The Arizona Desert Lamp

Election 2008: Battle for the Cellar

Posted in Campus, Culture by Connor Mendenhall on 3 December 2008

Excited to cast a ballot in a nugatory campuswide election between three insipid candidates? If so, you’re in luck—thanks to Arizona Student Unions, you won’t have to wait until student government elections this spring!

In a contest sure to appeal to lovers of local democracy and carbon-neutral organic quinoa, the restaurant formerly known as the “Cellar” is submitting its new name and logo to the will of the people. Formerly a purveyor of bacon cheeseburgers, breakfast burritos, and Oreo milkshakes, the restaurant’s menu has been “infused with more healthy options,” like “organic grass-fed burgers,” “bistro egg burritos,” and “hand spun milkshakes.” (The last because, as any local-foodie worth his salt knows, blood, sweat, toil, and tears are directly proportional to nutrition).

They’ve also added a smorgasbord of stuff white people like: “honey mustard grilled wild salmon, apricot chipotle glazed wild salmon, coconut curry shrimp, Thai red curry grilled chicken, blackened tilapia, prickly pear grilled chicken, turkey and veggie burgers, a grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich, quinoa and potato salads and boba teas.”

Bobo tea might be more appropriate, but I must admit that parts of the new menu are more appealing than the old greasy fare. And though I don’t care much about limiting my radish radix radius, it looks like the changes do give students more meal options, which I can get behind.

So what of the election? In the interest of an informed studentry, here’s a brief analysis of the name contenders:


Green Underground Eats:  With edgy typography, Cthulhic tendrils, and the hip use of “eats” as a noun, this candidate is the most radical departure from “Cellar Restaurant.” The term “underground” recalls not just the restaurant’s physical location, but a certain subversive chic. “Green,” of course, is a catch-all appendage for the environmentally conscious. A clear attempt both to convey a message of change and to appear relevant to young voters.

frescolg_horizFresco Honest Eats: A playful but wholesome font; a name and logo evoking the dappled play of summer sunshine across a jumping castle in the Italian countryside. The word “honest” carries a subtle but powerful implicit value judgement, leading us to wonder: how much do we really know about Green Underground Eats’ radical past? Here we again see “eats” employed as a noun, but recontextualized amid “fresco” and “honest,” the term takes on a folksy flair. Fresco is hardworking and energetic, plain-spoken and good-natured. In short, a hockey mom.


Cellar Bistro: The only candidate to retain a vestige of the old “Cellar Restaurant,” Cellar Bistro pays its respects to tradition, but offers a bold update to an old heritage. The word “restaurant” (from Fr. restaurer, lit. ‘restore to a former state’) was first used in Paris in 1765. The word “bistro” also originated in Paris, but not until the early 1920s. Here, “bistro” is a bridge between the rational scientific-innovative spirit of the Enlightenment and the world of the Modern—crucially, a period of the Modern after the indictment of these very values in the Great War. It is at once a call to return to the rudiments of our shared Western history and, especially as evidenced by its organic, primitive (yet humanist!) script, a repudiation of artificial ideology in favor of a more natural pragmatism.

Now go forth, dear readers, and vote! After all, if you don’t voice your preference for one of these three inspired identities, you can’t complain when our grand Democratic Process spits out a stupid one.

About the youth vote

Posted in Politics by Evan Lisull on 17 November 2008

Apparently, the surge in youth voting wasn’t nearly as great as some would like to believe. Chris Cillizza takes down this fiction in his “Five Myths” about the election:

2. A wave of black voters and young people was the key to Obama’s victory.

Afraid not. Heading into Election Day, cable news, newspapers and blogs were dominated by excited chatter about record levels of enthusiasm for Obama among two critical groups: African Americans and young voters (aged 18-29). It made sense: Black voters were energized to cast a historic vote for the first African American nominee of either major party; young people — following a false start with former Vermont governor Howard Dean in 2004 — had bought into Obama in a major way during the primary season, and they finally seemed on the cusp of realizing their much-promised potential as a powerhouse voting bloc.

Or not. Exit polling suggests that there was no statistically significant increase in voting among either group. Black voters made up 11 percent of the electorate in 2004 and 13 percent in 2008, while young voters comprised 17 percent of all voters in 2004 and 18 percent four years later.

The real story, as Cillizza points out, is that a far greater proportion of young and black voters went to the Democrats. No wonder PIRG played such a role in the UA Votes program.

Cartoon Controversy II: The Farce

Posted in Campus, Media, Politics by Evan Lisull on 5 November 2008

First, sorry for the absence of posting yesterday; Election Day was a bit busy for me, as you can read about here.

Secondly, the Senate report is forthcoming as soon as possible, but only to make sure that every meeting is on record. Nothing of any importance happened, and the meeting was cut short to make sure that the Senate could make it to a 5:30 meeting being held at the MLK Center over a recent “controversial printing in today’s Wildcat.”

So, what is this controversy? The cartoon page has recently started contracting its cartoons from outside sources, and in the WildLife section today the paper printed the following cartoon:

"Racist" Cartoon

Because of the near use of the word “n—-r”, there was instant controversy. According to Sen. Andre Rubio, the printing of the cartoon was a “deliberate action,” because it was printed several days after the cartoon first came out.  “It’s an act of racism,” he said, “that’s trying to destroy the progress that this country has made.”

The meeting oozed with anger, and right off the get-go the person hosting the meeting noticed the Wildcat photographer in the back of the room. “Perhaps the representative from the Wildcat would like to offer a response.” Being the photographer, he doesn’t exactly get to make editorial calls, so he quickly replied that, “I can’t take any questions.”
“Well, I don’t think that you should take any pictures here.”

Some called for the firing of the editor-in-chief, and for creating, “a paper trial that will follow this person everywhere they go.” Others demanded a front-page public apology, along with a statement from President Shelton.

Now, for the facts:

The cartoon is based on an actual news event. As reported by FiveThirtyEight, on October 17:

So a canvasser goes to a woman’s door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she’s planning to vote for. She isn’t sure, has to ask her husband who she’s voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, “We’re votin’ for the n***er!”

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: “We’re voting for the n***er.”

This served as the inspiration for the K Chronicles comic, which was released four days later. The story was remarkable not for the fact that the word “n—-r” was used, but for the fact that people, in spite of a racism that has been festering in Appalachia and other areas for generations. Is it more racist to vote for a n—-r than to refuse to vote for any African-American? This was a triumph, not a tragedy.

The accusations of racism are made to look utterly ridiculous once we read the biography of the cartoonist behind the controversy:

Cartoonist Keith Knight…

. . .is the “other” black cartoonist. . .

Knight is part of a new generation of talented young African-American artists who infuse their work with urgency, edge, humor, satire, politics and race. His art has appeared in various publications worldwide, including, ESPN the Magazine, L.A. Weekly, MAD Magazine, the  Funny Times and World War 3 Illustrated. Knight also won the 2007 Harvey Award and the 2006 & 2007 Glyph Awards for Best Comic Strip.

. . .

His semi-conscious hip-hop band, the Marginal Prophets, will kick your ass. Their latest disc, Bohemian Rap CD, won the 2004 California Music Award for Outstanding Rap Album, beating out rap heavyweights Paris, Aceyalone, E-40, Too-Short, and Ice Cube’s Westside Connection. Hip-hop music with a punk-rock aesthetic.

Still not convinced? Then check out his cartoon printed today:

Yes We Did Cartoon

Which came with the following message:

Wow. We finally get to experience a positive piece of American history again. It’s about time.
I just wish some of the elders in my fam lived long enough to see a black man elected president.

I figured it would happen in my lifetime, but not this soon.

I asked older family members, and they thought they’d never live to see it.

The strips I did this week were assuming Obama would get in, just like what Garry Trudeau did with Doonesbury. I had only one editor ask,”What if he doesn’t win?”.

And what a joy it was seeing the likes of Jesse Jackson with tears in his eyes.

I coulda watched images of black folks crying all night long ( I also enjoy watching Extreme Home Makeover much more when they have black folks on it, cuz we faint and cry and scream like nobody else).

Bravo, America. We took a big step forward in restoring our reputation in the world.

This, ladies and gentleman, is the face of your new black-hating racist: an African American cartoonist who is ecstatic in the wake on an Obama victory, a progressive columnist strongly critical of the Bush administration.

By making this absurd assertion, all of these organizations risking losing their credibility for when something that is actually offensive occurs. Like the boy who cries, “Wolf!” this reactionary response from the P.C. police can only be effective for so long. At least there was an argument (if an erroneous one) to be made against the “Mitzvah” cartoon from last year; here, there’s no case to be made at all.

I urge the Wildcat to stand strong against this pressures. It’s easy to cave in to such demands, and it’s hard to defend liberty against tyranny of an angry mob — I seriously hope that the powers that be in the Wildcat offices make the right call on this one.


Some other notes:

-As far Sen. Rubio’s conspiracy theory notions go, his basic attack is that the Wildcat is being racist by printing the cartoon the day after Obama’s victory. I would argue that the cartoon in fact serves to illustrate how unlikely, and damn near miraculous (Note: I did not vote for Barack Obama, nor did I vote for John McCain), Obama’s victory was. You tell me which makes more sense, especially given the Wildcat’s historical tendency towards both being behind the news cycle and leaning leftwards. Hmm.

-I haven’t even gotten the broader issue of freedom of the press, which is just as important. However, I will make one point in this vein. Several times during the course of the discussion, I heard many variations of the point that, “There’s free speech, and then there’s hate speech.” Perhaps that would be true if we lived in Canada (a country with notoriously stringent hate speech prohibitions), but sadly we have this thing called the First Amendment, which protects all sorts of noxious speech. In fact, many of the Supreme Court cases upholding the freedom of speech in the First Amendment came in defending what many would consider “hate speech,” whether it be the flag-burning in U.S. v. Johnson, the KKK in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the anti-homosexuality in Boy Scouts v. Dale, or the anti-Semitism in Near v. Minnesota. You do not — I repeat, do NOT — have a right to a politically correct society.

Glenn Greenwald is also worth reading on this issue; but to reiterate, none of these issues really matter, since the comic in question is in no way hate speech.

-Freedom of the press aside, though, I still have trouble believing that the Wildcat still bothers with a full page cartoon section. No one I know still reads it, the cartoon quality has gone drastically downhill (something I would’ve never thought possible back in 2006), and it’s done nothing but given the paper gray hair. The net gain of the section is probably negative.

-Apparently, this will be the second controversy of its sort over this cartoon. Montclair State. Printed, in their entirety, are the letters from the Montclairion (the school’s newspaper), and Keith Knight’s response:

In the October 23, 2008 issue of The Montclarion, a syndicated cartoon entitled “The K Chronicles” was printed. The cartoon featured a satirical reference to a controversial racial slur, obstructing the full word with the edges of the panel.

“The K Chronicles” is provided to The Montclarion by MCT Campus, a service that provides syndicated comics, graphics, crossword puzzles and pictures, among other things, to campus newspapers nationwide.

In this event, The Montclarion relied on others to judge content appropriateness, rather than making this choice as a staff decision.

Many of you have voiced your displeasure with this cartoon, as is your right.

It is never The Montclarion’s intention to offend its readership, and we sincerely apologize to all who were upset with this comic.

The Montclarion recognizes and appreciates the campus community’s diversity and strives to provide a newspaper that respects and honors all viewpoints.

Action has been taken to ensure that all content from this point forward will be sensitive to the diversity of The Montclarion’s readership.

–Bobby Melok
Editor-in-Chief, The Montclarion


Here is my “official statement” that I gave to the Montclarion school paper, and some newscast that contacted me.

To Whom it May Concern,

First off, it’s nice to know people are still reading the paper.

In all seriousness, the strip is based on some true incidents that happened to canvassers in some battleground states.

Is it offensive? Yes. Is it sad? Sure. But that’s the reality of the United States and this very unique election.

We have the first African-American candidate for president who could actually win. And folks of all colors are coming face-to-face with bias and race issues they didn’t know about, have ignored or pretended didn’t exist. Neighbors, co-workers, and family members are learning a little more about the society we live in.

The comic is pointing out one aspect of it. Straight-up racists are prepared to pull the lever for a black man. While some folks out there, who never thought they were prejudiced, aren’t going to vote for him because of his skin color.

Should we ignore stuff like this? I don’t think so.

Should it be in a comic strip? Yes!!

Comic strips aren’t always “ha-ha” funny. They can be peculiar or strange or dark or embarrassing. Some of the most effective cartooning addresses serious issues. I suppose there are still a lot of folks who think comics should all be like “Garfield”.

I think it’s good that people are discussing the strip, whether it be negative or positive. It shows that they care and are willing to confront issues that are often swept under the rug.

This election is the most significant event to happen concerning race in this country since the civil rights movement. It has shown us what makes this country great, and what we still need to work on. I like to think my work shines a light on both the negative and the positive.

If given the opportunity, I would love to do a slide-show on campus about cartooning, politics, race and the media. It would be nice to talk to the readers in person.



UA Votes, the “Education Phase”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 29 October 2008

UA Votes — remember that? — is now in the midst of the second phase of the operation, “Education.”  This consists of several strategies:

-Random posters on the various state propositions, posted around campus

-Two debates (The latter, hosted by UA Votes; the former, by the African-Americans in Life Sciences Club and ASUA)

-“Before You Vote” walls, where presumably anyone can post information relating to the election.

– A website, with a ton of YouTubes (can college students not read anymore?)

The program deserves praise for two aspects of this phase. First, they’ve done a good job of emphasizing the state propositions. Because voters are essentially playing the role of legislators, it is essential that they know exactly what it is that they are voting before they go into the booth. Secondly, they were willing to invite the (newly formed!) Young Libertarians and the Campus Greens to the UA Votes-hosted debate — and while the representatives for these organizations proved to be fairly disappointing, it was good to see that their views were brought up.

However, it’s still not enough. The first debate had no more than 60 attendees; the second, perhaps 80. As Michael Slugocki announced before the second debate, UA Votes has registered 4400 people — you do the math. Of course, you can’t expect miraculous hordes of public-policy-hungry first-time voters to come out of the clouds of the City on the Hill to save the country. But this is why I am even more disappointed that UA Votes didn’t attempt to supply anything but the most facile information at the Voter Block Party (you can read all the sordid details here). It was at this event that UA Votes had its most captive audience, a throng of young people excited about voting, standing around for literally hours. I’m sure they would’ve at least skimmed a sheet comparing the candidates’ health care policies. Instead, I learned what John McCain’s nickname supposedly is, and what kind of car Barack Obama drives.

Furthermore, all the while this is happening, the program is pushing for “early voting.” Which is confusing, of course, because their education program has just finally had its main event. So while they’re telling people kindly to research positions, they’re practically (and, sometimes on the Mall, literally) screaming at people to go vote early to beat the crowds. It would be nice if everyone did their homework before they voted, but we live in reality, and many students registered by UA Votes will cast their vote without having read one policy paper by either of the candidates.

(Also, some Republican baiting: one of the taglines on the posters calling for early voting exclaims, “NO ID REQUIRED!” Umm, good news?)

Ultimately, then, we may have literally hundreds, if not thousands, of voters on campus who are casting their ballot without any information outside of what they see on T-shirts and on the TV. UA Votes had a chance to ensure an informed voting populace; instead, these few researched votes will be washed away in a tide of instinct and prejudice.

More bang for your ballot

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 29 September 2008

Following the national trend of student voter registration efforts, a new site has started up with an interesting twist. is a basic site with a basic premise — “Register to vote where it counts more.” So long as the electoral college exists, such calculations must take place; this site makes it easy for students to decide where make their vote will have the greatest impact.

However, I would recommend that UA Votes not make use of such a site. Why? Well, the site is based on cross-comparisons between the competitiveness of states. For example, if you go to school in Utah, but you are originally from Colorado, then the site will urge to you to vote at home, since your vote will have a much greater impact in that swing state than in Orrin-Hatch-red Utah.

Arizona isn’t quite as one-sided as Utah, but it’s fairly close. And in spite of all the talk of “Arizona going blue”, it’s useful to remember that John McCain is still the senior senator from the state. When matched up against the other 49 states, in no instance did CountMore urge the voter to register in AZ; the results split fairly evenly between “Toss-Up” and “Register at Home!” Suffice to say, this message doesn’t exactly help to encourage registration here in Arizona.

To be fair, these comparisons are based solely on the results from the 2004 presidential election, which ignores changes that have occurred in the past four years. Yet at risk of repeating myself, I will bet a substantial amount of money that Arizona will stay in the Republican column. If you really want to maximize support for a non-McCain candidate, I’d recommend voting from home.

Also, an interesting note from the site’s Q & A:

What if I’m on a scholarship? Students with scholarships or tuition that require residency should check with their financial aid office before registering to vote in their home state. For example, if you have a scholarship that requires California residency, you should ensure that registering to vote in a different state will not affect your status. Note: this does not apply to recipients of federal financial aid and does not affect the vast majority of students. The Brennan Center for Justice has a detailed description of the cases where registering to vote in a new state can affect your financial aid or tuition.

Obviously, this is a minor subset of students, but I have yet to hear the issue brought up by UA Votes, considering that an out-of-state student’s parents could be very surprised by the size of the next scholarship check.