Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Week's Sneak Peek


All the other editorial cartoonists are going to draw stuff about the debt ceiling this week. (Although some of them will draw about the federal deficit as if it were the same thing.) I'm taking on a totally different subject, however. Would it be going out on a limb and suggesting the possibility that Rick Santorum is not going to be the next president of the United States?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar!

My cartoon this week provoked the attention of the Editorial Explanations blog on Thursday. And after I explicitly stated that nothing, no, nothing whatsoever, was to be read into said cartoon. Feh.

Oh well. At least it keeps my name from shrinking to single pixel font size in Mr. Wheeler's labels list.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This Week's Toon: Oscar Wilde, Leather Daddy



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jul 27, 2011

In the face of death, despair, and dysfunction dominating the news, this week's cartoon is a break of sheer silliness. On July 14, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the "FAIR Act," (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful), adding LGBT people to the list of minorities whose historical contributions must be acknowledged and not demeaned in social studies curricula of California schools.

An antigay Republican organization has begun soliciting signatures to put a repeal measure on the ballot.

This week's cartoon doesn't take a stand on any of that (although it is gratifying that a major school system is countering the right-wing agenda of the Texas School Board). It is what it is, and don't read anything into it that it's not.

Monday, July 25, 2011

This week's sneak peek


It's not even August yet, and I'm already drawing back-to-school cartoons.

You'd think I had bored kids moping around the house.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans ♥ Bank Robbers

An article in The Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee caught my eye yesterday. "Concealed Carry Law Stumps Bankers" (subscription required) outlines the difficulty Wisconsin banks, saving & loans, and credit unions face in operating under the state's new law allowing "concealed carry" of guns anywhere in the state (with the exception of the building where the legislators themselves work).

"On one hand, prohibiting guns in bank lobbies would seem like a no-brainer. Of the bank robberies in Wisconsin during 2010, 83% involved the robber showing a weapon or threatening to use one, according to the Community Bankers of Wisconsin.

"However, the law is written in such a way that banks and other businesses that post 'no guns' signs run a legal risk of being found liable for damages if someone is injured when a gun is discharged on the business premises. The law gives immunity from liability to businesses that do not post a concealed-weapons notice, but does not protect from liability businesses that prohibit concealed weapons in their premises by posting an appropriate notice, according to a memo the Community Bankers Association sent to its members."

Churches, bars, and other venues face the same legal exposure if they would prefer patrons to check their guns at the door.

I may have gotten a taste of the future of American banking during a vacation in Italy in 2009. I hadn't been able to get Euros from my bank at home before I left, so my plan was to exchange dollars for Euros as soon as I got to Italy. Knowing that the exchange rate at airports is generally less favorable than exchange rates elsewhere, I and the three other members of our family on the trip went looking for a bank the morning after we landed.

At every bank we found, customers had to use a security entrance of one sort or another. At the first bank, we couldn't figure out how the portal (I can't call it a door) worked. At the second, we had to remove all our metal items -- belts, coins, etc. -- outside the bank and place them into lockers on the street. Then we had to enter a small cubicle one at a time; the cubicle had sliding glass doors at either end that were controlled by someone inside the bank.

Maybe this is just a feature of Italian banks, but clearly, dealing with individual consumers inside the bank was not something they particularly enjoy doing. They dealt with my brother-in-law Gary's exchange first, then an Italian customer who came in after us, then finally me; there was only one person in the bank handling us customers, and she was very slow about it. Very. Very. Slow. But that's beside the point.

When it came time for us to leave, it was through that same glassed-in cubicle. The Italian customer was long gone, but Gary, Patty, and Chris had waited inside for me. Gary left second-to-last; the door to the street caught only partly open, but he was able to squeeze through. I went through last, and the doors stuck closed with me trapped in the cubicle.

The banking employees were annoyed, but in no way alarmed or apologetic. Indeed, they showed the same lack of interest that we had seen throughout our banking experience. Nobody came over to check the door, which leads me to believe that there was nothing new about the doors getting stuck and they knew that resetting the controls or whatever they were doing inside the bank would eventually work. And eventually it did.

But I've never bothered to step inside a European bank since. I'm no claustrophobe, but I'd rather pay the ATM fee.

Of course, gun controls are stricter in Europe, but they have more experience with terrorism (and the mafia) over there, and have learned to live with certain security measures that are still strange to us Americans.

As long as our gun-happy, tea partisan, careless legislators can't tell the difference between a bank and a barn, we may have to get used to them before long.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This week's toon: San Diego Pride



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jul 20, 2011

Laudatory cartoons are rarely ever funny, or even clever. Some occasions, however, call for them, and the participation in Saturday's LGBT pride parade in San Diego of active duty military personnel is one such occasion.

A poster on the LGBT Weekly article points out that a contingent of active duty military personnel marched in a LGBT pride parade in New York in 1975. Marchers included Air Force TSgt. Leonard Matlovich, who made the cover of Time magazine that September for his pioneer efforts to get the military to accept gay and lesbian service members. So, yes, the San Diego marchers are not the first, even if they are the first in over a generation.

Today's marchers can see the light at the end of the tunnel of Don't Ask Don't Tell -- a policy that wouldn't even begin until 18 years after the 1975 march. Whatever promise the marchers with Sgt. Matlovich may have seen in the heady days of the sexual revolution (they couldn't know that darker days lay ahead of them), there is cause for celebration this year.

I don't think our lesbian and gay service members will have to wait 36 years to take part in their third pride parade.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Southeast Wisconsin Redistricting, part II

In discussing the Republicans plan to join the City of Racine and the City of Kenosha into one state senate district, I described Kenosha as a solid union town. I neglected to contrast it with Racine except to say that the 21st Senate District has swung between Republicans and Democrats.

At the risk of sounding like I think Racine is a lousy place to live, and admitting up front that I'm going to be talking in stereotypes and broad generalizations, here is how I see Racine as being quite different from Kenosha.

Where Kenosha is Union Strong, Racine has developed a significant aversion to unions, and progressivism generally. It was not always thus: during the Great Depression, Racine got the nickname of Little Moscow due to its labor unrest. It even elected a Socialist Mayor in 1934, William Swoboda.

But not all major workplaces in Racine were union shops. S.C. Johnson & Son. Johnson Wax held off unionization by being one of the most progressive employers in the nation (recognizing same-sex domestic partner benefits in the 1990's when politicians were still afraid to stand up for LGBT citizens in any way.)

My generation -- the baby boomers -- grew up during a period when the public schools were repeatedly closed by public employee union strikes. The school janitors went on strike in 1970, and the teachers struck in 1972, 1974, and 1977. That last strike lasted 50 days -- from January until March -- and required Racine Unified School District to make up days by extending school through June 30, including six Saturdays (the maximum number of Saturdays allowed by law). Union president Jim Ennis proclaimed that he represented his union's interests, not the public interest, and people remember that. This winter, during the furore over Scott Walker's union-busting "budget repair" bill, I overheard a woman my age in a restaurant telling her fellow diners that the 1977 strike was the major reason she is against unions.


Augmenting Racine's skeptical view of unions is the longstanding attitude among many of its citizens that if something doesn't directly benefit me, I'm against it. If my children have grown up and moved away, I don't see why my taxes should pay for schools. If I don't exercise, I don't see why my taxes should pay for bike trails. If I'm scared to go downtown because of all the dark-skinned people who live there, I don't see why my taxes should pay for making downtown attractive.

In addition to school strikes, my generation was beset with Racine's reluctance to deal with school overcrowding. Year after year, voters rejected referenda to build a new junior high school, so my class and the one before it went through three years of "split shifts": seventh graders went to school from noon to 5:00 p.m., and eighth and ninth graders went to school from 7:00 a.m. to noon. (This coincided with a year of year-round daylight savings time, so everyone got a taste of walking to or from school in the dark.) Classes were only 35 minutes long, which is a pretty short time in which to teach geometry, to accomplish anything in shop, or to practice band. It's even less time to get anything done in gym class, factoring in changing into gym clothes, showering, drying off, and getting dressed for the next class. Finally, Gilmore Junior High (now Middle School) was built; but now, Racine's voters keep rejecting referenda to repair or replace the century-old elementary schools that are crumbling around today's students.

Here's another example of Racine's If It Doesn't Benefit Me, I'm Against It attitude. Saturday, I mentioned the recall of Republican State Senator George Petak. In 1996, the Milwaukee Brewers wanted to replace County Stadium. Since he couldn't sell the idea of a state tax to pay for a new stadium, Governor Tommy Thompson had the bright idea of a .1% sales tax limited to Milwaukee County and the five counties that border it: Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Walworth, and Racine. Petak supported the new stadium, but knew how unpopular the tax was in Racine and promised to vote against it. As legislators wrangled over the bill into the wee hours of the morning, it was clear that the stadium bill would fail unless Petak voted for it.


He changed his vote to Yea, and Democrats rode the wave of popular outrage to take over the 21st District Senate seat. Unlike this summer's recalls, the outrage was bipartisan: Petak had to win a primary against a Republican challenger before falling to Democrat Kim Plache (which also resulted in Democrats seizing a senate majority). It was a mean campaign, however, and the venomous atmosphere was long-lasting. It's still not a good idea when at a Brewers game to let other fans know you're from Racine.

Given their similar size and geographic location, what makes Racine and Kenosha so different? Is it that Kenosha has two colleges and Racine has none?

By and large, Kenosha was settled by Italian immigrants, and Racine was settled by Scandinavians (primarily Danes). Italians have a reputation for adhering less to the state than to more immediate sources of authority: family and clan on the one hand, and the Catholic Church on the other. Scandinavians came here with a greater respect for the institutions of the state, but as Protestants (Lutherans), expecting more control over their religious institutions.

I work at a Lutheran church in Racine which claims the title of the oldest Danish congregation in the United States. I've thorougly researched the history of this congregation, which is marked by decades of squabbling over doctrinal matters and the personal conduct of its pastors. In one episode, the congregation voted whether to denounce their pastor, a Dane living only temporarily in the U.S., for attending a dance held to honor visiting Danish dignitaries. Congregational action of that sort would be unthinkable in a Catholic congregation.

My point here is that Kenoshans have a greater willingness to pull together as a community and Racinians display a greater demand for personal autonomy. When Sarah Palin castigates Barack Obama for having been a "community organizer," Racinians laugh with Palin; Kenoshans laugh at her. Kenoshans also seem more likely to carry through with a majority decision once it has been decided; Racinians are more likely to continue attacking the leader associated with whatever majority decision doesn't go their way.

The effect has been that when Kenosha faced the disaster of the closing of the Chrysler plant and all the companies that supplied it with material, Kenosha pulled together to determine its post-industrial future. Racine spent the age of industrial decline unable to agree what the future should look like and unwilling to spend a penny on anyone else's vision for it. Kenosha facilitated growth by forging agreements with its neighboring townships; Racine and its neighboring townships erected virtual Berlin Walls. Kenosha strengthened its ties to Chicago by becoming the northernmost stop on the Metra line; Racine is dead set against any form of interurban mass transportation.

It will be interesting to see how the difference in style plays out in elections for the 21st Senate District. And -- fair warning, Senator Wangaard -- the 22nd as well.

This Week's Sneak Peek


It's another crowd cartoon this week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Southeast Wisconsin Redistricting

Madison Republicans are rushing to complete reapportionment of Wisconsin legislative districts before possibly losing their monopoly on power in this summer's recall elections. The new legislative maps seek to undo any potential Democratic gains in the recall elections and to cement the position of Republicans currently representing swing districts.

Here in southeastern Wisconsin, the 21st Senate District has included all of Racine County except for Rochester in the northwest and Burlington in the southwest. The 22nd Senate district has covered most of Kenosha County except for Wheatland in the far west, plus the addition of Burlington in the northwest. Below is a map of the two districts, with an artificial gap between them:

Kenosha's 22nd District has been solidly Democratic for ages. Home for a long time to American Motors / Chrysler, the City of Kenosha is an overwhelmingly union town. Racine's 21st District has been more of a swing district; Democrats held the seat after Republican George Petak was recalled in 1996, but Republican Van Wanggaard unseated Democrat John Lehman in 2010.

Instead of having one senator for Racine County and another for Kenosha County, the new map gives Wyngaard a safe exurban-rural district consisting of the western portions of both counties. There is no senator currently living in the proposed 22nd District, which puts the City of Kenosha together with the City of Racine. Democrat Robert Wirch, who has represented the 22nd Senate District since 1997 (and is facing a recall for being one of the senators who absconded from the state in February to deny Republicans a quorum) does not live within the boundaries of the new district.

Here's the Senate districts as being approved by the 2011 legislature:

And the new assembly districts:

I see that Democrats Cory Mason and Bob Turner are thrown together into the same district. I'm sorry to notice that the map I swiped doesn't extend down into Kenosha, and I can't tell whether Peter Barca and John Steinbrink are also being pitted one against the other.

I have always made a point of voting in every election, but it's hard to imagine how my vote can possibly make a difference in Wisconsin for the next decade. Van Wanggaard will continue to represent the 21st Senate District until some more purebred Tea Partisan unseats him in a future primary. I'm drawn out of Cory Mason's district into
Republican Robin Vos's.

Having thus secured their hegemony over the legislative branch, supreme court, and attorney general's office, the Republicans and their corporate overlords will fight like hell to hold onto the Governor's office. And if they succeed in overcoming that promised recall, the whole state is theirs to FUBAR.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This Week's Toon: Bachsh!t Crazy



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jul 13, 2011

Last week, Michele Bachmann (R-Wonderland) hurried to sign an antigay pledge from Mr. Bob Vander Plaatz's FAMiLY LEADER group before the ink was dry, resulting in no end of approaches I could possibly have taken with this cartoon.

At the top of the document was a preamble positing that an African-American child was more likely to live in a two-parent home under slavery than "than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president." (As Stephen Colbert pointed out last night, the slave child was more likely to be the property of his biological father as well.) That preamble was dropped over the weekend, although not before another antigay presidential candidate, Rick Santorum (R-Google) signed and defended the pledge.

Two presidential candidates, Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) and Gary Johnson (R-Ukidding) announced their refusal to sign the pledge before removal of the slavery plank; Mitt Romney (R-Obot) waited until the pledge was thoroughly discredited before deciding not to sign it.

Further on down the pledge, candidates vowed to protect the sanctity of marriage against the assault by homosexuality, bigamy, polygamy, and sharia law. The antiexgay group Truth Wins Out seized on this moment to go public with their undercover sting of the clinic of Michele's husband Marcus Bachmann, where "reparative therapy" is offered to patients who come in seeking to become straight.

The mainstream media have reported this story -- properly, I should add -- as an example of Republican right-wing extremism. But to the religious right, there is nothing about the pledge, even with the preamble, that raises any eyebrows. The sting uncovered nothing particularly shocking: no electroshock therapy, no sensory deprivation, no waterboarding, no naked pyramids.

"The undeniable goal of the sessions was transforming [undercover TWO agent John] Becker from homosexual to heterosexual. To his credit, the counselor [Timothy Wiertzema] did not claim that change would be instantaneous or even complete. However, he did explicitly promise that sexual conversion could occur as a result of prayer and therapy at the clinic."

The power of prayer is at the heart of Christian faith; it is also a given that human nature is sinful and one should repent of whatever infractions of the Mosaic code one has committed. (God revealed to St. Peter that it was okay to go ahead and eat shellfish and pork, but the rest of Leviticus remains on the books.) Thus I'm afraid that a lot of "middle America" is going to hear about this story and wonder what the fuss is about.

The third aspect of the story is Dr. Bachmann's acceptance of patients on federal assistance at his clinic, contrary to the Bachmanns' belief that gummint helping citizens get health care is pure evil, and even worse, socialist. We'll see how that part of the story plays out, although I suspect that the media won't have any lasting interest in going after a candidate's spouse. At least, I don't expect the sort of hunger that the right wing media displayed in going after Hilary Clinton ante Monica.

Where Marcus starts to get weird, however, is his equating gays and lesbians with "barbarians" and that we "need to be disciplined."

There's a cartoon in that statement, to be sure, but you've already drawn it in your head.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ripped from the sketchbook!

At the convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists last week, a panel on social media agreed on little other than that it's important to post something every day. Since I don't have a cartoon to post today, here's a pencil drawing from my sketchbook of House Speaker John Boehner.

The AAEC panel on social media strove for diversity. There was Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press advocating that we cartoonists direct traffic from our Facebook page and such to our newspaper's site so that the newspaper knows how many eyeballs our cartoons bring them. Opposite Clay was Ted Rall, telling us to steer those eyeballs to our personal sites because our newspapers are going to screw us sooner or later.

Then there was Stephanie McMillan, detailing how we should each be posting daily messages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, MySpace, Google+, iChat, iChef, ManHunt, Emily's Listserve, and Farmville; blogging on WordPress; and keeping on top of all the on-line comments. Countering Staphanie was -- and I'm not sure I got the name right -- Bruce MacKinnon of the Halifax Herald. Bruce just wants to draw, so his wife takes care of all the technical computer stuff. She participated in the panel via Skype, and was left lingering up on the projection screen after the panel broke up and everyone else was milling around the room. (Eventually, she decided that nobody was going to come up and chat with her, and she hung up. How many convention/reunion attendees' spouses have wished they could do that?)

Monday, July 11, 2011

This Week's Sneak Peek

This week, I attempt yet again to draw Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann. Does anyone else see her as having a strong jaw coming out beneath an overbite, and wide, crazy eyes?

Once I get her caricature down, the next step will be to come up with a shorter nickname for her. Eight letters is too many to fit on a lapel button nicely without resorting to hyphenation. Mickey B? MB? BM?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Almost This Week's Q Cartoon



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jul 7, 2011

This is the cartoon I was drawing for Q Syndicate last week in hopes of being able to send it to Q Syndicate before the July 4 weekend. My preference was to have something about Rhode Island's new civil partnership law, but I wasn't happy with the ideas I had been working with. Eventually, of course, I came up with the idea for the cartoon I posted yesterday; that idea was more relevant to LGBT issues than this one, so I put this cartoon aside.

I've commented before that I find women harder to caricature than men. Beyond the age of, say, 25, men don't change their hairstyles as often as women do (except insofar as nature forces change upon us); and women wear make-up to alter the perception of their facial contours.

So far, the best caricatures of Michele Bachmann I've seen have been by John Branch, Taylor Jones, and, not surprisingly, Minneapolis Star Tribune cartoonist Steve Sack, who has had the most experience drawing her. (The June 16 cartoon linked to above, however, isn't a great example, but she has not been inspiring him much lately, I guess.) The rest of us cartoonists are still flailing about trying to fit her features together.

Meanwhile, there is this bizarre cartoon from Terry Wise, trying to nominate himself for a Pulitzer. (It would run counter to the conservatives-get-no-respect meme to remember that doctrinaire conservative cartoonist Michael Ramirez is a two-time Pulitzer winner, as are Steve Breen and the late Jeff MacNelly.) His point, aside from Any Two Things Make a Cartoon, seems to be that it's sexist for liberals to point out the ditzy things that come out of the mouths of Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin.

Conservatives, as you will all remember, have been perfect gentlemen about female politicians. Conservatives in the media have never said a sexist thing about Hilary Clinton, Janet Reno, Sonya Sotomayor or Nancy Pelosi, have they?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

This Week's Q Cartoon: Rhode Island



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jul 6, 2011

Poor Rhode Island.

New York passes marriage equality at the eleventh hour on the eve of New York City's gay pride parade, one of the largest such parades in the country, and the whole LGBT community* goes wild with praise for Governor Andrew Cuomo and for heroic members of the state assembly. A few days later, little Rhode Island approves civil unions for gay couples, and hardly anybody even notices.

True, Governor Lincoln Chafee supports actual marriage equality. (That's who's signing the bill in the cartoon. I'm not sure that he wears bow ties; he just looks like a bow tie kind of guy.) A marriage equality bill which Chafee supported died in the Rhode Island legislature in April.

But neither supporters of marriage equality nor those demanding opposite-sex marriage exclusivity -- no, for that matter, the Governor -- consider the matter settled in Rhode Island:

Many gay marriage supporters criticized civil unions as discriminatory. In particular, MERI [Marriage Equality-Rhode Island] opposed language in the new law that allows religious hospitals, cemeteries and schools to refuse to recognize the rights granted through civil unions. Sullivan said his group will urge lawmakers to repeal the religious exemption.

Chafee, who called on lawmakers to approve gay marriage in January, called civil unions a 'foundation' for further efforts to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Groups on the other side of the debate aren’t going away either. The National Organization for Marriage-Rhode Island will urge lawmakers next year to specifically outlaw gay marriage by defining it legally as being between a man and a woman, according to executive director Chris Plante.

In the meantime, let's raise a glass of Champale and a cheer and a half for Civil Unions in Rhode Island. Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hi.

* Minus GOProud, which really doesn't give a rat's ass about LGBT issues.

Monday, July 4, 2011

This Week's Sneak Peek

Here's your sneak peek at this week's Q Syndicate cartoon. There is likely to be an extra cartoon or two this week.

Happy Fourth of July to whoever is spending their Independence Day chained to a computer, helplessly roaming the internet! (If you're visiting from Germany, Canada, the Philippines or wherever, a hearty welcome to you, too. Happy St. Thomas' Feast Day, doubly transferred.)

Do you think Mexicans go out partying today and eating hot dogs and drinking American beer and -- I don't know -- Manhattans? Or do they wait until some barely observed American holiday, like Constitution Day?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What Was the Kenosha Tribune?


I've expanded my curriculum vitae at left at the suggestion of a fellow alumnus of the Kenosha Tribune who expressed dismay -- mock dismay, I presume -- at the omission of that very short-lived foray into journalism from my list of newspapers where I have worked. Of course, my reason for omitting the Tribune is precisely because, nearly thirty years later, there is very scant record of its existence -- not even a mention on Wikipedia.

Therefore I am including a couple of the news illustrations I drew for the Tribune, which I did in addition to the weekly editorial cartoon; the one above right illustrated some wire story about bobbies in London packing heat; the one below left illustrated a front page story about cross-border cooperation between Wisconsin and Illinois.

I also had to draw portraits of the editorial and feature columnists. We had photographers, but one of the columnists in particular did not photograph well, and the editors asked me to produce a more flattering likeness. That's the opposite approach from editorial cartooning generally, but my editors liked the charcoal sketch better than the photograph and had me go ahead and sketch the other columnists for consistency's sake. (Yes, I have that sketch, but no, I'm not going to post it.)

The Tribune published during the summer of 1982 and promptly folded in the fall, the victim of a dispute between the publisher, who owned 51% of the paper, and the seven staff-shareholders who owned the other 49% plus the lease on the offices. The paper got off to a bad start with a front page article written by the publisher in the very first issue, alleging certain malfeasance on the part of some Kenosha law enforcement officials -- but neglecting throughout to include words such as "alleged" to make it clear that the acts described were not proven facts. The Tribune was lucky that it never had to defend against a libel suit.

In the end, I doubt that the Tribune could have long survived without making some deal with the older and still publishing Happenings magazine -- they featured TV and movie listings and we didn't.

The story you have just read is true. Names have been withheld to protect the innocent.

And the homely.