The Sorensen Monologues

How to Tell the Difference Between ISIS and Muslims

The GOP is demanding that the Democratic presidential candidates use the term “radical Islam” to refer to ISIS. Yet it’s hard to imagine them making similar demands that various acts of homegrown terrorism be called the work of “radical Christians.” Many would argue that simply committing such an act means one is not a true Christian. By the same token, ISIS is not Islamic, as Islam is understood and practiced by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. So why insist on the label, unless you have an axe to grind about a faith you deem inferior? Why add to the Islamophobic backlash that has already led to a Texas mosque having its front door hit with feces?

ISIS thinks in terms of a “clash of civilizations,” and (surprise!) so do American right-wingers. Anyone framing this issue as The West vs. Islam is playing right into ISIS’s hands.

The Right to an Unfair Trial

This is a huge story that many progressives seem to be overlooking. In 2013 the Supreme Court allowed companies — Netflix, T-Mobile, rental cars, banks, private schools, medical practices, online retailers, etc. — to slip “arbitration clauses” into contracts for services and jobs that circumvent the court system entirely. If you have a legal grievance, you will be shunted into their private kangaroo court, presided over by often-laughably biased officials hired by the company. The NY Times has a must-read three part series on this truly incredible overturning of a fundamental Constitutional right.

Comic essay on trans visibility

Here’s a comic I edited by the talented Dylan Edwards about coming out as trans in the era before social media (or many examples of trans people in pop culture). Entitled “How I told my grandma I’m transgender,” it shows why media representation is so important. Dylan was a pleasure to work with, and deserves more fame in the comics world.


No Limits on Poverty

“Welfare reform” is clearly heading towards forcing people into permanent poverty, and Arizona wants to be in the vanguard. Scapegoating the poor for not earning enough while denying them earning power is one of many paradoxes of the GOP. More here.

U.S. Democracy Recalled

More on the 158 campaign donors here. It may not come as a surprise that they skew heavily Republican. One of them apparently brings home $68.5 million a month. After taxes.

Voter Suppression Funnies

So, Alabama is shuttering drivers license offices in every county in which African-Americans comprise 75% or more of voters, and Kansas has an anti-immigrant zealot as its Secretary of State, who is purging some 36,000 names from a list of citizens who tried to register to vote but could not complete the process (sometimes unknowingly) because they didn’t have a birth certificate handy. This is all supposedly in the name of preventing “voter fraud” — an event so rare as to be statistically nonexistent — while perpetrating the outlandish fraud of disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters.

And much of America snoozes while all this is happening.

(PS: Just saw that the Governor of Alabama has responded to the outcry by offering to open those offices one day a month. This announcement came a day before Hillary Clinton’s visit to Alabama.)

Obama apologizes for bombing of Mayo Clinic

Apologies to the Mayo Clinic for this one. They were on my mind because my aunt recently had heart surgery there (I hear she received excellent care).

While the U.S. may not blow up civilians in foreign lands every single day, many civilians do fear air strikes by the U.S. and our allies every day. These massacres keep happening over and over and over again. Would Americans tolerate drone strikes and other aerial bombings in their neighborhoods because someone thinks a terrorist might be hiding in a nearby house? Can you imagine living this way for years on end?

This case is particularly bad since it seems to be a deliberate strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital. Glenn Greenwald does a good job summing up the shifting arguments coming out of the military.

The Joys of “Campus Carry”

Earlier this year, Texas passed its own “campus carry” law despite opposition from University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven, former leader of the U.S. Special Operations Command who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. (Yeah, he did that.) Texas now joins other states such as Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon (!), which are forcing colleges to allow concealed handguns on campus to varying degrees. In the wake of school shootings like the one in Roseburg, OR, it’s tempting to think that a “good samaritan” with a gun could prevent loss of life, but there’s not exactly a precedent yet for armed civilians stopping a mass shooting. There have been, however, an incomprehensible number of deaths from gunfire. It seems likely that the number of accidents, suicides, and heat-of-the-moment shootings would quickly eclipse the number of lives saved by armed college students.

On a lighter note, one thing I miss about college is that glorious moment of finding pizza left over from an event, yours for the taking.

Kneejerkin: Health Care Edition

It takes a lot to make my head explode these days, but reading about Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund brat who bought the drug used to treat toxoplasmosis and raised the price from $13.50 a pill to $750, accomplished exactly that. While the Times piece on Shkreli rightly generated a groundswell of outrage, it made me think of all the previous injustices in our health care system that didn’t. All the abuses of private health insurance companies prior to the ACA — the dropping of sick patients, the exorbitant premiums for those with pre-existing conditions, the flat-out denials of coverage dooming people to death or financial ruin — were just as evil, yet not as easily located in the scandalous behavior of one unsavory person. Remember this article about hospitals charging $137 for a $1 IV drip bag? In a sense, Shkreli simply puts a face on everything that is wrong with America’s predatory, profiteering health care system.

The Affordable Care Act was desperately needed to curb its worst excesses, and has worked extremely well. Shkreli serves to remind us of the need for regulation of an industry that obviously cannot be trusted to serve the public interest or behave ethically on its own.

How to be a Republican “Feminist”

Try making sense of Carly Fiorina’s headache-inducing manifesto “Redefining Feminism” on Medium. A feminist, according to Fiorina, is a woman who lives the life she chooses. Yet she argues that “feminism has devolved into a left-leaning political ideology where women are pitted against men and used as a political weapon to win elections.” It seems she wants to claim the mantle of feminism without actually taking the measures that are necessary for equality. This is a good summary of why the essay is a bunch of self-contradictory nonsense.

Fiorina’s Planned Parenthood remarks have been widely analyzed, but for the record, at no point did anyone say “keep it alive to harvest its brain,” despite her imaginative retelling.

Big-Bucks Trucks

Given the extreme droughts, wildfires, and other assorted weather oddities over the past few years, you might think some sort of inkling about climate change would be permeating the public consciousness, causing at least a few more Americans to pause before purchasing a whale-sized vehicle. And yet here we are, with full-sized luxury pickup truck sales booming and sedan sales sinking, making the SUV heyday of the early aughts look almost quaint. As WaPo’s Wonkblog notes, affluent buyers are snapping up plush $60,000-and-up land barges with heated leather seats and, yes, fiddleback eucalyptus wood trim (I did not make that up). Apparently our brief period of recession-induced humility is over:

“During the recession, if you could afford to buy a fancy new truck, it was not socially acceptable to flaunt it,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at But “the acceptance of conspicuous consumption is back.”

For those who think these overappointed behemoths have utilitarian value, I will let Mr. Money Mustache set the record straight on their usefulness as work trucks.

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Jen Sorensen is a nationally-syndicated political cartoonist whose work has appeared in The Progressive, The Nation, Daily Kos, Austin Chronicle, NPR, Ms., Politico, and many other publications. The recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, she tweets at @JenSorensen.