Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I'll come to your emojinal rescue

I worked on this series for a story on The Verge that details the way the texting-based therapy app TalkSpace operates. Like many of the new app-based businesses out there promising to "disrupt" the old way of doing things, it's not without its problems. Namely, the fact that the people who sign up for the app and text with the platform's licensed therapists are completely anonymous to those therapists. A setup that becomes problematic when the patient informs his or her therapist of suicidal thoughts, urges to hurt someone else, or any behavior that can put someone in danger.

Not only is it unsafe for the patient (or the person they are threatening to harm), but it's also required by law that the therapist notify law enforcement. Impossible under the current, anonymous arrangement. Aside from this, the article also covers the unfair labor practices the company engages in (similar to other disruptors like Uber), such as treating the therapists as employees, with regard to pay structure and work schedules, while refusing to provide employee benefits like health insurance and social security.

Meanwhile, regulators are looking at the TalkSpace business model in an attempt to figure out just what exactly the app is: a simple texting platform for people and therapists to connect, or something closer to a clinic that directly employs licensed therapists, thus requiring a whole different kind of operation. One that is required to follow the rules that all healthcare outfits are bound by.
Thank you to Michael! 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Declassify it

This piece ran in The New York Times on Saturday, but was online Friday evening. It concerns the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's use of torture, and the future of that report in upcoming administrations. Former Senators Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller are urging President Obama to declassify the report, in order to protect it from being destroyed after he leaves office in January.

The Op-Ed includes a little background on the approximately 6,700 page report, including the fact that only little more than 500 of those pages have been declassified, leaving the vast majority of it in "limbo." The president has the power to unlock these other 6,200 pages, thereby giving a full accounting of what happened during the Bush administration's torture regime, and making it more likely these shameful deeds will not be repeated.

Here's an alternate take. Providing a glimpse of what's in the report:

Thank you to Jim, my awesome AD on this.

Even now the crosshairs are centered on the back of your neck.

Friday, November 25, 2016

This machine kills fascists

I provided the illustration for a new Mother Jones investigation into the White nationalist groups that have thrown their weight behind Donald Trump. What started out as random racist memes, Twitter trolling, and 4chan and Reddit threads, has coalesced into the "Alt-Right," a fairly large online presence of White-power groups that view Trump as their ally and leader. Whether he will disavow such groups once he enters the White House remains to be seen. 

Calling themselves "alt-right" as a way to appear more mainstream, their views are essentially the same as White-supremacist groups throughout American history: That Whites who trace their ancestry to Western and Northern Europe are the superior race, and the only true Americans. The presence of Trump, first with his "birtherism" trolling, to his presidential campaign, to his election, has engendered a feeling of vindication for groups that were previously confined to the dark fringe of the web. And they now feel comfortable making their presence known:

Update: The above piece, which was originally commissioned to accompany the opening illustration, ended up being used for a different post that's online now: defining the various terms used to refer to the groups comprising the "alt-right." Thank you so much to my wonderful AD, Ivy!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is that a unicorn or are you just happy to see me?

I had a recent assignment with Cosmopolitan, that's out now. For the Esther Perel column- "Men and Sex: Fantasy vs. Reality."

This fantastical guy worked out great to discuss the mythology surrounding men's sexuality, including the presumption that men are always ready for action, 24/7/365.

A big thanks to Betsy, my AD! It was a ton of fun to work on!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Two can keep a secret if one of them is an ant.

I  wanted to post this while I have a free minute... Out in today's (Oct. 13) New York Times Op-Ed page:

 For an article on a little know case of espionage that occurred just prior to the 9/11 attacks, and was therefore all but forgotten. Brian Regan was an analyst at the National Reconnaissance Office, who stole thousands of pages of documents from our spy satellites, attempting to sell them to Iraq and Libya. This example, along with other leaks, such as those from Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, show certain vulnerabilities in our intelligence agencies. The article makes the point that even if you cheer on the leaks provided by Manning and Snowden (I count myself as one of those people), there are many people with ignoble intentions that are trying to gain access to U.S. intelligence to do harm, rather than provide a service to the public about illegal activity and wrongdoing (as Manning and Snowden did). And agencies like the NSA have failed to learn from past oversights.
Thanks to Jim Datz, my AD on this, who provided the cool layout that allowed the ants to tunnel down through the copy.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Know what really grinds my gears?

Out now in the current issue of The Atlantic is my piece for an article on the state of the U.S. economy, especially with regard to innovation and new business creation. Hint: it's not great. Why? Because we have a pretty serious monopoly problem in this country, that is looking increasingly like the gilded age of the late 19th century. As the article explains, nearly every industry is concentrated into a few humongous corporations that control a vast majority of the market in their respective sectors. Whether it's clothing, health insurance, airlines, cable, supermarkets, publishing- you name it- it's an oligopoly.

Pick up a copy, or read the article here. Thanks to, Paul!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Work for L'OBS

I had the pleasure of working on a piece for French magazine L'OBS a couple weeks back. The article was an interview with author and sociologist Alondra Nelson, and centered around the use of genetic tests by African Americans. Using companies like African Ancestry, African Americans can use these tests to trace the roots that were cut off by the slave trade hundreds of years ago.

The tests can provide African Americans with a more in-depth understanding of their family origins. As the article points out, Africa is made up of dozens of countries, and many more languages and cultures- a fact that the term "African American" doesn't quite acknowledge. Narrowing one's roots down to a particular region or even tribe can be an exciting undertaking, that was impossible until recent advancements in genetic mapping. And by proving the family ties, it may also be used by descendants of slaves to help in obtaining reparations from companies whose wealth is directly attributable to slavery.
Here's the spread:

Thank you to Catherine!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This blog is protected by video surveillance

I should have posted this a couple weeks or so ago, but I've got a spare minute so here it is: a spot for The New York Times Book Review. It's for Security, by Gina Wohlsdorf, a slasher type mystery thriller about two killers that stalk their victims at a swanky hotel. What makes this story a bit different is that it's told from the perspective of the hotel's ubiquitous security cameras.

The image is pretty small, so the instructions were to keep it simple and graphic. I've always liked those "security camera in use" signs outside convenience stores, and decided to modify the image a bit. It was a fun little piece to do. Read the review here. Thank you to Matt Dorfman, my AD on this! More stuff to come when I know the publications are out...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rudy CAN Fail

Another quick Op-Ed piece running in today's New York Times. This one for a piece on Rudy Giuliani's recent comments regarding crime and violence in the Black community. They serve mainly to deflect attention away from the spate of high profile police shootings of African American men, and the continued racial bias in policing.

 Many Black men have commented on their experiences with police, and the feeling of being under constant surveillance, and the threat of harassment. Statistics bear out this truth, that African Americans are far more likely to be stopped by police, yet less likely to be carrying drugs or weapons than Whites. A police hat hanging overhead like a black cloud worked out as a simple way to show this omnipresent feeling.

Also in today's paper is a new report showing data that suggests police are bias against African Americans in the use of force, but not in shootings. Some people are using this report to further obfuscate the truth behind police racial bias (despite the fact that it still shows police are more likely to use force of all kinds against African Americans). This new report only takes into account data from 10 major cities, only 4% of the U.S. population, and relies solely on police testimony. It also stands at odds with other sources, like The Washington Post and The Guardian, which show just how disproportionately Black men are killed by police compared to White men. In 2015, based on all reported police killings in the U.S., Black males from age 15 to 34 were killed by police at rates five times higher than White males age 15-34.

Thank you to my AD, Sarah!

Monday, July 11, 2016

NY Times Op-Eds

I've been doing some Op-Ed work for The New York Times lately. Here are a few recent assignments:

This was for an Op-Ed on the recent Baghdad suicide bombing attack that killed over 200 people. It explains how ISIS is changing tactics in desperation as the group loses territory.

 This one detailed the recent police shootings of innocent Black men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, and how although these types of incidents have been happening for a long, long time, they are now widely caught on video.

This piece accompanied an Op-Ed on the first fatal crash involving any kind of automated vehicle. Although the Tesla involved was not a "driverless" car, the article mentioned some of the things automakers and regulators should do to keep this technology safe, and prevent more fatalities.

Figured I'd add this one in, another Op-Ed piece on the truck attack in Nice, France, and the resilience the French have shown after 3 major tragedies in 19 months:

These Op-Ed assignments are always a fun challenge. With a deadline of only a few hours, they force you to think quick, and keep it simple. It definitely keeps you on your toes. Thank you so much to Nathan and Sarah!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Grand Old Pity Party

A couple months back, before we moved, I got a commission from The Atlantic magazine for a feature on the current state (as well as some history) of the GOP. It was highlighting how the Republican party, under the banner of Trump, has become the party of White rage. When Republicans in California turned to White Nativism in the 1990s (by bashing Mexican immigrants), the party all but disappeared from the political map in that state. History seems to be repeating itself with the rhetoric of people like Trump, as he plays on the fears of some Whites that their country has been taken from them.

As is occasionally the case, the magazine ended up going the route of photography instead of illustration, but I was so excited about a few of my sketches that I decided to finish them, just for fun.

The red/white/black color palette is meant to evoke a connection to the fact that several prominent White Power/Supremacy groups have voiced support for Trump.

As the Latino population in the US continues to grow, anti-immigrant rhetoric and proposals such as the "wall" at the Mexican border, causes Republican support to dwindle. As the article states, even among GOP members, the "wall" was the most important factor dividing pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans.

The piece likened this "White Strategy" to another infamous election scheme: Nixon's "Southern Strategy." Both played on White fears of a particular minority, and the anger at a perceived loss of position in the social hierarchy, as a way to move White voters to the polls.
Thank you to Darhil, for the original commission! 

It's only speculation

This little piece is in the current issue of Mother Jones magazine, for an article on the proposed Financial Transaction Tax, which is a tiny tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and derivatives. Unlike sales taxes generally, which are basically regressive, an FTT would largely only affect the rich.

The tax is seen as a simple way of generating revenue, as well as curbing more destructive Wall Street behavior, like speculation via high-frequency trading (which was the culprit for the flash crash in May 2010, and others like it). The article even mentions Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (who I linked to in a previous post about an FTT in Italy), who believes the tax could raise over $130 billion a year. Pick up a copy of Mother Jones and read all about it, along with some great stories, including Shane Bauer's experience as a private prison guard.
Here's my issue:

Thank you so much to my wonderful AD, Ivy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On No-Fly, No-Buy

I would have liked to post this in a more timely manner, but I had to take a brief hiatus from work while we moved across the country to our new home in Cambridge, Mass. We're not sure how long we'll be here, at least a couple years, but it's a nice change from a place I've never really lived outside of since I was a kid.
Anyway, this piece appeared in the L.A. Times Op-Ed, shortly after the Pulse massacre in Orlando. It's a debate arguing whether having one's name on the No-Fly list should prevent that person from purchasing guns.

It was a super quick turnaround because it was going in the Sunday paper, but it was such an important subject to undertake after such a horrific event, I was honored to get the opportunity. This idea was one of the first I had, and it easily won out. My AD Wes gave me the whole page for it, and his layout looks great. I hope to post other recent pieces when I get some spare moments- there's a bit of a backlog. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 3, 2016

Music T.V.- but with music

This full-page piece for the L.A. Times' Envelope section was out last week. The story follows the recent musical trend in television. With roots going back to shows from the 90s like "Gypsy" and the less popular "Cop Rock," the craze has been gaining steam over the last several years. Whether it's dramas based on musicians and the music industry, such as "Vinyl" and "Empire," or musicals broadcast on t.v., like "Glee" or "Grease," television is all about the tunes lately.

You can read the article here. Thank you to my AD, the terrific Wes Bausmith!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's Electric! Boogie woogie woogie.

The current issue of The Atlantic (yes, the one with Trump's giant head on the cover) is out, and includes a piece I did for an article on a hypothetical national electrical grid. One that can transport energy long distances, across the country:

The article points out the vulnerability of certain natural energy sources like wind and solar: the fact that the sun isn't always shining, and the wind isn't always blowing where a given population needs it to. But it's always sunny or windy somewhere. And if we had a national power grid to transport solar energy from a sunny Texas, to a gloomy Maine, those vulnerabilities disappear. It would be a big project, similar to Eisenhower's national interstate highway system. But it's possible, and very necessary, if we want to keep our world inhabitable. It's a great subject, and I had a bunch of fun creating this U.S.-shaped wiring diagram.

 And going back to Trump, check out the issue to see some great editorial design work. The Trump feature (subject notwithstanding) looks great.

Look at that portrait! For anyone not familiar with editorial design, the middle of the magazine spread where the pages meet is called the "gutter." How fitting. There are some things possible only in print, that digital editions, and websites just can't replicate. Not sure if one particular person is solely responsible for the design on this feature, but the team includes CD Darhil Crooks, AD Paul Spella, and designer Kara Gordon. They put together a great looking issue, and I'm proud to be a part of it.