Saturday, October 31, 2020

R.I.P. Sean Connery

 From my days with the Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee:

in Business Journal, February 28, 2003

For Whom the Toon Toles

by Tom Toles in Buffalo News, September 27, 1984
Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles is closing up shop after tomorrow, so today's Sankaback Saturday is devoted largely to my personal favorites of his cartoons from before he was hired by the Post. And I have to give the Post credit for hiring a cartoonist who was so very different from his predecessor there, a Washington institution in his own right, the undisputed dean of the profession, Herbert Block.

I was instantly taken with his simplistic style and craftily pointed humor when he burst onto the scene in the early 1980's. It would be interesting to see his pre-syndication cartoons for the Buffalo Courier-Express, which folded in 1982, to get some idea of how his artistic style — so unlike the Oliphant and MacNelly clones of the day — evolved.* I assume that his style of humor, which often comes at you from unexpected directions, was evident from the beginning.

in Buffalo News, June 21, 1984
His colleagues were equally impressed. The late Jeff MacNelly wrote that he was crazy about Toles's "masterful timing and comic staging" and "graphic goofiness." Mike Peters admired his "satire in the Jonathan Swift tradition of satire." Jules Feiffer blurbed, "There exists a school of thought, led by me, that wonders why Tom Toles has not yet wan a Pulitzer Prize"; so in 1990, to nobody's surprise, he won one.
in Buffalo News, March, 1983
If I can wax pedantic for a moment, "Hunting the Hazardous Substances" illustrates the Toles approach to an idea. Many cartoonists, if they came up with this idea for the Reagan administration's attitude toward environmental protection, would have drawn the third panel as a stand-alone cartoon. The pacing established by the four-panel format sells the idea so much better than the third panel alone would. (The reference in the lower right corner to burnt EPA documents is a bonus.)
in Washington Post, November 14, 2002
Sticking with the topic of the environment, I include this one Washington Post cartoon to demonstrate how masterfully Toles tied together two separate news stories in a way that made readers wonder why they hadn't connected the two items themselves.
in Buffalo News, July, 1990
I would be remiss if I didn't include a couple cartoons about American presidents. This one about George H.W. Bush's nomination of David Souter to the Supreme Court is an excellent example of Toles carefully setting up a pay-off that comes from a completely unexpected direction. It plays off the unfair characterization of Bush being a wimp without playing into it, while still using it to make the cartoon's point.
in Buffalo News, May 14, 1993
Toles's minimalist caricatures have been instantly recognizable even when they diverge wildly from portraiture. His George W. Bush, for example, had ears sticking way up from the top of the man's head like no animal you have ever seen; but Toles drew him that way consistently and readers always knew who that figure was. He drew Obama with big ears, too, but then, so did everybody else. His Trump is appropriately grotesque.
in Buffalo News, ca. June, 1986
Since this here blog skews gay, here's Toles being gay-friendly back in 1986, when the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia's anti-sodomy laws were constitutional in Bowers v. Hardwick, a case involving the arrest of one Michael Hardwick for having consensual homosexual sex in the privacy of his own bedroom. Other cartoonists may well have had the same idea in this cartoon, I suppose, but if so, probably only drew the police officer intruding in the couple's bed. Or the judge. Or a legislator character. Toles takes the idea and keeps spinning it out well past absurdum, and the result is worthy of standing next to Justices Blackmun's and Stevens's dissents.

Finally, a Tom Toles "I Told You So" from the early days of the technology enabling you and me to have this conversation, and others to share their insights about liberals drinking children's blood in a network of tunnels linking pizza parlors around the country:
in Buffalo News, September 8, 1994
* Update: D.D. Degg at Daily Cartoonist has dug up one of Toles's Courier-Express cartoons, and even some juvenalia.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Q Toon: Match Game

There were a lot of plaudits from religious liberals for Pope Francis last week after he gave his blessing for civil unions for same-sex couples.

Subtitles in the documentary "Francesco," premiered at the Rome Film Festival, translate the Pope's comments as: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to have is a civil union law—that way they are legally covered. I supported that.”

This is a reiteration of his previously offered opinion on the topic, although some conservatives quibble that "civil union" is an inaccurate translation of his phrase, "convivencia civil"; they claim he merely referred to "civil cohabitation," whatever difference that makes in the context of having a law about it.

Here in the United States, marriage equality has been the law of the land since the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, but two, perhaps now three, of the Justices are eager to overturn that ruling. The others in the Court's right-wing majority might have been less inclined to annul over half a million marriages overnight, but they might be amenable to taking Pope Francis's cue by floating the possibility of foisting something less than marriage upon us as a consolation prize. 

My husband and I got married shortly after the ruling in Obergefell came down, having gotten a civil union six years earlier. The two are not the same thing: there is no federal law recognizing civil unions; the IRS has no provision for couples civilly unioned filing jointly. (See, there isn't even a verb for it!) Hospitals, especially those with a faith-based affiliation, are free to interpret HIPAA laws to exclude non-married couples. 

It's no just a question of having to deal with bakers and florists who believe in being assholes for the Lord.

Well, anyway, kudos to Pope Francis for being more enlightened than your immediate predecessor.

I just wish we didn't have Supreme Court justices heading us back to the Dark Ages.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Read All About It

 Something fishy here...

P.S.: Here are a couple words in English that look like they should be opposites but aren't:

Shameless and Shameful

This Week's Sneak Peek

 You were, perhaps, expecting something spooky?

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Let It Only Be Four Years

Last week, I rehashed a bunch of my cartoons about the first two years of the Corrupt Trump Administration, so here are some from 2019 and 2020.

February, 2019
The nature of this here blog is to emphasize LGBTQ issues, so I ought to start today's post by acknowledging the one positive move the Corrupt Trump Administration has made in that regard. Log Cabineer Ric Grenell successfully pushed Trump to call for an end to persecution of LGBTQ citizens by other countries. That might seem out of character for Mr. Trump, until you realize that the policy comes at no real cost to him personally.
March, 2019
Former FBI Director Mueller's investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russian meddling wrapped up early last year with Mueller's report laying out the evidence but refusing to state any conclusions. Lickspittle Attorney General William Barr released a disingenuously bowdlerized summary of the Mueller report that gave the false impression that the investigation had exonerated his boss.
October, 2019
By the time the full Mueller report came to light, American media had bought the Corrupt Trump Administration's spin.
September, 2019
For four years, Trump Inc. has been hard at work grifting off the presidency: finagling business deals with China for daughter Ivanka, charging the Secret Service to protect Mr. Trump at his own properties, and happily leaning back while foreign governments and corporate lobbyists curry favor with the Corrupt Trump Administration by checking into Trump Inc. hotels to do so. Add in the moolah Junior and Eric raked in from their supposed charities, and you get a clear picture of the Trump family's moral compass.
I can't even let little Tiffany Trump slide here: her omission of the "T" at an LGBTQ event recently is seen as a sign that she has inherited her father's animus toward transgender persons.
August, 2019
His animus is not limited to the military. Mr. Trump and his lackeys want to drive them out of the military, out of a job, and out of housing, out of sight, out of mind, and out of existence.
December, 2019

The Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Barr in the employment case above, but that is likely to become a short-lived victory. Senate Republicans refused to consider one Supreme Court nomination and 110 lower court nominations during Barack Obama's presidency so that they could pack the courts with doctrinaire, activists right-wingers during Mr. Trump's. Trump has thus been privileged to add three such Justices to the three put on the Supreme Court by the Bushes.

In case you have somehow not made up your mind about how to vote this year, I will point out one more time that Justice Stephen Breyer is 82 years old.

January, 2020
The House of Representatives impeached Trump over his efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to meddle in U.S. presidential politics. Mr. Zelenskyy ignored Trump's request to "do us a favor, though," and Senate Republicans ignored the House.
March, 2020
As coronavirus swept the world this year, Trump began holding daily press briefings, breaking an absence from the press room that had lasted over a year. He boasted of the high viewership ratings these press briefings were getting – better than Monday Night Football!
April, 2020

Not that you could rely on anything coming out of Mr. Trump's mouth in this crisis being any more truthful than anything he had said before. 

Or since.

Unfortunately, by limiting these two Saturday posts to my own cartoons, I've given short shrift to some really important issues: he has put kids in cages, found "very fine people" among racist mobs, treated women and minorities with contempt, attacked the media for fair reporting, and both behaved and governed like an overgrown spoiled brat.

It's time to send him to his room without any supper.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Q Toon: Go Ask Joe

As risky as it is to predict what might happen during tonight's Presidential So-Called Debate, I decided at the drawing board Sunday night that a moment like this was more likely than not. It might not be about antifa; Donald Joffrey Trump already tried the "Why Don't You Ask Joe" tack during last week's dueling Town Halls, only to have Savannah Guthrie answer "Because you're here before me."

It might not be whatabout antifa this week; it could be whatabout Hunter Biden, or whatabout something Joe Biden said about busing in 1972, or whatabout Jeffrey Toobin jerking off on Zoom. Or whatabout all three.

Shortly after I sent this cartoon off to Q Syndicate, the debate sponsors announced that each candidate would get two minutes to answer the moderator's questions with the other candidate's microphone muted. Trump's campaign people promise that they're training him to be more polite, calm, and personable this time.

I'm not afraid of any of this getting in the way of Trump's insistence upon being the only person on stage who gets to talk. Expect him to shout, swipe Biden's mic off his podium, pull out an air horn, and maybe shoot spitballs. Certainly do not expect him to stop talking when his own two minutes are up.

 Unless he storms offstage early to go sulk on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

As If Any of It Makes Sense

Someone started this thing today of recaptioning random New Yorker cartoons with this particular sentence, so here's my contribution.

In case you get all your news from Catholic News Service, the New Yorker suspended legal analyst talking head Jeffrey Toobin for masturbating during a Zoom call with other New Yorker staffers and a New York radio station. Nobody is quite sure what was so arousing about the election simulation that was the focus of the call, in which Toobin was supposed to represent the U.S. judicial system.

Perhaps he was fantasizing about Amy Coney Barrett.

Anyway, cartoonists joke about being able to replace the captions of New Yorker cartoons with random lines, "Christ, what an asshole" being the classic example.

My offering here would have worked better by putting the caption in the future tense, but that would be breaking the rules of the game.

But if you want to get all meta about it, James Stevenson drew this cartoon in 1968, when neither he nor his fortune teller would have had any clue what Jeffrey Toobin or Zoom calls are.

Monday, October 19, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek

For this week's sneak peek, a pencil sketch for a version of the cartoon that I rejected.

Yeah, Porky Trump is back.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Has It Only Been Four Years?

January, 2017
Instead of reaching back a century for classic editorial cartoons, or a few decades for my early work, your faithful servant today limits today's post to the first two years of the Corrupt Trump Administration. His has been an extraordinarily long quadrennium, and it might be easy to have forgotten just how gawdawful his presidency was in the days before impeachment (remember that?) and COVID-19.

January, 2017
Donald Berzelius Trump's first priorities upon taking office was to erase every trace of Barack Obama's presidency, and one of the earliest things to disappear was the White House LGBT Liaison office and its corresponding web page.
March, 2017
From Day One, the principal qualification for cabinet and sub-cabinet posts in the Corrupt Trump Administration has been complete and total opposition to the department or agency one would be placed in charge of.
March, 2017
That includes Roger Severino, who is still in charge of dismantling HHS's Office for Civil Rights, and Betsy DeVos, still in charge of defunding public education.
March, 2017
Fossil fuel fanatic Scott Pruitt left the Environmental Protection Agency under a cloud of ethics violations in 2018. His replacement, coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, is hardly any improvement.
October, 2017
As Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions led the Corrupt Trump Administration's assault on the rights of minorities, especially the LGBTQ community. His one saving grace was that he did not see himself as the Trump family's personal lawyer, which is why he was replaced by lickspittle William Barr.
August, 2017
Trump has expended a lot of energy targeting transgender persons in general, and especially in the U.S. military. One of his justifications he gave for working to drum transgender personnel out of the military was the "tremendous" cost of their medical treatment... the total of which has proved to be far, far less than the cost of Trump's frequent golf trips. 
January, 2018
By the way, it was an exceptionally crass Trump tweet in June, 2017, alleging that a female cable TV host had been bleeding from cosmetic surgery, that got me to vow always to draw Trump with a pig's snout. His tweet came on top of a vulgar tweet about another female cable TV host menstruating, another tweet remarking that a female Republican senate candidate's face repulsed voters, and a retweet of a meme contrasting a flattering photo of Melania Trump with an unflattering one of a Republican senator's wife.

There was a flurry of pig-Trump cartoons that week; I have kept it as a leitmotif ever since, even when reconciling the snout with the needed facial expression was a real challenge. I have often also given him pig's hooves, thus breaking away from the editorial cartoon cliché of drawing him with tiny hands.
July, 2018
Let us not forget Trump's foreign policy, which consists largely of pissing off our democratic allies and sucking up to autocratic dictators. Especially the murderous ones.
July, 2018
You thought I was pivoting from foreign policy to the topic of our judicial system, didn't you? Well, perhaps you were right.
November, 2018

Through it all, Trump has behaved like a petty dictator, which explains his affinity for dictators abroad. He has been assisted by the Republican politburo in the House and Senate, and their mission to pack the courts with right-wing activists (which we discussed here more fully on Thursday).

January, 2018
Within the White House, we have Trump's Ministry of Truth, demonstrating why it's not such a great idea to run government like a business.

August, 2018

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Q Toon: Mutare Decisis

Amy Coney Barrett has been spending this week telling a Senate panel that as a nominee to the highest court in the land, she can't imagine how she might rule in cases involving abortion rights, gun control, the Affordable Care Act, or marriage equality,  or any of the other hot-button issues she has written about — not even whether Donald Trump can unilaterally postpone a federal election fergawdsake! — because the role of a Supreme Court Justice is not to prejudge cases before they come before the Court.

Meanwhile, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who no longer have any Senate confirmation hearings to worry about, just told the nation last week how eager they are to get a case before them that would allow them to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that established marriage equality under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Now that two of the five Justices who ruled in the majority are no longer on the Court, Thomas and Alito are not only telegraphing how they would rule in a case challenging Obergefell, they are openly inviting such a case to come their way.

If it seems peculiar that I should ignore the newest nominee to the Court to draw a cartoon about the Justice who has been around the longest, it's partly because opposition to the Coney Barrett nomination is already a lost cause, and always has been. So was opposition to the nominations of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, and support of the nomination of Merrick Garland.

Since the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, Republicans have been committed to packing the courts of this country, at every level, with right-wing activist judges come hell or high water. They have had a few disappointments along the way: Nixon named Lewis Powell to the Supreme Court to advocate aggressively for business interests, only to have Powell write the decision in Roe v. Wade. Ronald Reagan fulfilled a campaign pledge by putting Sandra Day O'Connor on the Court, only to have her earn a reputation as the swing vote there. Gerald Ford nominated John Paul Stevens, and George H.W. Bush named David Souter to the Court, only for them to side with the Court's liberals.

Right-wingers came together and vowed "No More Souters," and for thirty years — a full generation — there hasn't been. Republican senators scuttled George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers not over the issue of cronyism, but because she had not previously demonstrated a commitment to toeing the party line from the bench. So we got Thomas's fellow home-wrecker Samuel Alito instead.

If the present Coney Barrett nomination is a lost cause, the resistance to right-wing activism must look to the future. As the longest-serving Justice on the Court, Clarence Thomas may very well be the next to retire. But don't count on it; Justice Steven Breyer is ten years older than he.

What you can count on is that there will be at least one other Supreme Court appointment in the next four to eight years, and I for one would prefer to see a Democratic president when that happens, and — given Republican Senators who promised four years ago not to let Hillary Clinton fill any vacancies on the Court even if she won the 2016 election — a Democratic-majority Senate.

In the meantime, you can count on the Supreme Court to gut the Affordable Care Act, women's reproductive rights, gun control legislation, and marriage equality. That's what the mission of Republican court-packing has always been, confirmation hearings testimony notwithstanding. Again, I would prefer to see a Democratic president and a Democratic-majority Congress in office to pick up the pieces when those rulings come down.

But that's a discussion for another day. Shall we make it Saturday?

Monday, October 12, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek

This week's cartoon features someone I've drawn a dozen or so times over the nearly three decades he's been a nationally public figure, and I'm overdue to reevaluate how I draw him.

I've tended to fall back on the heavy-rimmed glasses that Clarence Thomas wore during his confirmation hearings in 1991, but I notice that he never wears them in photographs taken recently. People do get contacts, and even if they don't nearly everybody who wears glasses has to replace them every few years with something that might be more fashionable.

It's also difficult to tell in his photographs whether Thomas has kept his moustache. If so, it has certainly gone gray and thinned out over the years.

I hate to speak ill of a fellow cartoonist, but let me put it this way: if you find yourself in a rut, it's time to get out and stretch your legs a bit.

On a completely different note, I got featured in Comic Strip of the Day two days out of three this weekend! Son of a gun!