Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Reign in Spain

Taking a break from today's dismal headlines, Sovereignback Saturday returns yet again to a more innocent time: namely, World War I. In the summer of 1917, we find the crowned heads of Europe shaking in their boots.
"Help!" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, 1917
1917 is remembered as the year Russia threw off the yoke of Romanov rule, only to have its attempts at establishing a liberal democracy thwarted.

Political upheaval was not limited to Russia, however. The Greek King, Constantine I, had tried to maintain his nation's neutrality while World War I raged about the country on all sides. Constantine denied the Allied and Central powers permission to use Greece as a landing base, and stymied moves by his Prime Minister Venizelos to bring Greece into the war on the side of the Allies.

Allied leaders suspected Constantine of harboring sympathies for Germany. After all, his wife was Kaiser Wilhelm's sister — but then all the crowned heads of Europe were related in one way or another.
"Family Troubles" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, 1917
On June 10, 1917, backed by the threat of an Allied landing in Piraeus, Venizelos forced King Constantine to go into exile. But since the European Entente powers weren't interested in "making the world safe for democracy," they passed up the opportunity to return democracy to its cradle; Allied Commissioner Charles Jonnart opened casting calls for another member of the royal family to take the throne. Constantine's eldest son, Crown Prince George, was too pro-German for the Allies' liking; so after Constantine's brother (also named George) refused to take the throne out of loyalty to his brother, Constantine's second son, Prince Alexander, was chosen to become the new monarch.
"I Remember Those Boys..." by Rollin Kirby in New York World, 1917
After King Alexander died from an infected monkey bite (would I make something like that up?), Greek voters approved a plebiscite to recall Constantine — who had never actually abdicated anyway —to the throne in 1920.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, there were rumblings beneath the throne of Spain's King Alfonso XIII. Spain, too, maintained neutrality in the war, but Alfonso's sympathies leaned more toward the Allies than Constantine's had. Alfonso's queen, moreover, was British, a cousin of George V.
"Alphonse and Gaston" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Sun, 1917
Outside observers perceived democratic inclinations in the Bourbon monarch. The Washington Star editorialized that
"...liberalization of the government has been along definite and practical lines for years, and the republican party has grown until, since the Spanish-American War, it has been a powerful factor in Spanish politics. ...
"Complaints against the courts are bitter, especially in the matter of appointment of officers of the army. Favoritism is the rule. So insistent are the demands for reform that the government is at a crisis of decision."
"Another One of the Boys on the Run" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, 1917
As it turned out, Alfonso remained King until 1930, his popularity eventually worn away by a six-year war to maintain Spain's territories in northern Africa, his support for the leaders of a military coup in 1923, and the worldwide Great Depression as the 1920s roared to a close.

Returning to the summer of 1917, Belgium's King Albert was in exile from his German-occupied country, as were Serbia's Peter, Montenegro's Nicholas, and Romania's Ferdinand. In Allied propaganda, the German Kaiser was due to be toppled from his throne any day now.
"Come, Junkers" by Jan Sluijters in De Nieues Amsterdamer, 1917

Cartoonists who did not accept the role of cheerleaders for their government saw no reason to presume that the havoc of war would limit itself to Europe's autocracies. Socialist Kenneth Chamberlain, drawing for The Masses, predicted the war dragging on for another three years, but the principal powers (including the U.S. — foreground) having spent themselves utterly.

"1920 — Still Fighting for Civilization" by K.R. Chamberlain in The Masses,  August, 1917

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Q Toon: The Trumperor's New Clothes

Memesters have been having fun with the photo, apparently taken by one of the participants, of a clutch of evangelical leaders "laying hands" on mercurial American President Donald J. Trump.

The picture has been photoshopped to show him being pushed into a prison cell, over a cliff, toward the Jaws shark, onto a Star Trek transporter, and all manner of  punishments cleverer than Ms. Griffin's foray into political commentary.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Jul 20, 2017

The evangelicals' fawning over the boorish, self-absorbed, ill-tempered, insulting, rude, lying, envious, boastful, proud, man-child who is the complete anathema to 1 Corinthians 13 struck me just a little bit differently.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Meatless, Wheatless and Dry

Returning to cartoons from this week in 1917, our theme for Steakback Saturday is the food crisis that accompanied America's entry into World War I.
"The Dollar-American" by Joseph Cassel in New York Evening World, July, 1917
With food production in Europe already crippled by three years of warfare, the U.S. was already exporting a good share of its own food stores. But while there was no prospect of American farms being turned into mine fields and trenches, the draft promised to significantly reduce the agricultural labor force. The U.S., moreover, had to make sure that those American doughboys just now arriving into the theatre of battle three squares to eat every day.

Consequently, speculators drove up food prices, resulting in a call for Congress to pass a Food Control bill. Congress, as far as the nation's editorial cartoonists were concerned, proved slow to act.
"Her Afternoon Siesta" by James H. Donahey in Cleveland Plain Dealer, July, 1917
Nearly all the cartoons I found on this topic used pigs as the metaphor for "Food Speculators." One exception was Ray Evans of the Baltimore American, who devised a vulpine character to represent them in a series of cartoons.
"His Version of It" by Raymond O. Evans in Baltimore American, July, 1917
One of the stumbling blocks slowing congressional action was resistance to a growing Prohibitionist movement, which saw the Food Control bill as an opportunity to require that no agricultural production be wasted on liquor, wine and beer. Prohibitionists also wanted to take advantage of the association of breweries with the now very distrusted German-American community, greatly handicapping the beverage industry's political influence. In the end, the Lever Act (as it came to be known, after the bill's sponsor, Congressman Asbury Lever, D-SC), left beer and wine alone, but banned the production of "distilled spirits" from any produce that was used for food.
"But, Mister, Dis Is Crool" by "Bill" Sykes in Philadelphia Evening Ledger, July, 1917
The Lever Act went into effect on August 10. And on August 1, the Senate passed what would eventually become the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. You have to expect that was part of the deal to get the Lever Act passed, don't you?

Meanwhile, the Wilson Administration created the U.S. Food Administration to launch a propaganda campaign aimed at American housewives, exhorting them to conserve food and limit waste as part of the war effort.
"The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1917
To encourage voluntary rationing, the USFA, headed by Herbert Hoover, coined the slogan “Food Will Win the War” and promoted the idea of having "Meatless Tuesdays" and "Wheatless Wednesdays.” Recipes for wheatless "Victory Bread" anticipated the current fad of gluten-free diets for people who want to pretend that they have celiac disorder. Fortunately for American Catholics, Pope Benedict XV had greater things on his mind than whether Christ was capable of performing the miracle of transubstantiation via Victory Communion Bread.
"The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in  Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1917
During the first year of the USFA’s existence, Americans reduced their food consumption by 15%. That number may not sound like much, but can you imagine anything short of the complete collapse of civilization accomplishing that today?
"The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1917

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Q Toon: Never Put Off Until Tomorrow

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍Jul 13, 2017

...what you can put off until December.

If you are transgender and are interested in serving your country, you're just going to have to wait a little longer, according to Defense Secretary General Mad Dog Mattis, who issued a memo at the end of June extending the deadline for producing Defense Department policy on the question.
Mattis' decision formally endorses an agreement hammered out last week by the leaders of the four military services, which rejected Army and Air Force requests for a two-year wait. And it reflects the broader worry that a longer delay would trigger criticism on Capitol Hill, officials familiar with the talks told the AP. 
If there is any good news in this for transgender patriots, it's that if you're one of the estimated 1,320 to 6,630 (according to a Rand survey) already serving in the U.S. military, you may continue to do so. Mr. Trump has not hit upon reversing that Obama administration policy.

Yet.

This president is not a details kind of guy, and making the American military cisgender again isn't a high priority of his BFF in the Kremlin, so maybe this is a policy from his predecessor that he just hasn't noticed. Perhaps that Russia business can keep him preoccupied at least until December 1.



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Seven and Seven

In belated honor of yesterday having been 7/7/17, Septback Saturday brings you a sampling of stuff I drew in July of 1987, 1997 and 2007.

In July of 1987, Congress was investigating the Iran-Contra scandal. In case that's ancient history to you, the Reagan administration was caught having sold arms to Iran, in violation of an embargo against that country since the hostage affair of 1979-81, and using the money from those sales to surreptitiously fund the right-wing militias fighting the government of Nicaragua.

This was America's introduction to Lt. Col. Oliver North, then an aide to the National Security Council, who was the guy who proposed the Iran-Contra link, and destroyed vital documents as the affair became exposed. Adopting an air of indignant moral impeccability, the future Fox News commentator insisted upon wearing his army uniform and medals when testifying before Congress, and pretty much whenever he appeared in public.

I was freelancing cartoons on local topics for the Racine Journal Times in those days. Cartoons involving court cases are usually unwelcome, but this one skirted the issue of prematurely convicting the accused. The particulars of the case hardly matter for the understanding of the cartoon thirty years later; in fact, I have no recollection whatsoever of how the case was adjudicated.

Ten years later, I was drawing for two Milwaukee newspapers. I illustrated the editorials of The Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee; here's one on one of the few topics that needs no explanation — although it might be useful to recall that in Bill Clinton's first term, he had put Vice President Al Gore in charge of a commission to review and streamline government regulation of business. You can pretty accurately imagine the Beej editorial on your own.

The other paper I drew for back then was a now-defunct biweekly, In Step, serving Wisconsin's LGBTQ community. Again, I doubt that this cartoon from July, 1997 requires any explanation.

Twenty years later, we're still waiting for Mickey Mouse to suffer an almighty smite.

Now, had I drawn this cartoon for the Journal Times, there would no doubt have been reader complaints that I was attacking religion. (Had I drawn it for the Business Journal, there would have been editor complaints that this wasn't what his editorial was about.) But at In Step, I was preaching to the choir — if you'll pardon the expression.

Finally, I'll circle back to another Fox News personality with this cartoon from July of 2007 featuring one Mr. Bill O'Reilly. We derisively called it Faux News back then — the precursor of Trumplestiltskin's "Fake News" epithet for all the other channels, newspapers and magazines.

Which brings up a topic having very little to do with this cartoon, but which has been bothering me lately. For all the media outrage at the .gif Mr. Trump tweeted showing him beating up a guy whose face is covered by a CNN logo, American media have been largely and curiously silent about the hamfisted efforts of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to force Qatar to shut down the Al Jazeera news network.

While not all complaints against Al Jazeera are baseless (concerning an allegation that an Egyptian president was an Israeli agent, for example), freedom of the press has got to be respected. It's one thing to call the integrity of Fox's Bill O'Reilly on the one hand, or CBS's Dan Rather on the other; it's quite another for any government to insist that someone else's government shut down the entire network.