Morning News Demonstrates Tin Ear to West Explosion

Forgive me if the internet has addressed this already. I am only just now looking at Saturday’s paper (having been encouraged to do so by a kind, loving, compassionate FrontBurnervian to whom I owe money). Thursday, the Sacramento Bee published a cartoon by Jack Ohman that depicted Rick Perry, in the first panel, saying, “Business is booming in Texas,” and then, in the second panel, a huge explosion. Ohman was commenting on the business-friendly lack of regulation in Texas. That same day, Thursday, the paper addressed the cartoon on its Trailblazers blog. So far, so good.

That brings us to Saturday’s paper. In the briefs section on page 4A, the News ran an AP item about Perry’s request for an apology from the Sac Bee. Then, on 20A, on the editorial page, the paper ran the cartoon. Understand that the cartoon didn’t accompany the news story. It was the editorial cartoon they chose to run on Saturday.

I have two problems with that. First, it’s too close and too soon. No cartoons about explosions in West in the Morning News. Nope. Just not a good idea. If for no other reason than doing so might cause Zac Crain to kill himself so that he can become a ghost and haunt you until you are driven so insane that you climb the new superstructure being erected for Big Tex and sit there, naked, until a SWAT team has to dart you with a tranquilizer. Maybe you disagree. Maybe you think running that cartoon in a paper this close to West is brave and important and makes the commentary about Texas’ lack of regulation that much more poignant. You’re wrong.

The second problem I have with the cartoon — and this, really, is the bigger of the two problems — is that the Morning News waited until Saturday to run it. If you’re going to insult people and be insensitive to death and destruction, then at least be timely about it.


  • David Malphurs

    If Rick Perry were a Democrat, the cartoonist would gave never created it. It’s Ok to trash the right no matter what the cost. No doubt the “enlightened” left were giddy about it.

  • Jeffreyweissdmn

    sigh. Up front let me say that I have exactly zero to do with any decisions about editorial cartoons (or pretty much anything else) at the DMN. I thought it was a very good editorial cartoon. There was absolutely nothing in it that made light of the people of West or their suffering. It was a sharp jab at Perry and at what the cartoonist sees as a Texas governmental attitude toward business. Which is a POV that has been supported by some of the DMN’s news reporting about oversight or lack of the fertilizer plant. Yeah, it struck a nerve. But isn’t that point of an editorial cartoon? I grew up in SFla reading the Pulitzer-winning Don Wright. Every day was like an artistic shiv. “Fairness” was never the issue. He had one panel to make his point as strongly as possible.

  • Peter Kurilecz

    sorry but this is much like Obama and the gun control folks using the dead children of Newtown to push their agenda. California is losing businesses everyday due to high taxes and heavy state regulations. where are they going? to Texas and other business friendly states.

  • Tim Rogers

    Thanks for your comment, Jeffrey.

    None of those cartoons you passed along were making a joke about, say, a hurricane that had just killed 12 people in South Florida. It makes me feel old to type these words, but, for me, the cartoon hit too close to home. Using the explosion as a punchline DOES make light of the situation.

    Fine, though. The cartoon was meant to be provocative. And provoke it has. We are having a conversation about it. We are thinking about the government’s role in such matters. Good, good.

    So why didn’t the paper run that cartoon on Friday? What’s the excuse for coming late to the provocation party?

  • Dubious Brother

    Having the fine folks in Sacramento point a finger at Texas for lack of regulation is typical California swill. California is a large fertilizer user in their agriculture regions. It would be just like them to not allow it to be made there but ok to ship it in.

    I wonder if the Bee ran any cartoons about California having 8 of the top 10 most air polluted cities in the country despite the over the top regulations that they would like to spread to the rest of the country. Probably not.

    • CSP

      I was surprised it took our friends on the Left so long to figure out how to politicize this tragedy. It took a good three or four days longer than normal for them to develop the proper narrative. Let’s be more on our game next time, Lefties.

  • blue pencil

    Sooooo …. all this seems to mean that California’s sins preclude it from calling us on / mocking us about the apparent connection between the lack of oversight or regulation, the West explosion and the state’s eager welcoming of any corporate misdeed, provided it’s matched by employment and campaign contributions? I doubt any state has such clean, regulatory hands. Which raises the question, who, in our opinion, should have raised any of this? The DMN editorial page? Right. That editorial (4/22) managed to muddle together terrorist threats and federal response and never once mentioned the state’s responsibilities. The West survivors? But we’ve already heard the governor’s dismissal of spending any more money on regulations as ineffective and then his pandering to resentment of out-of-staters. I notice that neither Peter, Tim nor DB seems to think that Perry’s callous comfort with the state’s shoddy oversight and his deliberate distraction over the cartoon were misplaced or uncalled-for. As far as I can tell, he has never actually promised publicly a thorough investigation. Instead, he attacked the real villain, a California newspaper.

    • Dubious Brother

      Do you think that if this explosion had occured in any other state the Bee would have run that cartoon using their Governor?
      I don’t know if we will ever know for sure what caused the fire that caused the explosion and I don’t know if state or federal regulations were violated in West but I doubt that Governor Perry is at fault.
      We can probably expect a song from Charlie Manson about it soon though.

  • Jeffreyweissdmn

    Tim, Trust me: Wright did cartoons *much* sharper than the few I was able to quickly find. Some that he took considerable flak about, too. He was pretty fearless in that regard and I grew up with great admiration for his willingness to engage in that fashion at the moment when attention was highest.

    And no, use of such material does not necessarily make light of a situation. Stewart and Colbert demonstrate that every night. The more serious they are about the underlying topic, the sharper the attack on the target. You think Swift was making light of poverty and its effects in his famous “modest proposal?” Not.

    As for the timing of this cartoon. Hm. Your initial complaint was that the cartoon was run “too soon” and then you complain that there was a delay in running it. What what? (As I say, I have no insight into the decision machine. But the explanation could be as simple as available space plus production deadlines. But I’d opine that the issue was still totally, ahem, hot on Saturday. So I can’t see that the few days made a difference either way.)

  • Jeffreyweissdmn
  • Edward

    There hasn’t been another governor so blatant in his preaching about how small government and lack of regulations have been good for a state’s economy than Perry.

    The cartoon was spot on. It certainly wasn’t making light of the situation, and I don’t think there was a particular California vs Texas spin. That angle occurred only because it was a CA paper. I’m sure there were other editorial cartoonists (and probably some in Texas) who had a similar idea.

    We need to realize that there is a trade-off for having a state government that is in the pocket of industry.

  • Dubious Brother

    Rick Perry is proud of Texas as he should be. He did run ads in California and he visited as well to recruit businesses from there that have had enough of their tax and spend government which Austin is doing its best to copy. To not think the cartoon had a Ca. v Tx. spin is to ignore the obvious.
    Texas has gained congressional seats due to population increase during the same time period that California, Illinois and New York lost seats. There is a reason for that – I guess it is better to have the state government in the pocket of job creators than job killers.

  • Sanders Kaufman

    Republicans need to stop trying to convince folks that THEY are the real victims of the West explosion.
    Y’all screwed up and people died.
    Attacking the legitimate media for reporting it is just bad character.

    • CSP

      If Massachusetts had a Republican governor, the Boston Marathon bombing never would have happened.

      That’s about as logically consistent as what you and other liberals who are sickeningly insistent upon playing the West tragedy for partisan points are arguing.

    • Dubious Brother

      If there were serious violations at the fertilizer plant in West that resulted in the explosion and there were still such a thing as legitimate media reporters it probably would have been questioned before the explosion occured. Since that did not happen, I think we should reserve judgment until a more detailed analysis is available than a cartoon in the Sacramento Bee.

  • Wick Allison

    Let me get this straight, Dubious Brother. You want to give the media subpoena and regulatory power over private businesses? So we can waltz in to a private company and demand to check its fertilizer supplies? Gee, I think we’d have to hire some more people. Could we get tax revenue for taking over the government’s job?

  • Jeffreyweissdmn

    Jobs for journalists! Count me in! heh.

  • Dubious Brother

    The term “power of the press” once meant that the press had the ability and the duty to investigate problem situations and ask questions that may make people uncomfortable to answer. I am not a journalist and I am not a fertilizer guy and I didn’t even know there was a fertilizer plant in West and I don’t know if West has a newspaper or the county that West is in has a newspaper but since the explosion I have come to understand that the West plant has the same fertilizer that Tim McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City bombing. It doesn’t take too much of an inquiring mind to wonder if one rental truck full of that fertilizer could do the damage that was done in OKC how much damage could 100 or 1000 or whatever times as much do if there were an explosion at the plant and why are their schools and homes and retirement homes within a certain perimeter around the plant and what measures are being taken to prevent an accident? Who was there first? The media doesn’t need subpoena power or regulatory power to find out although you may need to use the FOI Act.
    All of the government’s i’s may be dotted and t’s crossed but as we all know, that doesn’t mean a thing since even if they weren’t, nothing will be done about it.
    My post was in response to someone saying that Republicans screwed up and people died. Was it possible to prevent the explosion? Who knows? Was it possible to prevent the collateral damage? Probably. I’m not sure how many fertilizer plants there are in the U.S but I would hope that these questions are being asked now.

  • FIJ

    Why does it seem more egregious to you that the media missed this one, rather than the government? Putting fertilizer plants in the wrong places is not the media’s responsibility. I would also argue that maybe you’re being too idealistic about what 95% of the media is geared to do.

    When you emphasize deregulation and a prime example of deregulation goes horribly wrong, you deserve criticism for it. Does this mean Perry should be impeached? I don’t think so. A political cartoon? Maybe more appropriate.

    I think you’re absolutely right about the CA vs. TX thing, by the way, but it doesn’t invalidate the point. Also, we’re the aggressors in that conflict. I don’t recall seeing many ads from the CA government here about how our state sucks and how we should move to their state.

  • Karen Harper

    Amen to Jeff. Sounds like you’re reaching.

  • Dubious Brother

    @FIJ – I’m too old to count on government to solve problems and if we think that DC or Austin are more interested in the well being of the people of West than they themselves are we are kidding ourselves. In the context of post OKC, if I were living in an apartment or taking my child to school or visiting my parents in a retirement home within a few blocks of a fertilizer plant I would have needed some very pointed questions answered. As I said earlier, which came first? Who owned the land?
    I’m not sure this is a regulation or deregulation problem but we should know eventually. As of now, I’m sure all cards are on the table including accident, arson, terrorism …..

  • FIJ

    “if I were living in an apartment or taking my child to school or visiting my parents in a retirement home within a few blocks of a fertilizer plant I would have needed some very pointed questions answered.”

    That’s a good point.