Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Environmental Stewardship: One More Time

Last month, I explained that the new pastor at my father's church decided to change the title of Dad's column in their newsletter from "Environmental Stewardship" to "Care of God's Creation." As this month's column shows, Dad is getting a bit frustrated.

I was hesitant to post this column, expecting his pastor to suggest he rethink it. But he forwarded to me an email from her that indicates that she is letting him go ahead with this, and let the chips fall, or not, where they may.


For ten years these columns or essays (I’m never sure which they are) appeared under the heading Environmental Stewardship. For the last six months they have been titled Care of God’s Creation. I haven’t heard a single comment about this change from any member of the congregation other than staff. Does this mean that nobody noticed or that the two phrases have no different connotation?

I can’t remember from whom I may have borrowed the phrase Environmental Stewardship, but for me the Stewardship part was from a paraphrase of the first creation story in Genesis 1:26 in which “dominion” was interpreted as “stewardship.”

The notes in the NRSV, the Lutheran Study Bible, state, “Having dominion is understood as care-giving, not exploitation.” In many other parts of the Bible, stewards are persons who act for the landowners and rulers, often in their absence, and are responsible for keeping things running right. Lutherans are very knowledgeable about stewardship of our money, our time and our talents. Here, I use it to mean stewardship of the air, water, soil, flora and fauna, habitat and everything that is connoted by the environment. It certainly was meant to include Care of all this.

On the other hand, and it may seem petty or limiting, I raise the question whether God’s Creation includes all the ways we have messed up the environment. I accept that God somehow created the entire universe, surely not quite in the ways described in Genesis and probably not by pushing the button for the Big Bang. I also accept the Genesis evaluation that “God saw that it was good.”

What I find very hard to accept is that God created the pollution and mess that we see around us and has been so vividly portrayed in the recent UN report, the sixth Global Environment Outlook. I believe that Environmental Stewards should take Care of God’s Creation and the mess that industrial homo sapiens have made of that creation.

Apparently nobody else worries or cares about the title; the important thing is whether anybody has adopted any of the changes in their lives suggested over the past ten plus years in these essays. If not, then there is no point in taking up this space in the newsletter. The ideas and suggestions are seldom, if ever, mine, but I hope I have brought them to you in a different, interesting and compelling fashion and from a Christian layman’s perspective.

For months, I have had no feedback from any member of the congregation, so I have no way of knowing whether anyone has made changes in their environmental awareness and thoughts, their plans or actions stemming from these essays. You can generally find me standing around during the Sunday coffee fellowship and I would love to hear from you. Or you can email me here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dip In Road


Trump errand boy Devin Nunes (R-CA, and a co-sponsor of the 2017 "Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act") has decided to sue Twitter over some users making fun at his expense.
What horrible things did these accounts say about Nunes to warrant the judiciary’s intervention? The account named “Devin Nunes’ Mom” receives the most attention in the complaint. Its owner frequently posted caustic remarks about him and his actions toward the Russia investigation. One tweet said that Nunes was unfit to run the House Intelligence Committee, while another joked that he was “voted ‘Most Likely to Commit Treason’ in high school.” Some tweets are indistinguishable from legitimate political criticism. Others are more puerile, implying that Nunes wanted to commit sexual acts with Trump and other top Republicans.
Twitter had already suspended the "Devin Nunes' Mom" account — for impersonating a real person, not for materially damaging Mr. Nunes. How the congresscritter intends to prove real damage is hard to fathom. He's a public figure, which makes him fair game by any interpretation of the concept of free speech, and he volunteered for the damn job.

Mr. Nunes might want to read up on Hustler Magazine Inc. v. Falwell someday. In the meantime, he's pretty much inviting the rest of us to pile on.

Monday, March 18, 2019

This Week's Sneak Peek


I've got a crowd of Democrats in this week's syndicated cartoon, and some of them aren't even running for president!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Beto Know a Candidate

Installment II of my caricatures of 2020 presidential candidates:

To the best of my knowledge Beto O'Rourke is no relation to the Kennedy clan, but the man looks like he ought to be. I learned the other day that his given name is Robert Francis, exactly the same as Bobby Kennedy, and quickly conceived this parody of Roy Lichtenstein's pop-art portrayal of RFK that appeared on the cover of Time magazine's May 24, 1968 issue.

Lichtenstein's work has been derided as derivative, which makes this caricature doubly so. The large ben-day dots are a leitmotif of Lichtenstein's work, and not here some effort to tie Mr. O'Rourke to the anti-vaxxer movement.

I don't use or have ben-day dot technology, so I had to add each and every one of those blasted dots individually. During the course of which, I had to leave for several hours and returned to find that Photoshop apparently prevents my computer's screen saver and energy saver settings from taking effect.

Happily, I don't have the half-finished drawing burned into my screen.

At any rate, until this week, I had simply assumed that the man's given name was Beto, perhaps being a simplified spelling of a traditional Irish name. The Gaelic spelling would probably have turned out to be Beitgeaughe, but pronounced the same. He was born in 1972, at which time American parents had begun ditching common names like John and Mary in favor of ethnically telling names like Siobhan and Aksel. (If they had WASP heritage, the kids ended up with names like Sunflower and River.)

But I suspect that Beto sharing the name Robert Francis with RFK was no coincidence, and that makes it ethnic enough.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Irish Question

"St. Patrick's Day, 1919" by John T. McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune,  March 17, 1919
And where would we be afther goin' this glorious Sláinteback Sathairn but the Emerald Isle?

"Give Her a Front Seat!" by Fred Seibel in Knickerbocker Press, ca. Feb., 1919
When we last checked in on century-old events in Ireland, Sinn Féin had just rejected British promises to grant Ireland home rule on Tuesday in return for drafting Irish lads to fight the Bosch today. Riots and repression followed.
"Begorra, I May Have to Break In" by Bill Sykes in Philadelphia Ledger, ca. March, 1919
Today we jump ahead one year to find the Great War over, Britain and its allies victorious. Sinn Féin won a landslide victory in the Irish general election of December, 1918, save in Ulster, where the Irish Unionist Party won most parliamentary seats. Sinn Féin refused to join the British Parliament, instead declaring Irish independence in January and setting up its own unicameral parliament called the Dáil Éireann.
"May Make Somebody Sick" by Sidney Joseph Greene in New York Evening Telegram, Jan. or Feb., 1919
Along with an official declaration of independence and a constitution, one of the first orders of business for the Dáil was publication of a "Message to the Free Nations" demanding that Ireland be allowed to make its case for independence at the Paris Peace Conference. The British response was to appoint Field Marshal John Denton Pinkstone French, 1st Earl of Ypres, as "master of Ireland" with complete authority over the island's government.
"A Gordian Knot" by Grover Page in Nashville Tennesseean, ca. Feb., 1919
British intransigence was inevitable, given Irish revolutionaries' collusion with Germany, rioting on Armistice Day, and the assassination of two Royal Irish Constabulary policemen in an ambush on the same day that independence was declared. A diplomatic solution was not to be had. Increasing tension and sporadic violence would result in two years of guerrilla warfare with Great Britain (the Cogadh na Saoirse, a.k.a. the Black and Tan War).
"And the Cat Came Back" by Archibald Chapin in St. Louis Republic, ca. Feb. 1919
Given President Woodrow Wilson's proclaimed ideals of "self-determination of all peoples," there was considerable sympathy in the U.S. for Irish independence, as shown in this selection of cartoons. Even the American cartoonists who portray the Irish as unready for self-rule conceded that it should come to pass sooner or later.

"He's Going to Keep On Till He Gets Them" by William Hanny in St. Joseph News-Press, ca. Feb., 1919
It would have been interesting to see how an anti-Irish cartoonist such as Thomas Nast might have depicted the Irish fight for home rule. Nast never had a kind word for Irish-Americans, persistently drawing them as apish, violent louts; he was, moreover, virulently anti-Catholic throughout his career. (Nast's cartooning career essentially ended in 1892, and he died of yellow fever while visiting Ecuador in 1902; if he had survived another sixteen years, he would have had to reconcile his German heritage with growing anti-German sentiment in the U.S. during the Great War.)

The great "Ding" Darling seemed at this point to be rather ambivalent about Irish self-rule. In our last cartoon today, he makes a joke playing off the apparent attraction among urban Irish-Americans to law enforcement as a profession, but doesn't present the gentleman's proposal as either good or bad per se.
"...Before It Is Too Late" by John "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, March 10, 1919
I just don't think the gentleman is quite dressed for the job.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Q Toon: Malaysian Malaise


Malaysian Tourism Minister Datuk Mohamaddin bin Ketapi was in Germany last week for the ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Börse) Berlin tourism fair. Since Malaysian officials have consistently condemned homosexuality, and in January officially barred Israeli delegates to Malaysian sporting and other events, a reporter for Deutsche Welle asked him whether the country was safe for gay and Jewish visitors.
After initially sidestepping the question, the minister was asked again whether gays were welcome and he replied: "I don't think we have anything like that in our country."
...
Ministers of the southeast Asian country have made other derogatory statements about LGTBI people, including one who told gays they should keep their identities secret.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said homosexuality was part of "Western values." He added: "Don't force it on us."
It is not uncommon for leaders of Islamic countries to claim that, yes, they have no homosexuals. Making a victimless act punishable by flogging, long prison sentences and/or death will tend to make gays and lesbians reluctant to come out to their governmental officials. Those government officials are then free to characterize LGBTQness as a strictly Western phenomenon, like having blond hair or enjoying pumpkin spice lattes.

Sexual variation is well documented in non-white-skinned cultures, not to mention in the animal kingdom, so it's hard to believe that there is a race of humans who for some reason are genetically immune to LGBTQ DNA.

Whispering from behind a curtain in a darkened room while wearing a hoodie, fake nose and glasses, one of Mohamaddin's underlings hastened to correct the impression that LGBTQ and Jewish tourists are unwelcome in the southeast Asian country.
An aide to the minister later told news portal Malaysiakini that the statement was Mr Mohamaddin's personal views although it was in line with the Pakatan Harapan government's stance of not recognising LGBT culture.
Nevertheless, the aide, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "Tourists coming to Malaysia like any other country are welcome regardless of their creed, sexuality, religion or colour.”
Authorities just don't want those Western values rubbing off on the locals.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Winter of '84

As a tribute to Alex Trebek, Winton Smithback Saturday takes a break from cartoons of a century ago and looks instead to a few of my own from 35 years ago. Although Trebek's iteration of Jeopardy! would not begin until October of 1984, these cartoons date from the first three months of the year. And none are in the form of a question.

So, as a tribute to Alex Trebek, this is kind of lame. But indulge me anyway.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan had campaigned heavily against the federal deficit under the Carter administration: the figure that year was $74 billion. By 1984, it had ballooned to $185 billion.

This balancing act cartoon was the final installment of a short-lived running gag I had going. Reagan never returned to the budget balancing act, either in Washington or in my cartoons.

Since then, the Bill Clinton administration managed to pass a handful of balanced budgets, but this year's deficit is estimated to amount to $984 billion.

Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch bought the Chicago Sun-Times from Field Enterprises in 1984. Up to then, the morning tabloid had a liberal reputation, being home to editorial cartoonists Jacob Burck (who died in 1982) and Bill Mauldin, and columnists Roger Simon, Roger Ebert, and Mike Royko. Under the new owner, the Sun Times editorial voice shifted to the right.

His politics notwithstanding, Murdoch was better known at this point for the sensationalism of his Sydney Daily Telegraph, News of the World, the Sun of London, the New York Post and the supermarket tabloid Star.

Murdoch's ownership of the Sun-Times would be brief. He sold the paper in 1986 for $145 million in order to buy Chicago's unaffiliated television station WFLD channel 32 (also from Field Enterprises), and use it to launch his Fox TV network.

The rest, like Yuri Andropov, is history.

Not quite four months after the bombing of the U.S. Marines' barracks in Beirut in which 299 U.S. and French soldiers were killed, President Reagan announced on February 7 that he was pulling our troops out of the Multinational Force in Lebanon. It was not to be called a "retreat," however; officially, our troops were merely being "redeployed." France, Great Britain, and Italy would redeploy their troops by the end of February.

There were some eight serious candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, three of whom withdrew immediately after the February 28 New Hampshire primary. (I'm not counting the perennial candidate, wacko fascist Lyndon LaRouche, who died just last month.) Colorado Senator Gary Hart came in second in the Iowa caucuses and first in New Hampshire, establishing himself as the media's Flavor of the Month.

Besides editorial cartoons, I was also drawing comic strips for the student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin at Parkside. But I've already posted "The Funny Paper Caper" series in this blog (starting here), so I'm not going to repeat it today.

I close instead with my commentary on the evergreen controversy over allowing prayer in public schools. The new wrinkle in right-wing evangelicals' push at the time was their proposal to carve out time in the school day for a "voluntary moment of silent prayer."

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Q Toon: Nunc Dimittis


Representatives of the worldwide United Methodist Church met in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, and fought over competing resolutions to describe their church's attitude toward LGBTQ clergy and parishioners.

The conservative "Traditional Plan," which strengthened the church's prohibitions on "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from ordination and mandated a year-long defrocking of any clergy who perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples or ordain LGBTQ clergy, passed in a 438-384 vote.

Delegates to the General Conference had earlier rejected a pro-LGBTQ "One Church Plan," which would have left those matters up to the conscience of individual clergy and congregations, by a vote of 374 to 449. A "Simple Plan" submitted by the Queer Clergy Caucus fared just as poorly.

Although many (but by no means all) Methodists in the United States now have liberal attitudes toward LGBTQ clergy and marriage equality, the majority of Methodists in the Third World do not. And it is that second group who are growing. 41% of the delegates were from outside the U.S., 30% from Africa alone.
"The old ladies in the villages, the old men in the villages, the young boys in the towns and villages, are all celebrating that the United Methodist Church has maintained its traditional view of the Bible," says Dr. Jerry Kulah of Liberia, general coordinator of the church's Africa Initiative. "Other denominations all across Africa are celebrating the United Methodist Church. That is the kind of euphoria being expressed right now across Africa."
Some United Methodists in Africa say they hear U.S. and European liberals lecturing to them on what positions they should take on issues of sexuality, family and marriage, and it strikes them as the latest example of a colonialist attitude.
As conservative congregations had threatened to leave the Methodist fold had the "One Church Plan" been adopted, there are now liberal American congregations and clergy (here's another) who no longer feel welcome. The General Assembly obligingly voted to accommodate their exit.
The UMC also voted to pass a disaffiliation petition, often called a “gracious exit” plan, to help the transition for those who felt they could not remain part of the denomination.
Though all UMC church property is deeded to the regional body, under the new legislation, churches with a two-thirds vote among professing members would be allowed to leave with their property after paying any pension liabilities and outstanding financial obligations.
Which is either an example of Christian charity, or the conservatives telling the liberals, "Hey, don't let the door ya on the way out!"


Since this week's syndicated cartoon hinges on a very obscure reference, I'm going to just come right out and tell you that it's a play on words on a 1973 hymn by Brian Wren, "How Can We Name a Love" (written to the much older tune of "This Is My Father's World") included in the United Methodist Hymnal.

You'd have to ask a Methodist whether Methodist congregations ever sing it. I'm Lutheran, and it's not in any of my hymnals.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Monday, March 4, 2019

This Week's Sneak Peek

When I originally sketched out this week's cartoon, there weren't any people in the frame. Halfway through inking, I realized that somebody needed to be in the cartoon just to make it more visually interesting.

This corner of the 'toon, anyway.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Off to the Races

If you think the 2020 presidential race has started too early, you would probably have found agreement with most people 100 years ago about the 1920 contest.

But not in the press.
"The Sphinx" by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1919
Nor in political circles, where the end of World War I was tailgated by speculation that General John "Black Jack" Pershing might throw his peaked cap into the presidential ring.
"General Pershing's Politics" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, ca. January, 1919
Political cartoonists of the day didn't know whether to peg the popular general as a Democrat or a Republican, which made it difficult for the more partisan among them to decide whether to draw him favorably or critically. But for someone who had been champing at the bit to charge the German lines, Pershing showed no eagerness to cross the line into party politics.
"Won't He Show Some Interest..." by Herbert H. Perry in Sioux City (IA) Journal, ca. February, 1919
Although he and President Wilson were in accord on military policy for the Mexican Punitive Expedition and World War I, Pershing was in fact a Republican. There would be an effort to draft him to accept the Republican presidential nomination. Pershing remained coy throughout, letting it be known that he had no interest in a political campaign but "wouldn't decline to serve" if elected.

He wasn't.
"Harmony!" by Edward Gale in Los Angeles Times, ca. February, 1919
The progressive and conservative wings of the Republican party were largely agreed on the major issues of the day: they opposed Wilson's wartime nationalization of the railroads (not intended as a permanent measure anyway); they opposed those high income taxes on the rich we mentioned last week (favoring high tariffs instead); and most opposed involving the U.S. in international organizations such as Wilson's cherished League of Nations. Opposition on that last front was led by Senators Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts and William Borah of Idaho; although as far as Lodge was concerned, his opposition was more politically strategic than principled.

"The lute without rift" in Gale's cartoon references Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Idylls of the King," in which Vivien uses the phrase as a simile for a tiny disagreement that rots a friendship:
"It is the little rift within the lute
That by and by will make the music mute,
And ever widening slowly silence all."

"O for the Touch of a Vanished Hand..." by William C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, ca. February, 1919
Former President Theodore Roosevelt's plans to run for president yet again were spoiled by his death in January, leaving the political class wondering to whom the GOP would turn in 1920. William Morris's cartoon depicts the Republican party gazing forlornly at its fallen hero, dissatisfied with alternative candidates Gen. Leonard Wood (a friend of Roosevelt's and the early favorite), Senators Hiram Johnson, Borah, Lodge, Warren Harding, and, on the floor, former President William Howard Taft.

The caption is another reference to Tennyson: this time, his poem "Break, Break, Break," written to mourn the death of his dear friend and champion, Arthur Hallam.

"...A Shortage of Skilled Chauffeurs" by John "Ding" Darling" in New York Tribune, February 27, 1919
On the Democratic side, party leaders were ready to move on and replace the incumbent president, but lacked an obvious heir. Nowadays, the incumbent vice president usually has the inside track to win his/her party's nomination when a president retires, but that was not the case any time before World War II.
"An Opportunity that Didn't Materialize" by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, ca. January, 1919
Vice President Thomas Marshall had twice proven his usefulness to the Democratic ticket in helping carry Indiana, then a swing state. He was a popular, witty guy; you may have heard of his "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar" remark (to a senator expounding a rambling vision for America). Or perhaps you've heard his tale of the father of two sons, one who went off to sea and the other who became Vice President, and neither of whom was ever heard from again.
"Now Just Where Is Our Vice-President At?" by W.A. Rogers in New York Herald, ca. January, 1919
In spite of being the first President and Vice President to serve two terms together since 1817-25, Marshall and Wilson did not get along well. Wilson didn't trust Marshall and in a contravention of tradition, went around the Vice President to deal directly with senators.

Whatever policy differences the two might have had, it seems to me that it was more of a matter of personal style: the priggish and scholarly Wilson didn't appreciate the Hoosier's candor and sense of humor. Wilson moved Marshall's office out of the White House ostensibly so that the Vice President would not be bothered by so many visitors. Marshall was, however, left in charge of cabinet meetings while the President spent extended periods of time in Europe negotiating the Paris Peace Accord.
"Made His Pile and Went Broke" by R.O. Evans in Baltimore American, ca. January, 1919
A more likely successor to Woodrow Wilson as of 1919 was his recently resigned Secretary of the Treasury — and Wilson's son-in-law — William McAdoo. His bold policies, notably closing the New York Stock Exchange for four months at the start of World War I and thus preventing European governments from liquidating their stock holdings, turned the U.S. from a debtor nation into the world's leading economic powerhouse. He also was in charge of U.S. railways during the war. He had a shameful record on racial discrimination, but that wasn't going to hinder anyone's presidential aspirations in those days.
"President Wilson Declares He Will Return to Private Life in 1921" by Wm. C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, ca. March 1, 1919
On February 28, Wilson announced that he would not run for a third term. Democrats were probably not quite as distressed by his decision as Morris depicts.

Republicans ran against Wilson anyway.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Q Toon: Phoning It In

In a surprise move last week, the Corrupt Trump Administration announced a campaign to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide.

The announcement was particularly curious, given Trump's cozy relationship with some especially bad actors on LGBTQ rights around the world (the U.S. voted with them last year against a U.N. resolution against capital punishment for consensual same-sex activity), and with the antigay right in this country.

True, he did promise at the 2016 Republican National Convention to "do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens" — he even included the Q in the acronym. But he also included the T, yet has singled out transgender Americans for sustained hostility and discrimination.

Trump's promise then was a swipe at Islam, and, according to former Trump flack Sean Spicer, a bone thrown to persuade one convention delegate to withdraw his name from a "Never Trump" petition:
The final name that needed to be scrubbed from the petition, Spicer writes [in The Briefing: Politics, The Press, and The President], was that of Washington, D.C., delegate Robert Sinners. The book describes an alleged deal between Sinners, who Spicer says told the Manafort team “he wanted Donald Trump to support gay rights,” and senior Trump communications advisor Jason Miller.
“Jason assured Sinners that Trump would be the most ‘inclusive’ candidate the Republican Party ever had,” Spicer writes....
Sinners then reportedly signed “a form that officially removed his name from the petition,” and the deal was done.
The new campaign appears to be the pet project of Richard Grenell, Trump's Ambassador to Germany (who is also in the running to be named Ambassador to the United Nations). Grenell is a disciple of National Security Adviser John Bolton; his name showed up in my blog in 2012 when Mitt Romney dropped him as a foreign policy adviser as a sop to religious right-wingers alarmed that Grenell is openly gay.

Grenell cites the recent execution in Iran of a man accused of being gay as the impetus for the campaign:
Grenell called the hanging “a wake-up call for anyone who supports basic human rights,” in Bild, a leading German newspaper, this month.
“This is not the first time the Iranian regime has put a gay man to death with the usual outrageous claims of prostitution, kidnapping, or even pedophilia. And it sadly won’t be the last time,” Grenell wrote. “Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death.”
As much as it is heartening to see our government standing up for LGBTQ rights in Iran, it is hard to imagine the Corrupt Trump Administration doing the same for LGBTQ rights in Saudi Arabia, where LGBTQ relationships are also "criminalized and punishable by flogging and death." After all, Trump could barely scrape up any trace of disappoval of the Saudis' murder of openly heterosexual journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Nor have we heard much from him about antigay repression in Russia, especially the disappearance, torture and murder of hundreds of LGBTQ Chechens.

As with virtually everything else about life in North Korea, we know precious little about the plight of its LGBTQ citizens; a gay defector last year painted a picture of oppression and forced denial. Homosexuality isn't technically illegal there; but as in any totalitarian country, the government can label anything "contrary to a socialist lifestyle," "obscene," or "decadent" as an excuse to prosecute whomever it wants.

It's a safe bet that safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ Koreans did not come up in conversations between Kim and Trump in Vietnam this week. Rather, the Corrupt Trump Administration's sole concern in LGBTQ rights anywhere is their usefulness as a wedge between western European liberalism and the Iranian theocracy.

Trump has not been able to persuade other signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to join him in abrogating the agreement, in which Iran promised to limit its nuclear activities and to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor their compliance, in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Without European cooperation, Trump has no leverage to force some presumably more punitive deal on Iran.

So is he just being clever, calculating that liberal western politicians would rather go back to Square One on Iran's nuclear ambitions (even as nuclear powers India and Pakistan have begun shooting at each other) than to appear antigay? Maybe.

Or maybe not.

News reports this week suggest that, contrary to my cartoon, Vice President Mike Pence is more aware of the administration's brand new policy than President Trump himself is.
A reporter asked Trump about the global initiative, which is being spearheaded by U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest ranking openly gay person in the Trump administration.
At first, Trump seemed not to understand the question, asking the reporter to repeat it.
“Say it?” Trump said.
When the reporter referenced the push to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe, Trump professed unawareness and said something about reports in his administration.
“I don’t know which report you’re talking about,” Trump said. “We have many reports.”

Monday, February 25, 2019

This Week's Sneak Peek

No more lonely nights

Will you be alone
All you got to do is

Pick up your telephone 
And dial 634-5789
(That's my number)
634-5789

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Making Amends

It's time to explore another example of the U.S. Constitution affecting Americans' everyday lives...
Detail from "The Rectangle" by Frank O. King, in Chicago Tribune, February 16, 1919
But — surprise! I'm not talking about the Eighteenth Amendment today, but the Sixteenth.

"The Coming Serenade" by Sidney Greene in New York Evening Telegram, ca. January, 1919
In a way, the 16th Amendment establishing the federal income tax was necessary for the passage of the 18th, since the federal government was going to need to replace the revenue from taxes levied on alcohol. The federal government had also been heavily reliant on tariffs, which progressives denounced as overburdening lower income groups — since the poor spend a greater percentage of their income than rich people do.

Although tariffs were blamed for inflation, they had the benefit of being a hidden tax, collected a little at a time within the price of goods. The income tax, on the other hand, was initially collected all at once on March 15; payroll deduction wouldn't come around until World War II.

So kwitcherbitchin about how small your refund is this year. That refund is your interest-free loan to Uncle Sam. Your great-great-grandpa not only didn't get a refund, he had better have saved up enough throughout the year to satisfy IRS expectations.
"Guess Who!" by Wm. C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, February, 1919
When the federal income tax was first levied in 1913, the tax rate was a modest 1% tax on net personal incomes above $3,000, with a 6% surtax on incomes above $500,000. Since the Liberty Loans had fallen well short of their goals to fund military readiness for and participation in World War I, Congress raised the top income tax rate for 1918 to 77% on income over $1,000,000 (the equivalent of about $17,000,000 today). The effective average rate for the rich, however, was only 15%.
Form 1040 in 1916.
As for the typical filer, single persons with income in 1918 of over $1,000, and married persons with income over $2,000 were required to file income tax returns. That first one or two thousand bucks were exempted from income, and there was a $200 exemption for each dependent in a household. New in 1918 was the complication that if one was married only half of the year, one was limited to only half of the marital exemption.

Interest on the purchase of Liberty Bonds was also exempt, but interest paid on loans for the purchase of those bonds was not deductible. In all, federal tax law took up a few hundred pages, compared to over 72,000 pages nowadays.
"Interment Public" by Cyrus Hungerford in Pittsburgh Sun, ca. March, 1919
Finally, lets circle back 'round to Frank King, who offered several ideas for repurposing all those soon-to-be unemployed bar rails by installing them in other establishments. They might even, he suggested, turn paying taxes into an enjoyable social activity.
Detail from "The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1919
Because that's why folks went out drinking in those days. So a guy could put one foot up.

Oh, heck, as long as we're back on the subject of Prohibition anyway, here's John McCutcheon anticipating a lot of folks making a run for the border once the United States' taps ran dry.
"When the U.S. Goes Dry" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1919
Mexico must have been sorely tempted to build a wall to keep out all the drunken gringos.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Q Toon: Please Hold Your Applause Until the End

Thanks to Kevin Hart's having to withdraw as host of this year's Oscars because of some homophobic remarks, the Academy Awards will air this Sunday without a host. Having thus shaved some eight or nine minutes from the 7.5-hour telecast, the Academy floated some other trial balloons to tighten up the program.

One idea was to have some of the more esoteric awards given out during the commercial breaks. That balloon was immediately shot down by sound mixers and film editors upset at the prospect of not being able to tell their children to go to bed on live TV. Which is why they went into show biz in the first place.

Another idea was to perform only two of the five Best Original Song nominees. After loud protest from the musical community, a compromise has been reached and four of the songs will be performed.

There are so many other ways to save time at the XCIst Academy Awards. Why waste all that time having the winners walk up to the stage from their seats in the audience, stopping to shake 20-30 hands along the way? Have all the nominees standing on stage the whole time. The Best Supporting Actor and other early nominees can all take their seats as soon as their winner is announced, and I can assure you that the Best Picture nominees will want to see the proceedings move right along.

And let's limit each broadcast to one single lifetime achievement award, say, the Irving Thalberg Award To The Oldest Person In The Room Without An Oscar Yet.

On second thought, that award would soon go to the orchestra conductor, and there would be nobody to play him offstage once he starts thanking all the cellists, his grade school music teachers, and Otto Lagervall.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pete Buttigieg

With so many candidates declaring their presidential candidacies for 2020, I'd better start these candidate caricatures early.
To say that South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a long shot to become the 46th President of the United States is to belabor the obvious. The last time a sitting mayor won his party's presidential nomination was in 1812, over two centuries ago (but who's counting?), and that guy lost to James Madison. (Besides, that guy, DeWitt Clinton, was also serving as Lieutenant Governor of New York at the time, and yet his demonstrated skill at multitasking still failed to impress the electorate.)

On the other hand, every other candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination is a long shot as well, simply by virtue of there being so many of them.

So what does Mayor Buttigieg bring to the party? He's a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, openly gay and married, and at 37 years of age would be the youngest president in U.S. history, succeeding the oldest. He has been mayor of his fairly conservative city since 2012, winning 80% of the vote in his reelection bid. He remains "highly popular" there and a "sure bet" for a third term had he chosen to run, according to the South Bend Tribune.

As he seeks to take the leap from South Bend to the White House, here's his elevator pitch:
"For what it's worth, I have more years of government experience under my belt than the president, and more years of executive experience than the vice president, and more years of military experience than I think anybody to reach that office since George H.W. Bush. So I get that I'm the youngest person in the conversation, but I think experience is one of the main reasons I hope to be taken seriously."
As a veteran, he has practical opinions on American foreign policy and believes that the Corrupt Trump Administration is frittering away our leadership of the free world. As a rust-belt mayor, he has had to deal with the Corrupt Trump Administration's hamfisted tariff policies and the worsening trend of megacorporations pitting municipalities against each other to see which can prostitute itself more than the rest.
"Economic development incentives have their place, but that doesn't mean that you can — and actually I think the example that's most vividly showing this now is what's happening in Wisconsin with Foxconn. Even when you do land a company also often you're landing one if they're that sensitive to incentives that may not be that sticky and may respond to somebody else's incentives in a few short years."
With a crowded field, it's anyone's race to win, and Democrats have developed a preference for fresh new faces in the past 50 years. Hardly anyone outside Georgia had heard of Jimmy Carter when he was just one of a dozen presidential aspirants in 1975; Barack Obama had held political office for only two years at the national level when he launched his campaign in 2007 in a field of eight.

So could Buttigieg go all the way? Stranger things have happened.

One of them is declaring national emergencies as we speak.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

EnviroStewardship: No Winter Lasts Forever

Here's Dad's monthly "Environmental Stewardship" column for March. He's a bit miffed that the new pastor at his church wants to rename the column. But since I've got an "Environmental Stewardship" graphic and not a "Care of God's Creation" graphic, I'm going to go ahead and keep the old moniker.


Mail boxes are full of alluring letters from lawn care companies and colorful plant and seed catalogs. The astronomical start of spring, if not the meteorological signs on the thermometer, will come just after the middle of this month of change. And I wonder whether the piles of snow in the front yard will be gone by the solstice rather that the equinox.

But spring will come and many of the gardeners and lawn owners will be eager to get out and work in the yard, or as I like to say, “play in the dirt.” (I have long felt these activities can save a lot of visits to a psychiatrist.) Especially those who took my advice last fall to procrastinate in the cleanup of garden beds and under the shrubbery will have plenty to do and to enjoy.

When you start cleaning up the gardens and lawn, take time to observe what has been going on under those leaves and dried-up plants. See the holes in the dirt as beneficial insects come out of their underground hibernation. Note the larva and chrysalises of this year’s butterflies and moths clinging to the old stalks. Observe how the winter’s browns become the spring’s greens and brighter colors in the early flowers.

If you don’t currently have compost piles or bins, now would be a good time to start one or more. The organic matter which protected the wintering plants and animals can now be composted into great additions to the soil and free mulch for around the bases of shrubs and other plants. Try to keep the weed seeds out of the compost piles, since in Wisconsin, compost piles rarely get hot enough to kill those seeds and your mulch may spread weeds rather than minimize them.

If you buy new plants or seed, locally or from those very enticing catalogs, check if they have been treated with neonicotinoids, a systemic insecticide which has been increasingly connected with honey bee die-off and attacks on our native bee populations. A possible change of vendor should be considered.

Lawns should be tested before any additional fertilizer is applied, but this is seldom done. Most applications are excessive and end up fertilizing our lakes, rivers and streams. The first of August marks the fifth anniversary of the time when Toledo, Ohio, had to shut down its entire water system for four days because of toxic “algae” which took over that end of Lake Erie. This was due mostly to agricultural run-off, because phosphorus had been removed from most lawn fertilizers after a smaller water system had similarly been shut down a few years before. Some of our youth and their leaders will be traveling this summer to Toledo and may be able to see the problems that smaller Great Lake is already experiencing.

The ways we take care of our lawns and gardens have environmental consequences far beyond the depth of the green, the brightness of the flowers and the freshness of the produce. Good environmental stewardship means we seriously consider these consequences.
—John Berge

Monday, February 18, 2019

This Week's Sneak Peek


Does the lack of a host this year mean that we get to skip the overblown opening number?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

African-American History 1919

In honor of African-American History Month, Sepiatoneback Saturday brings you this John H. Cassel cartoon, along with a paragraph added by Cartoons magazine, celebrating the contribution of African-American soldiers during World War I.

One note before I go on: there must have been African-American artists from this period who took inspiration from the Great War, but I don't have any examples of their work here. Every cartoonist and artist in this post was a white male.
"The Colors" by John H. Cassel in New York Evening World, February 13, 1919
I do not know what exactly it was that prompted Cassel to draw this cartoon, but it stands alone against a slew of cartoons demeaning the service of Black soldiers.

Update: New York welcomed home its Harlem Hellfighters (see below) on February 18, 1919. Sidney Greene at the New York Evening Telegram also drew a celebratory cartoon about the African-American regiment's triumphant parade. The quality of this reproduction isn't very good, but it's enough to get the point across.
"1865-1919" by Sidney Joseph Greene in New York Evening Telegram, February, 1919
It was not editorial page cartoonists but comic page and gag cartoonists who, even after the war, churned out unfunny cartoons depicting Black servicemen as malingering buffoons. Whoever wrote that paragraph underneath Cassel's cartoon could have easily identified "the chap who said... they wouldn't fight" by leafing through recent issues of Cartoons magazine itself.

For just one comparatively tame example, on the recurring theme of Black soldiers showing up at the field hospital:
"Perpetual Motion" by J.C. Curry in Cartoons Magazine, November, 1918
I would be ashamed to resurrect many of the cartoons about African-American soldiers. Some of them portray Black servicemen quite literally as monkeys; most caricature them in the manner of blackface minstrel shows that demonstrate why wearing shoe leather on one's face that way is offensive to many nowadays.

But so as not to leave the subject with that taste in our mouths, here's another cartoon by John Cassel which appears to be modeled on the same individual soldier as the one in "The Colors"; it accompanied an editorial joining Allied Armies Commander Gen. Ferdinand Foch and American Gen. John Pershing in praising the valor of Pvt. Henry Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts of the Harlem Hellfighters:
"Black—Also Red, White and Blue!" by John H. Cassel in New York Evening World, May 22, 1918
The editorial extended that praise to all African-American service men and concluded:
"There is just one way the American people as a whole could recognize the valor of Privates Johnson and Roberts, colored, in a manner worthy of the nation:
"To resolve that so long as negro fighters face the enemy and thereafter so long as the Republic they have helped to defend endures, throughout the length and breadth of the United States, law, public condemnation and swift punishment for the guilty shall combine to make the lynching of a negro an abhorred and obsolete crime."
Returning now to 1919: Over German protests, Germany was stripped of its African colonies after the war. In the American press, German brutality figured prominently as justification for this particular punishment — not just German brutality toward its African subjects, but also the horrific acts claimed by the Entente to have been inflicted upon Belgian citizens. The irony there is that Belgium had committed a longer list of atrocities against its African colonial subjects.
"She'll Never Work for Him Again" by Herbert H. Perry in Sioux City (IA) Journal, ca. February, 1919
Of the cartoons I've found showing Africans happy to be no longer subjects of the German Empire, this is probably the least offensive. That is setting the bar very low, obviously.

The bar is set equally low in the references in the proposed League of Nations charter to the citizens of colonial holdings. Article XIX is loaded with a paternalistic attitude toward nations of color:
To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the states which formerly governed and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization, and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in the constitution of the league.
The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their experience, or their resources, or their geographical position, can best undertake this responsibility, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as mandatories on behalf of the league.
"When the German Colonials Vote" by Leo Cheney in Passing Show, London, ca. February, 1919
European depictions of Africans are just as bad as the American ones (and casually use equally vile language). There is, however, at least a smidgen of sympathy for the fellow on the left of Leo Cheney's cartoon, having to choose among home rule (with "free fire water"), allied protection ("and keep your skin whole"), and continued German rule (with "free torture for all").

"The Operation Was Entirely Successful" by Edward Gale in Los Angeles Times, ca. February, 1919
Racist or not, Edward Gale's "The Operation" is just creepy.

Cartoonists such as Herbert Perry of the Sioux City Journal could at least be excused (somewhat) for their caricatures of Black people because — well, assuming — they had never ever met one in person. But, gawd, where the hell did Gale come up with his idea of how surgery is done?

As I sign off for the day, here's an enlisted man's sketches of Black American soldiers in France for Stars and Stripes and his memoir of the Great War.
"Stevedores" by Pvt. Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge in Stars and Stripes, ca. February, 1919
"Among the First Sent Across" by Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge in his I Was There, Knickerbocker Press, 1919
"Base Port Stevedores" by C.L. Baldridge in I Was There, Knickerbocker Press, 1919