Thursday, July 30, 2015

Q Toon: Kenya Matata


President Obama visited Eastern Africa during this past week, and during a press conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, he was asked about gay rights, which very few African countries respect. He answered:
"If somebody is a law abiding citizen who is going about their business and working in a job and obeying the traffic signs and doing all the other things that good citizens are supposed to do, and not harming anybody, the idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong. Full stop. ... When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they're doing anybody but because they're different, that's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen."
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jul 30, 2015

Under Kenyan law, sexual activity between men is illegal and may result in a prison sentence of up to 14 years. Kenyatta, described by Politico as "clearly uncomfortable, fidgeting at the podium,"  dismissed the topic entirely: "The issue of gay rights is a non-issue."

Given recent events in marriage equality in the United States and the horrible record in many African countries on LGBT rights, that the topic would come up during President Obama's visit was widely anticipated. A planned naked protest against Obama for his pro-gay stand had been canceled hours before his visit. Organizers claimed that 3,600 had signed up to participate in the protest before some unidentified 2:00 in the morning caller persuaded them to cancel.

One shudders to imagine such a protest in this country. I don't want to see thousands of naked Kentucky county clerks, Alabama judges, Mississippi cake bakers, Arkansas florists, Texas legislators, Scott Lively, Franklin Graham and Maggie Gallagher flapping and flopping their way up Pennsylvania Avenue, do you?

Monday, July 27, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek


We have declared a mostly Donald-Free zone in the editorial cartoon scheduled for release later this week.

Although I do wonder when, if ever, the Donald has driven on Wisconsin roads.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Postwar World: Women's Fashion

Welcome to another Stickleback Saturday episode of A Bird's-Eye View of the Postwar World!  We had recently been perusing the cartoons in this 1944 pamphlet which concern how the end of the war would affect the fairer sex, and there is one cartoon that recognizes the Women's Army Corps:

Cartoonist Harvey Johnson's returning WAC may not have made entirely practical clothing choices, but sometimes you really gotta cut loose. Footloose. Kick off your army boots.

This next woman, however, is looking into something exceedingly practical, as long as she doesn't live in, say, Arizona.

I think this is another cartoon by Fritz Wilkinson -- the signature is difficult to make out, but the technique of using swaths of benday wash in the background matches some of the other cartoons with neater penmanship.

Here's another Wilkinson cartoon, just because.

Friday, July 24, 2015

100 Years Ago Today: the Eastland

100 years ago today, the tourist steamship Eastland capsized and sank in the Chicago River, killing 844 passengers and four members of the crew.

Originally designed in 1903 to hold 650 passengers, the ship was retrofitted in 1913 with the aim of increasing its capacity to 2,500. It had a history of listing due to its top-heavy design, dating back to its first year.

On the morning of July 24, 1915, some 7,300 employees of Western Electric Company gathered at the dock between LaSalle and Clark streets to be carried out to an annual company picnic in Michigan City, Indiana by the Eastland and four other steamers. Some reports suggest that more than 2,500 people boarded the Eastland; there are also stories that the crowd tipped the boat off balance by gathering on the port side of the boat to pose for a photographer. What is known as fact is that engineer Joseph Erikson opened one of the ballast tanks, releasing water within the boat meant to stabilize the ship. The Eastland capsized moments after leaving the dock.

Ironically, the weight of the lifeboats added to the Eastland as a result of the U.S. Seaman's Act, passed after the Titanic disaster three years earlier, contributed to the instability of the ship.

A nearby vessel, the Kenosha, came alongside the hull to allow those stranded on the capsized vessel to leap to safety. But hundreds were trapped below decks, some crushed by pianos, bookcases, and other furniture. Many of the dead would be taken to the 2nd Regiment Armory (there are stories that they continue to haunt the building, later used as Harpo Studios by the Oprah Winfrey Show, but I've never heard that any of them made an on-camera appearance). 

The Eastland itself would be salvaged, renamed The Wilmette, and put into military service as a gunboat in World War I. It was scrapped after World War II.

The last known survivor of the capsizing was Marion Eicholz, who died on November 24, 2014, at the age of 102.

Chicago Tribune accounts, photographs, and a couple John T. McCutcheon cartoons are on the Chicagology page here.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Q Toon: The Eyes of Texas

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that he wants to see the elimination of current restrictions against transgendered troops serving in the U.S. military. Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson is leading the group working on the practicalities and logistics of the policy change.
“At my direction," Carter said, "the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified.”
I expected the Republican Party to jump immediately into its standard Argument Clinic mode, but astonishingly, not all the response has been negative. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, for example, told Yahoo! News that “ …if you can accommodate people who are transgendered and deal with making sure the military’s comfortable with this and making sure that the overriding principle ought to be how do we create the highest morale for the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen … and if you can accommodate those two concerns, then fine.”

That measured reaction must be why he's running well behind Donald Trump.

The reaction of the red state, Knee-jerk Party of No, confederate flag-waving, Tea Partisan, Obama-hatin', God-Guns-and-Not-Necessarily-In-That-Order crowd is probably something more like this:

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Jul 23, 2015

If not, it probably will be soon, now that I've put this idea out on the internets for them.
If you're still puzzled by Texans' sudden suspicion of the United States military, this Gromer Jeffers column in the Dallas Morning News attempts to explain it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek


Don't look now, but it looks like some dang fool cartoonist is messin' with Texas aggin.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Long Road to Victory, Part V

Part 5: The Rest of the World

For today's episode of Sweptback Saturday, here's one last (perhaps) installment of marriage equality cartoons. The U.S. of A. hasn't been the only country dealing with the issue, and it has by no means been the first. Our neighbor to the north legalized same-sex marriage in 2003:

Queen Consort Sofia, wife of then King Juan Carlos, had come out publicly against marriage rights for gay couples; but in 2005, Spain decided to ignore both her and the Vatican:

In 2006, Mexico City passed a law recognizing same-sex civil unions. The city's legislative assembly voted 39-20 in favor of full marriage equality three years later, even though polling of the electorate showed only half of the city's population approved. Just two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision, the Mexico Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Queen Elizabeth signed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth of Nations in 2013. The legislation does not require member states, territories and dependencies to recognize same-sex marriage, and several do not. At this point, the only member nations with full marriage equality besides Canada and Great Britain are New Zealand, South Africa, and (not mentioned in this cartoon,) Pitcairn Island.

As the cartoon notes, many Commonwealth nations are holding out against marriage equality. (I should not have included "United Kingdom" in the cartoon, since Northern Ireland recognizes same-sex marriages, but unlike its southern counterpart, does not grant them.) In Russia, the Islamic world, and most of Africa where basic human rights of LGBT citizens are non-existent, marriage equality is not even on the horizon.

One can only hope that there will be a day in the not too distant future when I can add a "Long Road to Victory, Part VI" to this series.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Q Toon: Anyone for Tennis?

After drawing two cartoons in a row about marriage equality, I needed to find some other topic -- any other topic -- for this week. Believe you me, it was a tough challenge.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Jul 16, 2015

My husband is a big tennis fan; I see enough of it when Wimbledon and the Australian, French and U.S. Opens are on that I know the big names in the sport: Rafael Nadal... Roger Federer... Venus, Serena and Brian Williams... Nocnoc Djokovic... Angus Podgorny...

I see that I've been getting some visits here from readers in Ukraine, so perhaps some of you are familiar with Sergiy Stakhovsky; but here in the states, I doubt there are many who know of the 30-ranked tennis player who beat Roger Federer in the second round of the Wimbledon Championships two years ago. Even fewer of you caught this story:
Professional tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky has made some inflammatory comments about women's tennis and the lack of gay men on the men's tour. He told xsport.ua, which 9news in Australia translated:
"You see, on the ATP, we have a normal atmosphere," he said. "If there was anything, we'd know about it, because it's a very closed circle. In the backbone of the top 100 there are definitely no gays."
"On the WTA Tour, almost every other player is a lesbian. Can you imagine — half of them. So I for sure won't send my daughter to play tennis."
If you haven't clicked through to read the cartoon, stop right here, because I'm about to trample all over the punch line. Seriously. Read the cartoon before reading one more word. Okay, I assume that everyone still reading this paragraph has read the cartoon and had a good chuckle or wry smile or eye roll. I just wanted to apologize to my non-Yankee readers that I had young Miss Stakhovskova aspiring to play "soccer." I know that what she would rather play is called "football." My print clients, however, are all in the U.S. of A., so I had to use the term that we Yankees call The Beautiful Game. If I had written "football," my Yankee readers wouldn't have caught my meaning.

For that matter, my Yankee readers probably also didn't catch that I misspelled "Ukrainian."

And congratulations, by the way, to the World Champion U.S. Women's National Team!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Another One Bites the Dust

The Victoria (British Columbia) Times-Colonist gave its editorial cartoonist, Adrian Raeside, the boot today.
"Sad news. After 36 years of drawing editorial cartoons for the Victoria Times Colonist, I was terminated on Friday, a victim of budget cuts. I will miss the many loyal TC readers I had over the years, but I’m not going to stop drawing, as there are too many important issues out there. The only change is I will now be buying wine that comes in a box. — Adrian"
Raeside is the only Canadian editorial cartoonist with a book on my bookshelf. (I do have one other book of Canadian editorial cartoons, bought at the same time as this one, but it's a compilation of several cartoonists' work about nuclear arms issues.) As you can perhaps see if you embiggen the image above, I bought it for considerably less than the $12.95 Canadian list price.

Blame NAFTA.

Monday, July 13, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

This little girl has a secret, in on which we'll let you in just a few days.

Meanwhile, last week's Q Syndicate cartoon on local registrars refusing to issue marriage licenses appears to have has gone a little bit viral. A Facebook friend of mine from college days, now a professor in Rhode Island, spotted my cartoon in a post by a former student of his. That student was sharing a post by the Facebook page of the American Military Partner Association, a post which had over 4,000 shares as of yesterday morning.

The AMPA may have picked it up from one of the newspapers that pays to run my cartoons, or perhaps from a "democraticunderground" site, which doesn't. They posted the cartoon itself, rather than a link to a publication, which would at least tell a paying publication that my cartoon is being read and appreciated. And maybe at budget time, they'd decide to keep paying for it.

Either way, I get only the satisfaction of knowing that I've struck a responsive chord out there. But make no mistake about it: I do appreciate the "exposure."

I just worry about becoming yet another cartoonist dying of exposure.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Long Road to Victory, Part IV


Part IV: State by State

After voters in Hawai'i overruled their state supreme court on marriage equality, states all around the country began passing Defense / Definition of Marriage laws and constitutional amendments. Marriage rights activists believed that their best chance of stemming this tide was in the state of California. A ballot initiative written by State Senator Pete Knight to write marriage discrimination into the California constitution was on the ballot as Proposition 22 in 2000, actively supported by the Catholic and Mormon Churches, among others.

"No on Knight" tried to close the gap in the polls with print and television ads calling Prop 22 unnecessary: "You want the best for your children, but what if your child, or the child of someone you know, turns out to be gay? ... Gay marriage is already banned and it stays banned when you vote no. For your child, or someone else's, vote no on 22." This mealy-mouthed approach utterly failed, and Prop 22 passed by a whopping 61% to 39% margin.

Where marriage equality was finally able to stem the tide was in New England. I mentioned last Saturday that Vermont had led the nation with its recognition in July, 2000 of same-sex civil unions (nine years later, it would be the first state to recognize same-sex marriage by legislation rather than a court ruling). The first court ruling in favor of marriage equality came in the fall of 2003, in Massachusetts. In a 4-to-3 ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Court gave the state legislature 180 days to legalize same-sex marriages.

The California Supreme Court found Proposition 22 unconstitutional in 2008, and the Connecticut Supreme Court found in favor of marriage equality that same year. Both decisions, like that in Massachusetts, were by one-vote majorities. Surprisingly, the first unanimous court decision came in April, 2009, not in some liberal coastal state, but in Iowa.
(Someone from central Iowa contacted me after this cartoon appeared, wondering how I knew of Sac City. As it happens, it was the only small town I found on the map with a name which clearly fit metrically in the Green Acres theme song. I've never been in Iowa west of the Mississippi River Highway.)

Conservatives in Iowa succeeded in ousting three of their Supreme Court justices in the next election, but the tide was turning in favor of marriage equality. I can't include my cartoons about each of the fifty states here, especially since the most recent progress has come, via U.S. Circuit Court rulings, several states at a time. But here are a couple favorites -- Hawai'i in 2009:

Minnesota in 2011:

And finally, from last year, featuring Wisconsin's then-Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whom I could have replaced with any of a few dozen elected Republicans from other states:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Q Toon: Sermon at the Counter


As if last week's two marriage equality cartoons crammed into one weren't enough, I've got another one this week. Thumbing through almost 20 years of my cartoons on the subject, I'm surprised that I have anything left to say about it.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Jul 9, 2015

The "y'all" betrays the setting of this cartoon as being somewhere in the South, and that picture on the wall is supposed to be Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The news out of the Lone Star State is that with the encouragement of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, County Clerks in Irion County and Hoods County have publicly vowed not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But I could easily have set this cartoon almost anywhere in the South:

  • A gay couple was denied a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky (they don't get up to the counter until ten minutes into the video at that link).
  • Offices in Louisiana and Mississippi dragged their feet as hard as they could, hoping that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals would somehow overrule the Supreme Court. "There is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana," wrote that state's Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell after the high court ruling.
  • Pike and Geneva Counties in Alabama have announced that in order not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, they won't issue marriage licenses to anyone at all, and other counties may follow suit.
  • Kansas will issue same-sex marriage licenses, but for some reason doesn't want those couples to file joint tax returns. (Some people would classify Kansas as a midwestern state, but it was part of the Confederacy, and I reckon that's South enough for me.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Long Road to Overnight Victory: Part III

Part 3: The Republicans Don't

In today's Walkback Wednesday feature, we look at the Republican party's role in doing everything possible to thwart marriage equality, marriage equivalence, marriage parity, marriage approximation, and on and on and on.

Once the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" was passed in 1996, battles over marriage equality were mainly fought on the state and local level. Nationally, it was a big issue for the religious right, but as for congressmen and senators, it was just one more component of an antigay agenda along with keeping gays out of the military and the Boy Scouts, and making sure we couldn't adopt children. Oh, and there was impeaching President Clinton to keep Republicans busy.

There are a few antigay politicians in the above cartoon from January, 1998: Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), Pat Buchanan, Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), and House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) are closest to the foreground. Barr was the author of the DOMA, although he would repudiate it as presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party ten years after this cartoon was drawn.

With the election (by five lawyers) of a president who was a friend of the religious right, Republicans continued their pushback against marriage equality. When he came up for reelection, George W. Bush, with his Brain Karl Rove (and gay quisling Ken Mehlman) needed an issue to fire up his base, and Republicans were ready, willing and eager to run with it:

A more liberal Republican, namely California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who didn't have to worry as much about appealing to Christian conservatives as Republicans who might aspire to the highest office in the land do, dared to warm to the idea of domestic partnerships. But that was about as far as it went.

Schwarzenegger, however, was pretty much an anomaly in the Republican party. He was never going to run for office outside of California, and Republicans were relieved just to have one of their own in charge of a solidly blue state, so he didn't have to toe the GOP's hard-core antigay line. The party's presidential hopefuls last time around, on the other hand, were not at all shy in that regard.

It didn't take much to remind LGBT voters that while it didn't make any difference which Republican ended up getting nominated for president, it makes a world of difference who sits in the Oval Office when the election is over.



Monday, July 6, 2015

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Long Road to Victory, Part II

Part II: The Democrats Evolve

Happy Independence Day! It's Smackback Saturday here at Bergetoons, and we're reviewing the history of the debate over same-sex marriage. (Part I was this past Wednesday.)

Republicans had no problem forcefully proclaiming that they were four-square against marriage equality from the start, but the issue posed more of a dilemma for Democrats. Gays and lesbians had been shoring up their status within the Democratic party for many years by the time the issue came to prominence; but same-sex marriage did not poll well in the 1990's.

Defense/Definition of Marriage Acts (DOMAs) swept into law across the country; many states passed these as amendments to their constitutions in order to prevent the legal challenges that nearly brought marriage equality to Hawai'i. Fearful for their electoral careers, Democrats went along with this antigay tidal wave. As far as Republicans were concerned, it didn't hurt that these ballot measures brought their right-wing Christian soldiers to the polls in droves.

Having used the issue to electoral benefit in 2002, 2004, and off-year elections, Republicans kept pushing a federal constitutional amendment to limit marriages to one man and one woman This from 2002...

And this from 2004...

In an attempt at compromise, some pro-gay Democrats offered lesbians and gays legal arrangements that were sort of like marriage, but not quite. The state of Vermont was first to pass a Civil Union registry, which made its governor, Howard Dean, a darling to some LGBT Democrats.

"Civil Unions" and "Domestic Partnerships" allowed Democrats to offer some support to gay and lesbian couples while still holding out some hope of not being tarred and feathered in the next election as "destroying the Family." As we'll see in another installment of this series, the religious right and their political allies really had no interest in yielding a millimeter.

Lest we forget, during both of his campaigns for president, Barack Obama was reluctant to voice any support for marriage equality, in spite of a sterling record on other LGBT issues (and in spite of having indicated his "unequivocal" support in a candidate questionnaire for a Chicago LGBT newspaper back when he ran for the Illinois State Senate in 1996). I drew this cartoon in 2011, when he visited the Human Rights Campaign to tout his administration's record.

That changed -- but that's a topic for another day.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Q Toon: Gettin' Jiggery-Pokery With It

When I read Jen Sorensen's email about drawing a cartoon for Fusion about the Supreme Court's decision for marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, I only had time to draw one cartoon before her deadline and Q Syndicate's. (My drawing LGBT-themed cartoons for anyone other than Q Syndicate is also something of a contractual issue.) Had my time and my relationship with my editors been freer, I could easily have made two separate cartoons out of this one:
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✑Jul 2, 2015

The idea on the left side of the cartoon is essentially a follow-up to the cartoon I drew last October illustrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s quotation about the arc of history bending toward justice. In an early sketch of this week's cartoon, the dissenting justices on the right side of the drawing were sitting on a porch in rocking chairs, shaking their fists at nothing in particular; no rainbow, no pot of gold wedding bands.

Now, I could argue that the rainbow clarifies what the topic of the cartoon is. The Supremes issued major rulings one on top of another last week, and people could get confused. (Heck, some people are sure to get confused. Chip Bok drew a cartoon yesterday about Justice Roberts's Obamacare ruling, and no small number of the commenters at GoComics thought it was somehow about marriage equality instead.)

I did, after all, include Justice Scalia's "jiggery-pokery" epithet in my cartoon, even though it came not from his Obergefell dissent but from his fulmination against Chief Justice Roberts's King v. Burwell opinion. I did try to find some equally obscure contumely in Scalia's Obergefell dissent to use instead, but Scalia had apparently misplaced his English-to-Flobbadob dictionary when writing it and settled for "Go ask a hippie."

By the way, when researching what I wanted to say in this blog entry, I looked up the dissenting opinions in the court's 1967 Loving v. Virginia case, which ruled unconstitutional state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. I couldn't find any, because there were none. That court's ruling was unanimous.

Judging from the four, count 'em, four dissenting opinions in Obergefell, I'd be willing to bet that there would have been a dissenting opinion in Loving had Roberts, Scalia, Thomas or Alito traveled back in time to sit on the high court in 1967.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Long Road to Overnight Victory, Part I

My cartoon for this week is included in an LGBT cartoonist round-up over at Fusion -- you can check it and seven others out now, or wait for me to post it tomorrow.

Looking at the other cartoonists' submissions, I wish that I had found something more personal to say. I can blame a combination of a hectic schedule and some unpleasant prepping for a medical procedure (it turns out I'm healthy); but the fact is, I've been drawing about marriage equality for so long, I don't know how much more I could possibly find to say about it.

I've drawn so many cartoons about it, in fact, that I wasn't able to winnow them down to fit in a single blog entry.

I wasn't drawing cartoons in 1972 when Baker v. Nelson came before the Minnesota Supreme Court; but in 1996, I was drawing cartoons for InStep, one of  two LGBT newspapers in Milwaukee, when a circuit court judge in Hawai'i ruled that state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Judge Kevin S.C. Chang's ruling in Baehr. v. Miike would be overturned by Hawai'i voters, but not before giving LGBT marriage advocates hope, and antigay activists a fund-raising and vote-getting bonanza. Legislators in Hawai'i and just about every other state, as well as the U.S. Congress, rushed to define "marriage" as a special rite that could only be entered into by one man and one woman.

Very well, replied some LGBT activists and liberal allies. If we can't get "married," how about if we call it something else?

Fine. We're in a "committed relationship." We've even had a "commitment ceremony." But what do I call you? My "committee"?

Another term to come down the pike was "domestic partnership"; one could at least refer to the other as "partner." Like dancers, law firms, and bridge players have.

As if there weren't already enough euphemisms for "marriage lite," I had to offer one of my own:

We'll continue this retrospective on marriage equality on Stepback Saturday, starting with "Evolution of the Democrats."