Thursday, April 30, 2020

Q Toon: His True Colors

The Trump administration is expected to rescind Obama-era Health and Human Services department rules that have protected LGBTQ+ patients from discrimination in health care.

Due to a death in my family, I haven't been paying much attention to the news this week. Maybe those new pro-discrimination rules have come out, or they're waiting until Friday afternoon, or they still have to make sure they've included everybody the religious right wants on their shit list.

But with their moves to trash the environment, subsidize fossil fuels, wink and nod at corporate corruption, sanctify the Christian Reich, and build that damned ugly wall, the Trumpsters are definitely switching into high gear as if they know that time is running out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek

This may be hard to believe, or even to fathom, but this week's Q Syndicate cartoon has nothing whatsoever to do with the coronavirus, sheltering in place, or social distancing.

But, sad to say, our craptastic president is featured prominently.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Toon: Kim Jong Unwell

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has now missed two national holiday celebrations, leading to speculation that perhaps he's pursuing other interests, such as pushing up the daisies.

The government of North Korea claims that Kim is just fine, thank you, move along, nothing to see here. He's just spending more time with family.

Namely his father, grandfather, and Uncle Jang Song Thaek.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Non, Je Ne Remets Rien

in UW-Milwaukee Post, April 5, 1990
Souvenirback Saturday is taking a week off from addressing Americans' historical illiteracy today, and just tossing together a handful of my cartoons from April, 1990. Aside from their being 30 years old, there's no particular theme or moral here. I just happen to like them.
in UW-Milwaukee Post, April 10, 1990
Rummaging through my files, I thought this cartoon was about Dennis Franz's butt on NYPD Blue. In case you were too young to watch NYPD Blue back in the day, the show broke network TV ground by having its central character go full dorsal, paving the way for more conventionally handsome buttcheeks to grace the boob tube in the decades since.

But NYPD Blue didn't premiere until 1993, so it wasn't that. Perhaps it was about Robert Mapplethorpe — although, to the best of my knowledge, he never had a television show.
in UW-Parkside Ranger, April 19, 1990
Russia didn't want to let go of its Baltic SSRs, and NATO leaders were reluctant to appear too eager for their independence. I like this cartoon because it gave me an opportunity to draw several world leaders together, including some, like the Prime Minister of Spain, whom I never drew before or since.
I drew this for the Racine Journal Times, but since I don't see it in the scrapbook my mother kept of my cartoons, I think they must not have used it. David was the mayor of Burlington, Wisconsin, who got caught having included a little white lie in his campaign autobiography. Sure, it didn't measure up to misappropriating Neil Kinnock's father's life story, but I thought it made for a funny cartoon.

Once upon a time, children, being caught in a lie — any lie at all, no matter how inconsequential — could spell the end of one's political career. Believe it or not.
in UW-Parkside Ranger, April 26, 1990
Speaking of stealing things: I wasn't going to include this cartoon, since even as an homage to Walt Kelly's Pogo, it wasn't particularly original. But having just made an oblique reference to a Pogo character earlier this week, it's probably a good idea to remind myself not to keep going to that well too often.
in UW-Milwaukee Post, May 1, 1990
And finally, proof that not every cartoon I drew of President George H.W. Bush was critical of him.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sarcophagus MacAbre

In case nobody caught it, I just thought I ought to point out the subtle tribute to Walt Kelly's Pogo in Wednesday's cartoon. The scripted font in the dialogue balloon and the name of the mortuary — although I altered the spelling to look more Scottish and less French — were references to his character Sarcophagus MacAbre.
Detail of Pogo by Walt Kelly, March 17, 1970
Kelly introduced Sarcophagus into the strip fairly early on as a confederate of such nefarious rapscallions as Seminole Sam, Wiley Catt, and Molester Mole. Variously referred to as a buzzard or vulture, Sarcophagus was the resident undertaker, ever ready to welcome a new customer. Kelly often (but not always) wrote his dialogue in a bold script encased in a thick black border reminiscent of a Victorian funeral notice.

The excerpt above is a single panel from a weekday strip, and I just adore the level of detail — no benday halftones or Photoshop cut and paste here! They just don't make 'em like this any more.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Q Toon: Death Be Not Pride

I return to syndication with a cartoon that won't work in all markets. Several communities around the world have already cancelled their Pride celebrations, while others are determined to go ahead with theirs.
In Europe, where the coronavirus took hold earlier than in the U.S., the effects are already being felt, with Bucharest Pride becoming the first Pride rally to postpone and Trans Pride Scotland canceling outright. And hardly without reason: while any public gatherings may prove risky over the next few months, the LGBTQ community is particularly vulnerable. As GLMA: Health Professionals Advocating LGBTQ Equality points out, the LGBTQ community experiences higher rates of HIV and cancer, both of which weaken the immune system; additionally, the community's increased rate of tobacco use means that COVID-19 — the coronavirus-caused disease that is particularly dangerous for those with respiratory issues — is statistically more troubling for those in the LGBTQ community.
Health and safety have to be prime considerations, but so does the fact that these festivals cost a lot of money up front. That money may be hard to come by this year — which may please those people who always complain about how Pride festivals have become so commercialized. (To whom Christmas says, "Hold my beer.")

Many Pride festivals are scheduled in June, to coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This being the 51st anniversary of the riots, it was to have been the 50th anniversary of several larger cities' first Pride Festivals, and special observances had been long in preparation.

If everyone can just resist the temptation to flock to Georgia's tattoo parlors, our country might be able to return to normal by June. It's impossible to know with certainty at this point, however; and we do seem to have an extremely vocal minority in the U.S. who are determined to reopen the floodgates before the rain subsides.

Some locales, where June weather can be prohibitively hot, schedule their Pride festivals earlier in the year. Those celebrations have almost certainly been cancelled, postponed, or moved to virtual reality by now. Phoenix's Pride Festival for example, would have been the first weekend in April, but has been pushed back to November. (I do wish I had thought to have the first dialogue balloon read "cancel or postpone"!)

New York's Pride events have been cancelled outright, as have Pride events in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Iowa City. Chicago's Pride Fest website promises an announcement coming soon.

I've been following festival scheduling changes in nearby Milwaukee, the "City of Festivals." Pridefest is not the only Milwaukee festival that won't be held in June this year (an alternative date has not been announced). Festa Italiana has been cancelled, and Polish Fest is up in the air. German Fest would have been in late July. Ethnic festivals scheduled in August are continuing with their planned events. Summerfest, "The Big Gig," has been postponed to September from its customary weeks at the end of June and the start of July.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Toon: Georgia On My Mind

I've got one more spare cartoon before the syndicated one goes up tomorrow:

Republican-run Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina, are rushing to reopen after only three weeks of sheltering in place.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp made the move without consulting any health experts, or any mayors of any of Georgia's major cities. But he did make sure to forbid those mayors from instituting health measures any stricter than his own. Because, you know, local government knows best why should the the state's essential businesses suffer when you can just build a wall around Albany, Georgia instead?

And what are those "essential businesses"?

I'm glad I asked me.

Bowling alleys, for one. Kemp is taking some heat for putting bowling alleys at the head of the list, but at least that's a sport in which players tend to stick their fingers only into their own personal ball. And the team's plate of nachos.

What I want to know is what the argument for including tattoo parlors is. It's mighty difficult to maintain social distancing between a tattoo artist and the client's bicep, neck, thigh, or buttcheek. Is the mental health of untattooed Georgia millennials at risk? Is Georgia in danger of falling behind Oregon in the race to achieve total tattoo coverage? Is Kemp hoping to lure Justin Bieber to the state?

At this point, managers of tattoo parlors appear to have more common sense than their governor.
Nicole Willingham, a tattoo artist at Apocalypse Tattoo in Buckhead, said many of her customers wouldn’t feel safe having a session, even if she takes extra precautions.“We have absolutely no plans of reopening until we’ve been provided with sufficient evidence that it’s safe,” said Willingham, whose husband, Ryan, owns the shop. “We probably won’t reopen until there’s a vaccine.”
Or, in the words of Atlanta barber Gabriel Ware, representing another essential business the governor would like to reopen:
 “If Brian Kemp wants to come by my house and pick up my equipment, he can go to the barbershop and cut all the hair he wants. Then, after two weeks of exposing himself to a deadly virus, he can come talk to me. This is inconsiderate of the health and safety of the people he is supposed to be leading.”
Come to think of it, it was probably a mistake to have talked about "social distancing." You know how much Republicans hate "socialism."

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Return of the Sneak Peek

Weekly sneak peeks are back, which means that Q Syndicate is back up and running, thanks to that Paycheck Protection Program you may have read about or applied for.

Q Syndicate truly is a small business, unlike some of the large corporations that elbowed out many small businesses that the program was intended to rescue. Even if we writers and cartoonists were employees rather than 1099 vendors, Q Syndicate would still qualify as a small business.

In the month since my last syndicated cartoon, publications that ran less than weekly were able to run recent cartoons which they had passed over when they first came out. Even when only reaching back one week, this made for some anachronisms: Between the Lines ran the cartoon depicting a hair stylist deciding to telecommute from home last week, well after hair salons across the country had shut down.

(Actually, many of those salons shuttered their doors in the days between when cartoon was drawn, and when your humble servant put it up on this blog.)

We're not ready to return to status quo ante, no matter what those rabble rousers in right-wing media, domestic terrorists, or President Larry Vaughn try to tell you. But most of us are doing what we can to get through this thing as soon as possible.

I'm still here, and I'm glad you are, too.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Apollo Thirtoons

In honor of the 50th anniversary this past week of the Apollo 13 mission, Star-crossedback Saturday brings you a handful of editorial cartoons about the perilous flight of Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise.
"Berry's World" by Jim Berry for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., by April 13, 1970
Apollo 13 launched on April 11, 1970 and was scheduled to land near the Fra Mauro crater (at the top of the Man in the Moon's mouth) on April 15. Newspaper headlines on April 13 reported that everything was going smoothly; but that night, damaged wiring insulation in Oxygen Tank #2 sparked an explosion. Sensors failed to report that tank #2 was now empty, but did show that tank #1 was leaking rapidly. The three astronauts were forced to retreat into the lunar landing module, which was designed for only two.
"These Moon Trips Are a Big Worry" by Cyrus Hungerford in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 14, 1070
I've done what I can to clean up the very messy scan of Cy Hungerford's cartoon; the last word of the caption was almost completely blacked out, so "worry" is my best guess. I would also guess that the white object in the upper right corner of the cartoon is supposed to be the moon and it's not supposed to be bursting to smithereens.
"And on the Sea He Suffered in His Heart Many Woes" by John Fischetti in Chicago Daily News, April, 1970
The loss of oxygen from the two tanks meant not only that the astronauts were short on oxygen, but so was the lone undamaged fuel cell, which depended on oxygen to keep running. Landing on the moon was no longer an option, but neither was making an immediate U-turn. The astronauts would have to continue toward the moon and steer a new path around it to head back home.
"I Thought It Had Become a Milk Run" by Bill Mauldin in Chicago Sun-Times, April, 1970
I have to note that even before Apollo 13 had a problem, its launch was banner headline news in every major newspaper in the United States. The three television networks had all planned to offer live coverage of several highlights on the mission itinerary.
Planned itinerary of Apollo 13. Central Press graphic.
Yet the third rocket sending men to land on the moon had nevertheless begun to lose the full attention of the American public. After all, James T. Kirk didn't keep going back to the same planet every week; his mission was to explore strange new worlds, so the Enterprise spent only one hour at each one before moving on to the next. Apollo 11 and 12's discoveries of rocks and dust, on the other hand, had already become — if you'll pardon the expression — mundane.

"Those Things Had to Wait, Son" by Douglas Borgstedt for King Features, by April 16, 1970
The Apollo 13 mission had to compete for media attention with a lot of other big events. The U.S. Senate had just rejected a second consecutive Supreme Court nomination. The war in Vietnam was spilling into Cambodia and Laos, and President Nixon was about to go on television to formally commit U.S. troops to battle in those countries. College students were rioting against the war. Massachusetts lent its support to draft resistance. Governor Claude Kirk of Florida was obstructing court-ordered racial integration of schools in his state. The Black Panthers attacked Oakland, California police with guns and bombs, wounding two. Ambassadors were kidnapped in Brazil and shot at in Guatemala. First class postage was about to rise to 10¢.

But suddenly, all attention was on Lovell, Swigert and Haise.
"Hang Together" by Forney in Pittsburgh Press, April 16, 1970
Well, I don't want to spoil the movie for you, so I'll just concentrate on the cartoons. I haven't turned up any definitive information about Mr. Forney, who was probably a staff artist at the Pittsburgh Press. I came across a caricature by Forney of a local radio personality in another edition of the Press, but nothing with a credit line.
"Blaze of Glory" by Ed Kudlaty for Newspaper Enterprise Association, by April 19, 1970
Ed Kudlaty was fairly widely syndicated; the Racine Journal-Times where I grew up ran his cartoons once in a while, though not regularly. I assume that he drew this cartoon (SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE!) after the astronauts splashed down safely in the Pacific on April 17. If the Apollo astronauts had hit the Earth's atmosphere too sharply, they would have perished in a blaze of tragedy. If they had hit it too obliquely, they would have glanced off into space.
"The Splash Heard Around the World" by Alfred Buescher for King Features, by April 18, 1970
But they didn't, and cartoonists who had been waiting to find out whether the story had a happy ending or not got to draw smiling globes instead of crying ones.
"Safe at Last" by Gene Basset for Scripps Howard Newspapers, by April 19, 1970

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Toon: Snidely Skullduggery in Madison

Leaders in Wisconsin's Republican-run legislature want to use the coronacrisis to extort additional powers from Governor Tony Evers.
Recognizing the high costs of fighting the coronavirus, the Federal government made additional Medicaid funding available to states. In Wisconsin, the 2018 lame duck law [so called because it was rushed through the Republican lame duck legislature and signed by lame duck Republican Governor Scott Walker after Wisconsin elected Democrat Tony Evers over Walker] blocks Governor Evers from taking steps to accept this aid money without getting approval from the state legislature.
Also, the Federal government is newly offering to pay 100% of the cost of the first week of unemployment benefits for state residents. Currently, Wisconsin does not allow people to get benefits for the first week of unemployment, so both the Governor and the Legislature would have to sign off on the change to get the additional funding.
Governor Evers released an economic package that would gather both the additional Federal Medicaid dollars and the extra unemployment benefits. Republican legislative leaders ignored his proposal and released their own plan.
The alternative proposal included capturing both those sources of extra dollars, but also included a provision that would give the legislature’s budget committee – controlled by Republicans through a decade of gerrymandering election maps – unilateral power to make budget cuts during this crisis, without the approval of other legislators or the Governor.
If the Republicans pass their version of the bill, Governor Evers will be faced with the choice of signing this power grab into law or vetoing acceptance of the Medicaid and unemployment benefit funding. He can't use his line-item veto because this is not a budget bill.

If this power grab is ever signed into law, don't expect the budget process to return to normal after the coronacrisis is over. The Budget Committee's Absolute, Non-Overturnable Line Item Veto will become a permanent part of Wisconsin politics, enabling a select group of legislators to starve urban public schools, destroy public health care, scrap unemployment benefits, and any of a myriad of antisocial Republican pet projects at will.

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that enough of the Wisconsin electorate braved the risk of coronavirus to defeat the Republicans' candidate for the state Supreme Court last Tuesday. Results were tabulated yesterday, and Jill Karofsky overcame the Republican smear campaign to unseat Daniel Kelly, 55% to 45%.

There will still be a 4-to-3 right-wing, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce lobby majority on the court, so don't expect the Supreme Court to be a check on legislative overreach any time soon. Barring creation of a vacancy, the next Supreme Court election will be in 2023.
The race to succeed Chris Abele as Milwaukee County Executive resulted in a near tie. Having only five polling places in a city of 600,000 had to have made a big difference there, and a recount is certain. The new county exec's term is set to begin April 25.

The school funding referendum in my local school district passed by a margin of only five votes out of 33,491 cast. This really highlights how important it is to keep aware of local issues and to get out and vote.

In the presidential primary, Joe Biden won over Bernie Sanders in Wisconsin by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. But, really, who cares about that right now?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Toon: One Masterpiece After Another

Trump has tapped son-in-law Jared Kushner to be in charge of whatever part of the federal COVID-19 response Vice President Mike Pence is not supposed to be in charge of.

Throughout the coronacrisis, Jared has demonstrated his complete and utter incompetence dealing with it. Back in January, he advised his father-in-law that the media were exaggerating the danger of the virus. When the danger became undeniable to all but the most ignorant right-wingers, he helped write his father-in-law's widely criticized March 11 address to the nation that falsely stated that the U.S. was cutting off all travel and imports from Europe.

Two days later, he was behind his father-in-law's Rose Garden promise that Google was on the verge of launching a website where anyone could test themselves for coronavirus, which was news to Google. By some extraordinary coincidence, a company Jared's brother founded was working on such a website, but that project has since been abandoned.

Last week, Jared showed his face at one of the daily White House coronabriefings, and responded testily to a question about data showing states' need for masks, ventilators and other emergency equipment, "The notion of the federal stockpile is that it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use." Instead, he called on states and localities to rely on states' medical stockpiles.

By the end of the day, somebody from Trump's Ministry of Truth altered the Strategic National Stockpile page on the Public Health Emergency website so that it would no longer contradict what Jared had just said.
But the website read on April 2: “When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency.”
Shortly after Kushner’s remarks, however, the text of this website was changed.
On April 3, the website read instead: “The Strategic National Stockpile’s role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available.”
Jared's latest duty adds to a long and scattershot list of things his father-in-law has assigned to the 39-year-old real estate heir. He had some success in getting a package of prison reforms through Congress; it's no wonder this would be a priority for an administration which has seen 14 prominent advisers, donors and aides indicted or convicted of criminal activity (as of January).

But the rest of Jared's portfolio is bullish on ambition and bearish on results. He started negotiations for peace between Israel and Palestine by taking off the table everything Palestinians have ever wanted. He was then shocked and offended that no Palestinian official was willing to agree to the terms of surrender Jared and Bibi Netanyahu demanded of them.

All we have to show for Jared's mastery of immigration reform are children in cages and a ugly, easily breached wall tearing through nature preserves and private property. Ironically enough, the coronacrisis has forced the government to designate migrant farm laborers as officially "essential workers."

That ugly wall may be the only thing Jared has to show for the Infrastructure Weeks announced by his Office of American Innovation from time to time. As for management of trade talks with China, most of that has been kept Top Secret. But his wife got China to grant her five trademark deals, so that's at least one thing Jared has accomplished there.

There are, thankfully, some cases where Jared has been able to get COVID-19 supplies where they are desperately needed. But Jared and his father-in-law's modus operandi is that it matters less what you need and more on who you know — and what you can do for la loro cosa.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Gonna Party Like It's 1929

Spoilsportback Saturday is stuck in 1920 again, basking in a post-war wave of prosperity that surely must have been an election-year annoyance to the editorial cartoonists of the staunchly Republican Chicago Tribune.
"Suppose the Tide Should Go Out?" by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, April 12, 1920
Every silver lining has its cloud, however, and cartoonists found their cloud in "extravagance." The Committee on Public Information and its Office of Cartoons had been disbanded by presidential order in 1919; but if it had been still active, it could hardly have been more effective in promoting exhortations against extravagance among editorial cartoonists after the war.
"The Man Who Hitched Himself Up with the Calf" by Edward Gale in Los Angeles Times, February, 1920
Once armistice was declared, hardly a week went by without at least one cartoonist somewhere moralizing against the Evils of Extravagance. No matter if the cartoonist was one of the luminaries of the era or toiling in obscurity; a Republican or Democrat; stridently political or a bemused observer of the passing scene: sooner or later, he sat down at his drawing board and decided that folks were just getting too dang extravagant for their own good.
"Shooting at the High Cost of Living" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, February, 1920
It's hardly surprising, then, that extravagance would be what the decade to come is chiefly remembered for. How quickly extravagance took hold can be explained by the fact that U.S. manufacturing was diverted to military production for a relatively short time. Production remained high but returned to domestic goods as our doughboys and pilots quickly returned to the workforce.
"Very Appropriate Platform..." by Harry J. Westerman in Ohio State Journal, April, 1920
Consumption also rebounded once wartime rationing was no longer necessary. After more than a full year of anti-extravagance moralizing, at least one cartoonist began to find those lectures tiresome.
Ted Nelson for Cartoons Magazine, Chicago, May, 1920
In case you need a refresher course in what extravagance of the 1920's looked like, this beaut of a motorcar put to shame even the swanky automobile Harry Westerman gave Uncle Sam up there.
"An Evolution" by Elmer Bushnell for Central Press Assn., April, 1920
If the cars were getting bigger, women's fashions were heading in the opposite direction.
"A Social Setback" by Bob Satterfield for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., ca. April 19, 1920
Still, not everyone had the sort of figure to rock Mlle. Thrift's shift, as we see in Bob Satterfield's cartoon. Since much of it is barely legible, I'll read it for you: Mrs. "Extravagance" is shocked by Mr. "Common Sense," clad in his overalls and wooden shoes. Satterfield's little bear says "Class, eh wot?" I can't make out what the bear's label says, but I note that he, too, is wearing overalls.
"The Standard of Revolt" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 18, 1920
Overall Clubs became a thing in April of 1920, formed to protest the high cost of clothing by making a fashion statement out of men's overalls. The first such club was founded in Jacksonville, Florida in late March; the Birmingham, Alabama club, founded on April 9 and claiming 2,000 charter members, declared itself the national headquarters. The clubs very quickly spread throughout the South and thence across the rest of the country; men from students and laborers to professionals and public figures marched in parades and posed for group photos to show off how thrifty they were. The newly elected mayor of Emporia, Kansas, was inaugurated in a denim suit, and some fellow even wore overalls to the New York Metropolitan Opera. No wonder Mrs. Extravagance was shocked.
"Signs of the Times" by Bob Satterfield for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., ca. April 28, 1920
But, as the editors of the Pine Plains (NY) Ledger pointed out, "[I]t might be useful for every man to own a pair and and do some good hard work with the hands to justify such ownership, but it doesn't follow that they are appropriate for all places and for all occasions. ... Better... to wear your old clothes, patch them, and make them last a year or two longer." Besides, heightened demand for overalls could raise the price out of reach "for men who really have to have them." (April 29, 1920)
"In 1921" by William Sykes in Philadelphia Evening Ledger, April 19, 1920
In some markets, the price of overalls reportedly tripled overnight.

If Sykes was making economic predictions in his cartoon, his crystal ball was running eight years too fast. But he wasn't the only one alert to the signs of trouble ahead.
"Chasing Wild Cats" by William Donahey in Cleveland Plain Dealer, March, 1920
William Donahey might be one of the first cartoonists to warn against the perils of market speculation after "fake stocks." Wall Street's game was being played fast and loose, and for the time being, everyone wanted in on the action.
G.B. Inwood for Cartoons magazine, May, 1920

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Toon: Oh, Come On, Wisconsin

Considering that the presidential candidates are nowhere to be found this year, this is turning into a hotly contested election here in Wisconsin today.

Among the highlighted items on the ballot are a state Supreme Court Justice, a ballot measure to enshrine crime victim's rights in the state constitution, and mayoral and county executive positions around the state.

Over the weekend, Democratic Governor Tony Evers summoned the Republican-run legislature into emergency session, calling them to extend Tuesday's election. With over 1,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County alone and rapidly rising numbers elsewhere around the state, especially in all urban counties, everyone concerned feared for the health and safety of voters and poll workers.

Everyone concerned, that is, except for the Republican majority in the state legislature.

They gavelled Saturday's emergency session to order and adjourned it in one second flat — a repeat of their emergency session last year on gun control measures. Another emergency session on Monday was just as abruptly cut off, adjourned until the day after the election.

So Monday afternoon, Evers issued an executive order postponing the election until June 9, and extending the terms of incumbent local politicians until after that election would have taken place. It was a move he had previously said he was powerless to make.

Within hours, the state Supreme Court — whose seven members are nominally non-partisan, but five of whom are bought and paid-for shills for the state Republican party — told Evers he was right: he is powerless to make that move. (They met virtually, by the way. I'll bet that's not in the constitution!) The U.S. Supreme Court was even speedier in quashing Evers' order to extend the date by which absentee ballots are due.

Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald, leaders of the Assembly and Senate respectively, are following Mitch McConnell's playbook from the Obama administration: block anything and everything; deny Evers even the most necessary legislation. No matter who gets hurt.

Many people will either put themselves at great risk or be disenfranchised by the Republicans' power play. Campaigns have been exhorting people for weeks to vote absentee or by mail. Our household has, but that leaves out voters who can't just up and get down to city hall whenever they want.

Demand for mail-in ballots quickly exceeded supply, and there are thousands of reports that ballots that were mailed to voters in mid-March never got delivered. Those ballots must be witnessed, but who is there to witness the ballots of older voters (exactly the ones most at risk of exposure to the virus) who live alone?

Others may have believed the President's promises that the crisis would have blown over around now. Voters who waited to cast their ballots in person may find their regular polling place closed because there aren't nearly enough poll workers, even with the National Guard called in. Milwaukee, with a population of over 600,000, will have a total of five polling locations open.


How many voters will be able to find their alternate poll location in time? Since many polling sites are limiting the number of persons allowed inside the building at a time, how many will bother to wait outside? (Stormy weather is predicted.)

I foresaw Republican mischief in this spring's election. I vastly underestimated how deadly serious it would be.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Toon: Traffic Report

After that first week of seeing the anchors of local news programs sitting at opposite ends of their Plexiglas desk, we're now getting used to seeing at least one of them Skyping it in from home. The weathercaster's large-screen TV is devoted to a graphic of next week's high temperatures, and we get to see all the trophies the sports guy keeps behind the bar in his man cave.

Since our Domingo Mercilus couldn't manage to keep six feet from his helicopter pilot without hanging from the landing skids, he's left to stare out the front window of his home on Collier Bluff Avenue. Fortunately for anyone in Brandon and Shondra's audience who still has to get out in the world, traffic on the freeways has been substantially reduced by the local stay-at-home ordinance.

Offer void in Nebraska, Iowa, and the Dakotas.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Der Kapp-Putsch Kaputt Ist

I'm trying to catch up on this Spaceback Saturday stuff, and finding that staying safe at home somehow isn't producing the spare time that I thought it would. So anyway, this week's installment shares cartoons about the Kapp Putsch that attempted to overthrow the Weimar Republic on March 13, 1920.
"Trying to Get Rid of the Cat?" by Dennis McCarthy in New Orleans Times-Picayune, March, 1920
Not surprisingly, the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles were not popular in Germany. The country lost territory, was required to pay reparations to the victor nations, and was forced to admit culpability for World War I. Military and pro-royalist circles grumbled against the messy process of democratic government, moreover; and on March 13, paramilitary Freikorps units under General Walther von Lüttwitz led a coup to establish an autocracy with Prussian nationalist Wolfgang Kapp as its Reichskanzler.

"Am 13 März" by Arthur Johnson in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, March 28, 1920
The surname Kapp provided a convenient pun for German and English-speaking cartoonists.
"The Hornet's Nest" by Bob Satterfield, for Newspaper Enterprise Assn. before March 26, 1920
Kapp, a functionary in the Prussian agriculture ministry and co-founder of  the reactionary Deutsche Vaterlandspartei, was a proponent of the theory that Germany had been "stabbed in the back" by its Jews and socialists. He nevertheless proclaimed that "We will not govern according to any theory."
"The New Rockers" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, March, 1920
The government of President Friedrich Ebert fled to Stuttgart and called for a general strike. Government bureaucrats refused to accept the putschists' legitimacy. Socialist and communist labor unions walked off their jobs; and without gas, electricity and train service, Berlin ground to a halt. Germany's military elite failed to come to the aid of Kapp and von Lüttwitz, and the putsch collapsed by March 18.
"Die Starken Männer vom 13 März" by Karl Arnold in Simplicissimus, Munich, April 7, 1920
That's Wolfgang Kapp on the right. The fellow on the left might perhaps be Crown Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern (although his father, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was still a pretender to the German throne, and the royal family played no role in the putsch); the banner bearer doesn't resemble any of the putschists whose photographs I have seen.
"Putschvorstellung für die Entente-Kommission" by Eduard Thöny in Simplicissimus, Munich, April 7, 1920
The government returned to Berlin, and the putschists scattered: Kapp to Sweden, Lüttwitz to Hungary. As far as the cartoonists at the leftist satirical weekly Simplicissimus were concerned, the whole episode was just one more humiliation of their country among many.
"Konjunktur" by Erich Shilling in Simplicissimus, Munich, April 14, 1920

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Toon: Essentially

Wisconsin's own Ron Johnson wrote an op-ed for USA Today this week in which he lamented the steps taken here and elsewhere to control the spread of the coronavirus. Worrying that we're blowing the global pandemic out of proportion, Johnson thinks too much of the economy has been shut down. "Every premature death is a tragedy," the sage from Oshkosh wrote, "but death is an unavoidable part of life."

And further, while social distancing is helpful, "much of our economy must stay open to provide life’s basic necessities. Rather than announcing general shutdowns and drawing up lists of 'essential' business that can remain open, let’s draw up lists of 'nonessential' businesses that pose a risk for coronavirus spread."

Johnson, chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, announced an investigation in March into the threat Joe Biden's son Hunter poses to national security. That investigation does appear to be on hold during the coronacrisis.

But I'm sure it will kick into high gear sometime between Labor Day and Election Day.

As long as this social distancing thing remains the norm, we cartoonists are going to have to come up with creative ways of keeping the characters in our cartoons six feet apart without screwing up the artistic balance of the 'toon.