CSotD: Great Expectations

Since I don’t follow Canadian politics closely, I’m not sure if the Fat Cat in Bruce MacKinnon’s commentary on the plan to raise interest rates is anyone in particular, but it doesn’t matter: The rich powerful guy is making major decisions about global policies and the homeless guy is just worried about his next meal.

His overall point transcends borders, and is also a reminder that inflation and supply chains and such are not uniquely American, and are likely as much Trudeau’s fault as they are Biden’s: Only somewhat.

MacKinnon prefers to point to a problem of class and I tend to agree.

But my real interest in the cartoon is that Mackinnon is apparently the only cartoonist in the world who knows that tin-can telephones only work when the string is taut. Since I get annoyed every time I see slack strings in these depictions, it’s only right I raise a glass when someone gets it right.

I know: I shouldn’t let these things bug me. But they do.


And another item on my list of annoyances shows up in, of all places, Sherman’s Lagoon (AMS), which is that turtles’ shells are part of their bodies. I’m certainly willing to let a startled cartoon turtle pop his head out of the wrong hole — that’s slapstick exaggeration — but they can’t take them off.

Jim Toomey brings up so many arcane bits of marine life trivia that I know he knows this, which on the one hand kind of shocks me, but, on the other hand, reminds me of his stated puzzlement over people who are willing to accept that sharks would sit down at a table and eat with knives and forks, but question how they can have lighted candles underwater.

There are times when we need to lower our expectations a bit.

Then again, there are times we shouldn’t.


The empty frame means that this is something so common that I don’t feel like beating up anyone in particular over it, but boy am I glad I’m not a member of the Uvalde Police Department, given how the school security team, the state troopers, the Border Patrol, the sheriff’s department and whoever else responded seem to all be off the hook for the disastrous response.

The Uvalde Police weren’t even the lead agency on the scene, but they’re sure taking the blame, as a department and as individuals.

I realize cartoons necessarily employ shorthand, but fairness still matters, especially when you’re name-calling.


As an example of “enough blame to go around,” Clay Jones employs generic GOP elephants in a sharp attack on the cruel, deliberate spin directed at the 10-year-old rape victim, not simply — as he notes in his essay — by politicians involved, and politicians not involved, but by media figures and even the Wall Street Journal.

Is it fair to lump them all in the category of Republicans? A generation ago, it wouldn’t be, but given the lockstep voting pattern of the party, they’re inviting generalization.

This is the party that not only voted all-but-unanimously against a House bill to guarantee free travel between states, but showed similar solidarity on a proposal to root out white supremacists and neo-nazis from the armed forces.

As the NYTimes reports:


Here’s another example of well-deserved harsh treatment, as Ed Hall strings together a pattern of attempted intimidation by a very public figure who courts publicity, though perhaps not this kind.

Hall employs a particular weapon of journalists, which is to simply quote someone accurately in order to let them reveal their own character. It’s a little sneaky in news writing, but it’s a matter of devastating understatement when employed in commentary as it is here.

I’ve seen two cartoons about Trump’s witness tampering that reference the horse’s head scene from the Godfather, but I prefer Hall’s method of tying it into a less dramatic but well-established pattern of mob-style threats and coercion.

You might say he’s letting Trump live down to our expectations.


I’ve also seen a whole lot of cartoons about Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia that feature bloody hands and bone saws, but Joel Pett has done a masterful job of capturing the complexity of the visit.

Showing the Saudi figure as celebrating the recognition, while Uncle Sam demonstrates his disgust and reluctance, takes this beyond the easy blame-Biden approach and into the realpolitik realm.

Biden himself explained things before the trip, in an op-ed in the Washington Post that included a defense of his administration’s policy in the Middle East:

The whole thing is worth reading, but it’s also important to note that, for all the outrage over his polite greeting of MBS, he did not hesitate to raise the topic of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and he stood firm in accusing the crown prince of involvement.

Khashoggi’s widow doesn’t consider the case closed, nor does Biden, but she was satisfied with the moment:

As far as great expectations go, I’d hesitate to put mine above hers, but I’m satisfied that Pett not only acknowledges the worldwide petroleum crisis — an element of the war in Ukraine — but adds US arms sales to the Saudis, a pragmatic but considerably less admirable reason to make nice.

My expectations of such things are shaped by several conversations with a former Cambodian diplomat following the fall of Phenom Penh in 1975, who told me that “non-aligned nations” are something of a fiction, that every country must choose a sponsor among the US, the Soviets and the Chinese.

Russia has lost some of its status since then, but it remains a source of oil and weaponry, while Biden has criticized China for its continued partnerships with Putin despite the invasion and war crimes in Ukraine.

It’s hard to capture all that in a cartoon, but good journalists leave a lot unstated that still must inform their work.



And we’ve just seen what happens when someone with simple understanding and simple solutions is put in charge of things for four years.

We should expect complexity and be suspicious of anyone who offers easy answers.

Which naive expectations, Lalo Alcaraz (AMS) and Charlie Sykes would agree, simply set us up for the old “Fool me once …” pratfall.



4 thoughts on “CSotD: Great Expectations

  1. “…people who are willing to accept that sharks would sit down at a table and eat with knives and forks, but question how they can have lighted candles underwater.”

    Or that turtles would sleep on their backs.

  2. Andrea, they apparently had a religious ceremony but not yet a civil license.

    And Paul, I was going to comment on his sleeping arrangements, but I didn’t want to be a wet blanket.

  3. Nitpick away, Mike; I’m sure any blankets down there are already as wet as they’ll get

Comments are closed.