Archive for category: News Outta My Control

Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?

05 Feb 2012
February 5, 2012
Vote Out Obstructionists!

The latest poster from the Chamomile Tea Party. Click on image for larger view. (Not only is this a remix of a World War II-era poster this is a remix of my first Chamomile Tea Party poster. And aside from the text, I’ve made some subtle changes in this new one. Can you see them?)

Pulling this country out of the Wall Street-induced recession has been glacial. To a great extent it’s because the Republicans aren’t that interested in solving America’s problems as much as making sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president. This is Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell’s stated goal.

He’s not alone. Recently, GOP Senator, Mike Lee, of Utah said he would obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial and government agency nominees in the Senate, even though these nominees have bipartisan support.

This behavior is unconscionable. We must move forward to help Americans in need and to compete in the global economy. We need to elect people from both parties who will work together towards these ends. Extreme ideology and obstruction have no place in American government now. Vote out the obstructionists!

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New Posters from the Chamomile Tea Party: Polarization is Destroying America

29 Jan 2012
January 29, 2012
Polarization is Destroying America

Don’t pigeonhole the American public. We’ve got a lot of opinions that aren’t so easy to categorize. Click on images for a larger view.

Polarization of Congress, the electorate, and, most importantly, the issues that are important to Americans is destroying this country. Believing America can be so easily categorized into liberals and conservatives, blue and red, is hampering our progress. Solving our problems are more complicated than that. We should acknowledge shades of gray when debating the election of our President and Congresspeople. The issues are not simple and to make them so in debates and political ads is disingenuous. Okay, to be blunt, it’s an out and out lie. (Newt Gingrich: your constantly calling out of the “liberal elite” is like the Emperor who’s wearing no clothes.) If the politicians can’t stop themselves from acting this way, we, the people, should.

These new posters from the Chamomile Tea Party have been produced in high resolution and are available for free download. Print them out and pass them around. And join our Facebook group.

Sold to the Highest Contributor!

15 Jan 2012
January 15, 2012
Stop!

A new poster from the Chamomile Tea Party.

In today’s Washington Post, Jonathan Turley, Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University, discusses 10 reasons why the U.S. is no longer the land of the free. It’s a sobering account of the slow and sometimes transparent erosion of American’s rights after 9/11.

In addition, to our political rights, our economic wellbeing sits on a precipice. The disparity between the rich and the poor is one of the widest in the history of our country. Why aren’t people protesting? Well, they are. Occupy Wall Street and others are pointing their collective fingers at a number of issues: corporate greed, the fallacy of trickle down economics (which states the top 1% are job creators), and the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision by the Supreme Court which stated, essentially, that corporations could be treated like individuals with no limits on the amount they could contribute to a political campaign.

Put simply, money is the most important issue in our country today. Money brings influence and political victories while it keeps the middle class and poor separate from that power.

In my guise as the Chamomile Tea Party, I’ve created a new poster that conveys this issue. It’s free for the download in high resolution. Print it out, pass it around, and discuss within your communities.

Two New Posters from the Chamomile Tea Party

17 Jul 2011
July 17, 2011
I Lost My Job PosterLet's Talk Ideology Poster

Two new posters from the Chamomile Tea Party. Click on each of them for a close-up view.

It’s been pretty steamy here in Washington. But I’m not talking about the weather. Here in DC, we seem to live and breathe politics. It’s not always our choice. Sometimes our jobs literally depend on what’s going on on Capitol Hill. And, the rancor you might pick up out there is magnified over here.

Political wrangling and rhetoric is pretty high right now as the Republicans and Democrats are jockeying for position. But it seems like they’re jockeying more for the 2012 election than anything else.

This has been a boon to my creative energy. Finding my voice amongst the flotsam and jetsam of American politics these days is empowering. And this week I’ve come out with two new posters for the Chamomile Tea Party. As always, feel free to “Like” this post on your Facebook page, leave a comment here, or just peruse all the posters I’ve worked on in the last year.

My Encounter with Wally

09 Jul 2011
July 9, 2011

Wally Shawn photographed for Time magazine.

This has got to be the worst photograph of Wallace Shawn I have ever seen. What were the editors of Time magazine thinking when they decided to use Peter Hapak’s image for their summer reading feature in last week’s edition? What? You don’t know who Wally Shawn is? I know Wally and this is NOT him. Well, I actually don’t know Wally personally, but I once saw him at a phone booth on the street next to the Whitney Museum, which is the same thing.

You do remember The Princess Bride, don’t you (he played criminal boss Vizzini who kidnaps the soon-to-be princess)? Or, more cerebrally, My Dinner with Andre. THAT was a movie’s worth of the real Wally Shawn.

He is also a playwright, comedian, and, my favorite, an intellectual with an appreciation for popular culture. Look, he played Grand Nagus Zek on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. How much more popular can you get? (Yes, I know Deep Space Nine wasn’t the best in the franchise.)


What will you be reading this summer?

Well, that’s really not anybody’s business, is it? It’s very personal. It’s too personal.

Look at those bags under his eyes and that scowl. Pair that body language with his answer to Time’s first question and his portrait seems quite accurate. But, I can’t believe that’s true. Not my Wally.

When asked to recommend a book for the summer he replies “It’s hard to recommend a book if you don’t know who you’re recommending it to. I could recommend a book to someone who’s quite a bit like me…” Of course! How can you suggest a book or advice if you don’t know who you’re talking with? Popular culture has eliminated that barrier. We’re all close friends, aren’t we? Well, except for Mr. Shawn. He knows the truth and his portrait conveys just that: he’s not my friend and he has no idea why he was asked to be a part of this Time article. He is the token literary curmudgeon of this group.

But just in case I’m right, I think I’ll buy his recommendation, The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant. I may not be his friend now but perhaps there’s hope. Then the next time I see him on a street corner I’ll be able to intelligently engage him rather than gush and stammer like that time at the Whitney. “You’re my favorite pop culture intellectual!” will hopefully be replaced with something, um, more substantial. As long as I can recognize him from his photo.

The Birth of an Idea: the Chamomile Tea Party’s 1st Birthday

02 Jul 2011
July 2, 2011
Poster: Bipartisan Reform: DOA

Today marks the first anniversary of an idea. One year ago today, as I was walking home from work, my brain gave birth to the Chamomile Tea Party. More specifically, I decided to take World War II-era propaganda posters and remix their words with commentary about the caustic state of contemporary American discourse.

I remember exactly how it happened and exactly where I was when the idea hit me. I was let out of work early for the July 4th weekend. I took the Metro home and was walking the last mile to my house. Listening to NPR’s All Things Considered, Melissa Bloch was discussing the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan with Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and David Brooks from the New York Times. Just as I got right here the idea just happened.

Here’s the story I’ve told of that moment for the last year:


As I was walking home from work, listening to NPR, they were reporting that every Republican was going to vote the Party line against Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court and it was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was so incensed that party politics would trump what I thought was the good of the country I came up with the idea to take propaganda posters from World War II to comment on today’s political rancor.

But memory is a funny thing. Yesterday, as I walked that exact path home I stopped to take a picture of where I was at that moment and to reflect on what the commentators had said. When I got home I went to the NPR archives to look for a transcript of that report. And much to my chagrin I found out they didn’t say that at all. Yes, they discussed Kagan and her nomination but there is no mention of the Republican voting party lines. But I was sure they had. Funny how your mind works.

Ideas don’t just happen. They aren’t pulled out of a magic hat. Often disparate interests sit someplace in our brains just waiting to be put together to create something new. I’d always been interested in propaganda posters from the 1940s. I liked their stylized illustrations paired with often sparse but efficient calls to action. Both were hallmarks of great graphic design. In addition, despite many Americans notions that we enjoy the greatest freedoms of any nation in the world, is that really true? Is our government free of subterfuge? Are we really an open society where new ideas are openly embraced? And, finally, I’d been stewing for many months over the hubris politicians and candidates spouted as they calculated the huge payoff from their niche bases. The whole process disgusted me. It seems all of these thoughts were percolating when they decided to band together for the greater good one year ago today.

Angry, I replied in the best way I could. These separate pieces “suddenly” came together. Using my skills as a designer and my opinion as a citizen, I spent the 4th of July weekend creating the first six posters from the Chamomile Tea Party. I did six more the next weekend. Once my brain completed the connections I was possessed. The Chamomile Tea Party moniker had come to me about six months before all of this –such a wonderful play on words with the Tea Party’s “take no prisoners” attitude. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what I’d do with the name but like a good netizen I registered the domain right away. These posters would be my perfect foil.

The series continues to be a work-in-progress. I’ve done 19 posters in the last year and I’m working on new ones (I’ve got one about financial reform I’m mulling over now). It’s not easy finding just the right twist to go with each original image. The more I do the easier it is to go off on tangents. The process of coming up with the right phrases is not easy. Culling a complicated idea into its most efficient form is an art. From the beginning I’ve had a group of friends debating my initial concepts. I love the input and the work is much better for it. This is part of the fun and the challenge of this project.

I’ve gotten some great publicity along the way. BoingBoing did two pieces and the Huffington Post did an article in their Politics section. Over 750 people commented! These discussions and debates also informed my work. They helped me fine tune my message. It’s a constant learning process. And I’ve connected with others who feel as I do. I’ve connected with the Coffee Party, a large grassroots organization who are working towards the same goal: cut the political posturing to work together to get our country back on the right track.

Most importantly, I want these posters to be used by others who are interested in these ideas. I’ve encouraged people to download the high res versions I’ve put online. And, at the Rally for Sanity last October on the National Mall, others actually printed them large to voice their own opinions. Good work, we the people!

© 2001-2015 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074