Via Raw Story, the above cartoon by Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee, published last Thursday, has Texas Governor Rick Perry all hot under the collar–so much so that he (or some flunky) wrote a letter to the editor, which the Bee published on Friday. Here it is:
Re “Business is booming in Texas” (Editorial cartoon, April 25): It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon. While I will always welcome healthypolicy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.
Additionally, publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans who lost family and friends in this disaster. The Bee owes the community of West, Texas an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire.
– Gov. Rick Perry, Austin, Tex.
So far, Ohman’s editor Stuart Leavenworth is standing up for him. You can read his full response at the above link. From Raw Story:
Stuart Leavenworth, the editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee, said the cartoon illustrated Perry’s “disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations.”
Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown chided Texas for having a high percentage of workers earning minimum wage. Perry responded about a month later by running radio ads in California that encouraged business owners to move to his state. Perry claimed building a business in California was “next to impossible” because of regulations and taxes — regulations and taxes that his state lacked.
Ohman wrote about the “controversy” on his blog today. He says that a number of readers chastised him for the cartoon.
Their comments ranged from “you are a sick human being” to “insensitive and tasteless.” I’m not sure I am clinically qualified to give myself a direct diagnosis, but I am pretty sure I am not a sick human being. Let’s explore the question of tastelessness.
The Texas chemical plant had not been inspected by the state of Texas since 2006. That’s seven years ago. You may have read in the news that Gov. Perry, during his business recruiting trips to California and Illinois, generally described his state as free from high taxes and burdensome regulation. One of the burdensome regulations he neglected to mention was the fact that his state hadn’t really gotten around to checking out that fertilizer plant. Many Texas cities have little or no zoning, resulting in homes being permitted next to sparely inspected businesses that store explosive chemicals….
When I have to come up with these ideas, I can assure you that I am not really deliberately trying to be tasteless. I am not. What I am trying to do is make readers think about an issue in a striking way. I seem to have succeeded in this cartoon, one way or the other.
The question is whether it is tasteless or not.
My answer, respectfully, is that it isn’t.
Having said that, what normal person doesn’t mourn those poor people fighting the fire and living by the plant? I certainly do. What makes me angry, and, yes, I am driven by anger, is that it could have been prevented. I guess I could have done a toned-down version of the cartoon; I am not sure what that would have been, but I think many readers’ objections just stemmed from the fact that I used the explosion as a metaphor, period. The wound is fresh, the hurt still stings.
Personally, I thought the cartoon was brilliant–a perfect example of the old saying “a picture is worth a thousands words.” Apparently it got a pretty big rise out of Perry when the thousands of gallons of ink spilled on news stories hasn’t. Perry should be ashamed to show his face in public after what happened in West, Texas. Why on earth do Texans keep reelecting this guy?
Ohman recommended that Perry read this outstanding investigation by Pro Publica, which I read and recommended a few days ago: What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators? Perry should either read it or have his flunky read it to him. Then he should wake up and realize that millions of Americans disapprove of his laissez-faire, Ayn Randian approach to government, and cartoonist Jack Ohman expressed our feelings perfectly.
But I don’t expect Perry will take responsibility for his role in the West, Texas disaster, because he can’t handle the truth.
Good Late Night!
I don’t know about y’all, but Wednesday just can’t come fast enough. I am so sick of this election and hope that once it is all over, I will never have to see Mitt’s face (and that smirk) ever again.
Anyway, its cartoon time!
This is an open thread of course, what y’all doing tonight?
Now that we’ve all been Irish for a day–donning the green, marching or watching parades and downing those pints at the local bar, we might ask ourselves [whether we’re from Irish American backgrounds or not]: Is there anything more the Irish can teach us?
Running across an essay by Barbara Ehrenreich on American poverty, specifically the lingering, depressing notion of the ‘culture of poverty’ and
having listened to Charles Murray on Book TV discuss his recent book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2012,” I think the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
As Ehrenreich reminds us, the idea that poor people are inherently different than the affluent and in fact, need to be changed, corrected, put right has been an enduring theme of the conservative right. The inequality between the poor and the rich is not a matter of jobs or opportunity, education or money, so the theory goes. It’s about the poor being substantially flawed. They lack core values: ambition, get-up-and-go, faith, and the ability to plan for the future. The poor are impulsive, promiscuous, prone to addiction and crime and, as Ehrenreich points out, theorists all contend that the poor ‘certainly cannot be trusted with money.’
Charles Murray’s presentation picks up on the ‘culture of poverty’ theory and runs with it like a champion of reason and rightness. The American Project, Murray contends, the continuation of a civil society is threatened because the working class and upper-middle class are of a different kind altogether. The unraveling of America has nothing to do with the inequality of income but the inequality of culture.
Murray uses two ‘symbolic’ communities to illustrate his thesis: Belmont and Fishtown though both communities actually exist—Belmont, an affluent neighborhood outside Boston and Fishtown, a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia. Murray goes on to compare the two communities in four main areas: marriage, industriousness, honesty, and religiosity. And surprise, surprise. Fishtown gets a failing grade on all scores.
What does this have to do with the Irish? I suggest a quick trip back in time, say to the mid-19th century during what became known as the Great Hunger.
Ireland was heavily populated with subsistence/tenant farmers, generally in debt to their English landlords. Most have heard of the ‘great potato blight’ of 1845-1849 when over 1 million Irish died of starvation. What many may not know is that the the affluent English landlords were exporting an abundance of grain, meat and dairy for profit as the Irish poor starved. And the conservative government response? Their policy was one of laissez faire, leave well enough alone. As the Assistant Secretary of Ireland reportedly said at the time: to give the people something for nothing, ‘would have the country on us for an indefinite time.’ The fear of dependency was greater than watching the population starve. Free market policies and workhouses became popular. But still people died. In droves. The fields of once blighted potatoes became graveyards.
How were the Irish viewed by ‘polite’ English society? The Irish were considered brutish, lazy, devious, promiscuous, prone to crime and heavy drinking. Worse yet—they were Catholic.
The point is that this warped view on poverty is not new. Nor are the political responses. Even when a population was starving to death en masse, the response in Ireland was an ideological one: people had to work to be fed, even when they were too weak and sick to stand upright.
The Irish know this. They remembered it well and passed the bleak stories down to their descendants. The impoverished Irish immigrants, those who came to America [if they survived the ocean crossing], found the same weary stereotypes waiting on another shore. Anyone with Irish American grandparents or other family oldsters have likely heard the tales of blatant bigotry while growing up—the ‘no dogs or Irish’ signs in shop windows.
Still I found it amazing that Murray could say the main problem threatening the Nation today is not income inequality but cultural inequality. Minx wrote a very effective piece last week on the growing poverty in the US. Cited in her post was a statement by Tavis Smiley, who is pushing to have the issue of exploding poverty included in the 2012 election:
Women are much more likely to be poor than men, and more than a million children have fallen into poverty, and more than 500,000 have fallen into extreme poverty” — that is, living on less than $2 a day — “since 2010.” Recent census data shows that the number of children who live in extreme poverty has doubled from 1996 to 2011, from 1.4 million to 2.8 million.
And yet, as Minx pointed out a number of states: Kansas, Utah and Nebraska have initiated policies to cut food stamps to needy children.
Well here’s a factoid that turns the whole cultural argument on its head: the fastest growing segment of the newly poor are in suburban neighborhoods.
Some of this is due to changing demographics but the larger percentage has to do with long-term unemployment, stagnate wages, off-shoring, the housing debacle, etc., etc. Here’s a chilling study from the same link:
Mark Rank, a social welfare professor at Washington University in St. Louis, has written extensively about shifts in U.S. poverty since the 1960s, and finds that Americans today are more likely to face poverty than in the past. According to Rank’s data, 24 percent of people who were in their 20s in the 1970s were likely to experience poverty at some point in their lives. That number rose to 31 percent in the 1980s and 37 percent in the 1990s. Today a majority of Americans-51.4 percent, according to the Urban Institute-will experience poverty by the time they’re 65.
Are we to believe that this sudden shift to poverty or expectation of poverty is all about lost moral/cultural compasses? Charles Murray would say, ‘yes.’ He suggests that the upper-middle class reach out, reintegrate and reeducate the working classes in the four pillars of civil society: marriage, industriousness, honesty and religiosity. Note that Murray’s study just happens to begin at the soon-to-be turbulent 1960s. Ahhh, if only we could go back to those Father Knows Best days.
In contrast, Barbara Ehrenreich pointedly says:
. . . a new discovery of poverty is long overdue. This time, we’ll have to take account not only of stereotypical Skid Row residents and Appalachians, but of foreclosed-upon suburbanites, laid-off tech workers, and America’s ever-growing army of the “working poor.” And if we look closely enough, we’ll have to conclude that poverty is not, after all, a cultural aberration or a character flaw. Poverty is a shortage of money.
My suggestion? Find yourself an Irish grandmother, the older the better. She’ll give you an earful. Generational memory is a powerful thing!