Thursday, May 31, 2018

Q Toon: Pinklining

Neither Donald Trump nor Roseanne Barr have anything to do with this week's cartoon, so most of you may require a bit of explanation.

On May 16, fifteen-term Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher told a delegation from the Orange County Association of Realtors that “Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone [if] they don’t agree with their lifestyle.”

The delegation had come to him to ask him to support HR 1447, which would expand the 1968 Fair Housing Act to add anti-discrimination protections based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The existing law already forbids home sellers, landlords and lenders from discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

The National Association of Realtors' lobbying and campaign arm has been a strong backer of Rohrabacher in the past, but once his remarks were made public by a former Orange County Realtor president, the NAR announced withdrawal of their support.
“It was determined that Rep. Rohrabacher will no longer receive support from National Association of Realtors’s President’s Circle,” an association statement said, referring to its list of recommended candidates. Rohrabacher’s stance, the 1.3-million-member trade group said, is contrary to NAR’s code of ethics, which bans discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Previously Rohrabacher had been designated as a “Realtor Champion,” eligible for support from top Realtor donors.
Rohrabacher has a long anti-LGBTQ record. He voted to keep the military Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, and consistently against workplace protections for LGBTQ citizens. He repeatedly voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution to exclude same-sex couples from the right to marry. Having lost that fight, he has advocated not having federal recognition of any marriages whatsoever.

Six Republicans, four Democrats, a Libertarian and an independent are running against Rohrabacher this fall. (Four other candidates will appear on the primary ballot, although they have unofficially withdrawn from the race.) It's a strongly Republican district, but given California's electoral system in which the top two vote-getters in a general primary, regardless of their party affiliation, face off against each other in the general election, anything could happen.

Still, I strongly suspect that the shtick Mr. Rohrabacher has been selling in southern California since the 1980's will meet growing skepticism from the voters born since then.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Bloom Is Off Roseanne

It may be heresy to say so, but I think it's a shame that Roseanne Barr's reboot got the axe.

Don't get me wrong: her tweet about Valerie Jarrett was inexcusable. It was racist, uncalled for, and you can't even defend it as being even the teeny tiniest bit funny.

I had only seen the pilot episode of the reboot; I watched the original show occasionally, but I thought it lost its appeal when Roseanne decided to change it from a show about a working class family to a show about a business manager and her quirky sidekicks. Then the show came back, and suddenly all my liberal friends who still watch TV were up in high dudgeon because Roseanne was portraying a Trump l'oeilist as something other than a knuckle-dragging buffoon.

Was it Sinclair TV with a laugh track? No. It's hard to believe that Melissa Gilbert, Wanda Sykes, or Laurie Metcalf would have agreed to participate in a show which incessantly bashed liberals and queers and feminists and Black Lives Mattersists.

A couple of months ago, conservative Indianapolis cartoonist Gary Varvel wrote a column departing from the conventional wisdom that the MAGA reiteration of Roseanne's show was a poke in the eye to the Librul A-yleet:
Many conservatives were giddy that it depicts a version of “Trump’s America.” The main character, Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr), is a supporter of President Trump in the show. Barr also is a friend of the president in real life.
Critics said that the reboot shows the diversity of politics in America today. In reality, the show is still about a socially liberal blue-collar family in Illinois. It's cleverly written to appeal to both Trump supporters and never-Trumpers. But conservative values are left out.
Roseanne Conner, he noted, may be pro-Trump, but her family includes a gender-queer grandson and a middle-aged daughter trying to become a surrogate mother for another couple. (Personally, I thought that plot line was a clever way to include both Beckies in the show.) I'd argue that was a good thing.

Real families, including those in deepest red states, have LGBTQ relatives; some may even know someone in an unconventional parenting situation. I give Ms. Barr kudos for showing those families that it's possible to accept them and love them — at the very least, that it's possible to get along.

We're all getting far too comfortable shouting past each other from inside our steel-reinforced cultural bubbles, and is seemed to be that this show had the capacity for nuance and empathy. If she was trying for something both sides of the political divide might enjoy, this country still has a need for that.

I saw it on the internet, so it must be true.
So, take it easy on the Ambien, everybody.  There's still Tim Allen and Patricia Heaton.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day Sneak Peek

Oh, good. No Trump in this week's toon.

By the way, if you were disappointed that Saturday's post didn't include any cartoons from 1918 that were specifically about Memorial Day (the only Memorial Day during U.S. participation in the Great War), check out today's Comic Strip of the Day.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Hält die Klappe und Geh Raus!

Sprechenback Saturday continues last week's discussion of the push in the U.S. to repress all things German during World War I. I got somewhat distracted toward the end of last Saturday's post, so I'm going to get the distraction out of the way right off the bat today with a cartoon about Prohibition.
"Not a Drum Was Heard" by Burt Thomas in Detroit News, May, 1918
Indiana approved state-wide prohibition of alcohol on April 2, 1918, followed by Michigan on April 30. While Burt Thomas's cartoon features ward heelers lamenting the loss of their occupation and restaurateurs fretting that they must now provide quality food, what I want to point out is that John Barleycorn's casket is adorned with a beer stein and pretzel. And I suppose that's a bottle of liebfraumilch.

Before the war, cartoonists tended to portray the evils of liquor using Demon Rum or Wicked Whisky. Associating booze with the hated Hun, however, would soon facilitate passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Increasing voting rights for women and shifting revenues from alcohol excise taxes to federal income taxes were also significant, but our topic today is animus toward German-Americans.)
"No Compromise" by Archibald Chapin in St. Louis Republic, ca. May, 1918
Even in German enclaves such as St. Louis and Cincinnati, there were drives to force German language out of the public sphere. Streets, hospitals and entire cities changed their names: Germantown, Nebraska, for example, being renamed Garland, for a local soldier killed in the war. There were contests to find a more Amurikin word for sauerkraut, although the name "liberty cabbage" didn't last as long as actual sauerkraut does. A Massachusetts doctor tried to get German measles renamed "liberty measles" ... but it didn't catch on.
Detail of "Saluting 'Cincy, the Queen City of the West'" by Manuel Rosenberg in Cartoons Magazine, July, 1918
It is a shame that neither the Milwaukee Journal nor Milwaukee Sentinel employed editorial cartoonists of their own at this point in history, because I would have liked to see the sort of reaction they would have drawn to all this Germanophobia. The Journal played up Teddy Roosevelt's May 29 visit on Page 1, at which the former president called for an end to "all societies, social, political, or any other" based on European heritage. That included ethnic churches (the norm for American Lutherans, Catholics, and some smaller denominations) and, of course, newspapers.
"I wish we could provide by law so that within a reasonable space of time, a space of time that will avoid unnecessary hardship, there shall be no newspaper published in the land except in English. ... If... treasonable or semi-treasonable matter is published in a newspaper in another tongue, people do not know that the poison is being instilled at all."
"Beware the Snake" by J.E. Murphy in San Francisco Call-Post, May 13, 1918
Of course, if Milwaukee had paid any heed to Mr. Roosevelt's "campaign against the hyphen," its summers would not be anywhere near as fun.

Roosevelt's advice appealed to Sidney Greene, possibly one of the most strident Germanophobes to sling ink; his cartoon drawn after Roosevelt delivered much the same speech in New York appeared here last week.
"Marooned" by Sidney Greene in New York Evening Evening Telegram, June 2, 1918
Suspicion of foreigners from whatever country one is at war with has always been fairly commonplace, and the Great War was no exception. And certain spectacular acts of German espionage had gotten cartoonists' attention, so you can't categorize all the anti-German immigrant cartoons as entirely baseless. Yet Greene seems to have been particularly anxious for the censorship of German-language media, returning to the topic again and again.

"How Long Must We Stand for This?" by Sidney Greene in New York Evening Telegram, June, 1918
On May 16, 1918, Congress passed the Sedition Act as an amendment to the 1917 Espionage Act, criminalizing "insulting or abusing the U.S. government, the flag, the Constitution or the military" by speech or publication. (Since I discussed Teddy Roosevelt above, I should mention that he opposed passage of the Sedition Act.) Although the government used the law to go after International Workers of the World union leaders and a few German-American businessmen, it never used the law to prosecute any German-language American publication for collusion with the enemy.
"Drop It Now" by Sidney Greene in New York Evening Telegram, June, 1918
But what, you may ask (go ahead, I'll wait), about the other side of the coin?
"Time to Abolish Everything That Is Foreign" by C.F. Naughton in Duluth Evening Herald, May 25, 1918
I have not been able to locate Kaiser Wilhelm's speech about abolishing everything foreign, although I did find a satiric poem about it in the American Punch magazine. Whether the quotation is accurate or not, I have no doubt that it was reported in the American press (along with the reports of German soldiers tossing Belgian babies into ovens and infecting Red Cross blankets with pathogens), and it does seem to reflect the Kaiser's policy throughout his reign of promoting German cultural identity in his empire.
"Una Colazione Andata a Male" by Sirti in Il 420, Florence, May 12, 1918
"No other language permitted except German" proclaims the sign on the wall in this Italian cartoon. France, Italy, England and the U.S. present gold to the German at the table, whose feet rest on "International Law" and a "Directory of Mankind"; neutrals, Serbia, Montenegro and Belgium hunt for scraps in the foreground amid torn-up treaties and the skulls of Justice and Liberty.

Monday is Memorial Day, which did not escape cartoonists' notice in 1918, and it won't escape mine now. At roughly this time, Cartoons Magazine noted the death in action of Boston cartoonist Herbert Wolf, known for his cartoons of military camp life, and that of pilot Gordon Levy, son of cartoonist Bert Levy.
"When a Feller Needs a Friend" by Clare Briggs for Red Cross, May, 1918
American newspapers observed a week of emphasis on the Red Cross in late May, and the Committee on Public Education's Bureau of Cartoons must have promoted the image of a soldier tangled in barbed wire, because a number of cartoonists used it. "When a Feller Needs a Friend" was a regular feature of Clare Briggs's usually light-hearted, folksy cartoons for the New York Tribune.

(A bit of cartoonist-military trivia: Briggs's math professor at the University of Nebraska was John J. Pershing, later U.S. commander of the Western Front in the war. "I believe he will testify that it was easier to conquer Germany than to teach me math," Briggs said later. "One day he ordered me to the blackboard to demonstrate a theorem, and while I was giving the problem a hard but losing battle, he remarked: 'Briggs, sit down, you don't know anything.' Right then and there, I decided to become a newspaper man.")

The Chicago Tribune's John McCutcheon was inspired to draw the cartoon below upon the death of  Major Gervais Raoul Lufbery, 33, a famous French-American flying ace in the Lafayette Flying Corps with a reputation for coolness and daring. "Luff," as he was known throughout the U.S. Army and French Air Service, was a recipient of the Croix de Guerre, Legion of Honor, Ten Palms, and Médaille Militaire, plus four British medals and one from Montenegro.  He was shot down over France on May 19, 1918.
"The Fallen Ace" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, May 21, 1918
According to newspaper reports,
"It was after six American aviators had attacked in vain yesterday that Maj. Raoul Lufbery took the air back of the American sector north of Toul against an enormous enemy biplane, a few seconds later to leap from his machine as it burst into flame and drop to the Earth.
"This type of  'flying tank,' it became known here today, is practically invulnerable to the bullets and machine guns now used by American flyers.
"So it was in a hopeless struggle that America's foremost ace lost his life, after his bullets had rattled harmlessly off the armored German machine."
Lufbery was buried with full military honors with high-ranking French and American officers in attendance. After the war, Lufbery's remains were moved to the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial near Versailles as a permanent monument to the 68 American pilots and their French officers who lost their lives during the war.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Q Toon: PSA, Not PDA, for Trump

The more you know...

Microsoft founder Bill Gates revealed last week that on two separate occasions, Donald Joffrey Trump asked him whether there was a difference between HIV and HPV.

As a public service, on the off chance that Mr. Trump happens to read my blog, this week's cartoon includes a few basic distinctions between the two viruses (viri?). There are more, which you can read about on the Department of Health and Human Services web site, Don, at least until you and Secretary Azar decide to scrub fact-based information from the site in favor of abstinence-only sermons or faith healing or whatever snake oil your Faith Initiative Board is selling you that day.

Wait — you'd better bookmark some other government's web page instead.

Then, next time you run into Mr. Gates, you can stick to topics that genuinely interest you. Like how hot you think his daughter is.

Or perhaps you can ask him what it's like to become a billionaire by producing innovative and creative new products instead of just slapping your name on crap.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

Your humble blogger got a nice link from The Daily Cartoonist over the weekend (thank you kindly, D.D. Degg) to Saturday's post here. It prompted me to go back and add a link to a facsimile of the Frederick Boyd Stevenson column which I had quoted extensively.

Then I couldn't stop myself from adding another anti-German language cartoon.

I've blogged here in relative obscurity, but now I'm starting to worry that I might have given Hereby-Demander-in-Chief Donald Joffrey Trump ideas with this cartoon from the previous Saturday's cartoon from the archives:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Enviro-Stewardship: The Grass Is Always Greener

Once a month, I turn the blog over to my Dad's "Environmental Stewardship" column, which he writes for local church newsletters. John Berge is a retired physical chemist, a current member of the local Board of Health, and past president of the area chapter of the Sierra Club.

It has been said that you should never ask your barber whether you need a haircut. Likewise, you should never ask your lawn service whether you need more fertilizer and other chemicals.

Numerous studies have shown that urban and suburban lawns receive more fertilizer per acre than agricultural land, and more of it washes off and down the drains to our creeks, streams and rivers. From there, it ends up in Lake Michigan for most of us where I live, or going down the Mississippi River. The latter ends up in the Gulf of Mexico and its “dead zone” faster than Lake Michigan will drain it through the downstream Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and the Atlantic Ocean. It takes about 100 years for a complete change of water in Lake Michigan, so what washes in will stay around for quite a while!

So where should you go for analysis of your lawn, garden and their fertilizer needs? The University of Wisconsin Soils Laboratory will do an unbiased analysis for $15. It can also check for elevated lead levels if you are adjacent to a major highway, in an older home that may have received lead paints, or otherwise concerned about lead contamination, especially in a garden of edibles. The Turfgrass Diagnostic Laboratory can also help with other turf problems probably better than a lawn service with its own agenda and products for sale. Another source for soil testing is the Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory. Their fee is also $15.

If you must add fertilizer to your lawn, take care so that as little as possible ends up on the sidewalk, driveway or street. A quick trip with a broom can send this wasted and polluting run-off back where you want it, not adding to the algae blooms.

Consider carefully whether you want to include pesticides of any kind with the fertilizer. I don’t use any weed killer since I want to save the spring beauties and other natural plants within our grassy areas and I don’t want any spraying or leaching into the garden beds. Insecticides will not only kill off what you are bothered by, but also butterflies, moths, bees, lady bugs and other beneficial insects. Broadcast spreading of pesticides does not appear to be good environmental stewardship.


In a whimsical extension of the “never ask” section of the first paragraph, may I suggest: Never ask an ex-senator from an oil producing state to establish automobile and truck efficiency standards (mpg). Never ask a lobbyist for a coal producers association to establish guide lines for power plant emissions. Never ask a climate change denier what our environmental policies and international accords should be. Possibly you have your own “never ask”; I ‘d like to hear them.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Fake News, 1918 Edition

Seditionback Saturday hearkens once again to the thrilling days of yestercentury, where we find the First Amendment under fire... from the press.
"A Convenient Perch" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, ca. May, 1918
Now that The Masses had been shut down, there were few publications willing to tolerate any dissent about United States participation in Europe's Great War. German peace overtures had to be dismissed out of hand lest one's patriotism be called into question. And hanging onto one's cultural heritage had become suspect; who knew whether the fellows babbling in some foreign tongue might be plotting to blow up the town armory? (Or forcing Aaron  Schlossberg to pay for their welfare 100 years later?)
"Have You a Little Gas Mask" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Sun, c. May, 1918
This next cartoon of a row of Deutsche Zeitung readers was drawn to illustrate a column by Frederick Boyd Stevenson for the Brooklyn Eagle headlined "Who Has Kept Kaiserism in German Newspapers?: ...
"Is This Somewhere in Germany or Somewhere in America?" by Beaumont Fairbank in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 5, 1918 
"... How the American Defense Society Took Up the Task of Getting the Patriotic Proprietors of Newsstands to Ban All Newspapers and Periodicals Printed in the German Language and How the Spirit of America Is Doing the Rest — Twelve German Language Newspapers In This Country Quit Publications in Two Weeks and More Are Ready to Follow."

(I've omitted half of the subhead, but you get the idea.)
"Torpedoed" by Sidney Greene in New York Evening Telegram, May 27, 1918
Stevenson's column started out praising German-Americans who served the Union in the Civil War, but then launched into a paragraph of leading questions suspicious of the German-language press in America. "Do you or anyone else know how many of these German-language newspapers printed in this country denounced the crime of Germany? Do any of you know how many of these German-language newspapers defended the sinking of the Lusitania?" And so on.

Well, of course you didn't, if you didn't read German. And, in true Fox News style, Stevenson never quite got around to telling you, either.

"Breath of the Hun" by W.A. Rogers in New York World, ca. May, 1918
Stevenson continued:
"Today many [German-Americans] are still reading in German, talking in German, thinking in German. Many of them have made themselves obnoxious to Americans in their public organizations and their private clubs.
"And who is responsible for this un-Americanism?
"The German-language press of America."
Stevenson praised the efforts of the American Defense Society and other citizens "chafing under sight of German-language newspapers waving before them like the flag of Germany" to push for official censorship of German-language newspapers as well as to pressure newspaper vendors not to sell them and publishing companies not to print them.
"The Kaiser's Shadow" by Harry Tuthill in St. Louis Star, May or June, 1918
The ADS, Stevenson reported, had backed an amendment to the 1917 Espionage Act by Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R-MA) stating, "The use of the mails should not be permitted to any newspaper, magazine, periodical, circulars or pamphlets which are printed in whole or in part in the German language." While that amendment had failed to be included in the final bill, the the ADS had claimed victory in getting local officials to ban German-language newspapers in several cities in New Jersey and Long Island.

The twelve German-language papers cited in the column's subhead included "the formerly very influential" Texas Deutsche Zeitung of Houston, and the 77-year-old Deutsche Korrespondent of Baltimore. The Socialist New Yorker Volkszeitung also planned to suspend publication and repurpose itself as an English-only newspaper.

Downtown, the New York Evening Telegram, which regularly printed full pages in Italian for its espatriati readership, repeatedly ran the following box editorial demanding that German newspapers be shut down:
Box editorial appearing in New York Evening Telegram, May, 1918
But there was more to worry about than those sneaky Deutschsprechenders.
"Know Them?" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 13, 1918
In Congress, there remained criticism of the Wilson administration, alleging that the U.S. was still unprepared for the war, and that Secretary of War Newton Baker was not up to the task. It hadn't helped that Baker's first statement to reporters upon his appointment in 1916 was "I am an innocent. I do not know anything about this job."
"Synchronizer" by Jay "Ding" Darling in Des Moines Register, ca. May 7, 1918
There was plenty of ammunition for critics of American readiness. The Aircraft Board was forced to admit that plans for an air fleet were still being designed and re-designed on the drawing board — it was, after all, a fledgling industry.
"End of the First Chapter" by Milton Halladay in Providence Journal, ca. May, 1918
In more established industries, the American outlook was more positive.
"Catching Up" by Archibald Chapin in St. Louis Republic, ca. May, 1918
On the other side of the trenches, German cartoonists worked to reassure their readers that worrisome talk of America's entry into the war with all its fresh materiel wasn't really so serious a threat to the Vaterland.
"Mister Barnums Hilfe" by E. Schilling in Simplicissimus, Munich, May 21, 1918
Speaking of enemies the Germans weren't supposed to worry about, and as long as we happened to discuss Nicaragua last week: Gustav Brandt here offered his view of "the latest war announcements." Guatemala and Nicaragua declared war against Germany on April 23 and May 18 respectively.
"Guatemala and Nicaragua" by Gustav Brandt in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, May 26, 1918
I've given a literal translation of the dialogue below the cartoon, which is a near-quotation from Friedrich Schiller's Don Carlos. An English translation by R. D. Boyan paraphrases the original passage as
"Thus, arm-in-arm with thee, I dare defy
   The universal world into the lists."
...which is hardly any clearer. The line comes at the end of Act I, as the Marquis of Posa and young Don Carlos, Prince of Spain, profess their undying love for each other, as equals. Clearly, Brandt sees the relationship between Uncle Sam and the centroamericanos differently. U.S. marines had occupied Nicaragua since 1912, and the Guatemalan government was more or less a subsidiary of United Fruit Company.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Q Toon: Fulsome Prison Blues

In his never-ending quest to erase all traces of the Obama presidency, Donald Joffrey Trump last week issued an executive order reversing provisions of the Prison Rape Elimination Act geared to protect transgender persons in the prison system.
The Bureau of Prisons now “will use biological sex” to make initial determinations in the type of housing transgender inmates are assigned, according to a notice posted Friday evening that modifies the previous policy.
The shift comes after four evangelical Christian women in a Texas prison sued in US District Court to challenge the Obama-era guidelines, and claimed sharing quarters with transgender women subjected them to dangerous conditions.

Their complaint alleged housing transgender women — whom it calls “men” — along with the general female population ”creates a situation that incessantly violates the privacy of female inmates; endangers the physical and mental health of the female Plaintiffs and others, including prison staff; [and] increases the potential for rape.”

Their lawsuit took aim at regulations established in 2012 to protect transgender inmates from violence under the Prison Rape Elimination Act and a guidance memo — issued days before Obama left office — on how to handle transgender inmates. The memo noted that transgender prisoners face an "increased risk of suicide, mental health issues and victimization."

The rules said officials must give “serious consideration” to the wishes of transgender and intersex inmates when assigning facilities, while also instructing prison staff to “consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the inmate’s health and safety, and whether the placement would present management or security problems.”
Without entirely dismissing the concerns of incarcerated women out of hand, the record is very clear that the Corrupt Trump Administration is extremely biased against transgender Americans. Trump, Pence and their henchmen have moved to kick transgender service members out of the military, to force transgender students into the lavatory of the government's choice, and declared that transgender people aren’t protected under federal civil rights law barring discrimination on the basis of sex.

Frankly, I don't think Trump is at all worried about what conditions Cohen, Junior or Jared would find in jail; he's not concerned with anyone but himself. Besides, unless one of his co-conspirators squeals to the feds first, Trump will surely issue pardons like confetti.

But you never know. He might forget to sign them.

Monday, May 14, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

Here's a rough pencil sketch of this week's impending cartoon.

Thank you to Mike Peterson for his appreciation on Comic Strip of the Day of Saturday's post here over the weekend! My 20-something self would have been so freaked out.

Once I explained the World Wide Web to him.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


 “My favorite meat is hot dog, by the way. That is my favorite meat” —Mitt Romney

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Stop Me If You've Heard This

History, it is said, repeats itself. Or at least it rhymes. Or exhibits recurring themes and leitmotifs. Or wanders in circles. Or suffers flashbacks.

In the past week or so, the NRA elected itself a new leader best known for illegal arms sales; a foreign enemy released three American prisoners; Donald Joffrey Trump abrogated a treaty with Iran; and the White House complained that a criminal investigation was getting too close to the president had dragged on too long.

Where have I heard this song before? Doesn't that tree look familar?

When the Reagan administration's secret arms deal with Iran first came to light in 1986, it was immediately associated with the release of one of the hostages who were being held by various factions in Lebanon's civil war. Iran was backing Hezbollah there, while also in the sixth year of war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

I drew a connection with Nicaragua, whose socialist government had just arrested Eugene Hasenfus, an ex-marine from Marinette, Wisconsin. Hasenfus had been shot down while flying arms to right-wing rebels known as the Contras. I wasn't making the right connection, but I was in the right ballpark.

When the true Iran-Contra connection came to light, the Reagan administration line was that aid to the Nicaraguan guerillas was all the work of one U.S. Marines Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North.

It was a complicated scheme, involving North's funneling $10,000 from the Sultan of Brunei to a Swiss bank account (to the wrong account as it happened), and enlisting the aid of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega against the Nicaraguan government. (Overthrowing Noriega would become a priority of the George H.W. Bush administration.)

Since President Reagan had no idea what was going on, he was obliged to appoint former Senator John Tower (whom we discussed a couple weeks ago) to lead a commission tasked with investigating the Iran-Contra affair. The Tower Commission presented its findings to the president in March, 1987.

But that didn't bring an end to the matter. Attorney General Ed Meese named New York attorney Lawrence Walsh special counsel to determine whether to charge anyone with any crimes. Congress also held hearings into the Iran-Contra affair; Lt. Col. Ollie North was a star witness. He defended his having lied to Congress because he believed aiding the Contras through illegal arms sales was a "neat idea."

You never saw future NRA head honcho Ollie North on TV except in full military uniform, badges and all.

On March 16, 1988, a grand jury handed down a 23-count indictment against top administration officials, including future NRA top gun Ollie North. By the time any of the court trials got underway, Ronald Reagan was out of office. He was also exhibiting signs of senile dementia, although those closest to him were doing their best to conceal the problem and to pass it off as his usual aw-shucks folksy demeanor.

Walsh had concluded that Reagan had not himself broken the law, so popular speculation immediately after his presidency centered on whether he would be called upon to testify at the trials of his subordinates. Of more pressing concern to the first of these was paneling a jury that could be impartial in weighing the fate of future NRA don Ollie North.

But a jury was finally seated. In May, 1989, North was found guilty of three out of 16 federal charges: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and ordering the destruction of documents.

Appellate courts would ultimately set aside North's conviction, as well as those of Reagan's National Security Adviser Adm. James Poindexter and nine others. Five others — including former State Department official Elliott Abrams and former defense secretary Caspar W. Weinberger — were preëmptively pardoned by lame duck President George H.W. Bush on Christmas Eve 1992.

There was no investigation of Walsh's investigation, of course. Bush's successor would have to endure a totally unrelated interminable investigation which was supposed to be about some Arkansas land deal in which Bill and Hillary Clinton had lost money. But it ended up being about extramarital affairs and —

I'm positive we passed that tree before!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Q Toon: Kyrie Liaison

Last week, Donald Joffrey Trump signed an executive order formalizing the creation of what he is calling a Faith And Opportunity Initiative. In essence, the initiative legalizes — and gives federal blessing to — discriminatory actions by anyone who claims to act in keeping with "deeply held beliefs".
But if those last three words—“deeply held beliefs”—sound familiar, it’s because they are often used to justify anti-LGBT legislation in the name of “religious freedom.” Indeed, LGBT advocates say that the executive order is yet another federal action that could potentially encourage discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religion.
“We’re very concerned because this administration has a pattern of inviting discrimination in the name of religion,” Camilla Taylor, director of Constitutional Litigation for the LGBT legal advocacy group Lambda Legal, told The Daily Beast shortly before the Rose Garden event.
Based on its reported description, Taylor said that the new “faith initiative” seems to be “actively seeking out opportunities to facilitate discrimination.” (As details of the order were officially announced minutes later, Lambda Legal tweeted, “Yikes, y’all.”)
Now, I'm sure there's some Log Cabin Trump Loyalist out there who is saying, "Oh, you're just getting worked up about nothing. Didn't he promise 'I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people who will threaten your freedoms and beliefs'? Didn't he say, 'I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens'? Didn't he wave a big ol' rainbow flag?"

Yes, yes he did. As usual, he was lying, and he held the flag upside-down.

Obsessive students of my cartoons (or at least the four or five of you who've seen the Bergetoons Facebook page lately) might possibly recognize the office of the White House LGBT Liaison from a cartoon I drew last year. There was concern at the time that Trump had not named a White House LGBTQ Liaison to replace the Obama administration's WHLGBTQL Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, and the WHLGBTQL web page had gone blank.
“Part of my job was to talk to community leaders who were bereaved and ultimately be the voice of the president,” [Raffi Freedman-Gurspan] recalled in an interview with BuzzFeed News during her last week on the job, “passing along word that the president [Obama] was very, very, very concerned.”
Marsha Scott, a straight woman, was the first White House liaison to gays and lesbians, named to the role by President Clinton in 1995. But the position disappeared when George W. Bush took office and later returned under Obama. Aditi Hardikar held the position until leaving to join Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
There is still no WHLGBTQL, and still no web page.

But lest you think for a moment that the Corrupt Trump Administration policy toward LGBTQ citizens has been one of benign neglect, its record has been one of active hostility.

Take the Department of Health and Human Services (please):
The nation's health department is taking steps to dismantle LGBT health initiatives, as political appointees have halted or rolled back regulations intended to protect LGBT workers and patients, removed LGBT-friendly language from documents and reassigned the senior adviser dedicated to LGBT health.
The Trump administration soon after taking office also moved to change the agency's LGBT-related health data collection, a window into health status and discrimination. [In January] it established a new religious liberty division to defend health workers who have religious objections to treating LGBT patients.
The religious right-wing is not just demanding special rights for florists and wedding photographers to discriminate against us. If there are health care workers who have religious objections to treating any of their patients, I think their employer should have every right to remove them from the possibility entirely. I don't want my EMT or emergency room doctor deciding I should wait for a better Samaritan to happen by.

P.S.: Homophobia is the Corrupt Trump Administration policy at the Small Business Administration, too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Do Not Try This At Home

Shoplift chicken from grocery store run by Russian mafia. While driving home, post account of the theft on Facebook.

Marinade chicken in trunk of car one to two days before cooking.

In the meantime, prepare sausage, pork chops, and shellfish on wooden cutting board, and leave board unwashed.

Change your car's oil.

Carry chicken in from the car in your bare hands. Slice chicken on wooden cutting board and place pieces directly on oven rack.

Cook at 165F for 10 minutes. Juggle carving knives.

Remove chicken from oven, again with with your bare hands.

Add sliced tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar, mozzarella cheese and raw egg.

Castor beans and Tide Pods™ make a tasty side dish.

Figure out once and for all that "literally" literally means "literally."

Monday, May 7, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

Here's a very preliminary sketch of what would eventually become this week's cartoon.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Trial of the Century

It's Sesquicentenniback Saturday in this corner of the blogosphere; last week's post called to my attention that this spring marks the 150th anniversary of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

Last week's post offers a brief summary of what happened in 1868, so I'll try not to repeat myself too much while still going into excruciating detail. Here goes.
Andrew Johnson, in Harper's Weekly, May 13, 1865
Andrew Johnson was a Tennessee Democrat opposed to southern secession. President Lincoln appointed the Senator as military governor of Tennessee in 1862, and he and Secretary of State William Seward were impressed enough with Johnson's administration there to recommend him over incumbent Vice President Hannibal Hamlin as Lincoln's running mate in 1864. Lincoln and Johnson ran under the banner of the National Union Party, for which Johnson campaigned personally (not standard practice in those days) in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

His first impression on a national audience, however, did not go well. Badly hung over from Inauguration Eve partying — for which he self-medicated with more hair of the dog — he delivered a rambling, incoherent inauguration speech, and was hastily sworn in once he began to run out of steam. He kind of went into hiding after that, but his political enemies would never let him forget about it.

Just over a month later, he was suddenly elevated to the presidency by Lincoln's assassination. (Johnson was a target of the plot, too, but the man assigned to kill him got drunk instead.)
Three panels from "Bal Opera" by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly, April 14, 1866
As president, Johnson stubbornly pursued a policy of reinstating Confederate states into the union, opposing voting rights for freed slaves, and pardoning Confederate leaders. This put him at odds with Radical Republicans, who favored voting, property and basic civil rights for freed slaves, and the punishment of Confederate leaders. Moderate Republicans were less eager to extend voting rights to freedmen; it's worth noting that several northern states still denied Black men the vote, and post-war moves to enfranchise Blacks were voted down in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Connecticut.
Panel from "Andy's Trip" by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly, October 27, 1866
On Washington's birthday, 1866, Johnson delivered another disastrous speech in which he managed to refer to himself over 200 times over the course of the hour. (Remind you of any other presidential ego?) Worse, he accused Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Senator Charles Sumner and abolitionist Wendell Phillips of plotting to assassinate him and destroy the Union.
Panel from "Andy's Trip" by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly, October 27, 1866
Johnson's already strained relationship with Radical Republicans was thus permanently ruptured; his veto (overridden) of the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, on the grounds that it discriminated against white men, convinced Moderate Republicans that they couldn't work with him, either. Republicans sent the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution to the states for ratification that year, and passed a Tenure of Office Act the next to shield Republicans in Johnson's cabinet from being fired. The amendment was ratified once Nebraska was added to the union (again, vetoed and overridden); the Tenure of Office Act was passed — you guessed it — over presidential veto.
"Samson Agonistes at Washington," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, August 24, 1867
Testing provisions of the Act in August, 1867, Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton during a congressional recess and replaced him with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ad interim. Congress reinstated Stanton in January, 1868, and Grant stepped aside.
"The Hurt Can Not Be Much" by Alfred R. Waud in Harper's Weekly, February 1, 1868.
Johnson fired Stanton a second time, choosing as his replacement this time General Lorenzo Thomas (who resembles the guy lurking around the corner in this next cartoon, rather than the birdman in the foreground, so I'm not quite sure how to interpret it).
"General Thomas Begs to Be Excused," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, March 14, 1868
During the war, Stanton had stripped Thomas, then working in the War Office, of the title of Adjutant-General on the grounds of inadequacy, and sent him to organize Black troops in the South. Thomas was brevetted to Major General after the war, but nursed a grudge against Stanton.
"Advice Not Easily Followed," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, April 4, 1868
Accompanied by a Gen. William H. Emery, Thomas personally delivered Johnson’s dismissal notice to the War Secretary. But Stanton not only refused to vacate the office; he had Thomas arrested. Realizing, however, that the arrest would allow the courts to review the Tenure of Office Act and possibly find it unconstitutional, he let the charges drop. Thomas promptly sued Stanton for false imprisonment.
"A Brace of Dead Ducks," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, March 14, 1868
Based on the mutton chops, "Forney" in the above cartoon appears to be John W. Forney, Secretary of the U.S. Senate from 1861 to June of 1868. Mr. Forney had pulled his early support of President Johnson and become a vocal advocate of impeachment by the time this cartoon was published. Johnson, who shared our current president's proclivity for attacking his critics, uncharacteristically held his fire against Forney, explaining, "I do not waste my ammunition on dead ducks."
"This Little Boy Would Persist...," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, March 21, 1868
I would presume that "Vol. 14" of the Constitution refers to the Fourteenth Amendment, which would be adopted in July after this cartoon appeared.
"The Paroquet of the Wh—e H—e," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, March 21, 1868
Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (he of Johnson's imagined assassination plot) was the House's floor manager for prosecution of the impeachment, but due to his age and deteriorating health, the lion's share of the duties fell to Rep. Benjamin Butler (R-MA). Butler, a Civil War general, was elected on an anti-Johnson platform in 1866 and prosecuted the case with enough histrionics for both men put together. "Luff" in the below cartoon of the two congressmen refers to unwanted flapping of the sails.
"Coming Into Port," in Harper's Weekly, May 2, 1868
On May 16, 1868, 35 Senators voted to convict Johnson on three of the articles of impeachment. They needed 36. As the remaining eight articles were decided, the 35-19 margin held through the final votes on May 26; enough Republicans broke with their party to prevent Johnson's removal from office.
"Effect of the Vote on the Eleventh Article of Impeachment," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, May 30, 1868
One such Senator, James Grimes (R-IA) explained, “I cannot agree to destroy the harmonious working of the Constitution for the sake of getting rid of an Unacceptable President.” And thus the nation was spared the ten-month presidency of Senate President Pro Tem Benjamin Wade.

Johnson ran for the Democratic Party's nomination for President that year, but what support he had at the party's nominating convention evaporated after the first ballot. As for the Tenure of Office Act, Congress scaled its provisions back as soon as Johnson was out of office. The Supreme Court eventually found it unconstitutional in 1926 in Myers v. United States, in a ruling delivered by Chief Justice — and former President — William Howard Taft.