Cartoon: Abortion Should Be Decided By The States

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Obviously abortion rights are on everybody’s mind this week. The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision overturning Roe is horrifying but not surprising.

One argument that’s touched on in the draft opinion – an argument many anti-choice activists and politicians have been making for decades – is that abortion’s legality should be decided by the legislature of each state, not by the federal government. “Let each state decide.”

Their bad faith is as subtle as a herd of elephants. Republicans in Congress have never hesitated to use federal law to limit abortion access nationwide – such as when they passed the so-called “partial birth” abortion ban. Every member of the Supreme Court, and every Republican in Congress, knows that without Roe in their way they’re going to propose more nationwide bans.

But no matter what they do – and they will do enormous harm – this is not the end of abortion access in America.

Anna North writes:

…People who want to end a pregnancy [won’t] be completely without options. Abortion funds around the country would continue their work, in some cases helping patients travel to blue states to get the procedure. Community-based providers, who perform abortions outside the official medical system, would likely continue to operate. And self-managed abortion, in which people perform their own abortions with pills, would take a bigger role.

Preparing for that reality will require a lot from advocates and providers, from raising money to campaigning against laws that can send people to jail for self-managing an abortion. But people have been ending their pregnancies in America since long before Roe v. Wade or even abortion clinics existed, and a court decision isn’t going to stop them. It’s just going to change what their options — and the risks involved — look like.

In pragmatic terms, abortion bans can never truly ban abortion; but they can make abortion less available and more dangerous. That’s something anti-abortion activists seem perfectly comfortable with.

Abortion is way too large an issue to cover in one cartoon, and this cartoon is obviously narrowly focused on one specific wrinkle. I’m sure I’ll be producing more cartoons about abortion rights in the months ahead.

No promises (I’m not very good at controlling where my inspiration goes), but if there’s a particular facet of abortion rights you’d like to see a cartoon about, feel free to let me know in comments.

I’m not at all sure it comes across, but attempting to draw 1980s hair in panel one was so much fun. And yes, Reagan’s campaign did use the slogan “Let’s make America great again.” (The only thing Republicans believe in recycling is ideas.)


This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a different scene, with a different person or group of people talking to the viewer.


A man with a “Reagan ’80: Make American Great Again” t-shirt and blonde hair in a mullet is talking with a somewhat angry expression, raising a forefinger to make his point. Next to him, a concerned-looking woman with a leather jacket and ENORMOUS hair is speaking with her hands clasped together.

CAPTION: 40 years before Roe v Wade is overturned.

MAN: Roe is wrong! Abortion is too important for the federal government to decide for everyone.

WOMAN: We should leave it to the states.


A woman stands alone in front of a sidewalk; behind her is a patch of grass, a couple of trees, and a stone wall. She’s wearing a red skirt with a pattern of circles, and a t-shirt that says “GORE is a BORE.”  She’s smiling and talking with her palms out.

CAPTION: 20 years before Roe is overturned.

WOMAN: Without Roe, every state could make its own abortion policies.

WOMAN: Which is how it should be!


This panel shows a crowd of white men. All of the men are wearing dress shirts, jackets, and neckties, except for one man who is in “Tea Party” cosplay, including a tricorn hat, although I’m not sure that anyone can tell it’s a tricorn hat because it turns out that tricorn hats are hard to draw.

In the center of the panel, one man is grinning big and speaking to the readers. He has glasses and parted blonde hair.

CAPTION: 10 years before Roe is overturned.

MAN: Let the states decide. That’s all we’re saying.


A man and a women, both dressed in gender-typical business wear, are speaking to reporters; the reporters aren’t in panel, but we can see their hands holding microphones, which are pointed at the speakers. We can see in the background that we’re on the steps of some sort of fancy, large building with pillars and arches (I’m hoping people will see that and assume it’s a government building of some sort).

The man is smiling big and holding a little stack of papers. The woman is clasping her hands and speaking with an earnest expression.

CAPTION: Ten minutes after Roe is overturned.

MAN: Our new law bans abortion nationwide.

WOMAN: Abortion’s too important to be left to the states!

This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Cartooning & comics | 99 Comments  

Cartoon: Nobody Back Then Knew Slavery Was Wrong!

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This cartoon is, of course, drawn by Becky Hawkins, who did her usual wonderful job.

Becky says:

I feel like a dick saying “I had so much fun doing goofy drawings about the horror of slavery,” but I had so much fun on this cartoon. As soon as I read the script, I asked Barry if I could take this one. I was excited about the challenge of drawing recognizable historical figures, in a big-headed cartoony style, with occasional goofy body language to match Barry’s dialogue. I’d looked up photos of John Brown after listening to the Behind the Bastards episode about him. His face had so many delightful lines to dig into! When I was drawing and coloring this, I kept leaving John Brown for last, as a treat.

I spent the most time looking for clothing references for Panel 1. When I looked for pictures of enslaved people in America, I found a lot of photographs and paintings from the 1860s, 150 years after that panel takes place. I also found some movie stills, but I didn’t want an outfit to be recognizable as “that dress from 12 Years a Slave” or something. And I wanted the women to belong in the same cartoony world as panels 2-4 without looking like an Aunt Jemima caricature. Also, some of the 18th-century paintings left me zooming in and trying to guess how the clothes were put together. (Is that shawl tied in the front? pinned? sewn together?) In the end, I did my best guess from a combination of drawings and paintings.

It was easy to find portraits of the historical figures in panels 2-3. (John Brown was the subject of photographs, oil paintings, political cartoons and news illustrations!) So I could recreate those outfits and hairstyles, and even use the color picker tool in Photoshop to copy the colors from the paintings. Jefferson and Washington are in Independence Hall in Philadelphia in panel 2. So if you look at this panel and get a song from 1776 stuck in your head…Me, too.

I drew the guy in panel 4 with a shaved head, T-shirt and jeans, and rimless glasses so that everything about him would scream “modern.” But he accidentally looks like a great guy who used to come to Drawing Nights at my house, so…sorry, Ryan. Also, thank you to my image-conscious coworkers on Zoom meetings. You added the phrase “ring light” to my vocabulary, so I could look up the proper YouTuber equipment!

The reference images Becky used when drawing this cartoon:

After Becky finished drawing the strip, I realized that John Brown had a beard in 1859. But Becky and I decided we could somehow live with that historical inaccuracy.

Frederick Douglass and John Brown really did have a secret meeting in 1859. On Route 30 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, there’s a historical marker, which says:


The two abolitionists met at a stone quarry here, Aug. 19-21, 1859, and discussed Brown’s plans to raid the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. He urged Douglass to join an armed demonstration against slavery. Douglass refused, warning the raid would fail; the Oct. 16, 1859 attack confirmed his fears. Brown was captured with his surviving followers and was executed Dec. 2, 1859.

Douglass wrote about the meeting over 20 years later: “…all his arguments, and all his descriptions of the place, convinced me that he was going into a perfect steel-trap, and that once in he would never get out alive.”

Reading that reminded me of a cartoon I’d written a few years ago, but then put aside, unhappy with it. I got overly fancy with the layout, trying to make it work as one big panel with characters receding from the viewer in perspective, with the more distant characters temporally being the ones who were drawn as being furthest away from the viewer.

It was a convoluted idea and I wasn’t able to convince myself it worked. But after reading about the secret Douglass and Brown meeting, I went back to the idea and realized that it would work much better as with a simple four-panel approach.

While Becky was drawing this cartoon, I was interviewed by the Where We Go Next podcast, and we discussed laying out for comic books versus laying out political cartoons  (the episode hasn’t been released yet). When drawing or writing long-form comic books, I often try to think of interesting layouts.

But I don’t do that much in political cartoons. Political cartoons generally just try to communicate a single idea, and hopefully communicate it strongly. Anything that makes the cartoon less “transparent” to readers – that calls attention to what I as a cartoonist am doing, rather than to the idea the comic is conveying – is a distraction and might be making the cartoon weaker.

In an op-ed in The Washington Examiner, Louis Sarkozy – son of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy (which is irrelevant but also somehow too odd a piece of trivia for me to leave out)  – wrote:

…as a product of one’s own time, then it is challenging to morally condemn an individual born in 1750, when slavery was regarded as ethically okay, legally permissible, and widely practiced (even by African slave owners).

But that slavery was morally odious wasn’t unknown in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The slaves knew it, the abolitionists knew it. The “founding fathers” themselves objected to what they called Britain’s “enslavement” of the colonies, and they were well aware of criticisms of their own hypocrisy.

Unrelatedly, I read aloud “Eight Arms To Hold You,” a sweet and funny jailbreak short story starring an octopus, by Angela Teagardner, for the Cast of Wonders podcast. You can read the story, or listen to me read it, here.


This cartoon has four panels; each panel shows a different scene with different characters.


A caption at the top of the panel says “1710.”

A Black woman sits on the front steps of a ramshackle wooden house; a small boy is sitting next to her on the steps, and she’s bandaging an injury on his hand. She’s wearing a yellow kerchief wrapped around her hair and tied in back, and speaking to the viewer with an earnest expression.

Standing next to her is another Black woman, speaking a bit angrily to the viewer, with her fists on her hips. She’s wearing a red kerchief over her hair, tied on top, and a yellow dress with an apron.

Both of the dresses are modest and plain, and look old-fashioned by today’s standards.

RED KERCHIEF: Slavery is crushing our lives, our children’s lives…

YELLOW KERCHIEF: It’s simply evil!


A caption at the top of the panel says “1776.”

The panel shows Thomas Jefferson and George Washington standing in Independence Hall, dressed in revolutionary-era men’s finery. Jefferson is smirking while leaning back against a table, and Washington is speaking more seriously, spreading his arms to make his point.

JEFFERSON: Even we know slavery is a horror!

WASHINGTON: And we’re super racist slaveowners!


A caption at the top of the panel says “1859.”

Frederick Douglass, wearing a fine looking suit, and John Brown, wearing a rougher looking outfit and carrying a rifle, are standing in a clearing in a wooded area, talking to the viewer. Douglass has a serious expression; with one hand he’s covering his mouth, as if to keep Brown from hearing what he says, and with his other hand he’s pointing to Brown with a thumb. Brown is grinning and pumping a fist into the air.

BROWN: I hate slavery! So I’m gonna capture an armory and start a huge slave rebellion!

DOUGLASS: I’d do anything to end slavery. Except his stupid plan, because it won’t work and he’ll definitely be killed.

BROWN: Worth it!


A caption at the top of the panel says “TODAY.”

A man with a shaved head and a scruffy beard is speaking to a smartphone mounted on a tripod. The tripod is also holding a ring light. There’s a blue sheet behind the man providing a background – what I’m saying is, this guy is a podcaster. He has an orange t shirt with an image of a hand with a raised middle finger and the caption “Cancel This.” The podcaster is holding one hand palm up, and pointing up with his other hand, as if to make a point.

SCRUFFY: It’s unfair to judge slave owners by today’s standards! Nobody back then knew slavery was wrong!

This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues, Racism | 6 Comments  

Cartoon: Another Reason College Conservatives Are Afraid

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A couple of studies have found that conservative students are more likely than liberal students to say that they’ve self-censored on campus – although both liberal and conservative students say that they’ve self-censored.

What does this mean? It’s hard to say. For one thing, not all self-censorship is bad; everyone self-censors at one time or another. If I decide not to bring up a political argument in a statistics class because it would be off-topic when we’re talking about Bernoulli distributions, that’s self-censorship, but it might be the right choice.

An environment where no one ever self-censors would be like Twitter. That’s not ideal.

But – even if some self-censorship is appropriate – what about the finding that conservative students are more likely to self-censor than liberal students?

Some of that is probably reality-based, in that students are more likely to be left- than right-wing, and so people are more likely to push back on conservative than on liberal opinions. I’m sure that this does deter some conservative students from speaking their opinions freely. (I know liberals who have worked or lived in highly conservative environments, and they also are choosey about when they share their opinions.)

Furthermore, let’s face it – some student lefties are dogmatic and harsh when dealing with disagreement, and that could deter speech also. (This isn’t at all unique to student lefties – dogmatics and harsh people are found in any political group.)

But although that’s real, it’s also vastly exaggerated. The vast majority of students, both left and right, aren’t evil or malicious or looking to attack other students.

And much of the fear simply isn’t based in reality at all.

As Jeffrey Sachs points out, conservative students are far more likely to worry that their professors will give them lower grades due to their political opinions – but the fear is baseless.

…fully 21 percent of students who say they’ve self-censored in the classroom report doing so because they fear receiving a lower grade from their professor. And, again, conservatives are much more likely than liberals to report this fear….

This fear is clearly real. It does not, however, have any basis in reality. According to all the available evidence, faculty do not give conservatives lower grades than liberals for equivalent work.

Researchers have tackled this issue from a couple of angles. In one experiment, students were asked to compose two essays, one on the Democratic Party (its values, goals, etc.) and the other on the Republican Party. These were then given to a mix of Democratic and Republican teaching assistants for grading. The students were told that the essays were voluntary and their identities would be kept secret, giving them no reason to self-censor. The result? Neither the partisan affiliations of the students nor of the teaching assistants made any difference in how the essays were graded.

So if it’s not based on reality, then where are conservative students learning that leftist professors are ready to punish them for being conservatives?

I think a lot of it is that conservatives (and their anti-woke “centrist” allies) have been working overtime to create a moral panic about free speech on campus. For example, Charlie Kirk – a conservative with 1.7 million Twitter followers – tweeted:

I get countless of messages from students who say professors are lowering their grades & penalizing them for being conservative

Leftists dominating higher education represent a grave threat to our country & culture.

Conservative students shouldn’t be targeted for disagreeing.

Kirk is the founder of Turning Point USA, a right-wing organization that specializes in reaching out to conservative students. And he’s far from the only major right-winger who has been telling conservative students that they should be afraid. For example, then-President Trump said:

Under the guise of speech codes and safe spaces and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shutdown the voices of great young Americans.

Frankly, it would be weird if the enormous right-wing media panic about intolerance of conservative students didn’t make conservative students afraid. (Just as watching violence on TV makes people more afraid of violent crime.) But this is an aspect of conservative student fear I almost never see discussed.

On an impulse, when I was drawing this one, I decided to go for a deliberately cruder and (even) less realistic character design than my usual. I would like to say that there was some deep thematic reason for making that choice, but really, I just thought it might be fun to draw ridiculously huge eyeballs.


This cartoon has four panels. All the panels show the same thing: A man in an orange button-up shirt, seated at a table. There’s a laptop, a cell phone, and a coffee mug on the table. He’s wearing big headphones, and a professional-looking microphone suspended on a metal arm is pointed towards his mouth. In other words, he’s a podcaster.

In all four panels, the man appears to be yelling loudly, and is drawn with huge, popping eyes.


MAN: These radical “woke” professors running colleges hate conservatives! That’s why conservative students are bullied and cancelled!


MAN: You know it’s true because Newsmax and Fox and OAN and radio hosts and magazine columnists and podcasters have told you so! Again and again!


Although the other panels all show the man in medium shot, this panel is such an extreme close-up that his entire head doesn’t even fit in panel; he’s cut off mid-mouth.

MAN: We’ve all told you — the woke at college are inhuman totalitarian monsters who will destroy your life if they ever find out your real views!


The man has picked up his cell phone and is looking at its screen as he speaks.

MAN: And look at this! A new survey says conservative  students are afraid to say what they think!

This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc. | 17 Comments  

Cartoon: Touch My Face, Dammit!

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I sometimes read forums for disabled people (ones that are open for anyone to read). One complaint I’ve seen fairly often, which surprised me at first, is that many able-bodied people feel way too free to touch the bodies of disabled people – even disabled people they don’t know. (Not unlike how some white people will touch Black people’s hair).

One specific subgenre of this is sighted people who think that Blind people want to touch our faces – or will even try to force the issue. As one person wrote on Reddit:

I’ve done it only once and I felt awkward during the entire ordeal, mainly because the person just grabbed my hand and was like, here is my forehead, here are my cheeks. Feel them good. Pure cringe.

Another person wrote:

I don’t know where people got this idea that we want to touch their faces or that we even care what they look like, but I’ve always found it really embarrassing. Especially after a stranger grabbed my hand and plopped it right on her face in public. It was extremely gross and weird for me.

Many Blind folks have written that it’s cringy even to be asked. So if this cartoon serves no other purpose, maybe it’ll let sighted people like me that no, Blind people don’t want to feel our faces.

There was nothing especially challenging about drawing this strip, but it was fun. Panel 3 was probably the most fun, because I rarely get the chance to draw two characters actually being physical with each other.


This cartoon has four panels.


Two women are on a sidewalk. One – let’s call her “Collar” – has straight shoulder-length hair and is wearing a button shirt with a collar, partly unbuttoned over a long-sleeved tee shirt with red stripes. The other woman – let’s call her “Jeans” – has a long white cane (with a rad portion near the bottom and a black portion near the top) which she’s sweeping over the ground in front of her, has curly hair, and is wearing a hoodie and fashionably torn jeans. Collar has an expression of delight and is looking down towards Jeans’ cane. Jeans looks a little taken aback.

COLLAR: Oh, you’re blind! Would you like to touch my face?

JEANS: Er… no. No thank you.


A closer shot of the two women. Collar, still smiling, is leaning forward, shoving her face close to Jeans. Jeans is holding up a hand protectively and leaning back.

COLLAR: No, really, touch my face. It’s okay.

JEANS: That’s a myth. Blind people don’t go around touching stranger’s faces.


Collar has grabbed Jeans’ wrist and is attempting to pull Jeans’ hand to her face (Jeans is still holding her cane in her other hand); Jeans is pulling away, looking angry. Both are speaking loudly.




A change of scene – a comfortable looking apartment. In the background, a short-haired woman is seated on a small sofa, looking up from the book she was reading. There’s a coffee table in front of her. In the foreground, Jeans is stomping in, looking angry and holding her hands away from her body.

SHORT-HAIRED WOMAN: Hi, Honey! How was your–


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Disability Issues, Disabled Rights & Issues | 13 Comments  

Some Publication News

It’s been a very long time since I have posted here, but, in the event that there are still some readers who recall the conversations we used to have about sexual violence against men and boys, and in case there are new readers here who might be interested, I wanted to share with you that an essay it took me thirty years to write, “The First Time I Told Someone,” was published earlier this month at Solstice: A Magazine Of Diverse Voices. The essay connects the first time I tried to tell someone that I’d been violated to the first time I actually told someone, bringing in along the way the feminist origins of my healing, the poetry of e. e. cummings, my experience with hardcore heterosexual pornography, and more.

I wrote on my own blog about why it took me thirty years to complete this essay. I’ve rewritten that slightly to make it fit the time I spent posting here on Alas:

I first started work on what eventually became The First Time I Told Someone in the 1990s, though I do not remember the title it had back then. I was encouraged by two men who have long since disappeared from my life: Rory MacDonald, who was my therapist at the time, and Peter Nevraumont, an editor with whom Rory put me in touch. Peter in particular was very excited by the idea that I would write a collection of personal essays about manhood and masculinity rooted in the feminist perspective I brought to my experience. I even found an agent who was very enthusiastic about the project. Unfortunately, while almost all the editors to whom she sent my proposal found the writing and the subject matter compelling, none were willing to take it on because—and this was the refrain we heard over and over again—“men’s books just don’t sell.”

When the agent eventually dropped me—she had to make a living, after all—I set the book project aside and turned my full attention as a writer to being a poet, channeling my energies into the poems that eventually became The Silence Of Men and, ten or so years later, Words For What Those Men Have Done. I also started blogging during that time. I sometimes repurposed material from the book manuscript for my blog posts–some of which appeared here on Alas–and would occasionally pull the old essays out to see if that project would rekindle itself in my imagination, but it never did.

The 1990s were the era of Robert Bly’s Iron John and what was called at the time the mythopoetic men’s movement. A lot of what I wrote had been framed as a critical response to that movement’s agenda, which had gone stale by the 2000s, at least in terms of the mainstream attention it had been getting, and so men’s mythopoesis no longer had the relevance that initially gave my essays some of their bite. More importantly, though, I had changed. I was in my 30s when I wrote those essays, and by 2006, when The Silence Of Men was published, my perspective had changed significantly, as it has changed several times in the nearly two decades since. The person I am now simply cannot stand behind much of what I wrote back then.

I decided to return to the pages that became The First Time I Told Someone—almost the entire first section of which dates, with very few changes, from the original 1990s draft—because I read, though I cannot now remember where, that most men of mine and previous generations who were sexually violated as children (I’m 60) usually wait three or four, and sometimes more decades before disclosing that fact even to their closest loved ones. The first time I told someone was just four years or so after the second sexual assault I experienced and less than ten years after the first. I attribute this difference from the generalization I read about to the anger the women’s movement gifted me when I started in the 1980s and 1990s to read writers like Adrienne Rich and June Jordan. No matter how much shame I might have felt over what the men who violated me did to me, the fierce and uncompromising feminist position that a perpetrator of sexual violence is the only person responsible and accountable for that act gave me a kind of strength I could not have found anywhere else at a time when no one, and I mean no one, was talking publicly about the sexual abuse of boys.

The formal problem I had to solve before I could finish writing The First Time I Told Someone” was a knotty one I had been struggling with since I started the essay in the 1990s: how to tell about each experience of abuse that I suffered without being redundant or stringing them together in a way that risked devolving into a kind of trauma porn. I solved that problem once I realized I’d been approaching the question of how to tell my story ass backwards. When I first began writing, given the culture wars around gender that were roiling at the time, it was very important to me to establish the material’s feminist bona fides,” not to insulate myself from criticism, but to make clear from the start that I was writing from a profeminist position. Inevitably, this resulted in my privileging argument over narrative in a way that made it hard to tell both stories on their own terms. Instead of showing how feminism accounted for my experience, I realized, I needed to show how feminism helped me come to terms with that experience, even if that process didn’t always fit neatly into a feminist mold.

The result is an essay I would not have been able to write fifteen, much less thirty years ago. More to the point, though, telling my story in this way has opened up the space for me to write, as a companion piece, the argument that has been implicit in this material from the start. I’m just about finished with The First Time I Said It In Public,” which takes as its starting point a story I told in a blog post I wrote in 2017 called My Students First Taught Me to Claim the Politics of My Survival.” Hopefully that essay will find a publisher soon after it’s done. I will let you know when it does.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments  

Link Farm and Open Thread, (accidental) TBA Edition

  1. We asked Texas Republicans banning books to define pornography. Here’s what they told us.
  2. Sex Isn’t Binary And Immutable, But It Wouldn’t Matter (For Trans Rights) If It Was | by Katy Montgomerie | Mar, 2022 | Medium
  3. Cancel Culture in 1832 Sounded Pretty Fierce – Jamelle Bouie
    What Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about cancel culture and democracy.
  4. The Legacy of ‘90s Teen Girl Murder Films | Features | Roger Ebert
  5. Analysis: Rejecting 23,000 Texas mail ballots is vote suppression | The Texas Tribune
  6. Absentee ballot envelope design, the Texas debacle, and the one coming to Georgia | Election Law Blog
  7. In Defense of Debate – Jill Filipovic
    “…whether I like it or not, abortion rights are up for debate. My choice is not whether I live in this world or my ideal one; it is whether I show up in the world I live in to defend abortion rights or not.”
  8. The Look of Gentrification – by Darrell Owens
    “If you think of gentrification as coffee shops and bike lanes then you don’t understand gentrification at all. It’s about what’s inside, not outside.”
  9. The promise — and problem — of restorative justice – Vox
    “If we’re going to think about forgiveness in terms of restorative justice, the only morally and politically careful way to do that is to recognize the legitimacy of the unforgiving victim.”
  10. His software sang the words of God. Then it went silent.
    A really interesting article about a widely-used program used to train people to sing Torah – but after the creator died, the software wasn’t updated and it seemingly died as well. Good news that came up after the article was finished: People are developing emulators.
  11. An Afternoon at the Roxy, for the Last Time – Eater Portland
    I’m still in shock about this. I haven’t eaten at the Roxy in years, but I used to eat there all the time: Decent diner food and sensational atmosphere.
  12. Opinion | The Senate approved Daylight Saving Time year-round accidentally. Blame Putin. – The Washington PostI had no idea that the year-round Daylight Saving Time amendment was sneaked through the Senate this way. It’s appalling behavior (and maybe unlikely to get through the House?), but also, I’m amused.
  13. The SAT Isn’t What’s Unfair – The Atlantic
    Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think the author compared “top tenth” style programs to SATs, in terms of increasing admissions for low-income students. Nonetheless, an interesting article.
Posted in Link farms | Comments Off  

Barry interviewed on “Where We Go Next”

I was interviewed by Michael Callahan on Where We Go Next!

This is a long interview (a bit over an hour and a half!), focused on cartooning, comics and craft. I had so much fun doing this one.

Posted in Mind-blowing Miscellania and other Neat Stuff | Comments Off  

Cartoon: Centrists

This cartoon is by me and Becky Hawkins.

If you like this cartoon, help us make more by supporting my Patreon! It’s what Uncle Sam, Mother Earth, and three out of four earthworms want you to do.

To be fair, not all centrists are like this. But a whole bunch are.

Becky writes:

I was listening to a Henry James audiobook before writing this, so let me know if it’s too rambly or doesn’t make sense:

Drawing not one but two houses on fire (at night, naturally) was a fun (and at times frustrating) challenge. Yay! Of course, I wanted the houses to be interesting and old-fashioned and grand, since they represented important issues. I googled “wooden house on fire,” and got a few reference images. But I didn’t want to draw a real disaster area that readers might recognize as a famous hotel or something. So I found some interesting houses on Google Street View. But I also didn’t want to possibly jinx a house by drawing it on fire. (I’m an artist, I get to be superstitious, okay?) So I drew some houses inspired by old Portland homes, and then looked at reference photos for how to draw and color the fire.

In designing the characters, I wanted to draw people who would consider themselves nonconformists. You know, they’re “free thinkers” who just happen to agree with the right and/or argue with the left most of the time. I gave the man slightly fluffy hair, a goatee, and a scarf. For the figure on the left, well… There was a screenshot from Fox News that was going around Twitter as I was drawing this. The chyron said “Feminist: I’m the most hated lesbian in Baltimore due to my views on trans debate.” I don’t know if this person identifies as a centrist, but she sure looked annoying, and the phrase “most hated lesbian in Baltimore” made me laugh. So I used her appearance as a jumping-off point.

She was originally wearing a grayish suit, but with her blonde hair and pale skin, she looked too monochromatic compared to the rest of the cartoon. I don’t use a super-limited color palette, but I also don’t want to use infinite random colors in a cartoon. When it’s time to choose colors (like, for someone’s clothes) I’ll try to pick a color I’m already using somewhere else. For example, I used the same blue for the left-hand house trim, the woman’s shirt, and the man’s blazer. I tried coloring her blazer pink, to echo the pinkish house on the right. And I realized I accidentally recreated the color scheme of Ellie Sattler’s iconic outfit from Jurassic Park. But I’m guessing no-one will notice.


This cartoon has a single panel, which shows two rather nice houses burning, with bright orange and yellow flames on the roofs and coming out every window, leaping high into the sky. Both houses have two full stories plus an attic. The house on the left has bay windows, and the house on the right has a sizable front porch with columns.

The house on the left has a mailbox on its front lawn; the mailbox has “Democracy” written on it. The house on the right has a yard sign on its front law, which has “Climate Change” written on it.

On the sidewalk in front of the houses, two people are talking. The person on the left has short blonde hair (or her hair looks blonde in the firelight), is wearing a pink jacket and tan pants, and is holding a smartphone that she’s looking at. She looks very worried.

The person on the right has short, fluffy brown hair, red cats eye glasses, and a van dyke beard. He’s wearing a blue jacket and a blue-and-white patterned scarf.  He is yelling angrily at the sky, waving his fists in the air.

WOMAN: Look at this… College students are criticizing a speaker… And the students are being strident and unreasonable!

MAN (loudly): This is the worst disaster EVER!

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Cartoon: How The 2nd Amendment Saves Us From Tyranny

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This cartoon’s gag is kind of obvious, but it made me laugh, especially after seeing Kevin Moore’s art on it. The “ye-e-es” dude in panel three especially cracks me up. (The “ye-e-es!” was entirely Kevin’s idea, btw. I find it hilarious, but I wouldn’t have thought of myself.)

“Wipe Out Freedom Immediately!” might be a good title for a future cartoon collection.

Casey Michel, writing on the lack of relationship between gun ownership and freedom, provides this graph, charting gun ownership rates against “democratization data from Freedom House.” What it shows is… a complete lack of any strong relationship between guns and democracy, one way or the other.

From Michel’s article:

The data shows no significant correlation between high civilian gun ownership rates and countries that have improved their democracy scores over the past decade. Nor is there a significant correlation between countries with low civilian gun ownership rates and those that have seen democratic backsliding.

The findings back up previous studies on the supposed link between civilian arms and democratic freedoms. As Jan Amo Hessbruegge, who works for the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, wrote in 2017, “Research does not establish a clear correlation between private gun ownership levels and the relative political freedom of a particular country.”

And in looking at data from 2013, The Atlantic found that the relationship between democracy and civilian gun ownership rates was “observable, but minor.” One analyst called the link “baloney.”

I wish I could tell you what my plans are for 2022, but I don’t know. I’ve pitched a large-scale project to a publisher, and what this year looks like depends a lot on if they say yes or not.

For me, this sort of thing is the major advantage of having a “pay per cartoon” model, rather than a monthly subscription. If I get less productive for some reason, y’all will automatically be charged less (or not charged at all, if I don’t produce any new policartoons – but I don’t anticipate that happening).

I am definitely planning a new cartoon collection paperback in 2022. As for the rest… I’ll tell you once I know.


This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows two people – The President of the United States and an assistant of some sort – in the oval office. The angles chosen for each shot makes it impossible to see the President’s face: We can make out that he’s a white male with brown hair, but that’s it. In other words, he’s a generic white male President.

The assistant is wearing a blue suit with a red tie. He’s balding on top and has neatly combed salt-and-pepper hair on the sides.


In the foreground, we see the President’s hand and arm; he’s sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office. The assistant stand in front of the desk, talking to the President; he is grinning and doing a fist-pump with one hand, and holding a folder in the other.

PRESIDENT: We’ve had enough freedom! It’s tyranny time in America! How many soldiers do we have?

ASSISTANT: Yes sir, Mr President! We’ve got over a million troops.


A similar angle shows the President’s hand and shoulder. The assistant is holding up a forefinger, listing things off, and looks very smug.

PRESIDENT: Excellent. And how about firepower?

ASSISTANT: We have six thousand tanks, thirteen thousand aircraft, forty thousand armored vehicles and almost four thousand nukes, Mr President.


In the foreground, we can see the President pointing in a dramatic “go make it happen!” gesture. The drama is heightened by the extreme foreshortening on the arm, making the pointing hand look huge.

In the background, the assistant looks so thrilled that it’s frankly a bit disturbing; he’s pumping both his fists, grinning hugely, has huge wide eyes, and is hissing “ye-e-es!” Also, his folder has disappeared. Did he drop it? Maybe I’ll get in touch with Kevin and ask him to add a folder tucked under an arm to this panel.

PRESIDENT: Send them in and wipe out freedom immediately!


The assistant is talking to the President, but now he looks very worried, wringing his hands with sweat flying off his forehead. In the foreground, we can see enough of the president to know that he’s also sweating, and has clasped his hands to his head, mussing his hair.

CAPTION: A few hours later

ASSISTANT: Mr President, the army has encountered some civilians armed with rifles and handguns.

PRESIDENT: Oh no! My evil plot is doomed! Abort! ABORT!

CAPTION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CARTOON: How The Second Amendment Saves Us From Tyranny

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Cartoon: The Constant Cacophony of Cancelling Cancel Culture

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This is one of my occasional cartoons written and drawn (relatively) quickly in response to the (relatively) current news cycle.

On March 7 2022, the New York Times gave the royal treatment (including two large photos) to a piece by college senior (and soon to be Reason staff writer) Emma Camp about the problem of self-censorship on college campuses. Camp described her experience speaking in class:

This idea seems acceptable for academic discussion, but to many of my classmates, it was objectionable.

The room felt tense. I saw people shift in their seats. Someone got angry, and then everyone seemed to get angry. After the professor tried to move the discussion along, I still felt uneasy. I became a little less likely to speak up again and a little less trusting of my own thoughts.

I’m sympathetic to Camp’s view – it can be scary and uncomfortable speaking out in class when we know our classmates might disagree. But is this anything that requires a New York Times op-ed piece?

Ten days later, the Times editorial board published another op-ed on the same subject, writing:

For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.

Of course, there is no right to speak “without fear of being shamed or shunned.” That would amount to a right to freedom from criticism, and no one has or should have that right.

Both of those quotes are referred to in this cartoon.

It should be surprising the “paper of record” published two extremely similar cancel-culture-panic pieces in two weeks. But it’s not. I used the New York Times‘ site search function to count up how many opinion page pieces referred to terms like “cancel culture” and “CRT.”

In the last year, the NYTimes opinion pages printed 71 pieces including the phrase “cancel culture,” 28 pieces including “C.R.T.,” and 9 including “book bans.”

Some of the “cancel culture” pieces even concede – in “to be sure” asides buried in the middle – that right wing legal bans are much more dangerous.  So why are they objected to so much less?

Arguably, the three most censored groups in the U.S. are prisoners, sex workers, and undocumented migrants.  As far as I can find, the Times opinion page didn’t run a single piece about censorship of any of these groups in the last year.

In fact, the Times ran more more opinion page pieces about “cancel culture” than about all other free-speech issues combined. Even if “cancel culture” is a real problem, that’s ridiculous. The Times‘ coverage is wildly disproportionate, in a way that strongly favors right-wing narratives and gives many instances of right-wing censorship a free pass. And as far as I can tell, the Times‘ disproportionate coverage is typical of the media as a whole.


This cartoon has five panels.


This panel shows two news anchors sitting in a TV studio facing the camera. The angle is from the camera’s perspective, as if we were watching them on TV. A circular logo superimposed on the image says “5” (as in channel 5) and a chyron runs across the bottom of the image.

(Chyron this panel says: “Free Speech in Peril! Young people are frightening. They’re coming after you.”)

The anchors are a man and a woman. They are both well-dressed and have professionally styled hair. Both speak to the camera with very serious expressions.

MALE ANCHOR: Tonight on WMSM: the first of our seventeen part series on the horrors of cancel culture!

FEMALE ANCHOR: America has a free speech problem! We’ve lost our long established right to speak without fear of being shamed.


A close-up on the male anchor. He looks genuinely angry.

(Chyron this panel says: “Prison Censorship is an issue we’re not going to be covering whatsoever.”)

MALE ANCHOR: Especially on college campuses! Surveys show that students sometimes self-censor because they’re afraid of criticism! Something that has never before happened in all of history!


This panel shows a hand holding a smartphone. On the smartphone screen, we can see the female anchor talking. She also looks angry and intense.

FEMALE ANCHOR: Next up: a college student “saw people shift in their seats” when they disagreed with her! Will left wing assaults on free speech never end?


This is an unusually narrow panel, less than a third as wide as other panels. The panel shows the male anchor, still talking to the camera, but the figure is tiny. He’s smiling and raising a finger in a “just making a point” manner.

(Chyron this panel: “Tiny Type is rarely re (the word is cut off by the panel edge). Tiny type tiny type tiny type tiny type”)

MALE ANCHOR (small print): To show we’re unbiased, I will briefly mention that the right is writing laws to ban books, stifle teachers and even legalize running over protesters, and those things are also bad. Now back to our story.


A new scene. Two people are standing; the second of them is holding a tablet, which they’re frantically tapping (sound effect: tap tap tap tap tap tap).

The first person is a black woman wearing what looks like a bowling shirt (meaning I drew a shirt with vertical stripes and it accidently came out as a bowling shirt) and carryign a purse. She has short curly hair. She looks a little concerned as she speaks to the second person.

The second person has long hair, in an unnatural red color, in long spikes and with an undercut. Their left arm is covered with tattoos. They’re frantically tapping the tablet they’re holding (sound effect: tap tap tap tap tap tap), have a panicked expression, and they’re talking loudly.

FIRST PERSON: Would you mind turning that off?


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