Cartoon: Capitalism/Socialism


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Today’s comic is written by me and drawn by Jake Richmond, creator of Modest Medusa. Jake is a longtime friend and collaborator of mine – he colored my “Hereville” graphic novels – but this is the first time he’s drawn a comic of mine.

Jake’s a terrific cartoonist. The major reason I asked him to draw this strip rather than another is because I’ve always liked how Jake draws water.


This strip was obviously inspired by our current situation. The amount that Congress has allotted to stimulus is frankly not nearly enough to address the size of the economic crisis – but it’s still much larger than what most American politicians would ever support, and even the Republicans voted for it. (For round one, at least. I suspect they’ll give in and vote for round two, but who knows?) When things get dire, it turns out a safety net isn’t optional.


To my patrons: As always, thank you for supporting these cartoons.

As this crisis goes on, I keep being blown away by how lucky I am. I live in a nice house with eight housemates, so I have plenty of company, and none of us are ill. I have a job I love that I can keep doing through the crisis. We have food and even toilet paper.

And I have the pleasure of knowing that my work means enough to folks that they’re willing to support it. I am awed to be so lucky.

Extra thanks, this time, to Claire Nolan (who is also thanked in the sidebar of the cartoon). I hope you like this one, Claire! If you’d like to be emailed a print-quality high-res copy of this cartoon, signed to you by me and by Jake, please get in touch.

(Would any other folks like to be thanked in the sidebar too? Upgrade your pledge to $10 or more and it will happen!)

 


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. All four panels show a man in a one-person rowboat. He’s rowing  The man is wearing an “Uncle Sam” style red-white-and-blue top hat.

PANEL 1

The man – let’s call him Uncle Sam – is rowing and talking cheerfully. He’s rowing facing backwards (as people often do in rowboats), so he can’t see that his boat is heading straight towards a large rock jutting above the water.

SAM: Capitalism capitalism capitalism capitalism…

PANEL 2

The boat hits the rock, and Sam is thrown over the side of the boat. His hat flies up a little off his head, and we can see that he’s bald.

SAM: Capitali- AHH!

PANEL 3

The man, looking panicked, scrambles to get back into the boat, yelling as he struggles, the water splashing around him. His hat floats on the water nearby.

SAM: SOCIALISM! SOCIALISM! SOCIALISM!

PANEL 4

Sam is now back in the rowboat, looking happy and relieved. All is calm. He has put the hat, dripping with water, back on his head.

SAM: Where was I…? Oh yes… Capitalism capitalism…

Posted in Capitalism, Cartooning & comics, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Economics and the like | 6 Comments  

Cartoon: It Weighs You Down


This cartoon is another collaboration with Becky Hawkins.


If you like these cartoons, help there by more by pledging $1 or $2 at my patreon! Every bit helps.


This month, two cartoons ended up being completed at more or less the same time – this one, beautifully painted by Becky Hawkins, and one drawn by me (with colors by Frank Young) which I’ll post tomorrow. It’s been years since I first jotted down the idea for this cartoon; the other cartoon was thought of just a few weeks ago.

But looking at them now, I realize they both have the same theme, which is the way that stigma’s effects pile up over time. You’ll see what I mean when I post the other strip tomorrow.

I’m currently in an online debate about fat acceptance with Helen Pluckrose (I owe her a response). While researching that, I read a couple of articles about the ways stigma hurts people’s health, both mentally and physically. Not only is anti-fat stigma failing to make anyone thinner or healthier; it’s actually making us less healthy and making us die sooner.

* * *

I first sketched this one out a few years ago. I liked the unusual format (I’ve done the alternating-text-and-image format only once before) and the playing around with word balloons, but somehow I never got around to drawing it.

This month, I showed Becky several not-yet-drawn cartoons that I thought she’d be a good match for, and she picked out this one. And I’m so glad she did! Her handpainted colors lend the piece a visual moodiness that I don’t think I could have matched.

So, for comparison’s sake, here’s what I gave Becky to work with.

As  you can see, virtually every visual detail in the finished strip was made up by Becky. I did suggest to her that there could be painted, cloudy dark panels instead of the flat black panels in my sketch, and holy crap did she ever deliver. I love the way this cartoon looks.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has nine panels, in three rows of three panels each. Five of the panels have black and gray paint forming cloudy, dark abstract shapes, while the other four have non-abstract drawings. The two types of panels alternate, creating a checkerboard pattern. The abstract panels get darker as the strip goes on, until by the last panel it’s mostly black. Each of the abstract panels has a caption in plain white lettering.

PANEL 1

A cloudy field of gray paint, with a caption near the top, which says: AFTER

PANEL 2

We’re on an airplane; people are finding their seats. A fat man with glasses and a red-orange polo shirt is seated on the aisle; a thin woman with a scarf, pushing a roll along suitcase, has paused next to his seat and turned to speak to the person behind her in the aisle.

SCARF WOMAN: Oh God, do I have to sit next to him?

PANEL 3

A cloudy field of gray paint, with a caption near the middle. The lettering is a little diagonal, rather than straight, and the second word is lower than the first. It says: A WHILE

PANEL 4

A laundromat. The same fat man we saw on the plane, is in the foreground, looking up blankly in the middle of folding laundry. Mounted high on the wall behind him, next to a row of driers, is a TV that’s showing some sort of talk show, with three people seated on a couch facing the camera.

Clinging to the fat man’s back is the woman’s word balloon from the airplane panel.

Person On TV: Let’s face it, fat people choose to be like that!

PANEL 5

A cloudy field of gray and some black paint, with a caption a bit below the middle. The lettering is a bit more diagonal than in panel 3, and the second word is sunk much lower than the first. It says: IT WEIGHS

PANEL 6

We see the fat man again, in a coffee shop holding a mug, looking up with an unhappy expression. Behind his back, we can see the people sitting at the next table over. One of them, a thin man wearing a sleeveless shirt and jogging shorts, is grinning and holding up a finger as he makes a point.

There are now two word balloons clinging to the fat man’s back, the woman’s word balloon from the airplane panel, and the TV’s word balloon from the laundromat panel.

JOGGING SHORTS MAN:  …put the donuts down and get off the sofa now and then!

PANEL 7

A cloudy field, about equally split between black and gray. The caption is now at a 45 degree angle and is near the bottom of the panel. It says: YOU

PANEL 8

The same fat man, identifiable because of his red-orange shirt, is lying limp on the floor, arms spread out, possibly unconscious; we can recognize him from his body shape and red-orange shirt.

His face is covered by a pile of word balloons on his trunk, formed by all the word balloons from the previous three panels we’ve seen him in – “put the donuts down” and “fat people choose to  be like that” and “have to sit next to him?” — topped off by a new balloon spoken by an off-panel voice.

OFF PANEL VOICE: You’d look so much better if you’d lose some weight.

PANEL 9

A cloudy field of black and gray paint, with the black paint dominating. The caption is diagonal and so far down in the panel that parts of the letters disappear below the bottom of the cartoon. We can still see that it says: DOWN

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Fat, fat and more fat | 13 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Happy Times Edition

  1. Who Was Elijah McClain? What to Know About His Death After a Police Encounter – The New York Times (And an alternate link.)
    The three police officers claimed that all their body cameras fell off (what a coincidence!). They also claimed that five foot six inch, 140 pound Elijah McClain had “incredible, crazy strength,” and all three of them had to get on top of him.
  2. Opinion | America Didn’t Give Up on Covid-19. Republicans Did. – The New York Times (And an alternate link.)
    “Covid-19 is like climate change: It isn’t the kind of menace the party wants to acknowledge. It’s not that the right is averse to fearmongering. But it doesn’t want you to fear impersonal threats that require an effective policy response…”
  3. The origin of “African American” | Arts & Culture | Yale Alumni Magazine
    The author found the term “African American” used in 1782. There’s debate over if the writer was actually African-American, as they claimed to be.
  4. What the AI Behind AlphaGo Can Teach Us About Being Human | WIRED
    A story about the first computer AI to beat a champion human Go player.
  5. The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of “jaywalking” – Vox
    Includes a gorgeous vintage anti-jaywalking editorial cartoon.
  6. The Princess Bride Letters
    In the novel The Princess Bride, there’s a missing scene, with an address to write if you’d like to get the missing scene mailed to you. I always intended to do that, and never did. But here’s the response(s) I would have received had I mailed them.
  7. It Can Happen Here | by Cass R. Sunstein | The New York Review of Books
    A discussion of a few books about life for ordinary Germans under Hitler. “Decades afterward, memoirists referred to their ‘happy times’ in the Hitler Youth, focusing not on ideology but on hiking trips, camaraderie, and summer camps.”
  8. The (First) Time Nazis Marched in Portland
    In 1936 – “As the cruiser arrived, Portlanders lined the waterfront, not to protest the already-publicized human rights atrocities underway in Germany, but to wave hankies and exchange “heil Hitler” salutes with the Emden crew…”
  9. I Am the Dad Who Installed Lava in the Rumpus Room Floor – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
  10. Addressing The Claims In JK Rowling’s Justification For Transphobia
    Lengthy and thorough.
  11. Anti-trans group admits bathroom predator myth is made up
  12. A faster response could have prevented most U.S. Covid-19 deaths – STAT
  13. West Side Story, but 12 minutes long and Cher plays every character – YouTube
    I’m honestly impressed that, at the point in her career where Cher could do virtually anything and get it on TV, she chose this.
  14. Free Speech and Marginalized People – Liberal Currents
    “. Suppression of speech is not directed most intensely at controversial speech. It’s directed at speech by people who are controversial—that is, at marginalized people who lack power, and who are therefore easily silenced and ignored.”
  15. » 30 Rock Landed on Us
    A short essay about how 30 Rock approached race.
  16. My Family Saw a Police Car Hit a Kid on Halloween. Then I Learned How NYPD Impunity Works. — ProPublica
    Although this story is less tragic, like the Elijah McClain story, it shows how freely police lie, and how little fear of consequence many police have.
  17. New research explores how conservative media misinformation may have intensified coronavirus – The Washington Post.
    The three studies are suggestive, but of course correlation is not causation.
  18. Spray Their Names Aims to Paint Murals That Honor Lives Lost and Amplify Marginalized Voices – 303 Magazine
    Both images in this link farm came from this article. The first image is a mural of Breonna Taylor painted by Detour, Hiero Veiga and Just. The second image is a mural of Elijah McClain painted by Detour and Hiero Veiga. Both photos are by Brittany Werges.

Posted in Link farms | Comments Off  

Open Thread and Link Farm, I’m The Frog What Was In There Edition

  1. Is puberty delaying treatment ‘experimental treatment’?
    Lengthy, but well argued and worth reading.
  2. There’s racial bias in our police systems. Here’s the overwhelming proof. – The Washington Post (Alternate link.)
    Lengthy list of studies, divided into subject areas.
  3. Why The “Hoax” Paper of Baldwin Should be Reinstated (pdf file)
    A neuroscientist argues that one of the “grievance studies hoax” papers – the one about fat bodybuilding – should be reinstated, and discusses what it means for a paper to be a hoax.
  4. Cole Carini, Virginia Man Inspired by Incel Killer Elliot Rodger, Was Making Bomb: Feds
    It appears that an incel accidentally blew his own hand off while making a bomb for killing “hot cheerleaders. I’m just glad he failed. “Incels” have been linked to at least 53 deaths in recent years.”
  5. Why Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic primary – Vox
    “Americans do not primarily vote as a member of an economic class, but rather as a member of a party and identity group (race, religion, etc.).”
  6. Leftist Policy Didn’t Lose. Marxist Electoral Theory Did. | Washington Monthly
    “The reality is that leftist policy has never been more ascendant in the Democratic Party since at least the 1960s if not the 1930s. The Biden 2020 campaign platform is well to the left of the Clinton 2016 platform, which was itself well to the left of the Obama 2008 platform.”
  7. A White Woman, Racism, and a Poodle | FranklyWrite
    It took her a while to realize why the cops were suddenly pulling her over all the time.
  8. On TV, Cops Are Always the Main Characters
    “TV has long had a police’s-eye perspective that helps shape the way viewers see the world, prioritizing the victories and struggles of police over communities being policed.”
  9. NYPD Officer Caught Planting Marijuana in a Car — Again
    In the second case, the innocent man – who had fresh stitches in his abdomen that the cops opened by throwing him to the ground – took a plea bargain, and I can’t blame him. A recent reform law in NY might help some (for example, by giving defense attorneys timely access to body cam footage), but the cops are lobbying to have the reforms undone. The two cops who have now twice been caught on video planting evidence are still employed, still on patrol.
  10. How I Defeated the Tolkien Estate – The Toast
    “Little did I know I was heading into a legal and scholarly Midgewater when I wrote and published The Lord of the Rings: A New English Translation.” (Thanks to Marnanel!)
  11. Covid-19 Does Not Discriminate by Body Weight | WIRED
    The links between fat and Covid-19 are not nearly as well established as the media has been telling us.
  12. How U.S. Cities Tried to Halt the Spread of the 1918 Spanish Flu – HISTORY
  13. The Fine Art of Comics Pantomime, with Little Lulu and Company.A really fun, curated selection of wordless one-page strips by John Stanley. Some lovely cartooning here.
  14. On Gender Stereotypes | Growing Up Transgender
  15. Want to know how many people have the coronavirus? Test randomly
    They’re not suggesting that ALL testing should be random. They’re suggesting that a small percentage of our overall testing should be used to test a representative sample of 10,000 Americans, in order to get a better picture of what’s going on.
  16. Sex Work and Stigma: Why Won’t Woke Boys Pay for Sex?
    This article is a bit all over the place, and I don’t agree with it all, but it brings up a lot of interesting issues.
  17. You’re Worrying About the Wrong Bees | WIRED
    Mandolin showed me this article – I hadn’t realized how much bee variety there is. Just because honey bees can survive won’t be enough to preserve the bee’s place in the ecosystem.
  18. Honey Bees Have Gone From Endangered To Dangerous – And That Is A Science Journalism Problem | American Council on Science and Health
    Another interesting bee link from Mandolin. “…our use of honey bees as an agricultural tool, moving them from pollination site to pollination site, is equivalent to introducing a new, extensive species into each area.” “Beekeeping is an agrarian activity that should not be confused with wildlife conservation.”
  19. The Day Treva Throneberry Disappeared
    A fascinating and sad multi-year true story.

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Cartoon: Looters!


Help me make more cartoons by supporting my Patreon! A $1 or $2 pledge really helps.


I usually post my cartoons on Patreon a week or two (or more!) before I post them in public (like on “Alas”). It’s a way to say “thank you” to the folks supporting my cartoons.

The exception is when I do a cartoon about a current news story. Which I usually don’t – my “beat” is less daily news than it is long-term social justice issues. But sometimes, I really want to comment on something in the news… like with this cartoon. And in those cases, I do post the cartoons in public and here on Patreon on the same day. (I think my patrons would also want a cartoon like this seen while it’s timely.)

I do think looters are a legitimate news story – but they shouldn’t be the story. They’re a part of what’s happening, but a relatively small part. But hoo boy, does the mainstream media looooove them.

I thought of this cartoon on Monday, after reading a tweet from writer/comedian/actress Ashley Nicole Black. She wrote:

I keep seeing news anchors say “It’s unfortunate that the looters are taking attention away from the real issues” while they, the media, talk about looting instead of the real issues.

I sketched out the cartoon Monday night, putting in way too many words, and then my friends Becky and Kip helped me pare it back. (Thanks, y’all!). Then I drew and drew and drew until my shoulder hurt. And here we are!

As always, thanks to my patrons for supporting these cartoons. I really, seriously, honestly couldn’t do this without you.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. All four panels show a news show of some kind, with an anchorman who has very carefully combed hair. In panels one and four, we see the news show on the screen of a smartphone being held in someone’s hand; in panels two and three, we only see what’s on screen. At the bottom left of the screen in every panel is two rows of chyron text, a small block of text on top of a larger block of text.

PANEL 1

A smartphone is being held in a hand. On the phone’s screen, we see a news anchor talking seriously, straight to the camera. A graphic on the upper right shows a hand in a striped sleeve holding a bag with “$” on it.

ANCHOR: And worst of all, looters take attention away from real issues!

ANCHOR: Here to talk to us about those issues is Denise Johnson of “Police Accountability Now.” Welcome, Denise.

CHYRON TEXT (upper): We think for you! #News12

CHYRON TEXT (lower):  Looters! Live in fear!

PANEL 2

The news screen is now in a split-screen, divided by a vertical line in the middle. On the right, the news anchor is talking with an inquisitive expression. On the left, a middle-aged Black woman, dressed in a professional fashion (blazer, black shirt, necklace) is speaking, with a friendly expression.

DENISE : Thank you for having me on.

ANCHOR: We’ve been talking about looters all day – but what about the underlying issues?

CHYRON TEXT (upper): There’s no #News12 without “ew!”

CHYRON TEXT (lower):  Are Looters Outside Your Door?

PANEL 3

The same shot. Denise is now speaking with a serious expression, her hands raised in a “I’m explaining” gesture. The anchor is suddenly angry looking, fists and shoulders raised.

DENISE : Okay. The first big reform we want is demilitarizing the police. Studies-

ANCHOR: Yes, exactly! It’s so frustrating that looters take attention away from proposals like that!

CHYRON TEXT (upper): #News12 is your only friend

CHYRON TEXT (lower):  Looters Stole Your Housepet

PANEL 4

Denise has been replaced by a black screen with a little electronic “blip” in the center, indicating that she has disappeared from screen. The anchor is smiling at the camera as he talks.

DENISE: Um… Okay. As I-

ANCHOR: Sorry, Denise, we’re out of time. Next up: Footage of looting!

CHYRON TEXT (upper): #News12 is your mom

CHYRON TEXT (lower):  Looters Looters Ratings Looters

Posted in Cartooning & comics, In the news, Media criticism | Comments Off  

DiRico Dialogue’s interviews Barry

Hey, I was on a podcast!

We basically shot the shit about politics and cartooning for 45 minutes, and hopefully I didn’t sound too much like a noodge. But let’s face it, with my vocal qualities, noodge is sort of my natural home.

The host was great Interesting guy, smart, ex-marine, young, intends to run for office someday. Although he sometimes talked to me like I was supposed to be some elder statesman and I was nice about it but inside I was going WTF!!!!!

It’s about 45 minutes long. I had no idea that we were going to be discussing things like “What happened with Bush v Gore? Explain that to me,” or the origins of the Electoral College, so I’m hoping I didn’t get too many details wrong.

DiRico Dialogue’s Episode 4: Talking Politics and Comics w/ Barry Deutsch.

Posted in About the Bloggers | Comments Off  

My Response To Helen Pluckrose About Fat Acceptance

Dear Helen,

Hi! I’m writing to respond to your open letter, “on Fat Scholarship and Activism.”

A thousand words seems cruelly scant to me, but I’ll do my best.

For space reasons, I won’t dig into our “obesity vs fat” semantic disagreement. I suggest we each use our preferred word, neither making a fuss about the other’s choice. (Ditto for “fat acceptance” vs “fat activism.”)

Part 1: Your charges against the fat acceptance movement.

Your criticisms of fat acceptance are a mix of cherry-picked examples and uncharitable readings.

For instance, you say where fat activism “could oppose discrimination against obese people in the workplace, it goes on about ‘romantic discrimination.’” But the linked article contains only three paragraphs about “romantic discrimination,” a fraction of a much longer piece. (And do you really think cultural components of attraction aren’t worthy of being written about? I can’t agree.)

Your claim that fat acceptance “doesn’t do this kind of work” – meaning opposing things like workplace and medical discrimination – is staggeringly wrong. I could provide a hundred links of scholars and activists addressing those issues, but since time is limitedhopefully just ten will prove my point.

Your other indictments followed a similar pattern, but with only 1000 words, I must move on!

(This article by Angie Manfredi, aimed at teens, is a non-comprehensive but accurate overview of fat acceptance’s goals. And Yasmin Harker created this useful bibliography of academic works about fat rights and fat discrimination.)

Part 2: Why I’m Generally Anti-Diet

We both want to end stigma and discrimination against fat people. Where we disagree (if I’ve understood correctly) is that you think fat people should try to not be fat, and that fat people are by definition unhealthy.

Accepting for a moment, for argument’s sake, that fat is unhealthy, that doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that most fat people should try not to be fat.

First, I’ll stress that no one is under any obligation to maximize health. Exercise and cooking can take time, space, money, and mental energy which not everyone has. And people can legitimately prioritize other things.

But some fat people do wish to prioritize their health. Shouldn’t those fat people be encouraged to lose weight?

Some should – people with specific, serious conditions that weight loss could help (even if they’d still be fat).

But for 99% of fat people, I’d say not. The evidence is clear that weight-loss plans don’t work for the large majority. Most never lose a significant amount of weight – certainly not enough for a fat person to stop being fat. And usually whatever weight is lost – or more – comes back within five years. This causes mental anguish, because failure to lose weight, or to maintain weight loss, easily turns into self-hatred. If the person tries multiple times (as is common), the physical effects of yo-yo dieting can be very harmful.

Wayne Miller, an exercise science specialist at George Washington University, wrote:

There isn’t even one peer-reviewed controlled clinical study of any intentional weight-loss diet that proves that people can be successful at long-term significant weight loss. No commercial program, clinical program, or research model has been able to demonstrate significant long-term weight loss for more than a small fraction of the participants. Given the potential dangers of weight cycling and repeated failure, it is unscientific and unethical to support the continued use of dieting as an intervention for obesity.

Am I saying fat people who want to be healthier should give up? Absolutely not. I’m saying becoming healthier doesn’t require futile attempts to lose weight.

Please look at this graph. (Source.) It shows likelihood of mortality as it relates to weight and four other characteristics: fruit and vegetable intake, tobacco use, exercise, and alcohol. These are sometimes called the “healthy habits.”

On the left side of the graph, fat people who practice no “healthy habits” – smoking, no veggies, immoderate drinking, no exercise – have a much higher mortality risk than so-called “normal” weight people with unhealthy habits (although the “normals” have elevated risk too).

On the right end of the graph, fat people who practice all four healthy habits have a mortality risk that’s just barely higher than their thinner counterparts. More importantly, we can see that fat people who practice all four healthy habits benefit enormously, compared to fat people who don’t. (“Normals” benefit enormously from these healthy habits, too.)

Most fat people can’t permanently lose enough weight to stop being fat. But most fat people can eat more veggies, can not smoke, can limit ourselves to one glass of hootch a day, can add moderate exercise to our lives. These things aren’t always easy, but they are all much more achievable, for most fat people, than stopping being fat.

Achievable advice is better than unachievable advice. There’s a positive way forward for most fat people who want to be healthier – one that’s more likely to work, and less likely to encourage self-hatred, than trying to stop being fat.

One final thought: stigma against being fat may be more harmful than fat itself.

These findings suggest the possibility that the stigma associated with being overweight is more harmful than actually being overweight… Growing evidence suggests that weight bias does not work; it leads to greater morbidity and, now, greater mortality.

(See also.)

Could we get rid of weight bias while still holding the belief that fat people must lose weight? I doubt it. Reducing stigma could do more for fat people’s health than reducing waistlines.

There’s so much more to say (harms of dieting; benefits of a Health At Every Size approach; how HAES can help with disordered eating; etc), but I’m out of space.

I hope this letter finds you happy, well, and socially distanced someplace very cozy.

Best wishes, Barry

Posted in Fat, fat and more fat | Comments Off  

An open letter to be signed by cisgender women

A group of cisgender women who are trans allies have written an open letter, and are calling on cisgender women to sign it.

We are a group of cisgender women who come from all walks of life and want to make the message as clear as possible: trans people are of no threat to us.

Explanation of what the letter is for

You can read the letter itself, and sign if you want, at this link.

Posted in Transsexual and Transgender related issues | Comments Off  

Cartoon: Do We Blame the Chinese or the Jews?


If you like these cartoons, help me make more at my Patreon! A $1 or $2 pledge really matters.


I wish I could say that I’m making up these conspiracy theories, I really do. But I’m not. I’m really not. The “secret Chinese weapons program” myth was even spread by Senator Tom Cotton.

This cartoon doesn’t have suggest any deep underlying analysis; I was just reading an article about the “Jews invented COVID 19” conspiracies and thought about proponents of competing racist conspiracy theories fighting it out, and the cartoon, as they say, wrote itself. The last line actually made me snort aloud when I thought of it.

The cartooning challenge here was making a conversation taking place entirely through Zoom work. I could have just used the panel 1 layout for all three panels – a monitor with three equal-sized subwindows, and three tiny heads in each panel – but I was worried that wouldn’t be interesting visually, and would give no way to focus on specific characters. So I decided on a shot of the monitor to set the scene, and then flipping to different characters’ homes for a couple of panels, to bring in more visual variety.

(My friend and frequent collaborator Becky Hawkins has been playing with the same thing in some of her theater cartoons, although she’s taken a different approach – and I might swipe her approach for a future cartoon).

In my first sketch, all three characters were drawn from straight on. Then I realized that it would be incredibly unrealistic to have a Zoom meeting without us looking up at at least one person’s nostrils. :-)

I had a lot of fun drawing the characters and I think the drawings came out well. There are little bits here and there – like the thick and thin of the line of the cheek of the guy wearing glasses  – that I’m really pleased with. (I spend so much more time thinking about thick and thin lines than anyone really should.)

But what really makes the cartoon work, visually, is the colors. When I gave this to Frank Young to color, I told him I’d like each of the three environments to have their own color palette, while sticking to the sort of desaturated colors I usually prefer in my cartoons. But that’s all I told him; the specific colors used, and the modeling and the shadows on the walls, were all Frank’s contribution, and I’m so happy with how they look. My favorite thing about working with collaborators is not knowing exactly what they’ll do, and so getting to be surprised.

Seeing it in color made me notice that the big wall behind the character in panel three was too sparse, so I drew  one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite comic strips. I drew Lucy freehand, rather than tracing. Drawing Schulz’s characters is actually a bit tricky – they’re deceptively simple, but just one line out of place and it’ll look “wrong.”


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels.

PANEL 1

A shot of a computer monitor on a desk or table of some sort. (I just noticed that I forgot to draw any cables or anything coming from the monitor. Oops!) There’s a coffee mug, with a spoon in it and a smiley face on it, on the table in front of the monitor.

The screen is divided into three windows, each of which shows a different person; in other words, this is a Zoom conversation. The upper left window shows a guy wearing a black tee shirt under an open plaid shirt. The upper right window shows an extreme closeup of a man’s face, shot from below; he’s wearing rectangular glasses. And the bottom window shows a fat man with nice-looking fluffy hair, who is wearing a button-up collared shirt with a necktie.

PLAID is waving his arms with a distressed expression; GLASSES is sneering; and FLUFFY is smiling silently.

PLAID: Coronavirus was caused by Jews! God’s punishing them for rejecting Christ, and it’s spread to the rest of us!

GLASSES: Ridiculous! Everyone knows the virus was created in a secret Chinese weapons lab!

PANEL 2

We’re now looking at Plaid in profile, as he leans forward a bit to yell angrily at his monitor, shaking a forefinger at the monitor. On his monitor, distorted because it’s in perspective, we can barely see Glasses angrily yelling back, and Fluffy smiling as he talks.

PLAID: A secret Chinese weapons lab controlled by Jews!

GLASSES: Chinese!

FLUFFY: Hey, fellas, come on!

PANEL 3

A shot of Fluffy, in an upper-middle-class-looking living room; there’s an armchair, a window with curtains and a potted plant on the windowsill; a coffee mug on a table with an open book beside it. Fluffy is standing and speaking at a tablet in his left hand, still smiling pleasantly. We can now see that he’s not wearing pants, and his boxer shorts have a little hearts pattern.

FLUFFY: A pandemic is no time to be divisive. More than ever, we need to compromise and get along. What do you say, Bob?

PANEL 4

Almost the same shot as panel one, showing the monitor with three windows on it. PLAID has picked up the smiley face coffee mug and is looking more sedate as he talks. Fluffy and Glasses are both agreeing cheerfully.

PLAID: All right… But can the next pandemic be about Jews?

FLUFFY: Absolutely!

GLASSES: I’ll be there with swastikas on!

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Comic: Private Equity Vampire


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“I’m forcing you to innovate and learn to do more with less blood!” is definitely my favorite line in this strip.


This cartoon was drawn for Dollars and Sense Magazine back in April. I put off posting it because it’s been hard to concentrate on anything but viruses and six feet of social distancing and hospitals and ventilators and flattening curves lately. I’m sure it’s been similar for you.

But life must go on – even if it’s going on almost entirely in the confines of my own house. I’m very lucky, both in that I like my house, but also in that it’s a large house with nine housemates (including myself but excluding the cats). I definitely think the crisis is harder on people who live alone. (Of course, the downside is that I have a slightly higher chance of catching coronovirus compared to if I lived alone).

Anyway, I hope you’re well. I hope you’re healthy, and able to stay that way. And I hope you’re as comfortable as you can be while we move through this crisis.


“Private equity typically refers to investment funds, generally organized as limited partnerships, that buy and restructure companies that are not publicly traded.” But in practice, this means that businesses like Toys R Us can wind up being owned and controlled by people who don’t know anything about the business and aren’t on the hook if the company goes down the toilet.

Markets don’t function if the owners of corporations make a big profit no matter what happens. But as this Vox story notes, private equity means that the new owners make a killing even if they destroy their newly acquired company.

The controversy surrounding private equity is that whatever happens to the company acquired, private equity makes money anyway. Firms generally have a 2-20 fee structure, which means they get a 2 percent management fee from their investors and then a 20 percent performance fee on the money they make from their deals. Basically, if an investment goes well, they get 20 percent of that. But regardless of what happens, they get 2 percent of the money they’re managing altogether, which is a lot. According to data from consultancy firm McKinsey, the global private equity industry’s asset value has grown to nearly $6 trillion.

Moreover, private equity firms can take out additional loans through their leveraged companies to pay dividends to themselves and their investors, and the companies are on the hook for those loans too.

Often, the easiest and most direct route to short-term profit is to load an acquired company with debt. Sure, too much debt can kill a company, but the investors get rich(er).

This is a problem that Congress could certainly address. Again from Vox:

In July, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) rolled out a plan and accompanying legislation — the Stop Wall Street Looting Act of 2019 — taking direct aim at the sector. Her proposal would overhaul how private equity collects fees, who’s responsible for an acquired company’s debt, and how stakeholders are paid in the event a company does go bankrupt. It would also close the carried interest loophole that keeps private equity’s taxes so low. While Warren’s bill wouldn’t end private equity, it would change incentives and force firms to have more skin in the game.

Whether or not Congress will actually pass such a law, I don’t know.


My first layout of this cartoon was four panels of middle-ground figures, all drawn the same size, on a generic city sidewalk. Then I realized that this cartoon gave me an excuse to draw a graveyard, and that was a lot more interesting to me. Panel 2, especially, was a chance to draw a panel that’s pretty different from my typical images.

I don’t know if this is the first time I’ve made the white, middle-aged, businessman-looking character the sympathetic character in my cartoon. But it would’t surprise me at all if it were.

 


TRANSCRIPT OF COMIC:

This comic strip has four panels. All four panels show the same two characters. The first is a balding businessman-looking type, middle-aged, wearing a collared shirt and necktie, and wearing glasses. The second character is a stereotypical male vampire, with pointy ears, pale skin, fangs, and a big black cloak.

All four panels take place at night, in a hilly graveyard.

PANEL 1

This panel shows the businessman jumping back in fear as the vampire leans towards him, leering.

BUSINESSMAN: Gasp! A vampire!

VAMPIRE: I’m not a vampire. I’m a private equity firm! I’m here to help you because you’re fragile and weak!

PANEL 2

A shot shows weeds and a bare tree and some graves, mostly in silhouette, in the foreground. Far in the background, we can see the businessman being chased by the vampire. There’s a full moon in the sky.

BUSINESSMAN: But I’m actually very healthy!

VAMPIRE: You look healthy. But you need to be owned and monitored by someone who knows literally nothing about your business.

PANEL 3

In front of a stone wall with a rickety iron-bar fence, the vampire has caught the businessman, and is leaning the businessman backward while he bends forwards and sucks the blood out of the businessman’s neck. The businessman looks very distressed, understandably; the vampire looks like he’s concentrating on his meal.

BUSINESSMAN: Now you’re just sucking away all my blood for yourself.

VAMPIRE: I’m forcing you to innovate and learn to do more with less blood!

PANEL 4

The businessman lies dead on the ground, his glasses having fallen off his face, eyes in the little cartoon “x”s of death. Standing above him, the vampire cheerfully speaks, holding out a hand in an “explaining” gesture.

VAMPIRE: So it seems that without blood, you weren’t nimble enough to adapt to a changing market. I’m sure you would have died sooner if I hadn’t stepped in!

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