Monday, April 29, 2019

This Week's Sneak Peek

For this week's sneak peek, here's a snippet from my sketchbook in preparation for the cartoon.

How 'bout last night's Game of Thrones, fans? I never would have guessed that Lady Mormont was Jaqen H'ghar in disguise all along.

At least I think that's what happened.

It was kind of dark and foggy.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Rusty Curtain

Over the past two Saturdays, I've rehashed some of my thirty-year-old cartoons about the Exxon Valdez oil spill, abortion, and gun control. What 1989 will chiefly be remembered for, however, are the stunning changes in world politics.
UW-Milwaukee Post, March 28, 1989
Scarcely three months into George H.W. Bush's presidency, George Will used his back-page column in Newsweek to complain that "Bush seems to be a bystander watching to see who Bush turns out to be." Compared to his predecessor, who came in vowing to slash government down to size, stand up to the Soviets — and, oh, by the way, getting to announce minutes after his inauguration that the American hostages in Iran were coming home — Bush settled into the White House with no grand plan other than to avoid any new taxes.

But behind the Iron Curtain, great changes were brewing.
UW-Parkside Ranger, April 20, 1989
After nearly a decade trying to suppress the Solidarity movement led by Lech Wałęsa, Poland's communist government agreed on April 4, 1989 to allow Solidarność candidates to run in June 4 elections for the Sejm and a newly recreated Senate. 299 of the 460 seats in the Sejm were reserved for the Communist Party and its affiliates; Solidarność ended up winning all but one of the remaining Sejm and Senate seats.
UW-Milwaukee Post, May 2, 1989
Perhaps inspired by the Polish model, and taking advantage of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost, citizens of the USSR's constituent republics began demanding independence. 150 people launched a hunger strike in Tblisi, Georgia; protesters forced the resignation of Uzbekistan's official Muslim leader; Lithuania's Sąjūdis movement declared the nation's independence in May; the Estonian Supreme Soviet had proclaimed the supremacy of Estonian laws over Moscow's the previous November. Border fighting broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Protesters in what is now Moldova pushed to get Moldavian recognized as their official language.

Sparked by the sudden death of retired Chinese General Secretary Hu Yaobang on April 15, students occupied Tienanmen Square in Beijing to demand democratic reforms, freedom of the press, and a crackdown on corruption. Some one million protesters occupied the square for weeks on end, staging a hunger strike and erecting their own statue of liberty. In one famous photograph, a lone protester stood against a line of Chinese army tanks. Protests spread to 400 cities around the country.

We know how well that worked for the Chinese protesters, however.
UW-Milwaukee Post, June 27, 1989

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Q Toon: Getting to Know You

A scientific study that found its way into the news last week found that there are more bacteria in men's beards than there are in the fur of dogs' necks.

This further bolsters the age-old discovery that dog slobber is cleaner than a human kiss.

Now, I don't know what conditions were present in the beard/fur study. Had the human subjects been eating corn on the cob recently? Had the dogs been kept in the house? Had the humans?

I do know that dogs don't cover their mouths when they sneeze. That would probably trap more germs and bacteria on their faces instead of releasing thousands of airborne snotlets into the wild in search of the next human beard to happen along.

Personally, I've had a beard on my face since 1994, which is older than any dog I know. I do shampoo it regularly, and I'm not wearing it down to my waist like some guys you've seen; but the fact remains that it has had more opportunity to meet bacteria than a dog born in 2007 has.

Even though I don't greet passers-by in quite so intimate a fashion as dogs are fond of.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

EnviroStewardship: Talking Trash

Dad has decided to keep writing his "Environmental Stewardship" column for his church's newsletter, so here's his offering for May.

Some years back, I was in San Francisco when they were starting a program to reach zero waste with Recycle Bins on almost every block. Since then, a number of larger cities and other municipalities have adopted resolutions that called for reaching zero waste by some arbitrary date. The City of Racine has not done so as yet, although they have named a committee to reduce waste.

This is goal-setting by governments, but there is nothing saying that churches and individuals can’t cooperate, and even lead, in these efforts. We have been doing this on education and social services for centuries.

A first step as an individual (environmental steward) might be a comparison of the contents of your trash can and recycle bin. The recycle bin should almost always contain more than the trash bin … at least twice as much since it is emptied only every other week in Racine.

Next is the decision whether you are producing too much trash or not recycling enough. Are there items in the trash that should be recycled? Are you bringing home too much that cannot be recycled and that you don’t need?

For some, the excess trash will consist of excessive packaging. If it is from a fast food chain, possibly changing chains will help. In other cases, it may mean changing your diet to a more healthy, home-cooked, fruit and vegetable one. With others it may be the clam shells from the second meal brought home from the fancy restaurant which always serves much more than you can eat. If so, bring your own washable, reusable bag or tub.

When going grocery shopping, I am assuming that you are bringing reusable tote bags that last for ages and avoid the choice between paper or plastic. Whenever there is the choice, choose food and other products with the least or most recyclable packaging. A friend was recently part of a survey in which they went into grocery stores and photographed everything with excessive plastic packaging. I believe the results were sent to management, but we are still waiting to see the results.

If your trash is mostly facial tissues which obviously can’t be recycled under current conditions, you might consider going back to the old-fashioned handkerchief. The amount of additional water and detergent used will be negligible in the ordinary wash and less trash will be going into the landfill.

A final and possibly facetious suggestion: Don’t set fire to your house! A dear friend and neighbor unfortunately did so a year ago and the repair crews have filled five or six large dumpsters since then. Obviously, that is a great bump in the road to a zero-waste community.

Monday, April 22, 2019

This Week's Sneak Peek

Tune in later this week for trenchant political commentary and health and grooming tips.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Matters of Life and Death

ShowMeBack Saturday returns again to a handful of my cartoons from the momentous year of 1989 (and one from 1999).

Abortion was a hot topic in the spring of 1989. The arguments haven't changed much on either side since then, so I needn't rehash them here. While there were passionate single-issue voters for and against abortion rights, for most people, it was only one issue among many. In the words of the Hasting Center's Daniel Callahan, "The debate is dominated by the activists. I don't think the activists' views reflect those of the large, muddled middle."
"Lost in Translation," UW-Parkside Ranger, March 30, 1989
Thirty years ago this month, the United States Supreme Court revisited the issue of abortion rights in the case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. Only four of the justices who had voted in the 7-2 majority in Roe v. Wade remained on the court, and anti-abortion advocates believed they had a golden opportunity to overturn the 1973 decision.
"The Moral High Ground" in UW-Milwaukee Post, April 6, 1989
At issue in Webster was a Missouri law positing that "life begins at conception" and forbidding use of state money or facilities for abortion procedures. Missouri's law had been crafted by anti-abortion activists Lee and Andrew Puzder in hopes of taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court. The two dissenters in Roe, Justices William Rehnquist and Byron White, were still on the court, now joined by Reagan-nominated Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.

Although the general concern over a right to privacy had been part of Democratic opposition to Ronald Reagan's failed nomination of Bork to the Supreme Court (more media attention was given to his role in Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre), believers that the right of privacy extended to a woman's right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term registered hardly any protest against Reagan's other court picks.
"Uh...Charlene..." in UW-Milwaukee Post, April 27, 1989
If the pro-choice crowd and much of the Great American Middle had been lulled into thinking that Roe v. Wade was settled law, the anti-abortion movement had been hard at work to unsettle it. They protested in Washington every year, blockaded health clinics, waved bloody photos, and got their cause into the Republican party platform. And now they had the full force of the Bush Justice Department behind the Missouri law.

"Wishful Thinking" in UW-Milwaukee Post, May 4, 1989
In July, the two Justices who had dissented in Roe plus the three Reagan had placed on the court ruled that Missouri's anti-abortion law was entirely constitutional. Chief Justice Rehnquist's opinion for the majority pretended that the ruling in no way chipped away at Roe. It opened the door, however, for anti-abortion legislatures to regulate abortion rights out of existence, which they have pursued with a vengeance ever since.

Any believers in marriage equality who think that Obergefell v. Hodges is settled law just because it's the law and it got settled once, please take note.
My "Charlene, Could I Have a Word With You" cartoon above referenced another divisive issue in 1989 (when is it not?), gun control.

The murder of five children in a Stockton, California schoolyard in January prompted passage of a series of gun control laws California and elsewhere, mostly trying to ban or limit the sale of semi-automatic weapons. This was followed in turn by a surge in "get 'em before you can't" gun sales fueled by NRA fear-mongering.
"I Think We've Located the Problem" in UW-Milwaukee Post, April 11, 1989
The gun used in the Stockton shooting had been purchased legally in Oregon. In response, Oregon bill HR 3470 lengthened the waiting period for the purchase of a gun from five days to fifteen. To win NRA support, the bill also provided for concealed carry statewide. The waiting period has since been replaced by instant on-line background checking; the concealed carry provision remains.

Today, of course, is the twentieth anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, which cannot pass without comment here — particularly in light of the attraction it holds for those sick individuals interested in not letting it pass without a sequel.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Q Toon: Side Eye for the Gay Guy

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is now an officially declared candidate to become the first openly gay president of the United States since James Buchanan. As such, he now qualifies to have antigay zealous crackpots bellowing about Sodom and Gomorrah at his campaign events.

Mayor Pete came out in 2015, two years into his first term, while his state's governor, now Vice President Mike Pence, was preaching the right-wing gospel of exclusion and Christian Privilege, and the Supreme Court was about to rule on Obergefell v. Hodges. He married his husband in an Episcopal church last June, and their first stop in their wedding Studebaker was the local Pride Week block party. His penultimate appearance before making his presidential campaign official was on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

So it might surprise you to know that Mayor Pete is getting hit from both sides.

There is a certain camp of people, mostly within the LGBTQ community, who think that Mayor Pete may be gay, but he isn't gay enough.
There is a certain kind of gay guy. He is very likely white. He would say that he is in his “mid-thirties,” although he is much closer to the end than to the beginning of his last credibly young decade. Older women think he is handsome; younger men are not so sure. He is a professional of some kind — not ostentatiously wealthy, but comfortable enough to take the occasional ski trip in Colorado or spring vacation in Spain. He probably enjoys “the theater.” He is sure to mention at some point that he likes to read.
The knock on Mr. Gay Whitebread is that we've had enough white men in the White House, and it's a woman's turn now, preferably a Latina or a Muslim, and transgender if possible, and perhaps a paraplegic, except we've already had one of those so scratch that. He can always come back in another eight years once the cuteness factor has worn down (or in four if either of the two candidates currently leading in the polls wins the nomination).

Frankly, at this moment in history, I'm fine with any of the 147 candidates for the Democratic nomination. I'm not 100% thrilled about half a dozen of them, but I find the criticism that Buttigieg is too Midwestern Nice and doesn't check enough boxes tiresome and just a little bit dangerous.
All of this seems like an attempt to write Buttigieg off as “just another white guy,” standing in the way of more diverse candidates. It’s the Oppression Olympics at its worst: In a battle to prove that one community is more discriminated against than another, we tear each other apart rather than unite in common cause.
Or, as Geneve Thomas-Palmer, the editor of Ann Arbor Community High School's newsletter (and wow! Have high school newsletters changed since I was in bell bottoms!) warns:
"By suggesting Buttigieg appears too heterosexual to run for office, Democrats have sent a clear message to their almost 12 million queer voters; we do not care about diversifying our party, we only care about appearing as though we do." 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Holy Week's Sneak Peek

I've been waiting for weeks for a reason to draw Mayor Pete in a cartoon. I hope the wait was worth it.
Meanwhile, sad news comes that Dwayne Powell, retired editorial cartoonist for the Raleigh News and Observer has died. For some 40+ years, Powell aimed his pen at national and North Carolina politicians, becoming a veritable institution in the Tar Heel State.
"Take a Break, Guys..." by Dwayne Powell in Raleigh News and Observer, ca. October, 1984

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Exxon Valdez 30 Years On

Spillback Saturday takes a break from the century-old stuff this week to note the 30-year anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, so I can steal my own cartoons instead of those of a bunch of dead guys.
UW-Parkside Ranger, April 6, 1989
On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound after leaving Valdez, Alaska. The resulting oil spill was, at the time, the second worst in U.S. history (the 1910 Lakeview Gusher, the subsequent 2010 Deepwater Horizon blow-out, and continuing Taylor Oil spill were/are several times worse).

It was also only the second time gas prices rose above the $1.009/gallon mark in my area — this time to stay. Even accounting for inflation, the gas prices in my cartoon are quaint by today's standard: that $1.059/gallon price for regular would be the equivalent of about $2.16 today. The price up the street from my house hit $2.949/gallon earlier this week.

The price of gas, however, is only a superficial measure of the disaster. Well over 10 million gallons of oil spread over 2,600 square miles in the first couple of weeks, ultimately coating 1,300 miles of coastline. In terms of damage to wildlife, the Exxon Valdez spill is estimated to have killed 250,000 seabirds, 3,000 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 orcas, and countless salmon, herring, and other fish.
UW-Milwaukee Post, April 13, 1989
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company had promised Alaskans that their expert seamen would find smooth sailing with "an absence of substantial navigation hazards." Even in the "highly unlikely" event of a major spill, Alyeska predicted that it could be brought under control in a few hours.

In fact, the ship's captain, reportedly less than sober, steered the Exxon Valdez a mile and a half off course, then put the ship on autopilot and left the bridge. The ship's underwater radar system was malfunctioning. By the time a third mate saw the ship heading for well-marked shoals, it was too late to steer away.

It took Exxon three days to ready equipment to spray chemical dispersant on the spill (and for the state of Alaska to okay its use). By day five, a thick gooey coating had congealed on the surface of the slick, rendering the dispersant nearly useless and gumming up equipment trying to skim the oil off the water. The company, and citizen volunteers, spent months cleaning the water, the beaches, the wildlife and even the trees of oil. Even so, only 10% of the spill was cleaned up, leaving the other 90% for Mother Nature to handle.

If there was one bright moment when fortune smiled, it was that Captain Hazelwood's initial efforts to budge the Exxon Valdez off the shoals failed. Had he been successful, the ship probably would have sunk with all hands.
UW-Milwaukee Post, April 25, 1989
Of course, Donald Joffrey Trump's executive order this week allowing oil companies to completely disregard any and all environmental considerations and pipe-baby-pipe with impunity is "highly unlikely" to be any cause for concern whatsoever.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Q Toon: Lightfoot Tango

Last week, Chicago elected former prosecutor Lori Lightfoot as their next mayor by a landslide: she won nearly 74% of the votes and carried all 50 wards over Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Chicago elected a woman mayor once before, and a black once before; but this is the first time Chicago has elected someone who is both (as is Ms. Preckwinkle for that matter), and a lesbian to boot. Both Jane Byrne and Harold Washington won election by challenging the Chicago Machine's preferred candidates, and neither had an easy time dealing with Chicago City Council. We can expect that Ms. Lightfoot will have her work cut out for her as well.

I would have liked to have come up with a cartoon that also acknowledged that Madison, Wisconsin also elected a lesbian mayor last week. Satya Rhodes-Conway ousted the straight male incumbent who was once dubbed "Mayor for Life," 62% to 38%. Sadly, nobody has written a popular musical about Madison yet (either the town nor Jemmy, although I can't be sure that there isn't one about Dolly). Besides, Madison has been represented in Congress by a lesbian and a gay man for 20 years, so the LGBTQ thing is pretty old hat around our capital city.

Lightfoot and  Rhodes-Conway join Pete Buttigieg, Phoenix's Kate Gallego, Salt Lake City's Jackie Biskupski, Seattle's Jennie Ann Durkin, and at least ten others as out LGBTQ mayors in the United States (Wikipedia's list here includes several former mayors). And there is a good chance that their number will grow later this year.

I'll try to remember that whenever the news out of D.C. makes me fear for the future of the country.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Remembering Fritz Hollings

Retired Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-SC) died Saturday at the age of 97.

To my generation at least, he will chiefly be remembered as the Democrat who signed onto the Republicans' Gramm-Rudman bill in 1986: an attempt to cut the federal deficit by blindly cutting all government expenditures by a uniform percentage.
Oh, and he tried running for president once. But that didn't last long, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody outside of his immediate family who remembers when that was.

This Week's Sneak Peek

This was the easy part of the cartoon.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Pulling on Loose Threads

Back in 2010, I posted several cartoons from a very old book, left to me by my Aunt Barbara, of editorial cartoons R.C. Bowman drew for the Minneapolis Tribune in 1900. Over the years since, there have been regular spikes in page views of the post displaying his cartoons about the Philippines, leading me to conclude that there is a history teacher somewhere referencing this page for his or her students.

With that in mind, good morning, class! The Philippines were back in the news 100 years ago this spring. Having suspended their campaign for independence during the Great War, the Filipino legislature renewed their efforts in a "Declaration of Purposes" published on March 17, 1919 with the blessing of the U.S. Governor General of the Philippines.
"And Those Who Run May Read Thereby" by William Sykes in Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 5, 1919
The Declaration of Purposes stated the Philippines' case with all due deference, and then some.
"Through the joint labor of Americans and Philippinos, the history of your occupation of the islands is replete with achievements great, and result splendid. You have truly treated us as no nation ever before treated another under its sway. And yet you — and none better than you — will understand why, even under such conditions, our people still crave independence, that they, too, may be sovereign masters of their own destinies.
"When our national independence shall be granted us, the world will know that the people of America are indeed 'bearers of the good will, the protection, and the richest blessings of a liberating rather than a conquering nation,' and that it was our liberty, not your power, our welfare, not your gain you sought to enhance in the Philippines."
In the Shade of the Sheltering Palm" by Bob Satterfield for Newspaper Enterprise Association, March/April, 1919
Republicans were skeptical of Filipino readiness for independence, and Democrats were more in favor of it. But before one credits those Democrats with higher motives, one must note that many in the Democratic Party were against taking so many non-white people into the American fold. Bipartisan U.S. interest in containing Japan's imperial ambitions in Asia and the Pacific meant that neither party was ready to grant Philippine independence just yet.
"Will He Pass This Year?" by Wm. C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, April/May, 1919
Congress had passed the Jones Act (formally the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916), replacing the American-dominated Philippine Commission with an elected Senate, establishing a bill of rights that included voting rights for all literate Filipino males, and promising eventual independence. An appointed Governor had veto power over the legislature, which Governor Francis Harrison rarely used.

The 1918 elections put Republicans in control of the U.S. Congress, however, and Republicans would win the next three presidential elections; any further moves toward Filipino independence were moved to the back burner as far as the United States was concerned.

"That Pesky Cat Again!" by Gustavo Bronstrup in San Francisco Chronicle, April, 1919
It has also been a while since we've checked in on the situation in Mexico 100 years ago. As it happens, we're coming up on the centennial of two high-profile deaths: one of a general who has gone down in Mexican history as a villain; the other of a national hero.
"Blooming Again" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 6, 1919
In March, General Aureliano Blanquet returned from exile in Cuba to support Felix Díaz's revolt against the government of Venustiano Carranza. He arrived with only six followers, but the return of this former vice president caught the attention of Mexico's neighbor to the north. Before Blanquet could meet up with the Diacistas, however, he was mortally wounded during a skirmish with government forces on April 7 when his horse stumbled into a ravine. After his death a week later, the Carrancista general had Blanquet's head decapitated and put on display in Mexico City and photographed for all the newspapers. As one of course does in such situations.
"A Coming Event" by William C. Morris for George Adams Syndicate, April, 1919

On the left, Emiliano Zapata, a sometime ally of Pancho Villa, met his end on April 10, tricked into a meeting with a Carrancista colonel he believed would defect to his peasant army. His letters had been intercepted by the colonel's superior officer, so he instead walked into a trap and was riddled with bullets. Yet while this made Zapata a martyr to his many supporters, several of his generals would eventually accept the government's promises of amnesty. Some were even given governorships and other posts in Carranza's administration.

If you're still not sure who was the hero and who was the villain, here's a hint. Anthony Quinn played the title role in ¡Viva Zapata!, but there will never be a film version of ¡Viva Blanquet!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Q Toon: Brunei Blind

Within two months after Trump's U.N. Ambassador Ric Grenell told a German magazine that the U.S. was calling upon all U.N. members to decriminalize homosexuality — a policy nobody else in the Corrupt Trump Administration seems to have heard of beforehand — the southeast Asian sultanate of Brunei announced that gays in their country should be sentenced to death by stoning.

The response from the U.S. State Department was tepid at best.
Global outrage has greeted news of the introduction of the new law under the Syariah Penal Code (SPC). On Friday, the British government and European Union called on Brunei to abandon the law, while George Clooney called for a boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei in a column for Deadline.
After nearly 24 hours of declining to clarify its position, the State Department finally sent The Daily Beast a statement saying the U.S. was “concerned” about the new law, minutes after we published a story noting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the department's silence.
However, when asked by The Daily Beast, Pompeo and the Department of State declined to directly condemn, or state an objection to, the stoning to death of LGBT people.
The full statement reads: “The United States is concerned with Brunei’s decision to implement Phases Two and Three of the Sharia Penal Code. Some of the punishments in the law appear inconsistent with international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“We have encouraged Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015, and to sign, ratify, and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
At this point, the LGBTQ community's expectations of the Corrupt Trump Administration are pretty low — Ambassador Grenell's ephemeral trial balloon notwithstanding. My cartoon's premise that the Secretary of State took the time to speak with Mr. Trump about the news out of Brunei is giving both of them the benefit of considerable doubt.

At least we can be assured that Trump will take part in Mr. Clooney's boycott of Brunei-owned hotels.

This president has a policy of steering any government travel business only toward Trump-owned hotels.

Monday, April 1, 2019