Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Look out! It's the screaming memees!
and he wants you to want him:
Happy Hallow Days!

Monday, October 29, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

I didn't draw this week's cartoon about the terrorist attack on Tree of Life Synagogue, but I can spare a few words about it today.

This week's Time magazine cover story attempts to bring together the thoughts of gun control advocates and Second Amendment absolutists. I have members of my family across the spectrum, including people who have lost loved ones to gun violence and yet fall in the latter camp.

I have a hard time understanding that. I understand the desire to be able to defend oneself. I understand the need to be able to protect family and livestock, and to put food on the table.

But I don't understand the mindset that there is nothing —and nobody— more important than an imperative to have as many and as advanced instruments of death in the hands of everybody who hasn't killed someone else yet.

These killings keep coming and coming, and the reaction from the absolutists ranges from "Gee, that's too bad" to "They must have been asking for it" to "It didn't even happen."

The Nazi in Pittsburgh had no criminal record, so no background check or waiting period was going to stop him from slaughtering eleven innocent people. So maybe Mr. Trump is right, and the U.S. needs to have armed guards patrolling every synagogue.

And church.

And temple.

And school.

And movie house.

And discotheque.

And outdoor concert.

And shopping mall.

And beautician's shop.

And doctor's office.

And rest home.

And day care.

And street.

And park.

And on

And on

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Whole World Was Watching

Last week, Selective Serviceback Saturday shared cartoons from 150 years ago about the first presidential election held after the 15th Amendment extended the right to vote to African-American citizens of the U.S. Today, against my better judgment, we step ahead 100 years from 1868 to the last presidential election held before the 26th Amendment extended the right to vote to 18- to 20-year-old citizens of the U.S.

Others in the cartoon-rehashing game have a much better recollection of the 1968 presidential election than I, so this won't be a comprehensive retrospective by any means. So much of what I do remember is actually Frank Gorshin's and David Frye's impressions of the candidates. Here goes anyway.
"I Think We Can Start Bringing Them Home Soon" by Pat Oliphant in Denver Post, September, 1968

The #1 issue of interest to those 18- to 20-year-olds had to be the increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam. They couldn't vote for president, but they did have to answer to their draft board.

President Lyndon Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey, had won his party's presidential nomination. His long liberal record, at the 1948 Democratic Convention and as lead author of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was overshadowed by his association with Johnson and the war. He tried to promise to bring an end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, only to be publicly contradicted by Johnson and Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford. (Laird in Oliphant's cartoon is Wisconsin Congressman Melvin Laird, who would become Richard Nixon's first Secretary of Defense.)

"Anchored" by Tom "Obadiah" Curtis in National Review, October 22, 1968
An eleventh-hour announcement that the Johnson was halting bombing raids over North Vietnam would fail to give enough lift to the Humphrey campaign. Perhaps today we'd call it Johnson Fatigue; liberals who ought to have agreed with Humphrey on civil rights and other issues remained disenchanted; Michigan's New Democratic Coalition and the California Young Democrats withheld their endorsements, and even Norman Mailer mused that Nixon wouldn't be all that bad.

"Making Like a Dove" by Roy Justus in Minneapolis Star, August, 1968
On the Republican side, Richard Nixon's anti-communist record should have indicated that he would continue the war in Vietnam, but he claimed to have a secret plan to end the war within 90 days. What he didn't tell America was that he meant within 90 days of his re-election to a second term, and that the plan involved spreading the war to Laos, Cambodia, and Kent State.
"The Newer Than New Nixon" by Robert Zschiesche in Greensboro Daily News, October, 1968
On domestic issues, Nixon's promises to bring Law and Order appealed to what he called the "Silent Majority" horrified by political assassinations and by riots in America's inner cities, universities, and at the Democratic National Convention. (Not to mention promiscuous sex and drug use. But there, I mentioned them anyway.) Consistently leading in the polls, Nixon offered mostly pablum, and — still smarting from his experience in 1960 — refused to meet Humphrey in any debates.
"The Fraidycat" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 24, 1968
Nixon's campaign themes included promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who would reverse the decisions of the Earl Warren court (Johnson would withdraw his filibustered nominations of Abe Fortas and Homer Thornberry in October), to fight inflation, and to replace the draft with an all-volunteer military. Behind the scenes, he urged South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu to refuse peace talks until Nixon could take office.

"Measuring Up" by Ranan Lurie in Life, October, 1968
Henry Luce's Life magazine endorsed Nixon in the election, but its cartoonist Ranan Lurie clearly was more ambivalent about the voters' choices. So were a number of others who put themselves forward as third party candidates. Most notably, Alabama Governor George Wallace ran at the head of the American Independent Party on a segregationist platform, declaring that "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats."

"Foreign and Domestic" by Herblock in Washington Post, October, 1968
He chose as his running mate retired Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, who had advocated bombing North Vietnam "back to the stone age," using "anything that we could dream up, including nuclear weapons." Yet while LeMay was more hawkish on the war than Wallace, the general stood to the left of him on Wallace's signature issue.
"There Seems to Be More Than a Dime's Worth of Difference..." by Bill Sanders in Milwaukee Journal, October 25, 1968
On the left, the most notable third-party candidates were comedian Dick Gregory and Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver heading rival wings of the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Communist Party USA's Charlene Mitchell. Gregory made a tour of college campuses, where he promised to paint the White House black, then bring the troops home from Vietnam and "send LBJ with nothing but a barbecue gun." His counterfeit dollar bills won him considerable attention, not least from the Secret Service.

Mitchell's running mate wouldn't be old enough to serve as Vice President until 1980, and Cleaver (also not yet 35 years old) fled the country after a shoot-out between police and Black Panthers in Oakland, California. But then, getting elected was never really the point of their candidacies.
"Out of the Running," unsigned (perhaps Ted Shearer), in The Afro American, Baltimore MD, October 19, 1968
The Afro American, in an editorial accompanied by the above cartoon, counseled its readers against casting their vote for any of the three African-American candidates:
"Dick Gregory, Eldridge Cleaver and Mrs. Charlene Mitchell are all doomed to defeat this year, and all of them know it. Their exercises in futility would be more tolerable as means of protests against ills in the society in some other election year. ...
"The danger is that some voters, frustrated with conditions as they are or wishing to make an individual protest also, may throw away valuable votes."
As it was, their campaigns, even lumped in with votes for comedian Pat Paulsen and comic strip characters Pogo and Snoopy, were not enough to throw any state from one of the front runners to another.
"Remind Me to Get That Fixed" by Dan Dowling, Kansas City Star,
Wallace, on the other hand, carried Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, the last third-party candidate to win electoral votes by getting a plurality of any state's votes. But it was not enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives; even in the unlikely event that Humphrey had won Wallace's five states in a two-candidate race, he would still have fallen well short of a majority in the electoral college.

But since fewer than 500,000 votes separated Humphrey and Nixon, who can say how Wallace's 9.9 million would have divided up without him?

And yet, 50 years later, with one election decided by the Supreme Court, and two awarded to the second-place candidate, we still haven't fixed our cuckoo electoral vote system.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Q Toon: Small Enough to Fit in Your Genes

You've probably heard by now that the Corrupt Trump Administration plans to issue an executive order decreeing that gender is an immutable characteristic decided in the womb. That is to say that the order will decree transgender individuals out of existence.

The New York Times learned of the ruling through a memo circulated in the Department of Human Services, home of the rabidly anti-lgbtq Roger Severino and the Religious Liberty University, er, Task Force. Should the proposal be approved by DHS, the Departments of Education, Justice and Labor are expected to follow suit.

This affects more than just telling transgender people to use the wrong bathroom. It could affect the kind of medical treatment transgender patients may receive under Medicaid (assuming there's anything left of Medicaid once Republicans are done with it), or which prisons transgender inmates might be sentenced to. It could even disenfranchise the whole lot of them by requiring them to try to vote using their dead names, if they can get past the poll worker convinced that Glen is trying to impersonate Glenda or vice versa.

Perhaps I'm being unfair linking this anti-transgender policy to Donald Berzilius Trump. It's of great interest to the theocrats in his administration — Severino, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, and that ilk — but doesn't benefit Trump or his family personally.

On the other hand, it reverses a policy of the Obama administration, and Trump is more than eager to erase any vestige of his immediate predecessor, no matter what.

If Obama had built that wall across our southern border, Trump would be foaming at the mouth to tear it down.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Environmental Stewardship: Procrastinate Now!

by John Berge

The words procrastination and environmental stewardship are seldom linked together, but at this time of year they should be.

Never do today what you can put off until next spring! That is true for at least one chore — the cleaning up of our garden beds. Many butterflies, moths, bees and other insects need that material to protect themselves over the winter.

Monarch butterflies are one of the few insects that seasonally migrate to get out of the cold. The great majority dig into the ground, which is kept relatively soft and at a more even temperature by the layers of leaves and other plant material, or they winter-over in the stems and other parts of dead or dormant plants. They can stay there as adults, eggs, larvae or pupae, depending on the species. If, in an effort to be neat, you pull up the dead annuals and cut down the stalks and leaves of perennials in the fall, you are depriving the beneficial insects of their winter homes and depriving the birds, bats and amphibians of next spring’s sustenance.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you get out of raking the lawn if you are blessed with a lot of trees as we are. If the leaves are not too numerous, chopping them up with the lawn mower and leaving them in place is a good idea. It adds organic matter to the soil and gives extra protection to those bees that burrow into the soil for the winter. Other bees burrow under the bark of trees or downed branches for the winter.

One type of bee does seasonally migrate. Many honey bees migrate in hives on the back of a truck, traveling from crop to crop, starting in Texas or Mexico and spending the summer in beautiful Wisconsin. They don’t fly south by themselves.

Remember, those leaves that are raked up should be composted to use as mulch or to dig into the garden which you put off until next spring. This is good environmental stewardship.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Most Important Election of the Second Half of the 1860s

Keeping with Thursday's election year theme, I don't have any good cartoons to share from the 1918 off-year election campaign, so Ulysses S.back Saturday hearkens back another 50 years to the presidential election of 1868.
"Keep the Ball Rolling" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, September 19, 1868
Banking on his overwhelming popularity as the Union General who accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the Republicans nominated Ulysses S. Grant as their standard bearer. Grant didn't have much of a political history; the one and only time he had voted in a presidential election was in 1856 for Democrat James Buchanan (because "I knew Frémont"). But he had come to loathe President Andrew Johnson and happily stepped in when Republicans asked him head their ticket and drive the impeached incumbent out of office.

Grant's brief letter accepting the Republican nomination provided the campaign's catch phrase of "Let us have peace." One could debate whether that sentence in the cartoon is the sound of the Democratic pins clattering down, or their complaint at being bowled over. Ready with a second bowling ball is Grant's running mate, Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax of Indiana ("Mother of Vice Presidents!").

"A Sea of Troubles" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 3, 1868
Deadlocked in ballot after ballot after ballot, the Democratic Convention finally nominated former New York Governor Horatio Seymour in spite of his repeated Shermanesque protests that he wasn't a candidate, wouldn't run, and wanted to nominate Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase instead.
"The Modern Samson" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 3, 1868
1868 would be the first presidential election in which freed African-American slaves would have the right to vote. "The Modern Samson" depicts "Southern Democracy" having used a blade labeled "Lost Cause Regained" to cut the hair of suffrage from Black citizenry while the Democratic ticket and supporters rejoice in the background. A statue of Andrew Johnson with stone tablets labeled "Veto" sits under the words "I will be your Moses" and atop a pedestal reading "The great Dem Party will rise in might and majesty." Southern newspaper editorials and Ku Klux Klan statements decrying the "lost cause" and arguing that Black Americans "are as babes without experience in government affairs" decorate the walls.

One must note that extending the vote to Black Americans was controversial up North as well. Prior to passage of the 15th Amendment, the Failing New York Times had editorialized:
The adult negroes of the South probably number half a million, — and if admitted to the suffrage, would cast one-sixth of the aggregate national vote. Nine-tenths of them are confessedly ignorant of the first rudiments of knowledge, and not one whit better qualified to vote, of their own motive, wisely and intelligently, than so many Chinese would be the day they should land on our shores. Is it quite safe to demand their instant admission to the ballot-box? Would it not be quite as well to approach a matter of such vast importance with a little caution? Is it quite certain that these negroes would all vote just as we would like to have them?
"Why 'The N⸺ Is Not Fit to Vote'" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 24, 1868
That Black Americans might not "vote just as we would like to have them" was the point of Nast's ironic reply in 1868. I've bowdlerized the caption of the above cartoon out of care for modern sensibilities; but you can be sure that no publication in the world had any more hesitation to print the N-word out in full than Thomas Nast did in drawing the Irish as apish ruffians.

"Nationalization Mill," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 24, 1868
If 1860s Democrats had their prejudice against certain voters, so did the Republicans. The New York Tribune shrieked that Tammany Hall Democrats' open border policies were a ruse to gin up the Democratic vote total. This in spite of the fact that the Republican Party platform also encouraged "foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, development, and resources, and increase of power to the republic." Indeed, there was nothing to stop any immigrant from coming to the U.S.; the short-lived Burlingame-Seward Treaty signed in 1868 opened the doors to Chinese immigrants, the only foreign group with any previous limitations.

The above cartoon depicts Gov. Seymour at left bagging votes from the "naturalization mill" with his running mate, Union General Francis Blair of Missouri. Judge John McCunn was one of the members of Boss Tweed's ring, and was forced to resign in 1872 over the scandal over naturalizing 2,000 fresh-off-the-boat citizens in a single day.

I haven't credited the nationalization mill cartoon to Nast because, unlike the other two cartoons on the October 24, 1868 issue's front page, it is not signed by him.

"Matched. (?)" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 31, 1868
The text under Nast's cartoon contrasts a letter from Major General Grant promising "all due respect" to Confederate soldiers under Lt. Gen. J.C. Pemberton's command at the Battle of Vicksburg if Pemberton would surrender, with Seymour's address to New Yorkers rioting at Fort Pillow against the draft a few days later:
"MY FRIENDS, I have come down from the quiet of the country to see what was the difficulty, to learn what all this trouble was concerning the draft. Let me assure you that I am your friend." (Uproarious cheering.) "You have been my friends." (Cries of "yes," "yes," — "that's so"—"we are, and shall be again.") And now I assure you, my fellow citizens, that I am here to show you a test of my friendship." (Cheers.) "I wish to inform you that I have sent my Adjutant-General to Washington to confer with the authorities there, and to have this draft suspended and stopped." (Vociferous cheers.) "I now ask you as good citizens to wait for his return, and I assure you that I will do all that I can to see that there is no inequality and no wrong done anyone." —New York Tribune, July 14, 1863.
Such formal and flowery language was certainly typical of politicians of the period, and whoever transcribed Seymour's actual words would have polished up anything that fell short of the style. But Republicans used the words "My friends" to tar and feather Seymour as a rebel sympathizer (those words are on the sheet sticking out of Seymour's pocket in the naturalization mill cartoon above). Indeed, he was a conservative with Southern sympathies before and after the Civil War.
"Both Sides of the Question" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 24, 1868
"Both Sides of the Question" was a two-page editorial cartoon contrasting the valiant supporters of Grant and Colfax with Seymour and Blair's scurrilous minions. On the left page under the tattered Union flag, the Boys in Blue include such luminaries as New York World publisher Horace Greeley (reading his newspaper), Generals Tecumseh Sherman and Ambrose Burnside (with his trademark sideburns), and Nast himself sharpening his pencil down in the lower left corner.
"Both Sides of the Question" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 24, 1868
On the right page under Confederate and Ku Klux Klan banners, the Boys in Gray include Tammany Hall figures, General Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Gen. McClellan, New York Mayor John Hoffman (of the mutton chop mustache and huge jaw; he would be elected Governor in November) and peering out from their political grave, President Andrew Johnson and Union General Winfield Hancock (who would be the Democratic presidential nominee in 1880).
"Victory!" unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, New York, November 14, 1868
General Grant won the presidency of course, and the only surprising thing about it is that the outcome wasn't a complete blow-out. He won by a margin of 309,584 votes out of 5,716,082 cast. Grant's majorities in Louisiana and Georgia were disputed; and citizens of Virginia, Mississippi and Texas were not allowed to vote at all.

The Republican Party was only 14 years old, but was already very expert at adapting electoral rules in its own favor. And they have certainly refined their expertise in that area since then.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Q Toon: How It Works

It's true, Buzz. Romania held a referendum on October 6 and 7 on a proposal to enshrine in its constitution an exclusive definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. In spite of a 93.4% yes vote in favor of the constitutional amendment, it failed:
Data from the national election bureau showed voter turnout stood at 20.4 percent when the polls closed at 1800 GMT [later official figures put it at 21.1%], below the 30 percent required for it to be valid.
The two-day referendum, which cost $40 million, aimed to change the constitution to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman from the current gender-neutral “spouses.”
Religiously conservative Romania, which decriminalized homosexuality in 2001 decades after neighboring countries, bars marriage and civil partnerships for same sex couples.
There had been an active campaign by human rights activists and the Save Romania Union urging people to boycott the election. Centrist-liberal President Klaus Iohannis also opposed the referendum, saying that as a member of an ethnic and religious minority (he is a Lutheran of German heritage), he supports tolerance and openness and rejects religious fanaticism.

Here at home, multiple reports suggest that in spite of the turmoil of the Corrupt Trump Administration and decades of craven inaction on gun violence in our schools, some young people may not be as keen on getting out to vote on November 6 as others are. I've heard interviews with millennials who complain that one vote doesn't make a difference, or that they'd rather march in the streets for change.

Granted, Republicans have been doing their damndest to keep one vote from making a difference, both by cracking and packing voting districts and by keeping one vote from being cast in the first place. But without those one votes after another, marching in the streets isn't going to make a damned bit of difference, either. The only things less effective than marching in the streets are retweeting a meme on Twitter, or sharing a post on Facebook.

(Or, for you pre-millennials, muting the TV set.)

There is a lot that could be done to make the American electoral system more transparent and representative, but none of it can possibly happen if the same people currently in charge of the three branches of government get to stay there.  And they're only leaving office if enough of us tell them at the voting booth that it's time to go.

The above tweet has been flitting around the internet during this past week. One hopes that the volunteer at your polling station doesn't need you to get all high and mighty and speaking in caps. "I'd like a provisional ballot, please" should suffice. But I'll pass it along anyway in case you get stuck with someone who takes their poll working instructions from Fox & Friends.

By the way, did you happen to pick up on the detail that the Romanian election was held over two days, a Saturday and a Sunday, when people generally have more time to get out to the polls than on a Tuesday?

There's something to be admired in the Romanian electoral system.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Puts An Eye Out

Last week, some vandalous miscreant glued a pair of googly eyes onto the statue of Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene in Savannah, Georgia. A disgruntled royalist redcoat scallawag, I'll warrant!

Officials were able to excise the offending eyeballs without any damage to the statue, and are hot on the trail of the jocular oculist, hoping to head off a wave of googly eye vandalism from sweeping the country.

We are under threat of a dastardly assault on public art that, left unchecked, could even reach into the White House!

Monday, October 15, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

Even though Killer is breaking the fourth wall, he's never alone, which means that the news can't all be bad.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Saturday, October 13, 2018

One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This week's episode of Sneezeback Saturday catches (up on) the Spanish Influenza epidemic in the fall of 1918, which was at its worst in October.
"La Nouvelle Indisposition" by TEL in L'Homme Libre, Paris, August 24, 1918
But first, let's reach back to August, when the French cartoonist penning under the nom de plume "TEL" referenced the Spanish Flu in a cartoon about Spain's official letters of protest to Germany over the sinking of Spanish ships. Neutral in the war, Spain nevertheless lost a fifth of its merchant marine and at least 100 Spanish sailors to German torpedoes. In retaliation, the Spanish government threatened to confiscate an equal number of German ships if Germany did not guarantee safe passage for continued Spanish shipping.
"Speaking of Epidemics" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1918
There is a theory that Germany's defeat in the war was due in part to the Central Powers' armies being ravaged by the Spanish flu pandemic. That, and propaganda that the disease originated in Austria may or may not have helped inspire John McCutcheon's cartoon above. The Spanish flu was spreading through the Entente lines as well, however.
"Open a Window..." by Gaar Williams in Indianapolis News, Sept./Oct. 1918

As noted here before, the Spanish flu had nothing to do with Spain. The first documented case of the disease befell Private Albert Gitchell at Camp Funston, Fort Riley, Kansas in March of 1918; within a week, 100 more soldiers at Fort Riley had the disease, and it was spreading as the soldiers shipped out through New York to Europe.
"How to Get a Seat" by Maurice Ketten in New York World, October, 1918
Somehow, the contagion got the name Spanish flu even though there were no cases of the disease in Spain until November. In other European countries, wartime censorship kept the press from reporting the extent of the pandemic; the association of the disease with Spain may have had something to do with the lack of such wartime censorship there.
Detail from "The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1918
We weren't about to let it be called "Kansan flu," you know.
"LaBarouche Toreador..." by J. McIsaac in Le Charivari, Montreal, Canada, October 19, 1918
Not that we actually fooled the rest of the world, or at least our neighbors to the north.
"Grand-dad Inadvertently Sneezed..." by William Donahey in Cleveland Plain Dealer, October, 1918
In spite of the tens of thousands of their fellow citizens stricken with the deadly flu, American cartoonists seem to have had a flippant attitude toward the disease. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect that there was a deliberate campaign to downplay public fears.
"That Guiltiest Feeling" by Clare Briggs in Chicago Tribune, October, 1918
Well, I don't know any better, so I'm going right ahead with my plans to suspect a conspiracy borne of wartime censorship.

"It Happens in the Best of Families!" by Sid Chapin in St. Louis Republic, October, 1918

P.S.: Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Q Toon: Marry Making

Sitting at my drawing board Sunday night, I had considered putting Nikki Haley behind Trump in this cartoon. I'm so glad that I didn't.

While most of the country was embroiled in the fight over whether alleged devil's triangulator Brett Kavanaugh deserved a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, the State Department announced that it is going to require foreign diplomats and U.N. employees who are living in the U.S. with their same-sex life partners to get married or ship their honey home.
Diplomats and United Nations officials in same-sex couples who wish to keep U.S. visas, or are in the process of acquiring them, must show proof of marriage by December 31. If they fail to do so, partners of diplomats and officials will “be expected to leave the United States within 30 days unless they submit the required proof of marriage or have obtained separate authorization to remain in the country through a change of non-immigrant status.”
Ostensibly, this is supposed to have something to do with Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage three years ago, although it's very difficult to see how marriage equality in this country should force people to get married who don't have to obey our parking regulations.

This is not something that any LGBTQ group of any kind has been pushing for, or had even dreamed up, so it's difficult to imagine what the Corrupt Trump Administration is trying to accomplish. As our former Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers pointed out, only 12% of U.N. member states allow same-sex couples to get married. Many countries in Africa, the former Soviet bloc, and Asia actively criminalize their LGBTQ citizens. This new rule is not going to pressure antigay regimes to turn around and embrace marriage equality; it's more likely to result in the persecution of those same-sex partners, and probably the recall and disappearance of the diplomats they were living with.

Which leads me to suspect that maybe there is some particular diplomat Trump wants to get rid of, and this is some sneaky way of going about it.

Whatever the reason, you can be sure it's over something petty.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

An Apple for Evers

Here in Wisconsin, State Superintendent of Public Schools Tony Evers is the Democratic gubernatorial candidate running against incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Having made it difficult for urban public school districts to fund themselves and simultaneously diverting public funds to private schools, Walker now touts himself as a leader in education. Whatever gains have been made in Wisconsin education he has claimed for himself, while blaming Evers for everything that has gone wrong.

Third-party ads by shadowy outside interests — Republican groups have outspent Democratic groups two to one — accuse Evers of not using his office to illegally revoke the teaching licenses of some teachers who were caught using school computers to view pornography. (In the most prominent case, the teacher's sister had sent him risqué emails, which he passed along to other staff.) In fact, state law at the time only addressed sanctions against teachers whose conduct directly affected students; Evers supported resulting legislation to expand the law to include sexual misconduct in which no actual student was involved.

Polls have suggested that the race is a toss-up, but I tend to believe that Walker still has the edge here. Including the effort to recall him in his first term, he has won statewide election three times. Suburban and rural resentment of Milwaukee and Madison, the disappearance of good-paying union jobs, and a steady sprawl of exurbanites from Chicago and the Twin Cities are turning Wisconsin more red than purple.

The Democrats' argument against Walker in past elections, that Wisconsin's economy has lagged behind neighboring states, doesn't work for them this year. (Apparently, it didn't work for them in past years, either, but let's move on.) Instead, Democrats now complain that current employment gains have come at the cost of profligate give-aways to firms such as Uline, Amazon and Foxconn.

Another Democratic campaign theme is that our roads are falling apart because Walker refuses to pay for their upkeep. And the savings get passed on to you in the form of auto repair bills!

Doing anything about shoring up public education, trimming corporate welfare, or fixing potholes costs money, and if Republicans are about anything, it's whipping up preemptive sticker shock. Fighting back against being painted as a Taxandspendliberal is going to require more charisma and dynamism than I've seen out of Mr. Evers so far.

Even if Evers should win in November, he'll face a legislature gerrymandered to tilt so Republican, there would have to be over a dozen Republican legislators each caught in bed with a dead girl, a live boy and a Colin Kaepernick jersey for Evers to get any of his agenda passed.

Besides, see how your auto repair bills boost the private sector economy?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Discovering America Before It Was Cool

In Fourteen Hundred Ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
Earlier still, in Nine Ninety-nine
Leif Erikson found the Land of Vine.
And before we even numbered dates,
ᎠᏯᏩᏍᏗ crossed the Bering Straits.

Monday, October 8, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

In other news while we were all preoccupied with the Kavanaugh sexual assault debacle, the administration moved on some explicitly LGBTQ issues. Tune in again later this week; I promise you won't need to check your gay card or Alex Trebek for the answers.

Saturday, October 6, 2018


The theme of this week's Sprechenzieback Saturday is Twilight of the Empires, because we have reached the centennial of the final month of World War I, and with it the final month of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires.
"The Twilight of the Gotts" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune,  October 5, 1918

As American, British and French forces pushed Germany's western front farther and farther back, Entente cartoonists produced a flurry of editorial cartoons depicting Kaiser Wilhelm feeling betrayed by the German "Gott." It almost seems as if the ink slingers and charcoal smudgers were accepting the ancient Hebrew mindset that accepted the existence of other nations' distinct gods, believing however that their own was superior to the others.
"Le Délaissé" by Charles LaBorde in Le Rire, Paris, August 24, 1918
It's a peculiarity of common parlance, in the U.S. at least, that original German is the default for so many easily translatable words when referring to Germany, but Germany alone. Then and now, we always refer to Emperor William as Kaiser Wilhelm, but Austria-Hungary's Emperor Francis Joseph is never Kaiser Franz Josef.

"Some Folks Reckon They've Got a Monopoly of This Iron Fist Stuff" by David Low in Sydney Bulletin, September, 1918

Yet while any English speaker was familiar with some phrases such as "Gott strafe [fill in the blank]," others such as "Eisenfaust" did not leave the Vaterland without requiring translation. Australian cartoonist David Low, not yet having adopted the style of his more famous World War II cartoons, here turns around a famous comment by Kaiser Wilhelm to his brother, Prince Heinrich, in 1897: "If anyone ... should ever venture to wish to hurt or harm us in the due exercise of our rights, smash him with an iron fist."
"I May Have to Leave You" by Rollin Kirby in New York World, October, 1918
Anyway, with Central Powers' frontiers were collapsing on all sides, I'll let these cartoons speak for themselves with only minimal explanation from little old me. As Entente forces overtook the Hindenburg line on Germany's western front, German forces abandoned their occupation of Belgium, which had been Great Britain's reason for entering the war.
"La Couronne de Finlande" by TEL in L'Homme Libre, Paris, September 24, 1918
The Kaiser's dreams of a German-dominated Mitteleuropa were crumbling from the Baltic to the Balkans. I dealt more extensively with the Finnish situation in July, in case you missed it.

Archibald Chapin in St. Louis Republic, September, 1918
Czechs and Slovaks eagerly accepted promises that the Entente powers would recognize their independence from Austria-Hungary.

"The Reports of His Death Were Greatly Exaggerated" by William Hanny in St. Joseph (MO) News-Press, September, 1918
Serbia, where the first shots of the war had been fired, had been occupied by the Central Powers since 1915. Units of the Serbian army returning from exile liberated the country in September of 1918.  Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes would declare the creation of an independent state west of Serbia on October 29, but it was never recognized by the rest of the world, and would eventually be absorbed into the kingdom of Serbia.
"Didn't Get Away With It" by R.O. Evans in Baltimore American, Sept./Oct, 1918

French and Serb forces broke through the Bulgarian lines at Dobro Polje in mid-September. Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Entente on September 30, and Tsar Ferdinand I abdicated three days later.
"The Broken Span" by Maurice Ketten in Chicago Journal, Sept./Oct., 1918

Meanwhile in Ottoman territory, British forces had conquered Palestine and entered Damascus at the end of September. Cartoonists in Christendom were particularly enthused by the Ottoman-German army's retreat from Nazareth...
"Thanksgiving Is Coming" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1918
... but Great Britain's victory in Palestine would not be one that the English would long remain thankful for.

As far as Americans were concerned, Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria were but junior partners in the Central Powers alliance. Entente victories over them now seemed guaranteed.
"A Race to Headquarters to Turn State's Evidence" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, Sept./Oct., 1918

"The Alliance in 1918" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September, 1918
"La Paix" by Lucien Métivet in Le Rire, Paris, October 12, 1918
The American press reported in the first week of October that Germany was prepared to surrender unconditionally. Another campaign was just underway in the U.S. to promote Liberty Loans; and with the end of hostilities visible on the horizon, that had to be an extremely difficult sell.
"If We Will Lend the Way They Fight" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 6, 1918
Nevertheless, it had become possible to anticipate the shape of a post-war world. The victors in Europe, having endured four long years of war, were not in a forgiving mood.
"The Bill" by Percy H. "Poy" Fearon, in Evening News, London, September, 1918
The devastation in lives and property over those four years hit a generation of Europeans especially hard. Disillusionment with traditional pre-war values would produce nihilistic novels and poetry, atonal music, skepticism of authority, and an ethos of "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." The Great War directly affected a greater portion of the populace than ever before, through conscription, air raids, and sinking of passenger ships.
In the whole of the previous century, from the Napoleonic Wars to the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, Europe had lost fewer than 4.5 million men. Now, at least 8 million had died in four years, while more than twice as many had been wounded, some of them crippled for life.
From his artist's desk in Munich, Erich Schiller predicted that the true winners after the war would not be the Entente Powers in general, but two of them in particular.
"Das Europäische Konzert nach dem Kriege" by Erich Schiller in Simplicissimus, Munich, October 15, 1918