Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Q Toon: Borsch Belt

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
ϪJul 31, 2013

Researching for this week's cartoon, one of the first news accounts I read was this one from RIA Novosti. Headquartered in Moscow, РИА Новости is the Russian equivalent of the Associated Press in the U.S. or Agence Press-France in (duh) France. At the top of the story, in boldface print, RIA Novosti warns:
This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation.
You will not find lurid accounts of hot and steamy sex in the РИА Новости news article. The headline, "Amid Gay Boycott, Stolichnaya Downplays Russian Identity," pretty well sums up the content of the article. But that's enough, under Russia's puritanical new antigay laws, to warrant the boldface warning.

Anyway, LGBT rights organizations have launched a boycott of Russian products in response to those repressive laws, and one of the most visible targets has been Stolichnaya Vodka. Here's what I wanted to highlight from the news article part of the RIA Novosti news article:
"Technically, to define it as a Russian vodka in the US, it needs to be produced, bottled and distilled in Russia. Yes, it’s distilled in Russia, but it becomes a vodka in Latvia," when the alcohol from Russia is added to the mixture and then bottled, said Marco Ferrari, chief marketing officer for the Luxembourg-based SPI Group, which owns the Stolichnaya brand. "Our ingredients are Russian but technically it’s not a Russian vodka."
If you go to the RIA Novosti story, you will notice that it is illustrated with a photograph of a row of Stolichnaya bottles, and right there on the bottom of every one, in print every bit as bold as the brand name, are the words "Russian Vodka." The Stranger (Seattle, WA) columnist Dan Savage notes that "On January 1, 2014, Stoli becomes a Russian vodka again. The SPI Group -- which will be distributing Stoli in the USA before the Olympic games begin this winter -- is owned by Yuri Scheffler, one of the 100 richest men in Russia."

At any rate, Stoly has gone into overdrive to salvage its image in the LGBT community, posting a banner on its Facebook page stating that "Stolichnaya Premium Vodka stands strong & proud with the global LGBT community against the actions & beliefs of the Russian government." And, sure, it does have a Stoly Pride page and a #Stoliguy hashtag teeming with hunky dudes, not to mention all those reruns of Absolutely Fabulous, to tempt the gay consumer.

We're not big vodka drinkers at our house -- we're more likely to order brandy old fashioneds, although at home, Chris has been perfecting the mint julep lately -- so our joining the vodka boycott won't make much of a difference. Instead, and in spite of my scores of Russian on-line readers, my contribution to the boycott will be not including that boldface content-not-suitable-for-under-18 warning in any more of my blog entries.

Monday, July 29, 2013

This Week's Sneak Peek

What nefarious plan have Boris and Natasha hatched this time? Is this the end for Rocky and Bullwinkle? Is this fair use? Or is there a copyright infringement lawsuit in the offing? Where is the offing, anyway?

Tune in next time for "Fatale, Dark and Handsome," or "Can You Carry a Cartoon?"!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Q Toon: Card Game

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
ϪJul 24, 2013

We'll get back to the royal baby in a moment, after this message from Geeks Out. Geeks Out wants everyone to boycott Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card on the grounds that he's antigay.

Unless you're deep into science fiction, you've probably never heard of the Ender's Game series or Orson Scott Card, but the 1985 book has been made into a movie set for release this November. Here's the plot: a remnant of humanity has been fighting an insectoid race of "buggers" (wait, wait, that's not what Geeks Out is upset about yet); the hero is one of the youth who have been trained during an uneasy truce to fight the next stage of the war. Fiery explosions, decapitations, impalings, and spattered ichor and guts festoon the screen.

Of more relevance to the current controversy is that Card is a board member of the National Organization for Marriage. The anger with Card stems from a article he wrote back in February, 1990, before most of Geeks Out were born:
“Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”
— Orson Scott Card, “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality,” Sunstone Magazine
Sunstone Magazine, by the way, is a Mormon educational publication, so we do have a religious aspect to this story. And if you think that there's something incongruous about portraying the religious right gambling at cards, I would lay you odds that even One Million M*ms will be willing to overlook all the gratuitous violence in Mr. Card's film in order to burnish their antigay bona fides.

Card currently claims that his 1990 article is rendered moot by last month's Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, so everybody should cut him some slack. His own 2008 article for the Mormon Times argues otherwise:
"Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down …"

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Week's Sneak Peek

I've been seeing a lot of snotty editorial cartoons over the weekend by conservatives griping that President Obama deigned to speak to the racial tensions exacerbated by the George Zimmerman verdict.

Geez. The president speaks eloquently and without a teleprompter about an issue dominating the news, and these guys (who were, I'm sure, equally supportive of the Republicans in Congress meddling in Terri Schiavo's end-of-life care) act like he preempted the Superbowl to weigh in on America's Got Talent. You certainly can't suggest that nobody cares about what the Zimmerman case says about race in America, crime, guns, law enforcement or the American justice system. (My own cartoon about the Zimmerman case has gotten five or six times the number of hits of the average cartoon here.)

Or could it be that Obama's having spoken without a teleprompter busted up one of their primary harping points about him?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Q Toon: Snowden Job

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
ΔJul 18, 2013
Whatever you may think of Edward Snowden's decision to take the United States' counterterrorism programs public, you have to wonder at his choice of countries in which to seek shelter.

The heterosexual Snowden doesn't have to worry his little head about this, of course, but Vladimir Putin's Russia is in the midst of passing a series of repressive laws against its LGBT population and guests. Attacks on LGBT individuals and groups have been building for years, seemingly with tacit official support.  Pridesource reports that, according to an official State Department advisory:
"Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is widespread in Russia, as harassment, threats and acts of violence have been targeted at LGBT individuals. Government officials have been known to make derogatory comments about LGBT persons, and St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, Ryazan, and Kostroma recently have banned 'the promotion of homosexuality' to minors, effectively limiting public expression and assembly on LGBT issues. Legislatures in Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Kaliningrad are considering similar measures, and there has been a push for a national ban, which has the support of a number of groups including the Russian Orthodox Church. It is unclear exactly how these statutes are being applied, although arrests have occurred under these laws, and one person has been fined approximately $170 in St. Petersburg for holding up a sign supporting LGBT rights. Public actions (including dissemination of information, statements, displays, or perceived conspicuous behavior) contradicting or appearing to contradict such laws may lead to arrest, prosecution, and the imposition of a fine."
The mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland, Jón Gnarr, has led a movement to sever "sister city" ties with Moscow  and other Russian cities over this heightened hostility to gays and lesbians; LGBT groups in Chicago and Lansing are among those pressing their hometowns to follow suit.

Meanwhile, LGBT athletes training for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi are worried that they might face legal harassment or worse if they participate in the games.
In response to the new legislation, the International Olympic Committee reiterated its “long commitment to non-discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games.” The Switzerland-based body also stated, “Athletes of all sexual orientations will be welcome at the Olympic Games.” However, RUSA LGBT [a Russian-speaking American association] is not convinced. ...
Human Rights Watch also expressed concerns that Russia had impeded efforts to create an Olympic Pride House in Sochi, potentially ending an Olympic tradition that began in Vancouver. Its founders hoped to offer information regarding homophobia in sports and promote LGBT rights during the Games, but Russian authorities said the Pride House would “contradict the foundations of public morality and government policy in the area of protection of the family, motherhood and childhood.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

With You, Without You

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
‡Jul 16, 2013

This cartoon is based on a comment I made on Facebook that got a lot of reaction.

I wanted to have the gun "talk" in this cartoon rather than a person, because that person would have to have characteristics of one race or another, and I didn't want that perception coloring the cartoon. (For that matter, I also decided not to colorize the cartoon.) While a cartoon about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin can't ignore race -- and this cartoon doesn't -- I didn't want this particular cartoon to be about race.

That presented the challenge of trying to draw the same gun from three different angles. Now, some cartoonists would have just slapped in three copies of the same picture of a gun downloaded from Google Images, but most of us feel that if you're going to call yourself an editorial cartoonist, you ought to be able to draw a cartoon.

Not that I didn't spend a fair amount of time scouring Google Images. There's no way I was about to point a gun at myself long enough to draw it with my other hand.

Monday, July 15, 2013

This Week's Sneak Peek

One of this week's cartoons will feature this guy. But I'm not going to tell you which one.

See? Already the suspense is building up.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cooper's Hawk

The Cooper's hawk is a daily visitor at our place these days -- and why not, when there is such a rich buffet in our back yard?

We have a couple of bird feeders and a birdbath by our patio out back, and we've enjoyed the regular visits of goldfinches, house finches, red-wing blackbirds, mourning doves, robins, chickadees, juncoes and sparrows (plus a few less enjoyable visitors such as cowbirds, rabbits and mice). Cardinals and downy woodpeckers occasionally check out the place, and we get excited about the rarer visits of hummingbirds, European goldfinches, indigo bunting and bluebirds.

There are plenty of hawks around, too, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise that our back yard would get the attention of at least one of them.

For a while, he was dropping in daily between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. He zipped in front of my car as I was about to pull into the driveway the other day. He made a beeline into "the bistro" (a sheltered area next to the front door), shot up over the roof and dove down toward the back patio. When I got out of the car, I could see him being hectored by smaller birds as he left northward.

He came by on his usual round while I was mowing the front lawn Saturday afternoon. A dozen or so downy brown and gray feathers by the vegetable garden suggested that a sparrow had come to an untimely end.

Last night, as I ate dinner outside in our bistro, he came toward the house -- a few hours late? Perhaps because I was in the bistro, he decided to go around the south side of the house instead. I ran around the house in time to see a small flock of goldfinches fleeing ahead of him toward the evergreens up the road.

Weeks ago, I came home to find him standing in the middle of the back yard amid a mess of large gray feathers. It didn't seem that he had caught anything, so I thought perhaps he'd been in a fight or a testy mating attempt. Or perhaps he tried to seize one of the little metal bird statuettes welded to the new shepherd's hook, and shook loose several of his own feathers.

Usually, if one of us him in the back yard, just looking up is enough to prompt him to take off immediately. But this time, he stood there for several minutes -- long enough for me to get a camera and take four pictures.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Q Toon: N-word vs. Q-word

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
ϪJul 10, 2013

I come rather late to the Paula Deen party -- her use of "the N word" was not, initially, an LGBT issue, after all. Then certain right-wingers decided to make it one by whining that if Deen had to lose her career just for being racist, then New York liberal actor Alec Baldwin ought to be hounded out of his career for having tweeted that a gossip columnist who had criticized Baldwin's wife is "a toxic little queen."

Allow me to stipulate first of all that Baldwin's having resorted to gay-baiting name-calling is certainly reprehensible -- although, given his history, hardly surprising. (I'll also predict that since in his post-romantic-lead career, he has gotten type cast as an over-privileged, self-absorbed jerk, the current flap will not put a dent in his wallet.) I will further stipulate that Baldwin's tweets do not herald a return of the Algonquin Round Table.

But is the Q word as indefensible as the N word? The very fact that nobody has to refer to it as "the Q word" in the press suggests that it isn't. It's probably not as bad as "the F word," if you care to compare it to something more synonymous.

I don't know Daily Mail gossip-monger George Stark, but I'm guessing that I haven't inadvertently drawn him among the staff at Capital One Headquarters.

Monday, July 8, 2013

This Week's Sneak Peek

Oh, good Lord, he's not going to draw someone holding up a Bible citation in a crowd of people again, is he?

"Cuz that was just too damn weird.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Taketh Me Out to the Ball Game

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
§Jul 5, 2013
And while we're there, where's Waldo?

The guy at televised sports events who holds up a poster citing a Bible verse for the camera is a phenomenon more of football than baseball (the seats where the camera is going to aim during a field goal or point-after are cheaper than the seats behind the batter). But this peculiar Bible verse comes up in the Common Lectionary during baseball season.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Q Toon: Scalia on the Rocks

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
ϪJul 3, 2013
Here at long last is my cartoon about last week's Supreme Court ruling against California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Justice Antonin Scalia's sclerotic dissent in United States v. Windsor is less about finding strict constitutional arguments in favor of Prop 8 and DOMA than bitching about the damn kids today:
"In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to ‘disparage,’ ‘injure,’ ‘degrade,’ ‘demean,’ and ‘humiliate’ our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence— indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change, it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race."
Enemies of the human race, no less! In his prior arguments that it is gays and lesbians who justly deserve odium humani generis, Justice Scalia has proven no stranger to wild overstatement. In Romer v. Evans (1996), Scalia dissented from the majority opinion affirming a Colorado law forbidding localities from discriminating against LGBT citizens. Scalia could see no difference between homosexuality and homicide:
" I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible—murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals—and could exhibit even 'animus' toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of 'animus' at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct[.]" 
As Adam Serwer observed in Mother Jones, "It's true that people generally disapprove of murder, but there's more going on in laws banning murder than mere disfavor—the rights of the person being murdered, for example."

Scalia probably doesn't read Mother Jones, but he at least restrained himself from of likening gays and lesbians to Charles Manson in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas (2003):
"The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are 'immoral and unacceptable,' Bowers, supra, at 196–the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity.  ...  State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision.”
The Republic may survive the nullification of state laws against masturbation, but Scalia had surely hoped that his parade of horribles would bring a Christian nation to its senses. For a time, as Republicans raced a series of antigay constitutional amendments through the the states, he probably did feel vindicated.

But as young people continue to come of age in a world where gays and lesbians are openly joining into committed relationships and raising families of their own without any demonstrable deterioration of heterosexual marriage, Scalia is left to fume:
Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?
What's the matter with kids today?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

This Has Not Been Photoshopped

But you can bet that it will be.

Congressman Paul Ryan tweeted the above photo yesterday with the caption: "Politicians Don't Always Kiss Babies."

And to think that people gave Al Gore a hard time for kissing his wife in public!

Monday, July 1, 2013

This Week's Sneak Peek

My fellow cartoonists may have run the rainbow into the ground this week (see Randy Bish, John Cole, Ed Hall, Walt Handelsman, Phil Hands, David HorseyR. J. Matson, and Ann Telnaes, for example), so I'm looking elsewhere for my pot of gold.