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December 14, 2002

Shadows on a cave wall

Buzzflash looks at the Trent Lott's ongoing troubles and sees Karl Rove manipulating the puppet strings:

Quite simply, the Bush right wing political pundits that Karl Rove has on his leash are suddenly glorifying America's great tradition of civil rights and telling Trent Lott to walk the plank. You would expect these hack journalists to be choking on their words, since they have regularly spewed venom on civil rights, prominent black elected officials -- and unrelentingly advocated for the racially code worded issue of "states rights." But Rove is worried silly that if Bush is revealed for leading the anti-minority, anti-civil rights jihad that he is really undertaking, the suburban women and independents will jump to the Democratic candidate in 2004, giving the Democrats a shot at picking up one of the smaller marginal red states and winning the presidential election.
That's why we are now seeing so much right wing red ink about the "horrible misdeeds" of Trent Lott. That is why the story is staying alive as a mainstream media issue. That is why the White House journalistic "amen choir" is all over Trent Lott like a wet blanket.
That is also why Bush participates in so many photo opportunities with young black school children. It is not to win over black votes; it is to convey the image of a man who cares about minorities to women, suburban males and independents.


Of course, if the "dump Lott" blastfax went out, Limbaugh and Hannity clearly didn't get their copies. The GOP seems to have a split personality on this issue, for reasons Paul Krugman detailed pretty well the other day.

The Republican Party's longstanding "Southern strategy" ó which rests on appealing to the minority of voters who do share Mr. Lott's views ó is no secret. But because the majority doesn't share those views, the party must present two faces to the nation. And therein lies the clue to Mr. Lott's role.
To win nationally, the leader of the party must pay tribute to the tolerance and open-mindedness of the nation at large. He must celebrate civil rights and sternly condemn the abuses of the past. And that's just what George W. Bush did yesterday, in rebuking Mr. Lott.
Yet at the same time the party must convey to a select group of target voters the message ó nudge nudge, wink wink ó that it actually doesn't mean any of that nonsense, that it's really on their side. How can it do that? By having men who manifestly don't share the open-mindedness of the nation at large in key, powerful positions. And that's why Mr. Bush's rebuke was not followed by a call for Mr. Lott to step down.

There's also a rumor going around that Lott is blackmailing Bush--threatening to resign from the Senate entirely if he is called upon to step down as Majority Leader, which could place Republican control of the Senate in jeopardy.

Only one thing is really certain: there's always more going on than we know.

Update on Sunday: the New York Times reports that many of Trent Lott's fellow Republicans are headed out to the various talking heads shows to speak out in his defense. There's no unified strategy here--just battling factions within the party struggling to gain control of the story.

Speaking of ChristmasÖ

Here's a stocking stuffer for you. It is, yes, the Talking George Bush Doll.

Unfortunately for you holiday shoppers, it looks like the first run is sold out. But you'd better believe I ordered one of these puppies as soon as I heard about them.

I think it will look lovely on the shelf next to my John Ashcroft snow globe.

Afterthought: get one of these bombed out Barbie houses and you and your Talking George can stage the invasion of Iraq in your own living room!

TCB redux

As of this writing, all orders for signed prints have been filled. They're in the mail, and with luck, they'll get to you in time for Christmas.

And if I screwed up your order, sent the wrong cartoon or inscribed it wrong or something, please be patient with me. I did my best to get everything out as requested, but I'm a one-man band, and the response to this offer has been much greater than I anticipated.

Also, please note--if you order one of these things now, it's almost certainly not going to make it out of here in time for the holidays.

Saturday morning quarterbacking

So Trent Lott's holding onto power, at least for now--but Henry Kissinger's resigning from the 9-11 commission so he doesn't have to reveal his client list.

Good riddance to the latter, even if it did mean I had stay up last night reworking next week's cartoon. As to the former--online conservatives spoke with one voice yesterday, and that voice said, Lott is surely going to step down today.

How did they get it so wrong?

It's almost as if Hannity and Limbaugh, the guys with literally tens of millions of listeners, have a better finger on the pulse of mainstream conservative thought than the bloggers with, well, literally tens of thousands of readers.

But it's good that these guys are out there, loudly insisting that there is no place for racism in their Republican party. It's a sort of Sims-world conservatism right now, but change happens slowly, and maybe if they keep pretending, someday it will really be true.

Just not quite yet.

I'm not going to make any predictions on how the Lott thing will turn out, myself. It sure seems like his days should be numbered, but you don't get as far in politics as he has without being able to weather a storm or two. He's probably thinking that if he can just make it through the holidays, the issue will eventually die down. And he may be right.


December 12, 2002

Attention journalists

Just got an email from a reader who says he has a third instance, on tape, of Trent Lott remarking that Strom Thurmond should have been President in 1948:

The occasion is the signing of the Spence / Warner Defense Spending Bill in October of 2000, and the remark--which is made by Lott to a woman standing behind Senator Thurmond, who is himself in the process of signing the bill--is NOT directed to the senator himself, but is offered as an aside (furthermore, this event was in no way intended as a tribute to Thurmond, as the birthday celebration was, and thus seems not to have been inspired directly by any attempt to please Mr. Thurmond w/o any actual endorsement of Thurmond's Dixiecrat platform, as Lott has claimed the birthday tribute was). The remark is exactly as follows, and though spoken off-camera, is quite audible: "Yes...he should have been elected in 1947...or 1948, it was".)

If you're a journalist and you want to talk to this guy or get a copy of his tape, send me an email and I'll put you in touch.

When it's time to change

Haven't been listening to the radio rantmeisters today, but I suspect they're going to be singing a slightly different tune now that Bush has finally weighed in on l'affaire Lott:

President Bush on Thursday sharply rebuked incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott for comments that some have called racist, saying any suggestion that segregation was acceptable is "offensive and it is wrong."

More. Still wouldn't bet the rent money on Lott stepping down, though I would happily be proven wrong on this one.

For my fellow New Yorkers

August has some thoughts on the upcoming possible transit strike, which local media are already covering with the sort of hysteria which really should be reserved for the news that a large meteor is hurtling directly toward 34th Street and 5th Avenue.

The first complaint, of course, is against the union's salary requests: the news is already stating the union demands a 24% pay increase. That's not even misleading, it's just wrong. The union's initial demand was an increase of 8% each year for the three years of the contract. Perhaps it's high, but it's a bargaining point, not to mention a reasonable request in terms of cost-of-living math in New York. Since then, the union has lowered their offer to 6% each year. The city, however, stands by its demand that the union gets nothing.
The other major complaint is my favorite, which is the fervent anger that these subway and bus operators- who do they think they are- don't deserve whatever high salaries they are already getting. To which I address as follows:
You don't want their job, though. Everyone complains that the subway drivers are making too much money. No one suddenly gets up and decides to quit their job at the firm and start operating subways. Maybe because deep down inside you know it's a hard laborious task, with insane hours and almost no recognition- as the local papers have so generously reminded us.

And so it begins

Well, for about five minutes there, it looked like the libertarian-leaning Republicans would be spared the embarassment of belonging to a party which would, at the dawn of the twenty first century, still bother to defend someone like Trent Lott. But no--it looks like the blast faxes and listservs have been dispatched from that scary-looking castle atop the craggy mountain wherein the RNC is headquartered (at least in the world of the Simpsons), and the word is, we're not tossing Trent overboard quite yet, so start circling the wagons. (And darn those metaphor-mixing Republicans anyway!)

And it can be sort of fun to watch rich white conservatives tie themselves in knots over the issue of race. I listened to Rush Limbaugh torturing logic until it screamed for mercy yesterday, explaining to an African American caller that there is no racism, but you see, if the caller believes that there is, then he just has to find a way to rise above it, because the problem isn't racism, it's all these people who have built a career on racism. Yes. That's what perpetuates mistrust among the races. It's not hatred or anger or intolerance. It's people who keep whining about hatred, anger, intolerance. (They always seem to find a way to blame the victim, don't they?)

One of Sean Hannity's callers informed him yesterday that in an interview she had read somewhere, Strom Thurmond explained that his 1948 presidential run wasn't about racism or segregation at all, you see, it was just about protecting the states from the overwhelming power of the federal government, and she, the caller, thought this was an interesting perspective that wasn't getting much attention in the biased liberal media. Hannity replied that, well, um, er, he didn't think that was quite true, he didn't have the facts right in front of him, but he was pretty sure that Thurmond's race did have a little bit to do with segregation. For the benefit of Hannity and his caller, let's recall what old Strom himself had to say on the subject in 1948:

I want to tell you, ladies and gentleman, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theatres, into our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches. (wild applause)

(Courtesy of Mikhaela, who also has a good cartoon up on this whole thing, as well as some thoughts on her blog.)

Update: a reader writes that Strom did not say "nigger," he said "nigra." Sure sounds like the former to me--and as someone who spent half his childhood in the south, I'm not entirely tone deaf on this one--but even if one concedes the point, given that even in his youth, Strom sounded like he had a mouthful of marbles most of the time, I'm not sure why this would make the statement any more acceptable.

* * *

And of course, all these guys, Rush and Sean and a second-stringer named Mike Gallagher, who I saw on Donahue last night--a show whose faltering ratings have apparently driven the producers to pursue heat over light, turning it into another shouting heads show which seems to feature Jerry Falwell as a guest at least once a week--but I digressÖanyway, these guys are all dredging up every example of Democratic racism they can find, Jesse Jackson's Hymietown remark, Robert Byrd's Klan history, etc., etc., and before you know it, they'll be pulling out the old standby argument that prejudice against old school Southern conservatives like Trent is itself a form of prejudice, bigotry towards bigotry, if you will.

Forget the old west metaphor of wagon-circling-- let's move on to something more contemporary. What they're doing here is releasing countermeasures, like a jet which launches metallic chaff and high-intensity fireworks to try to keep the heat-seeking missile from locking onto its exhaust. If they can put enough distractions out there, confuse the issue, turn this whole thing into an argument about whether or not racism still exists in twenty-first century America--in short, turn this into an argument about whether or not the sky is blue and the grass is green--then there will follow a brief period of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and then everyone will kind of stumble away like drunks exiting an all night party, blinking in the harsh light of day and wondering what the hell just happened.

(Stupid toss-off comment about the line of succession to the presidency deleted due to complete inaccuracy. Nice to know everyone's paying attention, at least. Sorry about that.)

* * *

Incidentally, a reader alerts me to the fact that Trent's friends at the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (about whom more can be read here) address the question of whether racism exists in their FAQ:

The word racism was concocted by a communist ideologue in the 1920's. The purpose of racism was to instill guilt and shame in the minds of white people and to inflame racial hostility among blacks. This word play succeeded beyond all expectations. Of course, the word racism has no meaning unless whites react to it. Because racism defines nothing, but instead generates dubious connotations, the C of CC refuses to be held hostage by what the word implies at any given moment. It is normal for white people to be proud of their race and heritage, is that racist?

As Sparky the penguin might be inclined to observe, it is difficult to argue with logic like that.


December 11, 2002

Oh, you're a sly one, Senator Lott

Just listened to Lott being interviewed by Sean Hannity . Several times, he managed to work the phrase "a mistake of the head, not of the heart" into the conversation. Toward the end, it became clear why:

"Quite often we do become too exuberant in our endorsements of people that perhaps we work with or are retiring or having birthdays, in this case, so I don't want to, uh, others clearly have made that sort of mistake. This quote I talked about , it was a mistake of the head, not of the heart, was actually a quote as I understand it, from Jesse Jackson, in 1984. It's a very thoughtful statement, you know, I don't even remember what the occasion was, but he basically said it was an error of word, temprament, tone, caused discomfort and he asked forgiveness."

I don't remember that specific phrase, but Lott is obviously referring to Jackson's ill-considered "Hymietown" remarks. And if you believe for one moment that Trent Lott just happened to come across this quote, but gosh darn it, can't quite remember the context in which is was originally proferred, well, send me an email, because there's a large and relatively well-known bridge not far from my home here in Brooklyn that I would like to sell you at a very reasonable price.

In which your host allows his inner geek to surface

There's a new Star Trek movie opening this weekend. What can I say? I try to keep it to a minimum around here, but I am, in fact, a lifelong geek.

But I'm sorry to read that my online pal Wil Wheaton, who played young Wesley Crusher for four or five seasons on Star Trek: the Next Generation, got dissed by his former employers once again. Not only was his cameo cut from the movie, but--adding insult to injury-- he found out at the last minute that the "premiere" to which he had been invited was not actually the real premiere at all, but rather the b-list, no-stars, no-klieg-lights premiere.

Our sympathies go out. That's gotta hurt.

(And while we're on the geek train: anybody know if the Sci Fi channel is ever going to show the last few episodes of the late, lamented Farscape?)

Update: I am informed by several readers that the answer to the above question is "Yes, Tom, in January." And that there's more information available at www.savefarscape.com. Oh, and reader John Paul Davis has solved the MT archive mystery. I think I'm going to start posting random obscure questions, just to see if there's anything that can stump you kids.

What John Ashcroft and I have in commonÖ

Öbesides both being bipedal carbon-based life forms, that is--we both own one of these:

It's the John Ashcroft snow globe, created by artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese. I have one because they sent me a note awhile back and I met with them and traded art for art. As for Ashcroft, well, the story is here.

More information on Ligorano and Reese and their work (which is available for sale in limited editions, and frankly I can't think of a lovlier gift this holiday season than a John Ashcroft snowglobe which plays "White Christmas," unless it's maybe a signed Tom Tomorrow print) can be found at their website.

Shocked, I tell you, shocked

From the Washington Times:

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has inadvertently provided ammunition to those who would perpetuate the blood libel against conservatism in general and the Republican Party's Southern-based expansion in particular ó that it is tainted by bigotry. The conservative movement has spent more than a half-century driving out even the hint of racial or religious bigotryÖ

So you see, the crazy notion that there's any sort of linkage whatsoever between conservatism--particularly Trent Lott's style of good old boy Southern conservatism--and racism is equivalent to the ancient anti-Semitic "blood libel." And Trent has "inadvertently" helped perpetuate this baseless accusation. And we denounce this, oh yes we do, but only insofar as it provides our enemies with ammunition, because certainly Trent didn't really mean what it sounded like he meant.

But they've got it partially right here. There has been a concerted effort among the more moderate-libertarian wings of the Republican party to exorcise the old ghosts of segregation and states rights (though I think the Washington Times overstates the time frame by maybe three or four decades). They're smart enough to realize that that particular dog's hunting seasons are long behind them. Which is exactly why some of the loudest voices howling on this one have been conservative. They're trying to convince you to move into their lovely planned community, and as they take you around in a little electric golf cart and point out all the convenient amenities, the last thing they want you to see is the unpleasant muck which occasionally bubbles up to the surface, because then you might start wondering if the muck has really been eradicated, as the brochure promised, or just covered up with an attractive lawn which, though meticulously-tended, may not survive much longer than the time it takes for you to close on your new condo.

It also plays hell with that whole "conservatism is cool" meme.

As Tapped notes:

In a way, this all makes Tapped feel bad for younger conservatives, especially the cosmopolitan-intellectual types who talk a good game about the virtues of Red America but live in places like Washington, New York and Cape Cod. Guys like (Washington Times columnist Robert Stacy McCain) and Lott are throwbacks, a dying breed, and clearly it legitimately pains the younger guys that they have to play on the same team as these jackasses. It's tough being the Blue-state intellectual arm of an Old South-led political movement.

(Follow that link, by the way, for more info on this McCain fellow--not to be confused with Senator John McCain, of course. Interesting stuff.)

But you know, our conservative friends who are shocked, shocked by Trent Lott's comments have, well, maybe not been paying such close attention to the esteemed Senator's history. As Atrios (who I'm finding increasingly invaluable) writes:

Lean Left notes that Trent Lott has written 14 columns, from 1992-1998, for Citizen Informer, the newsletter of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Hey, where all you righty bloggers been on this issue?
The socialists were on this.
Gays and lesbians were on this.
FAIR was on this.
Those leftists at Democracy Now! were on this.
To his credit, Stanley Crouch was on this. Twice.
Afrocentric News was on this.
Molly Ivins was on this.
Shall I go on?


December 10, 2002

Playing catchup

Paul Krugman has a good column on that comment Trent Lott made at Strom Thurmond's birthday party. You know:

"When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Also, Atrios has been all over this. Lots of good links, just keep scrolling.


December 09, 2002

Like living down the street from Dr. Evil

From CNN.com:

Neighbors of Vice President Dick Cheney are being shaken and rattled at least once a day by mysterious blasts on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory where Cheney lives.

The Navy says the explosions are part of a construction project that has been going on for several months now, but won't say more because the project is classified.

More. Thanks to Michael Monnens for the heads up.

(Due to complaints about the legibility of italicized type on some monitors, I'm going to start indicating quoted material with indentation. Just so you know.)

One quick tech questionÖ

We recently switched this site over to Movable Type, which has been a true joy, but it's not automatically generating the Master Archive Index Page, so old posts are getting lost. Anybody know how to fix this?

I have not been abducted by aliensÖ

Öjust had a lot on my plate last week. The usual cartoon deadlines, of course, which always take precedence. But I also had a speaking gig at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, last week, and while I've been giving public talks for well over a decade, this was the first time I gave my New! Improved! completely digital presentation a test run, and I had to spend the day before going through the files and making various panicked last-minute adjustments and revisions. Happily, the preparation paid off and everything worked as I hoped it would, and the talk was both well-attended and well-received. Even made it there and back before the snow--if the talk had been scheduled for the next day, it would have most likely been cancelled. (Note to student events coordinators--I only do a few of these things each semester, and fall 2003 is filling up, so if you have any interest in bringing the Tom Tomorrow dog-and-pony show to your campus, please contact me soon.)

When I got back from Haverford, I found that I had yet another last-minute book crisis to contend with--several minor but annoying mistakes which needed Immediate Attention. Feels like I've been working on this book forever--instead of doing another two-year collection, my publisher wanted to put out a larger treasury-style thing, so we're talking about a 240 page monster spanning the past decade and a half, with a 32 page color section in the middle. I was hoping it would be in bookstores by spring, but depending on circumstances entirely out of my control, it may not be out until the summer.

On top of all of this, the electricity in my building started glitching out on Friday--some sort of unfortunate reaction to the weather-- and you can imagine my delight at discovering that my old battery-backup power surge protector had at some point decided to retire from the power surge protection business, without, of course, bothering to inform me of the fact. (Indicator lights worked fine, surge protection did not.) Had to trudge down to the office supply store and buy a new one and lug it home and set it up--and then I discovered that the power glitches had fried my cable modem, and I spent several hours on the phone with tech support, until I finally (insert sound of hand slapping forehead here) realized that the modem wasn't the problem, it was my ethernet routerÖblah blah blah.

So. It's Monday morning, a new week full of hope and promise, and everything's running smoothly at the moment. But I have to stare down the imminent deadlines, and get ahead on some work to cover myself through the onrushing holidaysÖso things might stay sporadic around here for awhile longer, I'm not really sure. In the meantime, I've been adding a few sites to the often-neglected link list, and I'm sure that in the aggregate, most of your blogging needs will be adequately fulfilled there.


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