Conservatives need laughter, too, even if it makes the rest of us cry

Given how many progressive political cartoons I publish, I thought it only fair to show one of the regressive ones, too. After all, just because people block the kind of fuel economy standards that would have forced Detroit to build more of the cars that people actually want, reduced our dependence on oil, and cut climate-destroying emissions, doesn’t mean they don’t have a sense of humor.


Yes, wanting to cut oil use, emissions, and consumer fuel bills is no different than wanting to have 50 steering wheels per car. Our President is so dumb!

I guess this is what people in Birmingham, Alabama think is funny. Yes, Birmingham. It is so sad it is funny, no?

A few more thoughts upon reflecting on this cartoon while taking my daughter to the park.

First, the cartoonist, Stantis, is obviously a conservative, which makes this cartoon even more unintentionally humorous sense it is conservatives who have historically believed in states rights — and this cartoon is mocking Obama because he “let states set auto emission standards.” So one of the messages of this cartoon is that the government should not let the states enforce different laws than the federal government. Pretty unintentionally ironic for a Birmingham cartoonist, no?

Second, Stantis is of course repeating the erroneous conservative talking point that Obam has enabled 50 different standards, when, in fact, federal law is quite clear that California gets to have tougher standards than the federal government and other states must choose between the California standard and the feds’ standard.

Third, Obama isn’t the one requiring car companies to do anything here, so the target of the cartoonist’s anger is misdirected. The target should have been Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, the state that developed the tailpipe standard and that has been aggressively pursuing the right to enforce that standard in the courts, the media, and here in Washington, DC. (see, for instance, “Arnold Sues the EPA Over Vehicle Emissions“).

Fourth, relatedly, while it makes little sense to look for a racial tinge in every anti-Obama cartoon, I still ask the following question: Would this cartoon work if you replaced Obama with Schwarzenegger? Yes, I know, the cartoon doesn’t work now, but would Stantis have drawn such a cartoon for the Birmingham news? I doubt it.

Finally, the cartoon continues the Post’s lame choice of Saturday political cartoons (see “Oliphant and Washington Post ignorantly smear GM and plug-in hybrids“). But this cartoon is so stupid, so misdirected, so devoid of a coherent political view, that I can only deduce Gregory House/Sherlock Holmes/Psych/Lie to Me/Mentalist fashion that the person at the Post who picks these cartoons is in fact conservative/libertarian, is known around the office for not having a sense of humor, doesn’t much like his or her job, and in fact doesn’t bother to look at the cartoons closely — and probably lives in Virginia and owns a gas-guzzling SUV. Wow, I guess I’m ready for my own TV show, assuming there is room for another curmdugeon with a heart of gold!

22 Responses to Conservatives need laughter, too, even if it makes the rest of us cry

  1. Russ says:

    I’d be tempted to say that’s what you expect from Birmingham media and leave it at that, except that just within this past week I saw NYT reportage which aped the “hodgepodge of standards” lie.

    (That’s just one article which implicitly endorsed the lie. Others quoted auto execs and flunkies to that effect. None clarified that there is no such hodgepodge.)

    So I guess some NYT editors would be at home with this cartoon as well.

  2. Brian D says:

    What is it with conservatives and unintentional hypocritical humor?

    It isn’t just limited to the US, either. I cracked open my newspaper today and found this little gem from our Canadian Conservative government’s propaganda department.

  3. hapa says:

    a birmingham columnist has a black politician arguing for states’ rights and a white working man rejecting it.

    maybe next they will show a japanese auto exec being crucified, and the battles of the reagan years will be completely upended.…

  4. If (more) people want to buy fuel efficient cars, why does the government have to legislate to force manufacturers to build them?

    It’s not like there are any shortage of cars on the global market that get better fuel efficiency than the median American vehicle.

    Historically, Americans have bought the biggest, least fuel-efficient cars they could afford – aided by a variety of subsidies and tax loopholes, sure, but nobody was holding a gun to their head.

    And yes, for an instant during the oil spike of last year, things changed. But let’s see how long that lasts once the overall vehicle market recovers.

    Don’t get me wrong – I want to see people driving much fuel-efficient (and, ultimately, non-polluting) cars, and driving them less often and for smaller distances. But let’s not delude ourselves that the car manufacturers have been forcing people to buy vehicles they don’t want.

  5. Frank says:

    Gore is a gas-guzzler extraordinaire on land, sea, and air, yet he is one of your heros? Why is that? I think the cartoon is slightly amusing, capturing the imposition of silly requirements on a struggling industry, struggling in part because of existing silly requirements imposed by unions. I think we are going to see more of this in the near future, and I worry about that. Why? Because in every area they have been able to take action, the greenie people have been wrong, wrong, and wrong again. DDT, biofuels, recycling, windfarms, all spring to mind. But from a false premise such as AGW, anything can follow. Interesting times to come!

    [JR: Greenies were right on DDT, recycling, and most certainly windfarms. Can’t pin corn ethanol on the greenies — sorry. But for anti-scientific folks like you, it doesn’t really matter, does it? If you believe 1+1=3, you can believe anything!]

  6. Steve Bloom says:

    Think dealer-junkie, Robert.

  7. Steve Bloom says:

    For starters, Frank, it’s time for you to give back all that clean air and water. Also, wrong about DDT, recycling and windfarms? No. Biofuels are a problem, but I think you need to have a conversation with the farm lobby about that.

  8. Vernon says:

    I have to agree, if people wanted more fuel efficient cars, then the government would not have to force automakers to make them, the market would. The economy sucks so lets make more regulations that will drive up the price of the products so they really will go out of busines.

    This is about as silly as letting each state set standards. This forces the automakers to either have the expense of multiple lines of the same but slightly different cars for each state or just not sell in that state.

    We are bailing out the automakers why?

    If we are going to let each state set the standards, why have a national standard?

  9. Nick Santos says:

    Thank you Steve, you beat me to it Steve. Frank, you’re deluding yourself. DDT, recycling and windfarms? The evidence is overwhelmingly positive. And biofuels are certainly only exploratory right now and a contentious point for many environmentalists.

    Vernon – we’re not letting each state set a standard. The Clean Air Act grandfathered in provisions for CA to set its own standards (subject to EPA approval) that states could then choose to follow – there are only two standards. Even if there were 50 standards, a federal standard *still* makes sense as a bottom line that state standards cannot fall below.

  10. Barry says:

    Robert and Vernon, you misunderstand what is happening.

    FIRST: Every state does NOT get to set their own standards. Only California does. That is ONE, not fifty.

    SECOND: California is a bigger car market than Canada and just about every other nation on earth. Are you saying Canada and other nations should not be able to set standards because car companies can’t adjust. Of course they do and the auto industry has dealt with it profitably for decades. So this is not an unusual burden in any sense.

    THIRD: California gets this right NOT because they feel like pursuing some leftist agenda. California gets this right because they have shown clearly in court that the national standard HARMS THEIR CITIZENS. This is a Republican governor trying to protect his citizen. Oh, my god…not that.

    So get a grip. A conservative leader of one of the largest economies on the planet is using the law to protect his citizens. They have been allowed to do this over and over again for decades by both liberal and conservative administrations until Bush & Cheney stepped in to protect the oil companies interests…at the expense of American citizens’ health.

    Thankfully this oil pandering has run it’s ruinous course in our nation.

    Americans, tired of losing their future hope, voted for change.

    should not be able to set

  11. Barry: I agree that the intent of Obama’s decision, and California’s plans, are 100% right. I’m not sure the way they’re going about it optimal, in an ideal world, but of course it’s not an ideal world and one has to use the available means sometimes rather than let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Further, I take his point with regards to the use of Obama rather than Schwarzenegger.

    Where I disagree is with Joe’s view of the “50 wheels” part. He seems to be implying that car makers are deliberately not building what people want to buy, and need to be forced into it with legislation. I humbly submit that at the individual level, that is not the case. Far more Americans have, historically, preferred to drive gas-guzzling behemoths than fuel-efficient cars; even in the wake of the oil crises of the 70s, it didn’t take them long to consign it to the memory bank and start buying inefficient cars in far greater numbers than efficient ones.

    Of course, this preference has terrible long-term consequences for Americans and the world, and we need legislative action to save us from ourselves.

    But I simply don’t accept the idea that Americans have had to be dragged kicking and screaming in to SUVs and pickup trucks. Instead, they will have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of them.

  12. Vernon says:

    Well it seems that your not following the news. 13 other states and applied for a waver just like CA. So if they are approved also, then there are 15 different standards that the automakers have to build to.

    And bio fuels are beyond stupid. We have populations in South America that are going hungy because American corn is being used for bio fuel.

  13. Barry says:

    Robert, I totally agree with your point that Americans recently have had a love affair with big, powerful gas-chugging vehicles.

    But it hasn’t been a continuous trend. From 1975 to around 1987 the average light-duty vehicle in USA improved 60% in mpg while horsepower dropped slightly.

    Then everything changed. In the last 20 years mpg hasn’t improved while horsepower almost doubled. The nation shifted all its auto efficiency improvements from mpg to horsepower.

    Here as great article and chart showing this:

    Even the efficiencies gained by many new “hybrid” systems have been poured into more power instead of better mpg.

    All this points to a rarely mentioned fact about carbon: heavy use of it often confers STATUS in America. Private jets, powerful big cars, globe trotting vacations, McMansions, global luxury shopping. All are carbon disasters.

    And people will pay a big premium for high status. As the car companies have figured out. They sell big cars because consumers are willing to pay them ten times more in profit for each one.

    We not only need carbon laws and carbon pricing, we need to re-define the status of big lives fueled by carbon. Big lives, OK. Big Carbon, No! Until we do we will be fighting against of the deepest social drives.

    You can’t carbon-price the wealthy out of status-carbon. And they are not choosing the many low-carbon alternatives that already exist. More BMWs are sold in USA than Priuses each year. Only 1% of Toyota sales have been Priuses.

    And cars are just one example of entrenched status-carbon.

  14. Barry says:

    Vernon, it is ONE standard that 15 states are all adopting. ONE standard. Not 15 standards.

    Auto companies will need to meet only TWO standards for the biggest car market on the planet. And if that is just too onerous, they can choose to just meet ONE STANDARD: California’s.

    They already have to meet many different standards for many far smaller markets.

  15. Dean says:

    All businesses need to look into the future as best they can to be able to provide products that people will want not just today, but later on, when desires change. Particularly when designing and producing the new product takes so long. While that can be hard to do in some cases, we all knew that gas would get expensive. Many of us have been predicting it for a long time. I wouldn’t expect Ford to refuse to sell SUVs when gas is cheap and people want them. But I do expect them to make plans for when people won’t want them.

    Sure, people wanted gas guzzlers. But the Big 3 bet the farm on them mostly, when it didn’t take a Nostradamus to figure out how things would change.

    And as to the other aspect of the cartoon – that California’s rules will drive the auto companies bankrupt – haven’t we heard that many times before? With seat belts. With catalytic converters. It doesn’t hold water any more.

  16. Rick says:

    “Gore is a gas-guzzler extraordinaire on land, sea, and air, yet he is one of your heros? Why is that?”

    well Gore seems to have totally dedicated his life to addressing the climate situation and using his considerable influence to change things on a larger scale. So I get the Hero thing.

    He’s just absolutely not into hair shirts of any kind, so that helps me set aside any possible guilt feelings about going for a Sunday drive in my F150 – well mostly it does.

  17. DavidONE says:

    I read an article a while back about California (I think, can’t find URL) when it proposed new, stringent regulations for efficiency of refrigerators. The manufacturers started squawking, saying that they couldn’t economically produce the proposed standard of efficiency. The conservative / libertarians started ranting about their usual free-market-solves-everything philosophy.

    End result: more efficient, lower cost fridges. Without legislation that would not have happened.

    [found it] –

  18. Martin says:


    there are two sets of standards in the US: Federal and California. Other states can, if they choose, opt for the California standard. They can not set there own standards. Once again, you are wrong. Quite a habit with you.



  19. paulm says:

    heres one to publish….

    Ford to World: “We Promise Global Warming, Melting Glaciers and Dead Polar Bears”

    …An ad campaign launched today by Ford India seems to be making a mockery of worldwide resistance to global warming. It shows an iceberg apparently destroyed by the SUV and a couple of polar bears stranded on a thin ice sheet.

  20. Barry says:

    Rick, I too see Gore as a climate hero. I’m sure his big carbon-emissions have led to a much bigger total reduction in other people’s carbon-emissions already. I know he helped convince me to cut my carbon by many tonnes per year.

    The point is, he is living a life that is trying to be carbon negative in a big way. His focus is LESS CARBON.

    It is not about “hair shirts” vs “luxury” at all. It is about lowering carbon emissions. And they have to go down by 80%+ in USA.

    A task like that will require everyone rolling up their shirt sleeves and being serious about the challenge ahead. And the challenge for Americans is to quickly cut their massively oversized, dangerous, carbon emissions now….so we can preserve the “good life” for ourselves.

    The “good life” can be much lower carbon.

    Europeans emit half the carbon we do per person to live the same standard of living we do. Hardly “hair shirt” land.

    If Americans want to keep alive the possibility of a “good life” we need to start, right now, switching from high-carbon-luxuries to low-carbon-luxuries.

    That means ground-transport vacations…not global jet-setting. It means highest-mpg cars that possibly can work for you. It means leisurely Sunday walks or bike rides…not petro-strolling. It means focusing on the carbon and choosing good lower carbon alternatives.

    My family has been doing this hunt for low-carbon luxuries for years with big results. And we have found it engaging, empowering and hopeful. We still lead a very “good life”.

    The more of us who act like it is “hair shirts” vs. “carbon-as-usual”, the more likely we are all going end up in hair shirts.

    Game is almost over. We are in injury time. Time to focus on the ball: LESS CARBON.

  21. John Mashey says:

    DavidONE: it’s slightly odd that the New Yorker talked about Stephen Chu, but didn’t mention the godfather of energy efficiency, California Energy Commissioner Art Rosenfeld, whose autobiography linked there is well worth reading.

    See his comments on building efficiency, low-E glazing, appliances, high-frequency ballasts for CFLs, etc. Awesome track record.

    A truly strange thing to me is the attitude of Detroit towards California. When I was in the computer business, we had major customers who were pushing on the technology. Part of my job was to talk often to them, listen to their wishes, and integrate that back into our design process. [And, that included many car companies in the 1990s.]

    CA is certainly a big car market, it is often a “leading” indicator in various areas, in part due to the unique standards-setting described elsewhere, and in part for other reasons. Not everything we do works or is necessarily applicable elsewhere, but in most businesses, one would listen *very* hard to a big, lead customer.

    Some major foreign car firms (like Daimler-Benz, BMW, VW, Toyota, ones I know offhand) have had little R&D branches in Silicon Valley, for years, in part for this reason.

    Cars *matter* to people out here. Some areas simply will not work very well without *some* personal transportation.

    But, I guess a lot of other people *want* to damage the US dollar more and sell even more of the USA to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Canada, etc. {Well, Canada isn’t so bad.} Also, some clearly must want to burn up fossil fuels as fast as possible, I guess so that potentially-wasteful grandchildren won’t have any to waste.

    I can sort-of understand this if they work for ExxonMobil, but as the Peak Oil downslope happens, oil companies can still do OK (lower volume, higher price), but car companies with poor gas mileage products will get killed. [Oh, happening already.]

    Oil company execs certainly understand it. Toyota started working on Prius when they understood it. I don’t know whether Detroit executives understand this or not. I think some of their engineers do, but it’s not clear they get listened to, enough.

  22. Barry: I would argue that you can price the wealthy out of “status-carbon”, as you put it. It’s just a matter of making the price high enough…

    The effects of such a price on income inequality of course matter a great deal, but that can be dealt with if the peculiarly American allergy to redistribution can be gotten over. I suspect the events of the past few months might just help see to that.