Thursday, May 25, 2017

Here's a Saudi Do

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍May 25, 2017

Donald Joffrey Trump's first foreign trip abroad, surprisingly, was not to Russia. Can you believe it?

No, his first stop was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where he somehow managed to go the entire trip without tweeting that his hosts were fostering Radical Islamic Terrorism. Trump did advise the Saudis and an auditorium full of leaders of Islamic nations that they needed to drive the terrorists out of their countries. (Just don't drive them into ours.)

It is hard to see how these Islamic countries are to make any headway in stopping terrorism if their rulers do not lead by example. Their state-sponsored terrorism includes the persecution of their own LGBTQ citizens. Arrest, public whipping, torture, and execution -- whether by the state itself or the state encouraging family members to handle it -- is meant to terrorize the LGBTQ out of existence.

We know that Egyptian President Sisi was in the audience, since he was in that bizarre photo with Trump, King Salman touching the Glowing Orb. I don't know if Indonesian president Widodo, or Afghanistan's President Ghani, or Pakistani President Hussain, or Chechen President Kadyrov were there. We do know that newly reelected Iranian President Rouhani was not present.

It's not just a Muslim thing, of course. Antigay state-sponsored terrorism is practiced and in Nigeria and several other African countries. And, it has to be noted, Trump's BFF Putin was persecuting LGBTQs in Russia well before Mr. Kadyrov took up the cudgel.

Monday, May 22, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

A reader commented on yesterday's cartoon of Sheriff Clarke, asking whether I were "Planning on a follow-up, celebrating Clarke's 'masterful' plagiarism."

CNN reported that Clarke plagiarized portions of his 2013 masters thesis on US security, but the charge itself is rather wonky.
Clarke lifts language from sources and credits them with a footnote, but does not indicate with quotation marks that he is taking the words verbatim.
According to guidelines on plagiarism posted on the Naval Postgraduate School's website, "If a passage is quoted verbatim, it must be set off with quotation marks (or, if it is a longer passage, presented as indented text), and followed by a properly formulated citation. The length of the phrase does not matter. If someone else's words are sufficiently significant to be worth quoting, then accurate quotation followed by a correct citation is essential, even if only a few words are involved."
So in answer to the question, I'll keep this in mind, but failure to use quotation marks isn't likely to make me rush to the drawing board. There are plenty of worse things in Clarke's record.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sheriff David Clarke

Here in the Milwaukee media market, we're watching a little drama surrounding our local mini-Trump, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

Unless you watched his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, you might not know much about Mr. Clarke. Nominally a Democrat, he was appointed Milwaukee County Sheriff by Republican Acting Governor Scott McCallum in 2002; while the Democrats were figuring out that he wasn't really one of them, Republicans with no local races of their own have been free to cross over to make sure he won every primary since then.

He has spent his tenure attacking every other elected Democratic official and endorsing Republican ones. Clarke hasn't been in town much lately; tired of just being the darling of Milwaukee AM radio, he's been working hard to take his shtick national. (There's also the pesky matter of inquests into some deaths including one of a newborn infant in his prison, which he has been happy to escape.)

And now he says he's been named Department of Homeland Security’s liaison to state and local authorities although that's news that DHS and the guy currently in that position haven't heard from the White House.

Twitterer Charles Clymer, a genderqueer army veteran, and writer, noticed that the pins and medals festooning Sheriff Clarke's uniform when he appears in public were not ones that he had earned.
“Look at this fucking guy’s uniform,” Clymer said, in the second of a long string of tweets on the subject. “You see all that shit pinned all over his dress uniform jacket? That’s not supposed to be there.” Clymer went on to break down each individual medal, their placement and their apparently spurious provenance. Clymer acknowledged that legitimate medals are earned, and should be worn with pride, but accuses Clarke of “stolen valor” and calls Clarke’s collection, “a sloppy assortment of badge replicas arranged neatly, [that] looks imposing.” 
Clymer's not the only one noticing that Clarke's medals aren't exactly, shall we say, kosher.
Clymer’s Twitter rant led Daniel Sieradski (a former JTA staffer) to review Clarke’s photos. He found one where the sheriff is sporting the insignia of Israel’s traffic police. ...
Clarke may have received the pin when he toured Israel and Russia in 2015, in what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported was a trip funded by the National Rifle Association.
Okay, it’s possible. But it makes one wonder: Did he earn the pin? If so, how? Did he head off a battle royale on the notoriously clogged road straddling Jerusalem’s Old City and Sultan’s Pool? Did he avert a crisis on the LaGuardia ramp into Tel Aviv? Did he bring peace, love and understanding to the hot, messy hell that is the Checkpost road, connecting Haifa with its northern suburbs?
We asked Clarke for background on the pin. He has yet to reply.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

We Awl Want to Change the World

I had many more cartoons about Russia's political turmoil in May, 1917 than I could use last week; so Surplusback Saturday picks up the story in a multi-ethnic mode.
"Scraps from the Master's Table" by Leon Israel in Der Groyser Kundes, New York, April or May, 1917
Der Groyser Kundes ("The Big Stick") was a socialist-leaning Yiddish publication in New York City from 1909 to 1927. Leon Israel (1887-1955), who cartooned under the pen name "Lola," emigrated from Pinsk (now in Belarus) to the U.S. in 1905. There was no love lost between Russian Jews and the deposed czarist regime, so the depiction here of Nicholas Romanov having to settle for the refuse from the plate of a Russian peasant (or could that even be Marx?) is meant to be gleeful.

Israel's Jewish readership would have recognized this scene of a Passover Seder; the rabbi appears to be reading a haggadah open to the words "we were slaves." Christians might also recall the reference to the story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician or Canaanite woman. The folk maxims in that exchange about feeding dogs from one's table no doubt have a Hebrew origin and might explain why Moses outside the window appears to be horrified. Or perhaps that's Elijah, miffed because there's no chair for him.

(Thank you to David Benkov and Yosef Landa for help with the Ashkenazi/Yiddish translations.)
"Will He Blow Out the Gas?" by Rollin Kirby in New York World, May, 1917
Rollin Kirby's (1875-1952) cartoon needed no explanation to a 1917 audience, a good many of whom still lit their rooms with gas flame, and understood that blowing out the flame did not necessarily stop the flow of gas out from the light fixture.
"Samson and Delilah" by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot in Le Rire, Paris, May or June, 1917
Turning to cartoons from overseas, Pierre-Georges Jeanniot (1848-1934) references another biblical story to warn "Moujik" (a French spelling of a word for a Russian peasant) against succumbing to the charms of a licentious temptress armed with a pair of scissors. A friend of Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet, Jeanniot's talents extended to painting, engraving, and lithography.

"A Poison Gas Attack on New Russia" by Louis Raemaekers for International News Service, May or June, 1917
The Dutch cartoonist Louis Raemaekers (1869-1956) doesn't bother with allegory or subtlety here, and unlike Jeanniot's cartoon, his Russian woman is as innocent as her Russian beau. Poison gas was the WMD that came of age with World War I, and wielded here by "anarchy."

It's worth noting that when Raemaekers visited the U.S. in 1917, he signed a contract with William Randolph Hearst's International News Service in spite of its reputation for antipathy toward the Allies. Raemaekers explained that Hearst's readership was "the most important target group because the readers are poisoned daily by tendentious articles."
"Shake Hands, Brother..." by cartoonist in Novy Satirikon, Petrograd, May or June, 1917
Russian cartoonists — at least the ones reprinted in allied newspapers and magazines — inveighed against letting down their country's guard against Germany. Such was still the official policy of the Russian government.

One Russian democrat, a Professor B.E. Shatsky, seeking to reassure the Allies that Russia would commit to the war effort, acknowledged the peaceniks in his country, but discounted their influence:
There is no doubt that among the Socialist elements in Russia there is a certain group which is working for "peace at any price." This group is represented by its leader, Nicholas Lennin. The cables from Copenhagen and Stockholm exaggerate Lennin's power and influence. The greatest Socialist leaders in Russia, such men as George Plekhanoff, Prince Kropotkin, and Vladimir Bourtzeff, have indorsed the war on the side of the Allies since its beginning, and are indorsing it most sincerely now that Russian despotism is overthrown and the nature of the war as a fight between democratic and autocratic principles is clearly seen by the entire world.
Russian Social Democrats led by George Plekhanoff, Russian Socialist revolutionists under the leadership of Mr. Avkxentieff, [and] the Russian labor group led by Mr. Kerenski, are indorsing the war and are very successfully combating the small group of Russian Socialists represented by Mr. Lennin. This latter group does not comprise more than five per cent of Russian workingmen and peasants, and its propaganda is almost negligible and of no consequence in Russia's fight, together with the Allies,  for liberty and democracy in Europe. 
 "Lenin - Proletarian, or an Awl in a Sack," possibly by A. Lebedev, in Стрекоза (Dragonfly) magazine, Petrograd, № 30, 1917
On the topic of Russian collusion, this last cartoon accuses Lenin of being in the pay of the Kaiser, and refers to a Russian proverb that "you cannot hide an awl in a sack," or, as its English equivalent puts it, "The truth will out."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Q Toon: Must've Déjà Vu TV

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒May 18, 2017

NBC is indeed bringing back "Will & Grace" in the fall, resurrecting the 1998-2006 situation comedy, along with the network's 1980's slogan, "Must See TV."

"Will & Grace," in case you've forgotten, centered on Will, a gay lawyer; Grace, his best friend; Jack, his best gay friend; and Karen, an idle rich woman who hung around with them for no apparent reason. Together, they tossed bons mots about whatever was current in popular culture and ... well, I watched the show, and I guess they did sitcom stuff. Will and Grace had jobs and parents, Grace had boyfriends, Jack turned 30, and Karen could hold her liquor. That's pretty much the whole story.

Still, the show and each of its stars won Emmys the first time around. You can't knock success.

It was a groundbreaking show, in that a gay man was a central character. He wasn't closeted, and he wasn't insecure about it, even if he didn't get around to dating anyone until late in the series. The show wasn't about HIV/AIDS or hate crimes or antigay preachers or gays in the military or marriage equality, any of the Big Issues Of The Day. In a way, it was a show about nothing, although not quite as edgy as "Seinfeld." There definitely was no talk about who could be masters of their domain.

NBC executives obviously want to offer their audience something comfortable and familiar — and the fact that what was once groundbreaking is now comfortably familiar is something of an achievement in and of itself. But if the characters are still stuck exactly where they were in 2006, I doubt viewers will stick with the show.

Jack has hit 40, after all. The bloom is off the rose, and if he hasn't found independent means of support by now and is still leeching off of Will, there's no way Will can have held onto any self-respecting boyfriend this long. Karen may have hired Grace to remodel her office yet again (what ever does Karen do there?), but she's not a simpleton and would surely have become bored with Jack, if not Will and Grace as well.

Well, we'll leave it to the writers to figure that all out. This isn't Tristram Shandy, after all. There are plenty of fresh new pop cultural references with which to pepper their scripts.

If they are successful, we can look forward to the return of "Friends," "Malcolm in the Middle," "Desperate Housewives," and "Veronica's Closet."

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Glad Syttende Mai

It has been 190 days since we've flown a flag in front of our house.

We put a flagpole up back when we built this house over a decade ago, and regularly flew the American flag every day the weather allowed. (We get a lot of wind here; we've had to replace the flagpole twice after winds snapped it apart.) Before that, we flew a flag at my husband's old house.

But ever since a blustery con artist utterly unfit for the job proved he was able to fool enough of the people enough of the time to elect him President of the United States, we just haven't been able to bring ourselves to fly the stars and stripes. We took down the pole and put a solar light in the post.

We've agreed that we'll fly the American flag on national holidays, so it will finally go back up on Memorial Day, weather permitting. And the solar light will return until June 14.

But for now, it's Norwegian Independence Day. Fram! Fram! Fram!