Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flight Security "Up in the Air"?

Air Safety Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

The Christmas Day bombing attempt on a US airliner has left many scared ... but what's just as scary is the security lapses in our system ... like the ebb and flow of the TIDE list and the inability to know if there really is an air marshal on board. Even Satan is a little leery in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Obama's Blue-Light Special

Obama Nobel Speech Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Those of us who followed President Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize speech were left with a burning question: What WAS the eerie blue light that shone over Norway??? A Russian missile launch ... an alien invasion ... ghosts? Satan and Frank Faust scrutinize the possibilities in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sarah Palin and Chanukah

Palin Chanukah Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

We've already heard one Republican's take on Chanukah -- Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. What words of wisdom might Sarah Palin have to offer? Find out in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Remember the Ladies' in Tiger Woods Scandal

Tiger Woods Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

To twist an Abigail Adams quote, that's the Devil's message to Frank Faust regarding the Tiger Woods scandal. The duo discuss this major scandal over a round of miniature golf in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pagliuca: Hoop Dreams for a Senate Seat

Pagliuca Senate Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Meet Stephen Pagliuca. He's the co-owner of the Boston Celtics and a long-shot Democratic candidate for the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy. Satan gives Pagliuca some political pointers in the latest episode of “The Devil Made Me Blog It”!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mass. Dem Senate Primary: Personal Perspectives

One week from today, voters in my home state of Massachusetts will winnow the field of candidates for the Senate seat held until earlier this year by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. The primaries for Democrats and Republicans take place next Tuesday.
I've seen two of the Democratic candidates for the seat up close -- Attorney General Martha Coakley and Congressman Michael Capuano. When I met Coakley at a Democratic State Committee meeting last year, she came off as very approachable for a member of the press. Capuano, whom I heard at an appearance at Harvard 10 years ago, when I was an undergrad and he was beginning his first term in Congress, seemed blunter. Addressing an audience of students, he stressed that selflessness, not ego, should motivate people to enter politics.
Seems like voters find the styles of both Coakley and Capuano preferable to the two other Democratic candidates, Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca and City Year head Alan Khazei. In a poll last Tuesday, Coakley led all Democratic candidates with 36 percent, followed by Capuano (21), Pagliuca (14) and Khazei (14). We'll see if these results hold true on primary day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009: Full Plate for Obama

Thanksgiving 2009 Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Despite the economic slowdown and the other turmoils of 2009, Frank Faust realizes he has a lot to be thankful for in a Turkey Day episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Barack, Berlin and the End of Racism?

Berlin Wall Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Twenty years ago, Communism crumbled with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The intellectual Frank Fukuyama called the fall of Communism “the end of history.” The Devil compares the historical moment of 1989 with that of 2008, when Barack Obama won the presidential election. Does the election of the first African-American president mean the end of racism in the US? Read more in the latest episode of “The Devil Made Me Blog It” – and feel free to weigh in on the debate!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sarah Palin: Hotspur of the Moment

Discussing her autobiography "Going Rogue" with Oprah Winfrey on Monday, Sarah Palin came off as someone who fell prey to her emotions. The closest parallel was of another "Hotspur," from a play over 400 years old -- Harry Percy, anti-hero of the Shakespearean drama "1 Henry IV."
Both Palin and Percy suffer because of their emotions. On "Oprah," the former Republican vice-presidential candidate addressed her biggest failure during the 2008 campaign: The disastrous interview with Katie Couric. Palin provided some context: She was soaring in confidence following popular acclaim, which made Couric's questions -- such as what newspapers she read -- seem like an affront. Yet in blaming Couric for the candidate's poor performance, Palin came off as tempestuous as Shakespeare's Hotspur when he told King Henry IV that he did not give His Highness his prisoners of war because ... a royal official offended him.

I then, all smarting with my wounds being cold -- To be so pestered with a popinjay! -- Out of my grief and my impatience/Answered neglectingly, I know not what...

Hotheadedness is a bad quality in a leader. It dooms Hotspur's rebellion; he alienates allies and fights a fatal battle with the King. And while Palin's publicity is rising with her "Oprah" appearance and book tour, her tempestuousness may quash any hopes she might have for national political success. A nation embroiled in two wars and an economic crisis cannot have a commander-in-chief who governs by snap decisions.
Palin should use last fall's defeat as a chance to reflect. Her running mate, Sen. John McCain, apparently learned from his primary loss to George W. Bush in 2000, and used this knowledge to win the presidential nomination last year. If she wants to emulate McCain's success, Palin should start thinking about a more levelheaded approach.
So let's hope Palin has fun on her book tour ... and that when it's all over, she takes a good look at her shameless eggers-on like Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck and thinks to herself a modern-day version of what the true hero of "1 Henry IV," Prince Hal, speaks in a soliloquy:
I know you all, and will a while uphold/The unyoked humour of your idleness. Yet herein will I imitate the sun,/Who doth permit the base contagious clouds/To smother up his beauty from the world, That when he please again to be himself, Being wanted he may be more wondered at...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sarah Palin Comic Book Party!

Come one, come all to the release party for my new comic book, “The Devil and Sarah Palin.” It's at Hub Comics at 19 Bow Street in Union Square, Somerville, on Sunday, Nov. 15, from 4-6 p.m. – two days before Palin's autobiography hits the shelves!

There will be refreshments at Sunday's party, which has already drawn advance notice from the Weekly Dig!

Did Palin strike a Faustian bargain when she accepted the Republican vice-presidential nomination last year? “The Devil and Sarah Palin” chronicles Palin's political career. Along the way, she receives advice from a political consultant more devious than Karl Rove … namely the Devil himself!

“The Devil and Sarah Palin” was a smash hit at the Boston Comic Con last month, selling out on the first day of the two-day event. Fans were still asking about it on the second day.

Abandon All Hope on Health Care?

Senate Health Care Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

My latest cartoon is about the next hurdle for health-care reform in the Senate following Saturday's victory in the House. Anyone know which author inspired the sign Satan places above the Senate chamber?

Monday, November 2, 2009

McCain and Frankenstein Republicans

Halloween may be over, but one of its enduring legends – the tale of Frankenstein – is still with us for the 2009 election season.
Last year, Sen. John McCain played the role of Dr. Frankenstein when he ran for president. He entered the election as a maverick, famous for defying George W. Bush in 2000 and for embracing compromise with the “Gang of 14” in 2005. But like Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's story, McCain tried an audacious experiment. He attempted to create new life in a party that found RINOs like himself unappealing by choosing hard-core Republican Sarah Palin as his running mate.

McCain apparently forgot that the Frankenstein monster ends up turning against his hapless creator. Palin aptly titled her upcoming autobiography “Going Rogue,” for she drew criticism for not staying in lockstep with McCain during the campaign. And while the McCain-Palin ticket lost the election, the right-wing specter McCain created is more powerful than ever.

Consider what happened, appropriately enough, on Halloween. New York Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, the choice of her state party establishment to run for Congress, pulled out of the race. Conservative critics charged that the pro-abortion Scozzafava was not right-wing enough. Their support of an alternative candidate, Doug Hoffman of the Conservative Party, prompted Scozzafava's withdrawal.

Scozzafava is the latest sign of the power of the Frankenstein Republicans against their establishment creators. One of McCain's fellow RINOs, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, defected to the Democrats earlier this year after facing stiff intra-party opposition from right-wing candidate Pat Toomey.

We shall see whether the Republican establishment can control its creations better than Dr. Frankenstein ever could.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bailout Bars and Senate Zombies

Halloween 2009 Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Halloween is here, and Satan and Frank Faust are ready to go trick-or-treating in Washington, DC. Join them as they visit the Senate zombies in thrall to the insurance industry and pick up some government-sponsored "Bailout Bars" in an All Hallows Eve version of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Moore exposes vacancy of capitalist system

Michael Moore's new movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story," drew applause from the viewers at the Kendall Square Cinema Sunday night. Despite the note of guarded optimism at the end, most of the scenes in the film were hardly cause to cheer. A family burning their possessions after getting evicted from their home in Peoria, Ill. ... blue-chip companies cashing in on life-insurance policies when their employees die ... a window worker in Chicago choking up when he and his colleagues lose their jobs when the company folds ...
Like a latter-day Dickens, Moore shows us the inhumane side of capitalism, and the very visible damage that the invisible hand of Adam Smith has wrought lately. It's perversely appropriate that the front page of the Boston Metro Monday morning is devoted to an auction of abandoned property in Detroit -- an amount "so massive it would fill all of the Hub."
Moore reveals the human faces beyond the statistics (including his own father, who discusses the better days of Detroit's auto industry), and while the New York Times criticized him for being short on solutions, he shows several examples of communities coming together to fight for the victims of capitalism in Chicago and Florida. At times the film seems longer than its two-hour, six-minute length, and at times it ignores history (Moore fusses over the crossover between Goldman Sachs and the Treasury Department but doesn't mention the tradition of such crossovers, as was the case with former Treasury boss/plutocrat Andrew Mellon in the early 20th century).
Still, Moore deserves praise for another timely expose, this one of the timeless problem of human greed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New book, Boston Comic Con and NPR appearance!

Busy couple of days, faithful readers. I've got a new book out, "The Devil and Sarah Palin," an illustrated look at the political career thus far of the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee. It contains selections from my "Devil Made Me Blog It" strips plus previously unpublished material, chronicling Palin's path from John McCain's running mate to her resignation as governor of Alaska to her "Going Rogue" on death panels.
"The Devil and Sarah Palin" is on sale at three locations in the greater Boston area of Massachusetts:

I'll also be selling copies at the Boston Comic Con in the Back Bay this weekend.
And yes, that was me you heard talking about Boston's influences on budding writers on the NPR program "Radio Boston" today!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pro Football and Patriotic Perceptions

Looks like not everyone in the US is following President Obama's example of a more conciliatory tone toward the United Kingdom and the international community in general.
Next week, the New England Patriots of the National Football League will make a transatlantic trip to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London. Yet on Monday the morning crew on WROR-FM wondered how the Brits would react to a team named after the colonials who defeated the mother country in the American Revolution. (The team eagerly promotes this image, as witnessed by the "Minutemen" in colonial garb who fire their muskets at Gillette Stadium after the Pats score.)
As opposed to a friendly Obama giving an iPod to Queen Elizabeth II earlier this year, the Pats seem more emblematic of everything the international community loved to loathe about America during the George W. Bush presidency, especially its perceived arrogance. On Sunday, the Pats humiliated the Tennessee Titans, 59-0, tying an NFL record for the largest margin of victory in a game.
Let us hope that when the New England Patriots tour Old England, they will at least prove gracious guests and not make their hosts think too much about their team name. Then again, their opponent -- the Buccaneers -- derives its name from the pirates who once plundered English shipping. Whoever wins this game, it goes down as a defeat for international relations.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Liberals, Love Your Laureate!

Liberals aren't unanimous in supporting President Obama for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The New York Times noted in an editorial that the Left may feel uneasy about a wartime Commander-in-Chief winning the award, and several letter-writers to the Times identified themselves as Obama voters who nevertheless had misgivings about the peace prize going to Obama. Mephistopheles urges these liberals to stand by their man in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!
Merci to my muse for her help with the last panel.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Palin's Next Stop: Harvard Square?

Palin Hong Kong Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Sarah Palin impressed an audience of investors with her speech in Hong Kong last month. Now Mephistopheles suggests Palin take her oratorical gifts to the Hong Kong Restaurant in Harvard Square, in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!
Merci to my muse on this one...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Satan Sees Will Ferrell's Health Care Ad

Will Ferrell Ad Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Sometimes, humor is so deadpan that we miss the fact that it's a joke. Satan proves this point when he watches the recent Will Ferrell "ad" on health care and thinks the comedian is actually feeling sorry for health-care execs. Frank Faust gives Mephistopheles a reality check in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Hat tip to my friend Mark for telling me about the ad in the first place.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, Kanye West and Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur 2009 Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Much ink has already been spilled in writing about the sins of Joe Wilson, Serena Williams and Kanye West. Now it's time for God and Mephistopheles to voice their views, in a special Yom Kippur-themed edition of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Forgetting Twin Towers, Remembering Wall Street

9-11 Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

"Crisis" ... "catastrophe" ... "collapse" ... These are words you'd likely associate with the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, right? Wrong. Eight years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, people are using these words to describe a different anniversary ... that of a fateful stretch in September that sunk Lehman Brothers last year. Satan and Frank Faust assess this development in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama, Vick and a GOP Pop Quiz

Obama, Vick Speeches Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

School’s back in session, folks, and it’s time for a current-events pop quiz. The subject: recent speeches to students by two well-known public figures -- President Obama and Michael Vick -- and how the Republican Party reacted to each one. So put on your thinking caps and email me your answers at You have 30 minutes. Good luck!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ted Kennedy: ‘Last Hurrah’ for Boston Politics?

Ted Kennedy Tribute, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

People are mourning the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) as not only the passing of a great legislator, but also the end of an era of Boston politics in the national spotlight. Many of the politicians from the “Athens of America” had colorful and controversial careers, from the original “Rascal King,” James Michael Curley, to former State Senate and UMass president William Bulger. This tribute edition of “The Devil Made Me Blog It” examines where Ted fits in this cast of characters.
My condolences to the Kennedy family.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Satan to Sarah Palin: Bring Back the Bull Moose!

Bull Moose Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Sarah Palin has left the governorship of Alaska. So what's the next step? Leave the Republican Party, of course! And bring back a third party associated with another famed conservative, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt.
That, in a nutshell, is Satan's advice to Palin in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vick, Palin Eat Their Wheaties

Vick-Palin Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

At first glance, the situations of the NFL's Michael Vick and the GOP's Sarah Palin are dissimilar. Vick just got a job, Palin just lost one. Yet both have achieved success after some pretty notorious actions. Frank Faust shows Satan the similarities in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mickey D's Diplomacy?

Former president Bill Clinton has recently completed his successful mission to rescue two US journalists from captivity in North Korea, which included meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Lucifer offers his thoughts on sending Clinton in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Barack, Bibi, Birthers and Beer

Gates-Crowley Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Lucifer's on vacation this week, folks, but in the meantime I thought I'd post my take on tonight's "beer summit" between President Obama, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, and the Cambridge police officer who arrested him, James Crowley -- and on possible future summits the president could hold, including sessions with "Bibi" Netanyahu and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and with the controversial "Birther" movement.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Palin's Pipeline to Somewhere

Palin Pipeline Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

We're counting down the days to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's final day in office, and it seems fair to recognize her biggest project at the helm -- a natural gas pipeline. On board for the job is Exxon Mobil, who we hope will do a far better job than the Exxon Valdez did transporting oil in Alaska on a fateful March day 20 years ago. Read more in "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sanford, Palin: Dems' Gifts from the Magi

Sanford-Palin Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

If you're a Democrat, chances are you gotta like the latest news coming out of Republican-Land. Two of the top GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination, Govs. Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin, did their chances in recently -- one with an extramarital affair, the other with an unexpected resignation. Satan wonders whether Mitt Romney will make it a trifecta in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

PS - The title of this post -- and the fourth panel -- refer to the classic O. Henry short story "The Gift of the Magi."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Carolina Tomcat

Sanford Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

How low South Carolina has sunk. During the American Revolution, its most recognizable name was that of patriot guerrilla leader Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox." Today its most recognizable figure is infamous Gov. Mark Sanford, the "Carolina Tomcat," whose shameless exploits include a well-chronicled affair. Read more in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Palin: Foreign-Affairs Visionary?

North Korea II Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

A few weeks ago, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska warned of a North Korean nuke threat to Hawaii. Now President Barack Obama is saying the same thing. Does this make Palin a foreign-affairs visionary? Find out in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pessimism on protestors in Iran

Thirty years after its founding in a revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran seems on its shakiest footing yet. Young Iranians have grown disenchanted with the theocratic government of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after Ahmadinejad won a disputed presidential election. This disillusionment has revealed itself through public protests, and the government has responded with violent measures.
This might give many Americans reason to cheer. In the past three decades, Iran has repeatedly angered the United States, and the CIA helpfully summarizes the US' complaints:
Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US, UN, and EU economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Dare Americans dream that the protestors represent a better alternative than the mullahs who currently rule? This blogger would say no. The combination of young people and street protests offers a tantalizing hope for democracy, but history and current events suggest otherwise.
  • Student protests in Iran have a history of going against American interests. On Nov. 4, 1979, student demonstrators took over 60 Americans hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. As PBS reported, "The students vowed not to release the Americans until the U.S. returned the Shah for trial, along with billions of dollars they claimed he had stolen from the Iranian people." The hostage crisis helped sink the government of President Jimmy Carter, and only in 1981, minutes after the inauguration of Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, did the hostages see freedom.
  • The demostrators' darling isn't necessarily democratic. Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the loser of this year's election, didn't materialize out of nowhere. He served as prime minister from 1981 to 1989. And in a pre-election interview with the Financial Times, he had some relatively warm words for his opponent. "Mr Ahmadi-Nejad is the president and for this reason I respect him," Moussavi said. "There are criticisms about his opinions and behaviour. This is natural in countries like ours in which there is freedom. I don’t see Mr Ahmadi-Nejad himself as a danger."
It's possible, of course, that the student generation of 2009 has more liberal attitudes than the one of 1979. And it's possible that Moussavi could adopt more liberal positions to make his message more pleasing to his latest supporters. But perhaps President Obama is right in his reluctance to embrace the protestors. The proper position on the Iranian election crisis between theocrats and protestors might be the same one voiced by wise guys during the Iran-Iraq War: Isn't there some way they could both lose?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Date night with Kim Jong Il?

North Korea Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

President Obama faces a tough task: Balancing date night with Michelle and tense relations with North Korea. The government of Kim Jong Il has detained two American journalists -- and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin fears a North Korean nuke attack on two states -- hers, and Hawaii. Read more in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Palin's Committee of Appropriations

Seems Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has appropriated someone else's work again ... and once more, she's drawn anger over it.
Huffington Post blogger Geoffrey Dunn accused Palin of lifting too much material in a recent speech from an article by former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- who, like Palin, may run for president in 2012. But the Associated Press calls it a non-story:
Dunn posted the accusation Saturday on the Huffington Post, a liberal political Web site and blog, after comparing Gingrich's article and Palin's speech. Palin twice referenced Gringrich's article last Wednesday in Anchorage as she introduced conservative talk show host Michael Reagan, the son of former President Ronald Reagan.
This isn't the first time Palin used someone else's words and got a negative response. After she debated Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden last fall, her post-party featured the accompaniment of country star Martina McBride's anthem of empowerment "Independence Day." This upset the songwriter, Gretchen Peters, who told "Democracy Now":
(This) is a song about domestic abuse ... she represented the opposite of what this song really is all about. And I just—I knew that I didn’t have any legal recourse, but I also felt like I could have—that there was some way for me to make some kind of a statement.
And make a statement she did. Peters donated royalties from the song to Planned Parenthood in Palin's name. Luckily, this time around, Palin's source isn't upset.
"Gingrich takes no issue with (Palin) for using his words," the AP reported. "In fact, he'd be happy if more Republicans espoused his ideas, a spokesman for the former House speaker said Monday."
Looks like Palin's internalized that time-honored journalistic chestnut: Consider your source.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Unsettling times for Israel-Fatah peace prospects

Let's say you're the State of Israel. The Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are divided between Fatah and Hamas. You have an opportunity to bridge relations between one of them -- Fatah. So what do you do? Antagonize Fatah, of course!
That's what's happening thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, whose government is eager to build new settlement housing in the West Bank. The West Bank, of course, is where the Fatah government of President Mahmoud Abbas just happens to reside.
"'You can't freeze life' in the settlements, an official quoted Netanyahu as saying, defending his view that existing settlements must expand to accommodate growing families," Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Brilliant, Bibi, just brilliant. Not only does this put a dent in any friendly relations you were hoping to cultivate with Fatah, it also risks the goodwill between Israel and the Obama Administration.
Of course, there are reasons for Netanyahu encouraging the settlers. Israel, after all, is one of the world's most densely populated countries, and its people sure can't expand into the Negev Desert, as the government's motto there seems to have changed from "make the desert bloom" to "make the desert a toxic waste dump." Israeli expansion into the West Bank would potentially increase the population of the country while keeping the religious right happy. And as far as jeopardizing relations with the Obama Administration, the New York Times noted, our 44th president may be realizing his predecessors weren't able to do much about stopping settlements.
Many in the Muslim world are waiting to see what Mr. Obama will do if, as expected, Israel ignores his request on the settlements. When asked about this ... Mr. Obama indicated that he was not yet ready to stipulate an "or else,” despite the fact that several American presidents before him have demanded settlement freezes in Israel and been ignored.
But what about keeping Israel's neighbors happy? The peace treaties of 1979 with Egypt and of 1994 with Jordan brought good results for Israel and neighboring nations (less hostilities, more American aid). While the hope created by the Oslo Accords of 1993 transformed into disillusionment and despair after the Al Aqsa Intifada of 2000, relations between Fatah and Israel seemed to improve recently, given that the governments share an enemy in Hamas.
Israel should curb its desire to create and sustain illegal settlements, and foster goodwill between itself and Fatah. Unfortunately, it looks like Netanyahu will bulldoze not only more land in the West Bank, but also the prospect of peace between Israel and Fatah.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Satan Salutes Class of 2009

Commencement Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

The Class of 2009 has gotten some pretty high-profile Commencement Day speakers, from President Obama (Arizona State, Notre Dame) to Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick (MIT) to Energy Secretary Steven Chu (Harvard) to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (Barnard). Now it's Mephistopheles' turn to deliver some insights in a Commencement Day episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Holmes, Sotomayor, and the national pastime

While the Supreme Court is usually linked with issues of national gravity -- Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ended school segregation, and Roe v. Wade (1972) decided national policy in favor of abortion -- the court has recently become linked with a national pastime, albeit indirectly.
Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's choice for the high court, enters the nomination process as a judge whose resume includes dealing with professional sports. In 1995, as a Manhattan federal district court judge, Sotomayor issued an injunction that made major-league baseball end a strike that had cancelled the playoffs and World Series the previous year.
Thus did Sotomayor join other judges who umpired professional baseball from the bench, including Supreme Court justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in 1922 and Tom Clark in 1953. And it's worth noting a positive change since the Holmes and Clark decisions: Big Government has grown more willing to police Big Business, with better results for the nation.
Holmes, in Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League, spoke for the high court when he ruled that major-league baseball didn't exercise monopoly power over the national pastime and therefore didn't violate federal antitrust laws. Clark, in Toolson v. New York Yankees, said that even though pro baseball had gotten just a tad more consolidated in power and lucrative in profits since the Holmes case, the original ruling still stood.
These decisions symbolized what was wrong with American judicial attitudes toward business in the first half of the past century. The high court was too willing to follow President Calvin Coolidge's contention that "the chief business of America is business." As the court let pro baseball grow unfettered from judicial regulation, it was perhaps unsurprising that the man who filled the power vacuum in the American and National Leagues for much of the early 20th century, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, oversaw a system of inequality -- a system that banned African-Americans from playing in the majors until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, three years after Landis' death.
Sotomayor represents a healthy change from the outdated pro-business-above-all-else judicial thinking of the past. She realizes that businesses -- especially ones claiming to represent a national pastime -- deserve no exemption from national scrutiny. Let us hope she brings similar clearsightedness to the Supreme Court.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dick Cheney, Public Citizen?

Cheney Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

That's what Satan seems to think after the former vice president delivered a blistering speech against President Obama on Thursday. Read more in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sri Lanka: Island in the storm

Since 1983, the island nation of Sri Lanka has been the battleground for a conflict between the government and a separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), better known as the Tamil Tigers. The conflict on the island, which is about the size of West Virginia, included suicide bombers, the assassinations of two heads of state, and tens of thousands of other lives lost. Now, it seems, the government has prevailed.
Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa "declared on television that after more than 25 years, his troops had defeated one of the world’s most enduring guerrilla armies on the battlefield," the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
This is welcome news, given the Tigers' past atrocities. They were one of the pioneers of suicide bombings, their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was accused of masterminding the assassination of then-Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, and a suicide bomber assassinated then-Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993. Still, the Times seemed guarded about future prospects for Sri Lanka, based on the measures Rajapaksa's government took to win the war -- "defied international pressure to stanch civilian casualties, squelched dissent, blocked independent reporting" -- and the challenges that await in peacetime.
"Now, some of Sri Lanka's erstwhile allies, including those that had banned the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization, are calling for an international commission of inquiry into possible war crimes," the Times reported.
There are other concerns. It sounds like Sri Lanka got the weapons it needed to win the war by playing off two of its fellow South Asian nations, India and Pakistan, and neither of these nuke-possessing nations needs another reason to feel slighted against each other. The government must find a way to provide for fair treatment of the Tamil minority. And the possibility of war crimes isn't the only human-rights issue the island faces; the CIA notes that "for a second consecutive year, Sri Lanka is on the Tier 2 Watch List for failing to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of human trafficking."
Let us hope that Sri Lanka has not emerged from over 25 years of conflict only to face even greater troubles ahead.

Friday, May 15, 2009

State senator slurs Schumer

Schumer Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Arkansas state senator Kim Hendren reportedly called Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York "that Jew" in a recent appearance. Things got weirder when Hendren tried to do damage control after his mean-spirited remark about Schumer's faith. "I was attempting to explain that unlike Sen. Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on 'The Andy Griffith Show,'" Hendren said. My liberal heroine Susannah gives Hendren his comeuppance in this week's cartoon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama pulls a 180 on torture photos

President Obama announced Wednesday that he will try to block the release of photos of members of the US military engaging in torture, and the 180-degree turns from his administration on this issue are enough to mystify a Massachusetts motorist on I-93.
First, while the administration fears the 2,000-plus photos, taken between 2003 and 2006, might encourage "a deadly backlash against American troops," a Pentagon source told the Times the images "were not as provocative as pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib." Question the reliability of the source all you want, but the latter images have been in the public domain for years, and I don't know that they've influenced the Global War on Terror in any tangible way. Meanwhile, if Obama is concerned about the effect pictures might have, why wasn't he equally worried about publicizing words -- namely, words about Bush-era torture techniques at Gitmo? Most bizarrely, in a quote tucked at the bottom of the Times story, Obama claims free speech will lead to censorship: "I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse."
Why the reversals? It's partly historical. Incoming presidents frequently find it difficult if not impossible to balance their dreams with DC politics -- witness what happened to Bill Clinton's wish to allow gays to serve openly in the military, and George W. Bush's goal to privatize Social Security. And part of it pertains to the specifics of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Quoth the Times:
The administration said last month that it would not oppose the release of the pictures, but Mr. Obama changed his mind after seeing the photographs and getting warnings from top Pentagon officials that the images, taken from the early years of the wars, would “further inflame anti-American opinion” and endanger troops in two war zones.
Somewhere, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and disgraced former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards must be having a little chuckle. One day after Obama launched his successful bid for the presidency in 2007, he said that even before the Iraq War, "it was possible to make judgments that this would not work out well" -- a stance that Reuters called an indirect contrast to that of "presidential rivals Clinton and (Edwards), who both voted to authorize the war in 2002." The recent photo flap reveals that in terms of military policy, candidate Obama may have avoided making a 360-degree turn like Clinton and Edwards ("We voted for the war before opposing it"), but now that he's president, he's finding out the job he sought and won means having to make lots of 180-degree turns.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Barack Obama: The First Hundred Sways

Obama Hundred Days, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Last week, Barack Obama celebrated his first 100 days as president of the United States. (I also marked the occasion with my second self-published collection of cartoons, "The Devil Made Me Blog It: The First 100 Sways.") Mephistopheles and Frank Faust reflect -- from the president's popularity to the arrival of First Dog Bo to the economic crisis that won't go away -- in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Palin charts path of least assistance

On April 28, the office of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin addressed the $929 million in economic stimulus funds sent from Washington to the Last Frontier. (It could have been more, but she rejected $28.6 million extra.) She said, "I have been clear and consistent about my concerns with accepting economic stimulus funds as our nation incurs tremendous debt." She detailed those concerns: "(We) must acknowledge that these are one-time, temporary funds, that the federal government is deeply in debt, and that we must borrow money from other countries to fund much of government."
It's easy to paint Palin as a maverick here. After all, you could also characterize a tax rebate as a "one-time, temporary fund," but that probably wouldn't stop Americans from accepting it, and it didn't stop President Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, from using it. But when federal aid expands from a $300 tax rebate to a $929 million relief package, some folks start complaining. And whether consciously or not, Palin may be appealing to this constituency, which the president of the American Enterprise Institute characterized as
homeowners who didn't walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don't want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don't need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right -- and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.
Perhaps Palin will become a leader of this movement as she jockeys for position in the 2012 GOP presidential field. But there are complicating factors. While she urged against federal aid, she welcomed aid from a different source -- the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelical pastor Billy Graham. Some might wonder why she considers it acceptable to welcome private assistance but not public aid, given that the former can fluctuate depending upon the economy. And despite Palin's reluctance on aid from DC, all she could do in the end was distance herself from the state legislature ... which ultimately accepted federal funds.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mexico (and swine flu) on my mind

Flu Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Let's hope the world community can curtail the swine flu emergency soon! My sympathies go out to all the victims, and I especially hope things improve in Mexico, where I have relatives. The flu is the subject of this week's episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama Shakes up GOP on torture debate

"And let me speak to th' yet unknowing world
How these things came about. So shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts..."

~William Shakespeare, Hamlet

We observed the Bard's birthday this month -- he was baptized April 26, 1564 -- and we also observed President Obama do something in the style of Shakespearean monarchs (think Fortinbras in Hamlet) ready to examine the sins of their predecessors: He's looking for answers on the waterboarding issue. And maybe Obama's doing it in part for Shakespearean reasons: He's seeking to divide the Republican opposition.
Waterboarding, Fox News reports, works as follows:
(A) detainee is strapped to a gurney with his head lowered and a cloth placed on his face. Interrogators pour water onto the cloth, which cuts off air flow to the mouth and nostrils, tripping his gag reflex, causing panic and giving him the sensation that he is drowning.At that point the cloth would be removed, the gurney rotated upright and the detainee would be allowed to breathe.
No wonder the Obama Administration has taken steps against this -- the most recent one being last Thursday's release of Bush-era memos describing its use against detainees in the War on Terror.
In addition to rousing a nation's conscience, this move could split the opposition. Some Republicans could argue that while waterboarding is heinous, flying airplanes into buildings is even more despicable, and that winning the War on Terror justified whatever means were taken. On the other hand, GOP members already uneasy with sidestepping the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment may find the past administration even more unsavory now that we know just how cruel and unusual its punishments were.
"Let this same be presently performed," Horatio tells Fortinbras of disclosing former King Claudius' misrule in Hamlet, "Even whiles men's minds are wild, lest more mischance/On plots and errors happen." Not only has Obama stopped "more mischance" from the CIA, he could also start a debate among the GOP about how it prosecuted the War on Terror.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Walking out on Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Maybe Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should have stuck to discussing the skiing conditions at the UN conference on racism in Geneva. Instead, he insulted Israel in a speech ... which prompted other attendees to walk out. Mephistopheles and Frank Faust discuss the speech -- and the reaction it caused -- in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NY Times too quick to predict end of anti-gay speech

Frank Rich, New York Times columnist, is a little too premature in declaring the end of anti-gay speech in this country.
In a recent op-ed, Rich disses the anti-gay YouTube video "Gathering Storm" and the movement behind it, saying:
What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.
Not so fast, Frank. The past year reveals that the struggle for gay rights still faces plenty of setbacks, and these setbacks should be noticeable for a guy drawing paychecks from the New York Times. Some examples:
  • In January 2008, country/pop star Taylor Swift released a song called "Picture to Burn" in which the singer envisions how she'll slam her ex. "So go and tell your friends/That I’m obsessive and crazy," Swift sings. "That’s fine/I’ll tell mine/You’re gay." Country music blog The 9513 reports that this last line has "been edited out of the radio version," but at least one station didn't get the message: I heard it on Country 102.5-FM yesterday afternoon.
  • In November 2008, as Barack Obama received a national mandate for change, people in California voted against a particular change: Gay marriage. Fifty-two percent of Golden State voters backed Proposition 8, which would ban gay marriage. The Wall Street Journal said: "The passage of Prop 8 ... would be a major victory for religious conservatives seeking to ban gay marriage in other states, and a crippling setback for the gay rights movement nationwide." And Californians weren't the only ones to pass bans against gay marriage. So did people in two other states -- Arizona and Florida.
So while it's gutsy of Rich to predict the end of anti-gay talk in the US, the road ahead is still in some ways as hard as it was in the Harvey Milk days. It's still too easy for anti-gay lyrics to surface in songs, or for anti-gay marriage campaigns to win at the polls. May this change in the year ahead.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

GOP parties like it's 1773!

Tea Party, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

On Tax Day 2009, Republicans across the United States "celebrated" by throwing "tea parties." Satan joins in the fun in a tax-deductible episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A tale of two hostage crises

It took five days for the US Navy to rescue Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates who had captured his ship ... but Israeli Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit still languishes in Hamas captivity over 1,000 days after militants took him prisoner. Why did the Navy mission succeed, and Israeli efforts (so far) fail?
A lot of it has to do with geography. For all their technological prowess -- the New York Times described Phillips' captors as "armed with pistols and AK-47s" -- the pirates were undone by the fact they were operating on the open sea. "By the weekend," the Times reported, "the pirates had begun to run out of food, water and fuel. That apparently provided the opening officials were hoping for."
Shalit, by contrast, is at the mercy of not a group of four pirates, but a Hamas government entrenched in the Gaza Strip, which the BBC called "one of the most densely populated tracts of land in the world." Locating him here seems difficult, so perhaps it's inevitable for Israel to try to rescue him through diplomatic means, although progress in talks seems slow. YNet News reported that a Hamas "official cited the election of a new Israeli government as the reason no breakthrough was expected in the coming months."
So what can we do? The Times involved its readers in the crisis off Somalia by soliciting solutions. For anyone following the Shalit saga, there are a number of ways to call for action. There is an online petition that urges Secretary of State Clinton to make the US' humanitarian aid pledge to Gaza
-- the petition says it's $300 million, the Times (UK, not NY) says it's $900 million -- contingent upon his release, which my friend Martin mentioned to me in an email. Shalit holds dual French and Israeli citizenship; perhaps pressure on Sarko -- and on Egypt and the Vatican, which have gotten involved in negotiations, as well as on the International Committee of the Red Cross, which Hamas has prevented from seeing Shalit -- could result in positive results. Let's hope that someday soon, Shalit will have the same freedom from captivity that Captain Phillips now enjoys.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Barack Obama World Tour 2009

Obama World Tour, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Look out, Jules Verne. President Barack Obama has done Phileas Fogg one better by going "Around the World in One Week" instead of 80 days. During that time, he gave Queen Elizabeth II an iPod, called for a nuclear-free era, and bolstered US status in the Middle East. Read more in "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Closer ties with Castro, Cuba?

Not long after my muse and I returned from Puerto Rico, a couple of other Americans have visited a Caribbean island. Only in this case, the visitors are coming from Congress, and the island ... well, let's just say this one's a little harder for your average American to get to than Puerto Rico.
Delegates from the Congressional Black Caucus met with ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro this week, following up a meeting of six caucus members with the country's current head, Fidel's brother Raul.
This was the highest-profile meeting between Fidel and American politicians in some time. The AP reported that "among the last U.S. officials to see (Fidel Castro)" were the governors of Nebraska and Louisiana, who met in 2005 with the Maximum Leader for trade talks.
Something tells me they won't be singing "Guantanamera" anytime soon in the Oval Office ... but President Obama seems more lenient toward the island nation than his predecessor ever did.
"Obama has ordered an assessment of U.S. policy toward the communist nation and some members of Congress are pushing to lift a ban on Americans visiting the island," the AP reported.
So will the NYT someday pitch trips to Cuba as eagerly as it does excursions to its Communist counterpart Vietnam? We'll see...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

'The Devil Made Me Blog It' returns for Boston Comic Con!

"The Devil Made Me Blog It: The First 100 Sways," the second print collection of my Web comic "The Devil Made Me Blog It," will be available for purchase at the Boston Comic Con at the Back Bay Events Center in Boston this weekend -- Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5.
"The First 100 Sways" chronicles the opening months of the Obama administration, as well as the events that preceded it, from Election Day to Obama's Cabinet decisions to the inaugural festivities in Washington, DC. Look for cameos from former president George W. Bush, new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and some extraterrestrial visitors.
Also look for "The First 100 Sways" to be on sale at selected comic book stores in the next couple of weeks.
"The Devil Made Me Blog It" is a regular feature of my blog, The strip made its debut in print form at the Comic Con and stores across the greater Boston area last fall, just in time for Halloween and Election Day. For more information, email me at

Friday, March 20, 2009

Supporters: Would Israel Have "Lost Them Anyway"?

"Could've tried just a little bit harder

Kissed you just a little bit sweeter

Held on just a little bit longer

Dug down just a little bit deeper" ~Toby Keith

Even if he had taken all these measures, the imaginary lover in TK's country anthem notes to his ex, he would have "Lost You Anyway." The State of Israel, however, is hoping this won't be the case with its support abroad.
"Global opinion surveys are being closely examined and the Foreign Ministry has been granted an extra $2 million to improve Israel’s image through cultural and information diplomacy," the New York Times reported.
Why the push to "improve Israel's image"? Well, the country has recently concluded a war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip that prompted accusations of atrocities committed by the Israeli Defense Forces. And the unsavory Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, has risen to the forefront with calls for deportation of Israeli Arabs who won't take a loyalty oath. With friends like these...well, let the Times finish the sentence.
The gap between Israelis and many liberal American Jews could be seen Tuesday in
a blog by Bradley Burston, who writes on the Web site of the left-leaning
newspaper Haaretz. He said that while visiting Los Angeles he faced many
questions that amounted to “What is wrong with these people, your friends, the
He quoted an article by Anne Roiphe, an American Jewish liberal,
which said that witnessing the popularity of Mr. Lieberman in Israel made her
feel “as if my spouse had cheated on me with Mussolini.”
In the Boston area, where this correspondent is based, organizations such as Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the Jewish Community Relations Council have led efforts to reach out to American Jews, sponsoring lunchtime lectures by Israeli authorities such as Hebrew University professor Reuven Hazan and activist Avi Melamed to explain aspects of Israeli politics to Jews in the diaspora. And that's important, given that other voices in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been far from silent -- like those who hold "Israeli Apartheid Week" events.
It also sounds like the Israeli reaction to criticism of its actions contains more seriousness than spin. That's important, too, because it shows a more realistic response than what it did when it invaded Lebanon in 1982. Quoth Thomas Friedman in "From Beirut to Jerusalem":
The Hadassah women and the big donors to the United Jewish appeal were
bussed up to East Beirut and taken by the Israeli army on special tours of the
front, where they got to pose in flak jackets atop mud-splattered tanks and peer
through binoculars at real live artillery blasting real live "terrorists." The
really big donors -- $100,000 a year and above -- got special intelligence
briefings with topographical maps. (132)
When Israel invaded Lebanon, we got the massacres of Sabra and Shatila. Let's hope that in the wake of its current crises with its neighbors and within, Israel acts humanely -- and conveys that message to people abroad.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let a hundred economic crises bloom

China-US cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

To paraphrase Chairman Mao, this looks like the state of the US economy. And China's worried -- Premier Wen Jiabao said so last week. Satan thinks President Obama can capitalize on Beijing's fears, though, and lays out his plan in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Frankie Goes to Alaska, Will Chavez Follow?

Last month, Gov. Sarah Palin accompanied the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of famed pastor Billy Graham, on a relief mission to western Alaska. Franklin Graham is president and CEO of a nondenominational evangelical Christian aid organization, Samaritan's Purse, and it was in that capacity that he distributed 7,700 pounds of food (with almost 40,000 more potentially on the way) to needy people in two southwestern villages, Marshall and Russian Mission. Alaska's governor, a potential 2010 Republican nominee for president, wants to see more such efforts.
"Palin says government is not the answer and we should depend more on public-private partnerships to reach out to people in need," KTUU reported.
But will Palin draw the line on certain partnerships, as some of her constituents have done in the past? Three years ago, Alaskans made headlines for refusing offers of another commodity -- oil -- from the Venezuelan state-subsidized company Citgo, shortly after Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez called then-US President George W. Bush "the devil."
"The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, a native nonprofit organization that would have handled the heating oil donation on behalf of 291 households in Nelson Lagoon, Atka, St. Paul and St. George, rejected the offer because of the insults Chavez has hurled at Bush," Fox News reported.
Since then, Alaska's gotten a new governor (Frank Murkowski was in charge then), America's gotten a new president ... and conditions among the poor in Alaska seem to have stayed as bad as they were three years ago. "For years, Alaska natives have accused the state and federal governments of sending too little money to their tiny, far-flung communities, where fuel and grocery prices are bloated by the high costs of delivery by plane and barge," Fox noted during the Chavez controversy. And even though Palin and Graham brought food last month, "the village of Marshall says it needs more long-term solutions," KTUU reported. "The high cost of fuel has made it a harsh winter."
We shall see whether the situation gets dire enough for Palin to welcome Chavez to the Last Frontier.

(Hat tip to my Ohio source who mentioned Alaskans' rejection of Chavez.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Goes Sleeveless

Michelle Obama-Rush Limbaugh, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Fashion statements and political statements -- both have created controversies lately. First Lady Michelle Obama drew criticism for wearing a sleeveless outfit for her official portrait photo, while conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh got into an argument with party chairman Michael Steele -- after which Steele apologized to El Rushbo. Liberal Susannah, conservative Bob, and a neutral cat assess the situation with some statements of their own!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

US Drug Craze to Blame for Mexico Unrest

Fourteen years ago, when I was a high school senior applying to college, I wrote an admissions essay to Harvard lamenting the popularity of American goods in my father's homeland, Mexico -- that, suffocated by American products, Mexicans had no chance to develop a national identity. Alas, it seems this is the least of Mexico's problems today.
The country is beset by drug cartels that terrorize government officials and the general public. Corruption prevents the government from combating the problem more effectively. The violence has unnerved the United States, whose military has discussed the possibility of the collapse of the Mexican state and whose government and universities warn students to stay away from Mexico on spring break.
Something tells me that yet another American import is creating the havoc in Mexico: The US yearning for illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana. The northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, site of much of the drug violence, "is the starting point for much of the drugs that pass through Mexico to the United States," the Washington Post reported last year.
The financial aspect of the drug trade seems to make the problem harder to solve. Sinaloa economist Guillermo Ibarra had some revealing words for The Post:
"If you took drug money out of Sinaloa, half the automobile dealerships would fail," Ibarra said. "Half the restaurants would fail, the real estate market would collapse. Even if you only reduced drug money by 9 percent, there would be an immediate recession, a crisis much like the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States."
I'm not sure how best the Mexican government could respond. Strengthening the economy might help, weakening the financial impact of the drug trade and making less people dependent on it. But these are dicey economic times across the globe, and it is hard to see either the Mexican economy, or the stability of the country, getting better any time soon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

GOP Govs' Get-Together

GOP Govs Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Shortly before President Obama addressed the nation on the economy Tuesday, Republican (and Democratic) governors rendezvoused for a national conference. Some of the Republicans were discussing rejecting part of the bailout money that may be sent their way. Guest speaker Satan has some words of wisdom for the GOP governors in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Coulter: I Think I'm Comin' to Boston...

...and New York and Chicago, too.
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter will debate liberal commentator Bill Maher at the Wang Center in Boston on March 10. The Athens of America is one of three stops for Coulter and Maher, who will also duel -- oratorically, that is -- in the Big Apple and the Second City.
On the surface, it's encouraging that a prominent liberal and conservative are debating like this. But it will only be a true exchange if it's done in a debate-style format instead of a format of one person addressing the audience and their counterpart issuing a rebuttal, as was the case when Coulter debated Air America's Al Franken in Los Angeles in 2006.
Let's hope, also, that neither Coulter nor Maher uses the occasion not as a promising exchange of ideas, but as a way to slur an individual or group. Coulter's latest offense is slandering single mothers in her new book "Guilty." She also derided Mexicans during her stop in LA. Maher, meanwhile, called the 9/11 hijackers "not cowardly" ... on Sept. 17, 2001. And fate joined both pundits almost two years ago: Maher, in the wake of Coulter's use of the F-word while discussing John Edwards, then made ill-considered comments himself, about then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Still, perhaps, with the presence of a live audience before them and a willing partner in debate, Coulter and Maher can show the country that liberals and conservatives can share a stage cordially. For far too long, the Left and Right have seemed too comfortable excoriating each other. It's good they'll get to listen to each other now.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Obama's Close Encounters

Aliens Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

Two scary developments lately. First, a pair of satellites collided high above Planet Earth. Next, observers spotted a mysterious object in the Texas skies. Does this all portend an alien invasion? And, if so, what can President Obama do about it? Satan and Frank Faust discuss in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Winston Obama

Liked President Obama's evocation of Winston Churchill in discussing the economic crisis.
"I don't want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems, nor does it constitute all of what we have to do to turn the economy around," he said in signing the $787 billion stimulus package in Denver on Wednesday. "But today does mark the beginning of the end."
As the Brits themselves noted, "The language is remarkably similar to the famous speech Churchill gave after the battle of El Alamein in 1942, a turning point in the Second World War when he said: 'This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.'"
Churchill spoke presciently. After Marshal Montgomery defeated Gen. Rommel at Alamein, the momentum shifted in favor of the Allied Powers. However, the war lasted three more years before the Allies achieved victory.
How long, by contrast, will Obama's economic end-times last? “If you look at the unemployment numbers ... the fragility of the financial system and the fact that it’s an international system,” he told Tom Brokaw in December 2008, the recession “is a big problem, and it’s going to get worse.”
Obama will need more than Churchillian rhetoric to get him -- and the United States -- through this crisis.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentines for Obama

Valentine's Day Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.

President Obama has become a national heartthrob. He's had heartwarming moments at the Grammy Awards, where the academy president saluted him in a speech, and at media events, where he has thoughtfully shown emotion to members of the the public. Can he preserve his popularity? In the first "Running Gags" of 2009, liberal Susannah, conservative Bob, and a neutral cat weigh in on a Valentine's Day themed episode!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Israel Elections: Nobody Wins, We All Lose

Israeli voters leaned toward one of two candidates in national elections this week: Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, who screwed up the peace process over a decade ago, and Tzipi Livni, who screwed up the Gaza Strip situation a few weeks ago. Which will they choose?
Here is an assessment of the directions Israel could go in:
  • Older and wiser, or just older? Netanyahu eventually became prime minister after the assassination of Nobel Peace Prize winner Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Bibi's hawkishness -- along with, of course, the flaws of his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Arafat -- helped clip the wings of the dove of peace that seemed so promising with the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords. Has Bibi learned from his mistakes as PM from 1996-99? Or will he turn even more macho in the wake of threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran?
  • Present imperfect. Livni led a war against Hamas in Gaza that resulted in international outcry against Israel -- although we must admit that Israel cannot move a tank from its base without drawing protests -- and, more seriously, failed to silence the rockets from Gaza or curtail their increasing distance.
  • Blinded by the right(-wing). Meet Avigdor Lieberman, would-be kingmaker (or prime minister-maker), whose Yisrael Beytenu party thinks it's a good idea to add fuel to an already-tense situation by displacing Israeli Arabs. "The responsibility for primarily Arab areas such as Umm Al-Fahm and the 'triangle' will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority," the party website proclaims in its platform. "In parallel, Israel will officially annex Jewish areas in Judea and Samaria. Israel is our home; Palestine is theirs." Yisrael Beytenu is one more right-wing threat to a country that has enough of them.
Some have decried the lack of a "Gandhi" or a "Mandela" on the Palestinian side regarding the stalled peace process. In truth, there has long been a lack of one on the Israeli side as well. Whoever wins the elections will inherit some assets on the peace front -- an Egypt more willing to act as a broker, a Palestinian Authority more willing to act as a counterpart to Hamas. The imminent tragedy of the elections, though, is that whoever wins will not take advantage of these conditions. To paraphrase the country-western song, nobody wins, we all lose.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Punxsutawney Phil meets Chicago Barack

Groundhog Day Cartoon, originally uploaded by rbtenorio.
Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow on Feb. 2. What happens when President Obama does the same? Find out in a Groundhog Day-themed episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"! (I wasn't the only one to connect this year's holiday with the economy.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Palin's Progress

Guess who else gave a front-and-center speech recently? Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin!
While she and Sen. John McCain couldn't get elected to the first and second highest offices in the country last fall, Palin remains governor of Alaska. It was in that capacity that she spoke on Jan. 22 -- two days after the man she and McCain lost to in November, Barack Obama, delivered his inaugural address as our nation's 44th president.
I don't think Palin received nearly as much press coverage giving her State of the State address as Obama did on the National Mall. But in the midst of some tasteless remarks to The Hill, conservative pundit Ann Coulter predicts Palin will stay a force in the Republican Party, and so do I. So what can we glean from Palin's speech?
  • Vivid imagery. Palin bookends her plan for Alaska with stirring symbols of her state. "Today, when challenges may seem as high as Mt. McKinley, and change as constant as the mighty Yukon flows, and political events send shockwaves through our foundation like the ’64 quake – what do Alaskans do?" she asks. "We climb Denali, we forge the river, we rebuild a stronger foundation on higher ground." And for those who liked her pit-bull-with-lipstick remarks at the Republican National Convention, she now compares herself to a grizzly bear and Alaskans to musk oxen. "Just like our musk ox, they circle up to protect their future when they are challenged," she says. "We’ve got to do the same."
  • Experience. On the campaign trail, Palin drew criticism for her lack of experience, as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Joe Biden, brought a 30-year Senate career to his ticket. And indeed, Palin has only held office as governor since Dec. 2006. Yet her speech showed that she has experience on the state, national, and even international levels. "We’re building viable personal use and commercial fisheries in some of the most controversial and complex fisheries in the world, dealing with half a dozen foreign countries, including Japan, Russia and Canada," she trumpeted. Why couldn't she have told that to Katie Couric instead of saying she could see Russia from her backyard?
  • Props to evangelicals. Those of us who know our Bible will recognize the following allusion. "Unfortunately," Prophet Palin says, "some focus only on potential obstacles when they discuss projects like the gasline: the giants in the land preventing us from gathering fruit. But as I recall, we’ve already slain a few giants." Sounds like Palin knows her Book of Numbers. In Chapter 13, Moses, prompted by the LORD, sends 12 spies into the Promised Land with orders to "bring of the fruit of the land." Instead, many of these spies report that Canaan contains "the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." If Palin can connect a gasline to Scripture, think of what she can do with national issues!
So, does this speech -- and her timely establishment of a political action committee, SarahPAC -- represent another step toward Palin's own Promised Land in Washington, DC? We'll see. But it looks like she's making this journey thoughtfully. Moses never made it to Canaan ... but then again, he never thought of setting up a PAC on the way there.