Thursday, December 12, 2019

Q Toon: Mark the Halls

A right-wing religious website you may never have heard of announced last week that it had collected 30,000 on-line signatures petitioning the Hallmark Channel not to show any Christmas movies featuring LGBTQ characters.
Controversy and outrage erupted in conservative circles after a November 15 interview with Hallmark Channel CEO Bill Abbot for The Hollywood Reporter's TV's Top 5 podcast. Abbot stated that he would be "open" to the idea of a gay-themed Christmas movie, although the channel has yet to produce one and has no immediate plans to do so. The channel is said to be releasing over three dozen Christmas-themed films this year, none with gay major characters.
Out Magazine decided to have a little fun with the petition's organizer, LifeSiteNews, by testing how easy it would be to add scurrilous signatures to it.
"To wit, individuals can sign the LifeSiteNews petition as many times as they want, so long as they list a new name and email address. For instance, Out was able to fill out the petition half a dozen times under names like “Rick Santorum,” “Audrey IV,” “Deacon Rumpy Pumpy,” “Rev. Mr. Kool-Aid Man,” and “The Ghost of Titsmas Past.” A few emails were rejected ( was sadly a no-go) but most others were accepted. The emails and were among those met with a cheery response."
The Hallmark Channel is not known for groundbreaking or provocative entertainment. It's a G-rated channel you can safely have on while hosting five generations of your family at your house. Its movies tend to follow a predictable plot outline: the central character is a newly single or career-driven woman, or a pre-teen child who doesn't get along with his/her step-parent. The central character encounters someone of the opposite sex whom she/he initially can't stand. The two are seemingly incapable of avoiding each other, and they fall in love. There's one last obstacle to overcome. They overcome it.

Festoon that plot with tinsel and you have a Christmas movie.

Hallmark can get in trouble when it colors outside the plot lines, and not just from its regular viewers. One of this season's movies is about a woman who hires an actor to pretend to be her boyfriend at her family Christmas get-together; he's Jewish and somehow doesn't know anything about Christmas. Jewish advocacy groups have called the movie anti-Semitic.

We can look forward to the sequel in which she brings ham to his family's Passover seder and rearranges the table when she notices that there is one chair too many.

Monday, December 9, 2019

This Week's Sneak Peek

I've made a list and checked it twice.

Toon in later this week to find out whether it's naughty or nice.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Will I Make It Through the Eighties?

Spandexback Saturday rummages through the attic today and comes down with a handful of my cartoons from the closing weeks of 1989.
"Bless Me, Father" in UW-Milwaukee Post, November 21, 1989
On November 16, 1989, priests on the campus of Central American University in San Salvador opened the doors to their residence to a cadre of El Salvador soldiers. The soldiers assassinated all six priests, as well as their cook and her daughter who had the tragic misfortune to be in the residence at the time.

As they left, the soldiers shot up the outside of the building and scrawled graffiti intended to make it appear as if the murders had been carried out by Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMNL) rebels. But there was a witness.
"Think, Mrs. Cerna" in UWM Post, November 28, 1989
I caught some grief for the UWM Post cartoon at the top of this post. Struggling to understand what editorial cartooning is supposed to be about, reader Gerald Harp wrote in a letter to the editor,
"I'm not quite sure why I objected to the cartoon, but I'm not sure why you printed it, either, so I feel justified in writing to you.
"Why did you print it? My feeling is that the cartoon was not funny, but then that may not be the point. Next, the cartoon had enormous shock potential. I was shocked, but that by itself is not a redeeming value.
"My best guess is that you were attempting to educate your readers of the atrocities in El Salvador. That is a worthy goal, but my next question is, 'are all means equally valuable in presenting a message?'
"After thinking it over, I decided you were not trying to make some kind of statement about the Catholic Church, and the soldier making an obvious mockery of something important to me, namely confession, shouldn't insult me because I'm not supposed to identify with the soldier. Still the cartoon leaves me uneasy and vaguely offended.
"I don't disagree with your sentiments, but I'd ask you to be a bit more careful in the future to separate the statement you are making from any irrelevant theme, especially if people will feel strongly about the secondary theme."
Without any trigger warning, the Post reprinted my vaguely-offending cartoon right next to Mr. Harp's letter. (Did GenX even have trigger warnings in the eighties?)
"Well Worth a Look-See" in UWM Post, December 5, 1989
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush held their first summit meeting aboard the TS Maxim Gorky off the coast of Malta on December 2. The summit was beset by gale force winds and choppy seas, inspiring my Post cartoon; navy veteran Bush was not yet known for throwing up in world leaders' laps.
"Dan, You Did a Good Job..." in UW-Parkside Ranger, December 14, 1989
In fact, both Bush and Gorbachev went into the meeting with ambitious sets of proposals and found significant areas of agreement. They declared the Cold War over, but Bush's Vice President was not quite ready to bury the hatchet. Dan Quayle joined a chorus of conservative Republicans warning against "getting caught up in the magnetic personality of Chairman Gorbachev."

A comedian named Julie Brown had recorded a song called "Will I Make It Through the '80's" in 1984. It hadn't garnered the MTV-play that her novelty hit "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" did (humor that really has not aged well), and was largely forgotten five years later or it might have been the basis of this last cartoon.

This was another cartoon about a serious topic. Homicides in the city of Milwaukee that year reached triple digits for the first time ever: 113 homicides in all.
"I Survived 1989" in UWM Post, December 7, 1989
That number would climb even higher, to 155, in 1990.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Q Toon: Yes, We Have No Palmettos

If the polls are to be believed, Pete Buttigieg has soared into the lead among Democratic candidates for president in first in the nation contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But even if December polling translates into actual voting in February, the next stop on the campaign trail is in South Carolina, where Mayor Pete is polling just slightly ahead of A Poke In The Eye With A Sharp Stick.

Whereas Iowa and New Hampshire electorates are among the whitest in the nation, South Carolina Democrats rank among the blackest. Not that race has helped black candidates there; even if you added Cory Booker's numbers and those of Kamala Harris before she suspended her candidacy this week, you'd still fall well short of former Vice President Joe Biden's support among South Carolina Democrats. Apparently, being anti-malarkey is a big selling point down there.

I don't hold a lot of stock in polls this far before any actual voting, however, especially where Democrats are concerned. Democratic candidates are like a bunch of cats in a room, and the polls are like a laser pointer shining on one of them. The rest all attack that spot of light until it lands on one of the other kitties.

Remember: at this point in 2003, Howard Dean led the polls; Hillary Clinton had a substantial lead over Barack Obama in December of 2007.

But once the cattle calls debates are over and the caucuses and primaries are underway, my cartoons will have to focus on issues, not who's up and who's down. My deadline for cartoons that will appear after the polls close is well before the polls open. So if I'm gonna comment on the horse race, I have to do it now.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Q Toon: No Trump Double Bogey

I suppose the Donald is making some attempt to reach out beyond the Religious Right on this issue. After all, if secularly-inclined voters are going soft on antigay attitudes, you have to find some argument other than Leviticus and the letters of St. Paul to pull them back in line.

P.S.: I've been uploading cartoons to replace the dead AAEC links in some eight or nine years' worth of posts, and I have no idea why this 2011 post has reappeared as a 2019 post. This cartoon was about a comment Trump made during his unsuccessful run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, not something he has said lately. 

I do know that this isn't the first time this particular cartoon posted strangely.

Monday, December 2, 2019

This Week's Sneak Peek

I saw in the news today that Joe Sestak and Steve Bullock have dropped out of the presidential race, a move that has many asking "Joe Sestak and Steve Bullock were running for president? Really?"

And others asking, "They're a football player and a stand-up comedian, right?"

By the way, if anyone is curious about the serendipitously scheduled military dog stamps I mentioned last week, but has as much use for postage stamps as for 8-track tapes, here's what I was talking about.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Thanksgiving Leftovers

This week's installment of Stuffingback Saturday takes another rummage through the ancient vaults in search of the answer to the question: "What Thanksgiving gags did editorial cartoonists draw before we all drew about political fights dividing the family at the dinner table?"
"Cousin Ed's Folks from Town" by Burt Thomas in Detroit News, November 1916
I usually try to keep these cartoons as close to their centennial as possible, but my source for these first three, Cartoons Magazine, tended to run holiday-themed cartoons (for any holiday) from earlier years. The December, 1919 edition, for example, included the above Burt Thomas cartoon, which is clearly dated 1916. That's quite understandable, with Thanksgiving coming after the December edition's deadline; who would still be interested in Thanksgiving cartoons when the January edition came out?

In 1919, their dilemma was that a lot of cartoons drawn for Thanksgiving 1918 expressed thanks that the boys would be coming home soon from the War that had ended two weeks earlier. Thus, it's hard for me to tell what year the other cartoons in that issue were from.
"The Good Old Days" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, Nov. 1919?
Here's a cartoon by Ted Brown from the December, 1920 edition; there's a chance that Cartoons Magazine might have saved it from 1919 when complaints about the cost of living were in vogue. (So this is the thanks the First Americans get for inviting the pilgrim colonists to the First Thanksgiving!)
"Breaking into the Big League" by Archibald Chapin in St. Louis Republic, Nov. 1918 or earlier
I don't know what things were like in the Chapin household, but I hope the young lady in this cartoon soon figured out that there are many reasons why it's a bad idea to keep a birdcage over the stove.
"Ain't It a Grand and Glorious Feelin'" by Clare Briggs in New York Tribune, Nov. 27, 1919
In the Briggs household, the kids had to wait until the adults were done eating before they were permitted to come to the table. And if this were not at least a fairly common practice, don't you think Briggs's readers would have shamed him en masse after this cartoon was nationally syndicated?

No, I suppose that if your apartment wasn't large enough to accommodate a separate children's table, you had to make do by teaching the children The Virtue Of Patience. We know now that the grown-ups in 1919 who feasted while their children's stomachs growled in the next room would, just as those kids became adults, bequeath them the Great Depression.

But would those kids snark "OK, Homer" at them? I think not.
"What Are You Thankful For" by William Hanny in St. Joseph News-Press, Nov. 27, 1919
Editorial cartoonists looking to tie the holiday in with serious issues could, like William Hanny, bemoan the strikes by workers demanding a greater share of corporate profits now that the War was over. Few cartoonists displayed sympathy for striking coal miners, steel workers and trainmen, since most homes were heated by coal, and the private automobile was only just beginning to rival train travel.

What the deal is with "The Common Pee-ple," I have no idea. Perhaps Hanny's original idea involved likening the strikes to a urinary tract infection.
"The Long and Short of It" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 25, 1919
As I mentioned before, the high cost of living was a frequent theme of 1919 editorial cartoons. Nelson Harding offers plenty of drumstick for the holiday — emphasis on the stick.
"The Vacant Chairs" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, Nov. 27, 1919 
John McCutcheon's Uncle Sam celebrated the holiday with Extravagance, Unrest and the High Cost of Living, but at least half of the invited guests were AWOL. Why Uncle Sam invited any of them in the first place is anyone's guess.

Well, I suppose it was only charitable of him to invite Hunger and Hard Times to dinner.

But since I can't leave you with the impression that Thanksgiving in 1919 was all grousing and peevishness, let us close with a cartoonist who, like Clare Briggs above, perceived his era through quaintly rose-colored spectacles:
"The Thrill that Comes Once in a Lifetime" by Harold T. Webster in New York Tribune, November 27, 1919
After all, the era would have wanted to be remembered that way.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Q Toon: Chick-Fil-Addict

The Religious Reich have their panties in a wad because Chick-Fil-A Inc. has decided that alienating potential LGBTQ customers isn't as promising a business model as they thought it was.
The chain announced Monday that it will discontinue its donations to several Christian organizations that oppose same-sex marriage, including the Salvation Army, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“We made multi-year commitments to both organizations, and we fulfilled those obligations in 2018,” a representative for Chick-fil-A said in a statement, adding that the chain will now focus its charitable donations on “education, homelessness, and hunger.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins harrumphed:
It was never about the chicken. For millions of Americans, there was a much deeper significance behind every decision to pull in the parking lot and walk through those doors. It wasn’t about the menu. It wasn’t even about the service.
It was that every time someone ate there, they were making a cultural statement. ...
Now, some of you might argue that walking away from the Salvation Army or Fellowship of Christian Athletes isn’t an endorsement of an LGBT agenda. But it is exactly that. And here’s why. Chick-fil-A didn’t just switch their giving practices, they broadcasted it.
One of the saddest parts of this is that Chick-fil-A didn’t just compromise their witness. They dragged thousands of godly men and women into the pit with them — owners, employees, and franchisees who never signed up for this.
When LGBTQ activists were urging a boycott of Chick-Fil-A, the Religious Reich urged their flock to "EAT MOR CHIKIN" with every meal. Now it's the RRs and their government minions who want to stage a boycott. I haven't caught wind of any LGBTQ advocates calling for our community to start gorging ourselves on chicken sandwiches, however.

But if the turkey on Ellen DeGeneres's Thanksgiving table looks rather small, you can guess why.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Conan Isn't Himself Lately

In case you missed it, Trump had Conan (the dog who chased al-Baghdadi into a cave, not the late-night TV host) over to the White House to praise the dog's bravery under fire. This is what Trump had to say about the heroic Belgian Malinois (stamps available at your local post office, and I'm not kidding):
"I was told about the breed and I was told about Conan himself. Conan is a tough cookie. And nobody is going to mess with Conan." 
But wait. The Army then revealed that Conan isn't a himself. She's a herself.

“Just in: #Conan, the hero dog from the al-Baghdadi raid, is in fact a GIRL, a U.S. defense official tells ABC News,” reporter Elizabeth McLaughlin tweeted.
Minutes later, the Pentagon weighed in, writing in a statement to The Washington Post that “per U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Conan is a male dog.” ...
Perhaps experiencing whiplash over the conflicting reports that Conan was male female male, some news outlets removed all references to the dog’s sex or simply referred to Conan as “it.”
Word in the kennel is that Conan (the dog, not the guy who took over "The Apprentice") prefers "they, them, their."

Monday, November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving Week's Sneak Peek

Way back during the 2016 campaign, Buzzfeed commissioned Mark Davis to create the "Tiny Hand" font based on a photograph of Donald Berzelius Trump's handwritten notes for his second debate with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I downloaded the free font at the time, thinking that even though Trump was unlikely to be elected president (hah!), it might still be handy for use in cartoons. I spend an awful lot of time on lettering, especially in multi-panel cartoons, and someday having a shortcut will be worth it. I used it for the syndication notice for a while, and for the caption of maybe one or two cartoons.

There has been renewed interest in the font after photographers snapped photos of Trump's "I Want Nothing" notes last week. The most interesting observation that I've read is that Trump probably needs glasses but is too vain to wear them. He's not going to any optometrist that can't be bribed to state unequivocally that he has the healthiest eyeballs ever elected to the presidency.

There is no Tiny Hands font in this week's cartoon, but this week's sneak peek offers an example of what it might look like if there were. Or you can jump back to my parody of Trump's notes, which caught more attention than last week's syndicated cartoon has.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Hung Out to Dry

Soberback Saturday left off last week with the observation that the Senate's failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles meant that the U.S. remained at war, and wartime prohibition of the production and sale of alcoholic beverages would, ipso facto, remain in effect.
"The Crow and the Pitcher" by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, Oct. 30, 1919
Of course, had the Senate ratified of the treaty, it would not have repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, which expressly prohibited the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, or the importation thereof into" the U.S.

The Volstead Act, named for House Judiciary Chair Andrew Volstead (R-MN), codified the Eighteenth Amendment into law, by defining "intoxicating liquors," establishing the penalties for breaking the law, and extending enforcement power to the states.

Efforts to undo the Act were bipartisan: President Wilson vetoed the Act on grounds that its sections regarding the enforcement of wartime measures were moot. Republican Elihu Root argued before the Supreme Court that the Eighteenth Amendment itself was an unconstitutional seizure of property (specifically in his case, of beer brewed prior to Prohibition) without compensation. And in Ohio, a 1918 amendment to the state constitution required that a statewide referendum approve any ratification of amendments to the federal constitution; Ohio's legislature ratified the Eighteenth Amendment in January, 1919, but the referendum in November, 1919, went down to the wire.
"Giddap" by Sid Chapin in St. Louis Republic, Oct./Nov., 1919
But support for Prohibition was also bipartisan. It took less than three hours for the House to override Wilson's veto of the Act on October 27, and 27 Democratic Senators helped the Senate follow suit the next day.
"The Argufyingest Corpse We Ever Saw" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, ca. Dec., 1919
The Supreme Court would take a bit more time to rule against Mr. Root's client. "To limit the power of Congress so that it may require discontinuance only after a reasonable time from the passage of the act would seriously restrict it in the exercise of the war powers," Justice Brandeis wrote for the majority.
"Darn It, I'm Beginning to Believe It's So" by Charles "Bill" Sykes in Philadelphia Public Ledger, ca. Jan. 6, 1920
The Court would also rule Ohio's referendum requirement unconstitutional, Justice William Day writing that in the U.S. Constitution, ratification of constitutional amendments is explicitly "limited to two methods, by action of the legislatures of three-fourths of the States, or conventions in a like number of States."
"Better Days" by Hal Coffman in Los Angeles Examiner, Nov. 24, 1919
There were still cartoonists such as Hal Coffman preaching the benefits of Prohibition, but some undesired side effects of the Eighteenth Amendment were already making themselves felt. A thriving bootlegging underground had sprung up to satisfy the thirst of anyone who didn't have a stash in his cellar or needed his bathtub for anything other than the making of gin.
"Which of You Own This Dog" by William C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, ca. Nov. 23, 1919
As John D. Rockefeller would put it in 1932,
When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.
"The Anti-Camouflage Specialists at Work" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, Nov. 7, 1919
Nevertheless, flushed with his movement's success in subjugating the saloon industry on this side of the pond, American prohibition activist William Eugene "Pussyfoot" Johnson sought to bring Prohibition to Great Britain. Johnson had earned his nickname back before the turn of the century by going undercover into Oklahoma bars to gather information against their owners.
"The Statue of Liberty" by Percy H. "Poy" Fearon in London Evening News, Nov., 1919
His British visit did not go well.

At a speaking engagement at London's Essex Hall on November 13, 1919, he was seized by a mob of medical students who paraded him through the streets of London on a stretcher. Someone in the crowd hit him with a projectile, putting out his right eye. He was eventually rescued by police, but doctors were unable to save his eye.
"You Can Lead a Horse to Water..." by ___ in Morning Advertiser, London, Nov., 1919
I haven't been able to track down this cartoonist, whose caricature of Pussyfoot Johnson is closer to the real person than that of "Poy" Fearon, who made no attempt to capture his likeness. I'm guessing that it might have been published before the November 13 incident; but then, Johnson is drawn from the left side.

The Morning Advertiser, incidentally, is a biweekly trade publication founded in 1794 to promote the interests of British pub owners and managers, and is still publishing.

Friday, November 22, 2019

EnviroStewardship: Leaving the Leaves

Dad's Environmental Stewardship column for the month somehow went missing from my inbox, so I had to go pick up a hard copy yesterday. We've had a thaw since he wrote this last weekend, so I can just add that he has raked up the leaves that were plowed onto his front yard. But the grass in back is still covered up.

Back in November of last year, I suggested that procrastination in the clean-up of the yard and garden beds might be a very good thing for birds, bees, and beneficial insects. I have no way of knowing whether anybody chose to follow that suggestion, but this year, Mother Nature seems to have decided for us.

At the time I am writing this essay, it is well below freezing. The yard and garden beds are covered with several inches of snow and leaves with dead portions of plants still uncut still sticking up through the snow. Even those leaves raked into the gutter for city pick-up and composting have been plowed back onto the lawn in a couple of feet of ice and snow.

The sudden cold snap that started in October may have been hard on some birds and other creatures, but many already are benefiting from the mulch of leaves and snow. The bees and other beneficial insects have burrowed into the ground under it all and are set to hibernate. Birds are enjoying the seeds left on the dried up plants.

We might have a very late Indian Summer in which one can once again decide to rake the lawn, chop up the leaves into a better mulching, clean up the gardens... or not. Whatever one decides, one should take into consideration the other creatures with which we share this earth.

Man — and Woman — were given dominion or governance over this earth, so we should be sure that what we do for ourselves does not unnecessarily put too high a cost on the other creatures. I prefer to say we were given stewardship of the earth. All the earth is the Lord's, as the psalmist says, but He apparently needs or wants stewards to help Him run it.

To quote the ELCA Social Statement on Caring for Creation once again, "The principle of participation means they [all living things] are entitled to be heard and have their interests considered when decisions are made." Even small decisions about our yards and gardens.
—John Berge

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Q Toon: Bent Out of Shape

I could have left "when he walks" out of this cartoon, and I rather wish I had.
Observers this week have puzzled over the president's peculiar posture, standing with his upper body center of gravity way in front of that of the lower half.

It may have something to do with the lift shoes he wears to artificially augment his height. It also has the side effect of causing him to lean forward in a disturbing manner toward people he meets.
Such forward-leaning posture has the secondary body language effect of encroaching into others’ personal space (intimate space) during greetings and other interactions. In addition to him being physically closer, we also feel emotionally uncomfortable whenever we think something/someone may fall over onto us.
I suspect that falling over onto people would ruin the Dominant Male vibe Mr. Trump is going for. One of these days, he's liable to tumble onto the Prime Minister of Nambia after one too many UK Sudafeds.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Weekly Sneakily Peeking

Dad, whose monthly Environmental Stewardship column should be showing up in my inbox any day, asked yesterday about my habit in this blog of giving Donald Trump the middle name "Berzelius." He was puzzled that I would make reference to some Eighteenth Century Swedish chemist.

Well, chemistry is Dad's field. I'd never heard of the guy.

But since it's been a good long while since I've explained where I got the name, I might as well do it again.

Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip is a character in Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, a fascist who gets elected President of the United States on a populist platform in 1936. He's part Hitler, part Huey Long, and is eventually overthrown by even more horrible members of his administration who end up declaring an unjustifiable war on Mexico.

A lot of people have not read It Can't Happen Here, so I sometimes give Trump the middle name "Joffrey" instead, after the spoiled rotten boy king in George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series. Joffrey is a vain, egotistical, cruel, cowardly bully; his name shares the same initial as Trump's middle name; and he's a more contemporary cultural reference than Sinclair Lewis's villain. But, as hard as this may be to believe, there are people who won't get Game of Thrones references, either.

I'm married to one.
Meanwhile, I'm still in the process of replacing all this blog's embedded links to the old site, just because dead links are annoying. I came across one post that had now dead links to several North Carolina cartoonists' caricatures of then-Governor Pat McGrory on the AAEC site; it could be a real challenge re-linking them all.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Treaty Defeaty

Centuryback Saturday returns by popular demand! Okay, just one person said anything, but who am I to disappoint a reader, even a wee bit?
"Out of the Uniform..." by J. N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, November 25, 1919
As it happens, we're just about at the centennial of the the U.S. Senate adjourning a special session on November 19, 1919, without ratifying the Versailles Peace Treaty to end World War I.
"Shamed" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 21, 1919
Senate Foreign Relations Chair Henry Cabot Lodge (R-MA) offered a counter-proposal to join the League of Nations "with reservations." Chief among his reservations was that under Article X of the League Covenant, the U.S. surrendered to the League the power whether or not to declare war.
The Members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League. In case of any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.
"The Convalescents" by Bill Sykes in Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 19, 1919
Bill Sykes may have been the only cartoonist to hold out some hope that ratification of the treaty might still be achieved. He is one of very few cartoonists to address President Wilson's health head-on. (A month and a half after his stroke, it was obvious to any observer that Wilson was seriously ill in spite of the administration's lack of complete public transparency. On November 24, a prank phone caller even convinced Vice President Thomas Marshall at a public speaking appearance in Atlanta that Wilson had died.)
"Compromises" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, November 20, 1919
Yet although Lodge was able to patch together a bipartisan coalition in favor of his counter-proposal, Wilson sent Senate Democrats a letter charging that Lodge's resolution "does not provide for ratification but rather for nullification of the treaty. I sincerely hope that the friends and supporters of the treaty will vote against the Lodge resolution." Enough Democrats backing Wilson's opposition, plus isolationist Republicans and Democrats opposed to membership in the League at all, denied Lodge's plan the required two-thirds majority of Senators.

John McCutcheon's cartoon above ignores the fact that Republicans refused even to allow debate on any treaty but Lodge's substitute for the one worked out at Versailles. Lodge, for his part, was more than happy to see Wilson suffer a political defeat, and to have the treaty remain an issue into the 1920 presidential campaign.
"It's Hard to Keep a Mud Turtle..." by Homer Stinson in Dayton Daily News, November, 1919
The Senate was scheduled to return in regular session on December 1, but would again fail to take any action to ratify the treaty, with or without reservations, by the time it adjourned in March. Ironically, as far as Mr. Lodge's concern that the League might commit U.S. to declare war against its will, the Senate's failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles meant that the U.S. remained at war against the Central Powers.
"Aw-w, Look What You Went an' Done" by Bill Sykes in Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 21, 1919
Even if the guns weren't firing, the continuing state of war still had some pesky practical consequences ...
"The Slip 'Twixt the Cup and the Lip" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, November 22, 1919
But that will have to remain a topic for another Saturday.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

QToon: Balls and Strikes

"Judges are like umpires.... I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability, and I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat." —John Roberts, at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, September 12, 2005

Brian Brown, the president of the antigay National Organization for Marriage and World Congress of Families, recently tweeted a photo of himself and and leaders of the Catholic Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith posing with Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito.

Since the Supremes have taken up three LGBTQ+ rights cases this year, a liberal advocacy group, Take Back the Court, is demanding that Kavanaugh and Alito recuse themselves from them.
The Supreme Court has become deeply politicized in recent years, thanks to a series of rulings like Shelby County v. Holder, Citizens United, and Rucho v. Common Cause that have undermined basic tenets of our democracy for partisan advantage. The successful and unprecedented efforts by political branches to manipulate the size of the court for partisan purposes and your behavior, Justice Kavanaugh, during your confirmation hearings, have only deepened concerns about the politicization of the court. Your decision to meet privately with an activist who has filed amicus briefs with the court in three pending cases seems to confirm the worst fears of his critics.
The public letter from Take Back the Court director Aaron Belkin concludes:
The credibility and impartiality of the current Supreme Court is in tatters. Posing for photographs with the president of an advocacy organization that has filed briefs in matters pending before the court makes a mockery of Chief Justice Roberts’ assertion that a judge’s role is to impartially call balls and strikes. If you refuse to recuse yourselves, this incident will further illustrate the urgent need for structural reform of the Supreme Court in order to restore a Court that understands its role is to protect individual rights and our democracy.
Brown's NOM has filed amicus briefs in the cases before the Court, urging the Justices to rule that employers have every right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ employees, applicants, and customers. Given how nominees to the Court these days bend themselves into human pretzels trying to avoid answering any question that might someday be relevant to a matter before the Court, it is at least curious that Kavanaugh and Alito would choose to grant such an ex parte photo op.

Recusals of Supreme Court Justices are not so uncommon as you might think. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from dozens of cases — 28 in her first year on the Court — because as Solicitor General, she had been counsel in some of the litigation of those cases. Sandra Day O’Connor removed herself from cases regarding telecommunications firms because of stocks she owned. Clarence Thomas recused himself from United States v. Virginia because his son was enrolled at The Virginia Military Institute.

Whether and how Thomas's wife's work as a conservative activist impacts his supposed judicial impartiality is a whole other issue; in his three decades on the Court, he hasn't recused himself from any LGBTQ+ cases to my knowledge.

After all, Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and for that matter Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts were put on the Court to be conservative judicial activists. The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has been determined to load state and federal courts with their loyal soldiers since Nixon was president, such as Lawrence VanDyke, whom I drew about last week.

If they recused themselves from every liberal v. conservative case, they wouldn't be doing the job they were trained, groomed, and hired to do.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Citizen Greedo

"The Rodian," coming soon to Disney+!

When Star Wars first came out in 1977, the first scene of Harrison Ford as Han Solo showed him shooting bounty hunter Greedo in cold blood. When Episodes IV through VI were packaged together XX years later, the scene had been edited to have Greedo shoot first and miss.

Now Disney has re-re-released the film on its Disney+ app with a curious new edit: after firing his shot, Greedo yells, "MACLUNKEY!" There are plenty of theories buzzing around the internet like so many drunken Toydarians, from the word being:

  • Rodian for "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die," or 
  • Midichlorian for "Oh, shit, I missed!" or 
  • the name of a Schaumburg high school linebacker.

Personally — spoiler alert — I think it was his sled.