Monday, August 31, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

In lieu of the usual snippet from the cartoon coming later this week, here's one I drew for the Twin Cities LGBT newsmagazine Gaze in July, 1993, the year of great flooding along the upper Mississippi River and several tributaries in the midwest.

I was en route to a church secretaries' conference in St. Peter, Minnesota that summer, traveling by bus. I stopped to visit friends in Minneapolis before boarding the bus down to St. Peter. The bus ended up having to make a number of detours because high water in the Minnesota River had overtopped some bridges and roadways and was threatening others. I ended up arriving at Gustavus Adolphus College quite late, missing the opportunity to be interviewed by a Minneapolis Tribune reporter who wanted to talk to the three of us male secretaries at the overwhelmingly female conference.

Since both of the pastors at the church where I work happened at the time to be women, I suppose I could been an interesting addition to the article. (In fact, both pastors are still women, although one now works at the synod level, not at the church.)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

This Month in World War I

It has been a while since I've posted anything about what was going on one century ago. I don't have any good newspaper front pages to highlight, but I came across this German cartoon the other day and decided to let it be the impetus for this week's Slogback Saturday.

I'm not positive what historical significance 1915 has in terms of this cartoon, other than that it was probably when it happened to be drawn. The Entente Cordiale between France and England was signed in 1904 as France sought to cozy up to an ancient rival, England, because it was more worried about Germany. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 had ended with Prussian troops marching victoriously through Paris and the various German states uniting into a single nation.

For its part, English leaders had begun to regret a long-standing policy of not getting entangled in continental affairs. The United Kingdom had no allies in the Boer Wars, and continuing expansion of European colonization of Asia, Africa and the Pacific was antithetical to isolationist policy. So the Entente Cordiale settled colonial boundaries between England and France in the Near and Far East (England taking the Egyptian Gulf of Suez), and an Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907 carved up present-day Iran and Afghanistan.

Contrast the German view of Great Britain above with how the Germans depicted their own actions in this propaganda poster:
Dear Homeland, have no fear!
Here, a jolly German soldier is having no difficulty managing against the Triple Entente of Russia, France, and, underfoot, England. Why, Germany doesn't even require the assistance of its own allies.

Of course, the spider motif could be played both ways. This cartoon of Kaiser Wilhelm by the Dutch cartoonist Louis Raemaekers, is also from 1915:

Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy had formed the "Triple Alliance" back in 1882, but Italy broke off from the alliance at the start of World War I, declaring neutrality. In April of 1915, England, France, Russia and Italy signed a secret pact, the Treaty of London, turning Italy against its erstwhile allies. Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23 and on the Ottoman Empire on August 21.

Italy didn't declare war on Germany until 1916, but here's a telling Italian cartoon of Kaiser Wilhelm from 1915:

Italy was replaced in the Triple Alliance by the Ottoman Empire, prompting this Italian cartoon:

The Ottoman entry into the war is rather baffling; the previous century had been marked by the empire suffering defeats at the hands of Russia on the one hand and Austria-Hungary on the other (and, for that matter, Italy as recently as 1912). But Germany promised certain Greek and Balkan territories to the Ottomans for their closing the passage through Constantinople to the British and Russian navies.

England made its last attempt to seize the Ottoman Gallipoli peninsula from August 6 to 21, part of England's "August offensive." The Battle of Hill 60 on August 26-29 was the final battle of that campaign, ending in a stalemate. So let us close this chapter with one more Raemaekers cartoon:
Turkish General: "What are you firing at? The British evacuated the place twenty-four hours ago!"
"Sorry, sir -- but what a glorious victory!"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Q Toon: Hello Muddah, Hello FADA

If you thought a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court would be the final word in the fight for marriage equality, I'm afraid you're sadly mistaken.

The resistance is not limited to one Kentucky county clerk on her fourth marriage, of course. Christian theocrats are not going to be dragged into the 21st Century without a fight.

This month, the Republican National Committee voted to support what its sponsors call a "First Amendment Defense Act" (FADA), guaranteeing a right to discriminate against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, the transgendered, and whatever other group about whom you can find a disapproving verse in the Bible. So look out, Amorites, shellfish-eaters and rich fools: they're coming for you again.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✎Aug 27, 2015
Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the legislation would prohibit a federal government entity from taking action against a person who objects to same-sex marriage or homosexuality. Such actions include denying tax credits, contracts, grants, certification, accreditation or employment to a person who opposes homosexuality due to strong religious beliefs or moral convictions.
The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) would also allow anybody who felt they were retaliated against by government actors to sue for damages. It also outlines how the sponsors expect courts to interpret the act, including a clause that reads, “This Act shall be construed in favor of a broad protection of free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this Act and the Constitution.” ...
 The Human Rights Campaign noted that “if passed, this legislation would create a breakdown of government services and runaway litigation…. It would permit a federal employee, for example, to refuse to process tax returns, visa applications or Social Security checks whenever a same-sex couple’s paperwork appears on his or her desk.”
Oh, by the way, just kidding about the Christian right coming after you rich fools. Everyone knows that Jesus didn't mean.any of that stuff.

Monday, August 24, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

As a symbol of the Republican party, the elephant dates back to 1864, the party's third presidential election. A pro-Lincoln newspaper in Pennsylvania (published 1864-1873), Father Abraham, published a picture of an elephant carrying a banner reading "The Elephant Is Coming" amid text about how the Lincoln was headed to victory in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Maryland.

Thomas Nast's series of cartoons featuring a Republican elephant came ten years later, starting with "Third Term Panic," depicting a braying donkey (representing the Democratic-leaning New York Herald) in a lion's skin inciting panic among other animals. Prominent among them is an elephant on a precarious footbridge (with planks labeled "deflation," "reform," "repudiation" and "Reconstruction") over a chasm of "Southern claims chaos."

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Oliphant on Carter

Having already shared my ballpoint pen tracing of Pat Oliphant caricatures of Presidents Nixon and Ford, I guess the news that former President Jimmy Carter has cancer means that this week's Sweaterback Saturday ought to feature Oliphant's vision of the 39th President of the United States.

In this case, it's a daunting proposition: I have three pages of these Jimmy Carters. I was in college for much of Carter's presidency, able to hop on over to the library and trace every Oliphant cartoon in the periodicals rack, and to rummage through the hometown newspapers thrown out by others in the dorm. I don't want to overwhelm you, dear reader, with every last one of these Jimmies, so here's a select representation.

Unlike with Nixon, Carter was virtually unknown outside of his home state prior to his candidacy for the presidency, so I know of no Oliphant cartoons about Carter's governorship (1971-1975). As did most cartoonists in 1976, Oliphant fixated on Candidate Carter's omnipresent grin as the basis for caricature.

After Carter was inaugurated and had to deal with a Congress and other world leaders who played much harder to get than the American electorate had, there was less reason for Carter, the man or the cartoon, to smile. Oliphant saw in Carter's foreign policy emphasis on Human Rights and his domestic policy of urging Americans to lower their thermostats a humorless puritan.

Over time, given the 1979 "Malaise speech" and the 444-day-long Iranian hostage crisis, Oliphant's Carter shrunk in stature, perpetually at the mercy of events. Cartoon Carter even lost quite a bit of his hair, aging faster than the real man. Perhaps Oliphant had the portrait of Dorian Gray somewhere in mind.

Oliphant has continued over the years to give Carter no break, drawing him as a dour, Bible-toting wet blanket in this 1995 sketch, or as a grumpy, pug-nosed dwarf in his 2004 "Legacies" cartoon. (At least Cartoon Carter's hair has grown back.) At any rate, Oliphant has only posted two cartoons at all in the past year, so he may not rush to his drawing board to make nice just because of a little brain cancer.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rall Entando al Fine

Ted Rall continues his series on How I Got Fired And Nobody Cared at this week, coming around to the failure of his fellow cartoonists to leap to his defense.

"You guys suck" was Rall's header for an August 9 screed on the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) listserv blasting the AAEC's silence on his case -- described as deafening in another cartoonist's posting, the first on the topic, on July 28. (Postings on the listserv are supposed to be confidential, but since Rall has brought the discussion out into the open, I think the cat is out of the bag.)

Between July 28 and the publication of the AAEC statement on August 11, there was a lot of back and forth on the listserv over whether Rall had proven that his case was any worse than that any of the scores of other editorial cartoonists who have lost their jobs in the last 20-30 years, none of which have produced official statements from the AAEC. Of course, hardly any of those cartoonists were sent out the door with an editorial calling them liars.

So far this year, the AAEC has condemned the killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and editors, condemned the arrest of Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, condemned the shootings at the "Draw Mohammed" confab in Dallas, called for Maine's Governor LePage to apologize for telling a cartoonist's son that the governor would like to shoot the boy's father, and, of course, called for an investigation into the tape the Los Angeles Police Department gave to the L.A. Times editors to get Rall fired.

On the other side of the coin, I can't recall any instance of the AAEC officially criticizing any cartoonist by name -- although accusations of plagiarism have resulted in heated discussion on the listserv, a few well-known cartoonists leaving the association, and eventually, a code of ethics (see the update at the end of this story). There was plenty of internal discussion whether or not the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and the Texas anti-Islam cartoon contest were defensible, but in the end, the Free Speech absolutists won out.

We cartoonists are used to having our work criticized; we love praise, of course, but see criticism as a sign that our cartoons have succeeded in sparking conversation. Bill Sanders, for example, devoted two pages of The Sanders Book (1977) to hate mail. Today's editors, on the other hand, see editorial cartoons as little more than a graphic to break up an otherwise gray page. The occasional threat from a reader to cancel a subscription may not get a cartoonist fired, but complaints from advertisers, law enforcement, or the publisher's golfing buddies are likely to prompt an editor to discover reasons to "tighten the budget."

At issue here is not just whether the L.A. Times unjustly besmirched a cartoonist's reputation by calling him a liar, but also whether it should have leapt to conclusions based upon accusations by the LAPD supported only by a poor-quality recording.

I don't know who is qualified to step in at this late date, but a recent cartoon by Matt Wuerker was parsed by Politifact (and found "mostly true"), so perhaps we should let the Tampa Bay Times judge whether Rall's or the LAPD's pants are on fire.

Postscript:  (The Times defends its actions here, including a link to a recording from the LAPD purporting to document LAPD's failed attempts to contact Rall after his initial complaint about his treatment.
(But according to one of Rall's colleagues, J.P. Trostle, "As someone who has known Mr. Rall for almost 20 years, and was calling him frequently during this time period (as we finished collaborating on the book Attitude: The New Subversive Alternative Political Cartoonists), I can assure you that that is NOT Ted Rall’s voice on the answering machine, nor was it the greeting message he was using at time — which means the LAPD was calling the wrong number.")

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Q Toon: Sermon at the Counter II

In spite of feeling that I put out the definitive cartoon on the topic just over a month ago, I've drawn about local county and municipal clerks who still defiantly refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Supreme Court of the United States notwithstanding.

Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis is putting up a legal fight claiming that other people's right to a marriage license is a violation of her First Amendment religious liberty rights to refuse to do her job. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning stayed his earlier ruling that had required Davis to set her religious views aside and stop discriminating against same-sex couples.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Aug 20, 2015

Kentucky is not alone in facing unresolved issues related to marriage equality since Obergefell v. Hodges. Lawsuits have now been filed in Colorado, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina claiming that public officials' religious beliefs supersede their responsibilities to their constituents.

Now, in case there are any sticklers out there who question the religious sincerity of the unnamed clerk in this week's cartoon, please note that in every panel of the cartoon, her head is covered by a dialogue balloon.