Breaking (Good) News: All charges against Malaysian cartoonist Zunar have been dropped and he is not only a free man but apparently free to keep poking his sharp pen at corrupt authorities.
Between the immediacy of the news and the somewhat opaque nature of Malaysian politics, it’s a little hard to sort out the details, but this piece from the dissident site Aliran fills in a lot of them in a format an overseas audience can grasp.
Here’s his website, and, if you don’t know quite what he’s criticizing, you can at least see why powerful people might object, but also that he’s not, by most measures, all that nasty and vicious. I realize we should also support unpleasant dissidents, but it’s easier to stand behind someone who seems easygoing.
Oppressive governments should truly fear a mischievous charmer.
Meanwhile, back in our own backyard
Nobody’s harassing our own dissident cartoonists on the level seen in Malaysia or, certainly, Turkey, or murdering pesky journalists the way Dear Leader’s bestie does, but it’s still important to recognize them, since they don’t get the kind of exposure more mainstream artists do.
The Association of Alternative Newsmedia has just announced its awards, which take in a lot of very worthwhile journalism from altie papers, including cartoons, the honorees in that category being:
First Place: V. Cullum Rogers, who, as AAEC noted in their announcement of the award, will not be eligible again since his position at the Indy Week was eliminated. I guess even alternative papers make some of the same sorts of decisions mainstream papers make these days.
Second went to Ed Harrington of Richmond’s Style Weekly.
Third was Russell Hodin of New Times San Luis Obispo.
And Jen Sorensen, whose work is more widely known, was awarded an honorable mention.
Juxtaposition of the Day
The issue of purging voter lists — or “updating” them — is one of those slippery matters that responds well to spin.
Now, I never “unregistered” when I moved, so I could theoretically still be on voter rolls in Denver, Colorado Springs, Plattsburgh NY, Glens Falls NY, Farmington ME and Lebanon NH, though I’ve been here in the Granite State for closing in on a decade.
More likely, most of those places sent out a postcard at some point and, when it was returned as undeliverable, concluded that I’d moved. And, if I showed up at a Denver polling place after not having cast a ballot there in 46 years, I wouldn’t be offended if they asked for an ID.
But, yes, it does offend me to be asked for ID at my current polling place, which is less than a block from my apartment. It’s not that I expect them to recognize me, though I sometimes see neighbors staffing the place, but it’s not necessary and it’s not fair and therefore it’s not right.
For years, the polling place had a book with your name and a line for you to sign, with your signature on lines above it going back several elections. Even if they didn’t know you, it was easy to see that your signature matched the ones above.
Could someone learn to forge your signature and vote in your place? Sure. But there is a reason nobody forges $1 bills: The payoff is not worth the effort. Most forgers make $20 bills, because they don’t get as much scrutiny as a $100, but you pick up a decent profit in the exchange.
Donald Trump claimed it was happening on that unlikely scale, with fantasies about busloads of fraudulent voters showing up at polling places. He pursued that moronic illusion here, sending a commission to examine voter fraud so clearly mythical that even our humorless lock-step Republicans sent the fools packing quickly.
However, we had already enacted a law requiring photo ID, which can require rural people to travel an hour or so for a non-driving-drivers-license, in a state which does not have inter-city public transportation.
While, being a rural state, a lot of older, less wealthy voters may have been born at home and have little documented proof of it.
Granted, New Hampshire doesn’t have a huge minority population. I think he lives in Manchester.
However, in the country as a whole, such roots are disproportionately found among the minority population, and the barriers that are proclaimed to halt fraud in fact halt the kind of voting One Percenters fear most.
And so Bennett’s point holds: These “reformers” who are so concerned about fraud are worried about a problem that doesn’t exist and ignoring one that does.
The midterm elections are 99 days away.
Speaking of Spinnable
Today’s Barney & Clyde brings up a matter I’ve often wished were easier to figure out.
Having lived for a significant portion of my life within an hour of the border, Canada has been as viable a place to live as anywhere in the States, but one of the major frustrations in comparing the two countries is given here: Analyzing the tax structure.
The amount of taxes Canadians pay is often held up as a negative, but I’m not buying it. If you simply take the cost of health insurance premiums and co-pays, you’ll zero out a lot of that, while there are additional advantages like adequate vacations and holidays that make living and working there desirable.
But it’s not that easy. I spoke with a fellow at a business that helps Canadian companies place plants in the US and asked him about the comparisons between paycheck deductions and overall taxation.
He was both a CPA and a Chartered Accountant, so he knew the game as played in each country, but said it was far too complex to simply sit down and turn into a newspaper article. It’s more the topic for a dissertation in international economics.
Which, if written, would only touch off mendacious arguments about its methodology.
After all, we’re already seeing Evil Spin and Genuine Ignorance going nose-to-nose over the definition of “Democratic Socialism.”
Truth being, as usual, the first victim, even in a non-shooting war.