-U.S. nuclear deal be good for the region?
Most events are at once good news and bad news. Every action that takes place in such a complex environment invariably causes a chain reaction of mostly unpredictable consequences. The only choice that leaders have is to set in motion a plan that seems like it has the best chance at not becoming a total catastrophe.
The Iran-U.S. nuclear deal, if it goes through, will have far-reaching and ambiguous effects on the region. A well-executed deal could suspend Iran’s nuclear weapons program, deescalate a decades-old cold war between U.S. and Iran, and provide relief to millions of Iranians struggling with a crippled economy. A deal could also allow the Iranian government to double down on its support for the Assad regime in Syria, which is currently dropping barrel-bombs on its citizens. The deal could strain ties between the U.S. and its longtime allies in the Persian Gulf like Saudi Arabia. A deal could have effects on the price of oil, as well as Russia’s economy and its government’s behavior.
While the sum of the effects will be incalculable, engaging with Iran does create more opportunities to effectively deal with the very pressing problems that exist in the region — not to mention the ones that will inevitably come up. For now, it’s impossible to say if the framework for the U.S.-Iran deal is good news or bad news, but I’d risk that as a guess for moving forward, it’s as good as any.
I recently attended the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists annual conference, and it was a spectacular time. The conference, which featured a wide range of lectures emphasizing the power of the medium, did a great job highlighting the good news of the profession. In particular, presentations on graphics journalism – including reporting done through comics and interactive video-game style pieces — demonstrated the form’s unique ability to allow people to explore stories with greater depth and engagement.
Apart from the panels, it was an inspiring experience simply to hang out with the tight-knit community of political cartoonists, who gave me a lot of much-appreciated encouragement and constructive criticism on the work I’ve created over the past two years. Learning to write and draw cartoons is a long process, and I want to thank everyone who has been following my progress and giving me feedback!
One of my first editorial cartoons was a single panel criticism of Russia’s blatant support for the Assad regime, which had already begun massacring the Syrian opposition. Two years later, I think it’s also appropriate to criticize U.S. policy, which is supporting moderate elements of the opposition in a hesitant and limited manner. The CIA-administered support, which includes non-military aid as well as small arms, and recently, a number of anti-tank weapons, has helped sustain the opposition against the Syrian army without tipping the balance in the opposers’ favor. If one believes in both the competency and cruelty of U.S. foreign policy, this strategy could be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to subject each side to the slow, bloody death of a civil-war stalemate, with hopes of some negotiated settlement down the line. However, the U.S.’s limited intervention could simply be a clumsy and risk-averse policy meant to create the illusion of “helping,” while inadvertently prolonging the conflict and allowing more lives to be lost on both sides.
No editorial cartoon this week, but I did do an illustration for a piece by Lisa DeBenedictis on Gun Control over at The Gabbler. Check it out!
The following National Rifle Association memo was accidentally forwarded to The Gabbler by Sarah Palin. (Thanks, Sarah!) It outlines why Georgia’s new law, the Safe Carry Protection Act – which allows people the right to carry guns in public buildings such as schools, churches, and restaurants – is an ideal model for gun laws throughout the United States. Lock and load, bitches.