Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mission Implausible



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Apr 28, 2010

Last week, William Gheen, a South Carolina Democrat (yes, a Democrat -- the political spectrum is S.C. skews to the right compared to most of the country) now active in the Tea Party movement told his fellow teabaggers that Senator Lindsey Graham was being blackmailed to support Democrats' version of Immigration Reform:
"Sen. Graham, you need to come forward and tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality. Come out of that closet, Lindsey. Come out of that log cabin closet...Look, I'm a tolerant person. I don't care about your private life, Lindsey. But as our U.S. Senator, I need to figure out why you're trying to sell out your own countrymen, and I need to make sure your being gay isn't it."


What connection there is between being a closeted gay and supporting immigration reform is beyond me. If Gheen wasn't saying that Sen. Graham was being blackmailed, perhaps he was charging that immigration reform is somehow part of the Homosexual Agenda. Could we be planning to allow homosexuals from around the world into our country to infiltrate our post-Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell military so that we can rise through the ranks and achieve World Domination?

Since the weekend, when this cartoon was drawn, Sen. Graham has declared himself against any immigration reform bill likely to come out of this Congress, so I suppose Mr. Gheen's bizarre linking of the Senator's long-rumored "private life" and his openness toward moving immigration reform forward has had its desired effect. (For the record, I have no idea whether Sen. Graham is gay, straight, or a eunuch pining away for Greta Garbo.)

The question now is whether Republican or Teabag minders will trot out insinuations about Lindsey Graham -- or any other unmarried politician -- any time he is suspected of wavering from the Tea Party Line.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This week's sneak peek


This much I can reveal about this week's cartoon: it's a belated tribute to the late Peter Graves, and it's not for the irony-deficient.

I just read an e-mail the other day from a Seattle Gay News reader upset about the cartoon showing "They outlawed discrimination against ___ and I said nothing." The guy thought I was bemoaning anti-discrimination laws. "You've got it completely backwards!"

So take this as a warning. Irony ahead.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Speaking of Asay cartoons

Writing the blog post the other day for "We Republicans Have a Suggestion," I was reminded that this wasn't the first time I've drawn a cartoon in response to one of Chuck Asay's. Back in 1993, I was editorial cartoonist for the UWM Post at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. At the time, the Post was the university's liberal newspaper, and the UWM Times was its conservative rival.

The Times ran Asay's syndicated cartoon on a regular basis. The cartoon I reacted to was against a federal 5-day waiting limit for the purchase of a handgun, then part of the Brady Bill. If I remember correctly, it showed a sprawled, presumably dead woman whose outstretched hand lay near a phone off the hook. A voice from the phone informed the late "Mrs. Smith" that her 5-day waiting period was over and she could come pick up the handgun she had bought for her protection.

So I drew this:


Lest you, dear reader, get the impression that I have some grudge against Chuck Asay, let me assure you that this cartoon exchange was just part of a general rivalry between campus newspapers. Since both newspapers were free, it was generally safe to assume that anyone who cared to read one paper would also read the other.

The Times didn't have its own editorial cartoonist as such, but they did run a topical cartoon of a sort. It didn't involve any drawing, just cutting and pasting of photos and clip art. It featured a thinly disguised rip-off of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes -- more precisely, from the Calvin Pissing on Something car window decals -- as its smart-alecky editorial voice.

One week, I had the idea to compare New York Senator Alphonse D'Amato's investigations of Hilary Clinton to Calvin's pestering of Susie Derkins in the C&H strip. Where I wrote the newspaper's name next to my signature, I wrote "UWM Post, where we have the decency to credit Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes when we rip him off."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Republicans Have a Suggestion


I drew this cartoon in response to a cartoon by Chuck Asay (a link to that cartoon is in yesterday's blog entry, below). You don't see cartoonists openly referencing other cartoonists in argument the way you see, for example, Keith Olbermann criticizing Glenn Beck, or Ann Coulter mocking Frank Rich.

In part, that's because it's no longer common for a city to have more than one newspaper, let alone more than one editorial cartoonist. Even where that is the case, few readers subscribe to both papers. Olbermann can tell you what Beck said, but I can't necessarily reprint Asay's cartoon within mine. So I tried to draw a cartoon that stands by itself, but I thought it was professional courtesy to indicate that the inspiration for the cartoon derived from someone else's cartoon.

A similar point came up recently over a cartoon Darryl Cagle drew critical of what he saw as lazy cartooning by other cartoonists over the Catholic Church's sex scandals. He drew five panels showing common themes such as Pope Benedict walking blind, with devil's horns, hiding boys underneath his robe, etc., with the conclusion that anybody can be a cartoonist. A Virginia newspaper which ran his cartoon asked him to respond to the avalanche of complaints about it from people who thought he (and that newspaper) were endorsing those caricatures of the Pope.

Cagle runs an on-line syndicate for editorial cartoons, so he sees lots of cartoons every day. The editor of the Virginia newspaper sees several cartoons every day from whatever syndicate(s) to which the paper subscribes. But the readers of that paper only see the one cartoon printed per day, and I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the newspaper did not print the cartoons which inspired Cagle's cartoon.

Well, back to the subject of my cartoon. Until recently, Chuck Asay was the longtime cartoonist of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph. He's a consistently conservative cartoonist on any subject you care to name; his approach to cartooning has always reminded me of a stodgy old Sunday School teacher. They're the sort of cartoons that say, "It's all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out," or "If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would that mean you'd have to, too?" His cartoons lack the bite of Mike Lester's or the minute detail of Michael Ramirez's, but they do have the same slavish devotion to the Party Line.

But fellow cartoonists tell me he's a genuinely nice guy. And you can't say that about all of us cartoonists.

His cartoon yesterday illustrated the Republican talking point that Democrats don't let Republicans contribute to legislation. Leaving aside the fact that when Republicans were in power, they completely shut Democrats out, Asay's cartoon ignores the fact that when Congress was trying to put Health Care Reform together, they passed several Republican-sponsored amendments and bent over backwards in a futile attempt to get any Republicans on board. Asay's cartoon is specifically about Financial Reform, and conveniently overlooks Senator Chris Dodd's efforts to have input from Republicans such as Tennessee's Bob Corker as the bill was being written.

But Republicans these days have painted themselves -- or have been painted by the Tea Party -- into a corner of having to oppose everything Democrats do. Heaven forfend that they contribute anything other than "Hell no!" to the discussion.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Week's Q Cartoon

It pisses off my husband when I draw nurses in these old-fashioned caps, but...

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Apr 21, 2010

For the sake of those readers who think this issue is irrelevant, or giving gays and lesbians special rights, or just some socialist way to tyrannize religious hospitals, consider the case of Clay and his partner, Harold:
Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes.

Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care.

What happened next is even more chilling: without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold’s possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.


This happened in California, not Hicksburg, Mississippi or Baptists' Perch, North Carolina, and to a couple who had beforehand done everything possible under the law to protect their mutual interests in exactly such an eventuality. Younger couples have had to deal with estranged parents reappearing to keep them apart when one is in the hospital, but the NCLR summary indicates that none of Harold's relatives intervened to enforce their antigay religious convictions on the couple; I assume that at Harold's age, his parents' approval of his lifestyle was a moot point.

~ ~

Yesterday, I challenged readers to figure out who the standing nurse was patterned after. She's an amalgamation of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (who recently spoke out against allowing same-sex couples to adopt on the grounds that children are not puppies, and has likened homosexuality to drug use and incest) and Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Since Nurse Ratched wore an old-fashioned nurse cap in the film, that's how I drew her. And since she had to wear one, so, it followed, should any other nurse in this hospital.

As troublesome as those old-fashioned nurse caps are to my husband -- a nurse -- what offended him even more was that neither nurse appears to be busy. So the next time I draw a nurse discussing politics (or sex, or Ricky Martin, or whatever), he or she will simultaneously be lifting a 350-lb. patient out of bed, stopping a bleeder, and administering CPR. Without any old-fashioned cap.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sneak peek this week


The problem with drawing one real person as a character from a movie is that the result doesn't look like either one. Referencing a movie not in current release makes the reader's job even harder.

Check back to see if seeing the rest of the cartoon helps clue you in.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pity Party


After several months of gun-totin' and callin' the president a Socialist Nazi and threatenin' secession, the Tea Party movement has noticed that it has an image problem. Accordingly, they have decided that this is the media's fault.

Strangely enough, the people in government whom they've spit on and portrayed as the Joker and shouted down at town hall meetings just aren't listening to them. (That last summer the administration wasted trying to woo Republican votes for health care reform notwithstanding.) This has never happened before.

Or, to put it another way: how's that nopey angry thing working out for ya?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Stories I can't draw cartoons about

The Daily Oklahoman reports that parishioners at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Warr Acres are upset that an icon in their church of Christ's crucifixion is offensive. I can't imagine why. Oh, now I see...

Rev. Philip Seeton said the portion of the crucifix in question is meant to be Jesus’ abdomen "showing distension” — not a penis. ... "I think it was painted according to the certain specific rules of iconography and church art,” Seeton said.


The 10-foot-tall (3 meters) icon is patterned after the San Damiano Cross, whose distended abdomen has been flaunted in public for nine centuries.

Clearly, it is wrong to put sexually suggestive pictures up in the sanctuary where innocent, impressionable priests might see and be tempted by them. No wonder the church has been having trouble keeping its clergy's abdomens under control all these years.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Itawamba Prom or Not



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Apr 14, 2010


In Fulton County, Mississippi, a high school student named Constance McMillen wanted to take her girlfriend to this year's prom. Naturally, the school decided to cancel the prom. McMillen sued, and the school begrudgingly reinstated the prom.

Only McMillen, her date, and seven others, mostly developmentally challenged students, showed up.

All the other kids were across town at a private party set up by their parents and deliberately kept secret from McMillen and whatever social outcasts didn't get the word. The party had the same theme and the same decorations that had been intended for the original prom, but this being a "private party," legal issues of equal access and non-discrimination were rendered moot. All the other kids had a swell time, and posted pictures of themselves on the internet on their "Constance, Quit Yer Cryin'" Facebook group. (They quickly took the public page private after the photos appeared on a number of LGBT blogs; Alvin McEwen, posting on Pam Spaulding's Pam's House Blend is one blogger who has refused to un-post the photos:
I don't feel sorry for you students of Itawamba Agricultural High School who are now feeling the blowback from what you did.

You got played by the school. My guess is that when school officials canceled the prom, they expected you all to make McMillen the scapegoat and you did with as much fervor as a pack of wild dogs in Call of the Wild.

So you decided to hold a party, making sure to steer McMillen away to a fake prom. You celebrated like you won a big victory, and then to make matters worse, you gloated about what you did in a public manner designed to humiliate McMillen.

What exactly did you think would happen?


Since then, Constance has herself asked people enraged on her behalf to lay off. There were some vicious comments about the "Constance Quit Yer Cryin'" kids left on the Facebook page before it was taken private, and at least one blogger has gone so far as to try to post the identities of students in the photos.

Just for the record, none of the characters in this week's cartoon is a caricature of any person in those photos. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. There's no legal necessity involved; I just wanted to make clear that I'm not piling on any particular individual. There is plenty of calumny to go around, as far as I'm concerned.

Meanwhile, there seems to be no shortage of people stepping forth to offer invitations to Constance to attend LGBT-friendly proms in the weeks ahead. While they're at it, I hope some high-profile, well-respected person popular in those parts offers to chaperon Constance across the stage at graduation. I expect she'll need some support at that moment.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sneak Peek of the Week


Here's a little snippet from this week's Q Syndicate cartoon. Expect a few more stereotypes this week; "Maww" and "Paww" should clue you in.

Certain conventions in English spelling present a challenge to cartoonists (or any other writer, I suppose) who want to depict a youngster calling out to a parent and drawing out the word in that singsong way children have. Aside from the word "aardvark," double-a's are extremely rare, so a reader will probably recognize "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!" But double-o's are quite common, so the reader's first inclination upon encountering "Moooooooooooooooooooom!" would be that it must rhyme with "room." It looks like something a cow would say.

"Maw!" and "Paw!" definitely read to me as quick, short exclamations; "Ma" and "Pa" even moreso. I wanted to convey that drawn-out shriek of offspring for her parents. Still, for some reason, "Maww!!!" doesn't look quite right to me -- although "Paww!!!" seems okay. "Maaw!!!" might have been an improvement, I suppose. Or I could have tried a Charlie Brownish "Maaaauuuggghhh!!!" -- except that I didn't leave myself enough space.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Employment Non-Discrimination Act



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Apr 7, 2010

ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, will come before Congress in the next week or so; this week's Q Syndicate cartoon anticipates opponents' arguments. The current fad among conservatives is to play the Nazi Card (or the Socialist Card, or both), whatever the topic is.

Now that President Obama has sign the Nazi Health Care bill into law (Nazis being well-known health care advocates), it's only a matter of time before the next Big Issue receives the same Republican-Fox-News-Teabagger treatment. If not ENDA, they'll soon be calling Immigration Reform, Nuclear Arms Treaties, or the next Supreme Court nominee to be part of the Democrats' Nazi plot to impose socialism on us all. (Or a socialist plot to impose Nazism on us all. It's so hard to keep their arguments straight.)

I heard Glenn Beck claiming the other day that Net Neutrality was a socialist plot to shut him up. Because, of course, the socialists have been anticipating for the last several years that Glenn Beck would become a Fox network star and net neutrality would somehow shut him up. I used my TV remote to shut him up well before he ever got around to explaining how he requires Net Bias to keep talking.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010