Q. Hello Andy, please give us some background about yourself?
I’m the child of a couple of middle class New Yorkers in the 1960s. My dad was an attorney. My mom was a social worker and activist with various environmental groups and causes. These included preserving part of Breezy Point, New York for Gateway National Park, the Sierra Club and NRDC. I’ve lived a sort of cookie-cutter middle class life. I went to school, went to college, worked, got married and live in a house. I made the mistake of being an art and art history major in college. So, when I graduated, I had no useful skills. I stumbled around in various jobs and kind of slipped into cartooning in the 1990s. I’ve done it off and on ever since.
Q. What are your main inspirations when drawing?
The news, nature, other people, day-to-day events, music, sounds, art, everything is potentially inspirational. All you have to do is go outside, read a newspaper or watch contemporary television or movies. The cartoons write themselves!
Q. Can you tell us something funny that has happened in your career?
I have a good laugh about something at least a few times per week but they’re not necessarily things that have to do with my “career.” I guess some of the hate mail I receive from people is very funny. I did the attached cartoon about myths that children told each other when I was a kid. A woman wrote into the newspaper and ripped me for “advocating that people put pets in microwave ovens.” Meanwhile I’d publish some fairly radical political cartoon in the same newspaper and no one would say anything. Some of the right wing lunatics are fairly funny. They’ll write to tell me I’m ignorant, but their grammar, spelling and logic show they barely have a command of the English language or reality. In general, my “career” is pretty boring– neither funny nor exciting. When I’m working, I sit in a room and draw pictures, read or look at e‑mail.
Q. A lot of your cartoons are political; we take it you follow what’s going on in the world. When were you first interested in politics?
My parents were both interested in politics. From the time I was born, they were members of the “West Brooklyn Independent Democrats” and my mother continues to be active in various political causes to this day. So I just sort of developed an interest in politics by osmosis. For me, politics are a fundamental element of being human. They are the process by which we collectively interact with each other, resolve conflicts and try to solve larger social or environmental problems. There are family politics, neighborhood politics, local politics, national politics and international politics. Humans are political animals and I find those interactions interesting, amusing and important.
Q. What are your feelings from Bush to Obama?
Besides being responsible for the death of half a million people, I feel like Bush dealt a huge economic and social blow to the USA, one from which we may never fully recover. He directly flushed 3 trillion dollars down the toilet on hopeless, pointlessly destructive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq …and they’re not even over! For years to come, we’ll be paying costs for all the injured veterans (over 50,000) and destabilizing three countries, because you have to look at the impact that the Afghan war has on Pakistan. Bush expanded the use of torture, and created a whole new layer of government bureaucracy (the “Department of Homeland Security”) to spy on Americans. He created Indefinite Detention (at Guantanamo and other US military bases) and expanded the use of executive-ordered assassinations using the new drone technology. On economic issues, his administration allowed corporations to run things and regulate themselves. The agency that was supposed to regulate oil drilling had lobbyist-paid prostitutes sleeping with employees while oil industry lobbyists basically ran the agency. Energy companies like Enron, and the country’s investment banks were deregulated at the end of the Clinton administration and Bush allowed them to run wild. Above all, he was incompetent and appointed some really stupid people to important positions at every level of government.
Certainly, Obama has been involved in many of these same activities. A few he’s increased, such as the use of drone assassinations, but most of them he has at least tried to scale back. At the beginning of his first term, he tried to close the Guantanamo prison and have trials for many of the detainees in the United States but conservatives (including many Democrats) stirred up public resistance and blocked this from happening. He tried to get some kind of universal healthcare because over 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance. This is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcies and foreclosures because someone gets sick in a family, loses their job, loses their health insurance (because American employers are source of most people’s healthcare) and they can’t pay their health bills or their mortgage. Or they use up all their money caring for a sick family member. So many people in the US wanted health insurance reform or single-payer, universal health care similar to what you have in the UK. Members of Obama’s own party (The Democrats) joined with Republicans to narrowly block “The public option” but they managed to pass a half-assed but not-unsubstantial reform of health insurance that would prevent insurers from denying you coverage when you’re sick or have a “preexisting condition.” The minute it was signed into law, Republicans sued in the courts (all the way to the supreme court) and fought, tooth and nail to block its implementation. Same thing with gun control, even as we’re one of the most violent industrial countries in the world. (Among industrial countries, our murder rate is second only to Russia). Obama has managed to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan over Republican opposition but, literally, everything he tries to do, they blast it in the media and fight it in Congress. So, while I have a lot of criticisms of Obama, he is many orders of magnitude less awful than Bush and many of the positive things he’s tried to do have been blocked.
That said, the Democratic and Republican parties agree on more things than they disagree. Both signed off on the Afghan and Iraq wars. Both signed off on deregulation of banks, of derivatives, of mortgage regulations and of the energy and telecom business …and we’ve been living with the consequences ever since. I’m guessing it’s the same thing with Labor and Conservatives in the UK. Labor or Democrats will SAY they stand for certain “progressive” things but they end up supporting the same old crap— neo-colonialism or outright imperialism in foreign policy, deregulation, privatization, etc. Blair signed off on Bush’s Iraq war …just like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and many “liberal” U.S. politicians. And only one member of congress (Barbara Lee of California) even questioned the war in Afghanistan—one congressperson out of over 500!
Basically, in America both political parties support policies that are taking the entire planet to hell but the Democratic Party is the slow train to hell, whereas the Republicans are the fast train to hell. Because I’m in no hurry to go to hell, I tend to vote Democrat (or Green).
Q. Some of your cartoons also show the cyber generation what are your thoughts on where we are heading with technology?
I think we’re becoming overloaded with smart phones, social networking sites and other crap. At least in the social arena, I think you’re going to see people move away from it in a few years. It’s a big waste of time and people need to turn off their screens and just chill out. We’ve reached a point where many people can’t just sit still and not be “entertained,” even for a moment. This is having a profound impact on our creativity. To be truly creative, you need to be bored! Creativity comes from boredom—making your own fun in real time—reacting to and interacting with reality. I support the international “Week Without Screens” promoted by La Décroissance and other groups …yet here I am on one now, typing this for you! AKKKKKK!!!!!! I’m also trying to promote International “Do Nothing Day.” Maybe you can help me. What day should we make it? (I attach a cartoon on it).
Q. What are your future plans for this year?
I’m trying to finish a book on Transportation Policy in America called “Why We Drive” to be published by Microcosm Publishing in August. I am also co-chair of my local bicycle advocacy group—The Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition—and I’m hoping to organize some info-rides, stenciling and other activities for the group this summer. I’ll visit my mom this summer (she lives out in California) and she is coming to visit us in a little over a week. I’ll help my wife dig the garden…Stuff like that.
Q. Finally who are your favorite Hip Hop artists?
BDP/KRS‑1 is number one! …And Public Enemy, Queen Latifa, Erik B and Rakim, Digital Underground, Mc900 Ft Jesus, NWA, The Coup …and, more recently, Mos Def and Immortal Technique.