Monday, November 30, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek

Departing from the usual practice here, this week's sneak peek is actually a panel from a cartoon of mine from six years ago.

I'm still hoping, of course, that it will go viral.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Saturday through the Looking Glass with Alice

Detail from cartoon in Manitou Messenger, St. Olaf College, Northfield MN, Oct. 23, 1980
This week's syndicated cartoon was a parody of an illustration by Sir John Tenniel of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. That is a source I've drawn from quite a few times over the years: Carroll's psychedelic absurdities fit all manner of political shenanigans, and Tenniel's artwork set the standard for Aliciana. (Besides, one doesn't have to contend with Disney Inc.'s lawyers.)
"You Are Old, Ronald Reagan" is a parody of Carroll's parody of a poem; the original extolled the benefits of virtuous living for longevity. 

There was considerable talk about Ronald Reagan's age when he ran for president in 1980. Reagan was 69 years old on Inauguration Day 1981, taking the title of Oldest President At Inauguration from the previous record holder, William Henry Harrison (aged 68 and still the record holder for Briefest Presidency). 

Pikers both! Joe Biden is 78, and thus older today than Reagan was on the day he left office. Trump is 74. And of the other candidates we could have elected, four are older than Reagan was when I drew the above cartoon: Bernie Sanders is 79, Elizabeth Warren is 71, and Michael Bloomberg will celebrate his 79th birthday in February.

Unpublished, February, 1987
Here are two excerpts from a Lewis Carroll themed cartoon I started, but never finished, to comment on the Reagan administration in 1987. The Tower Report depicted the president as disengaged from the Iran-Contra scandal; meanwhile, it was supposedly First Lady Nancy Reagan who had insisted upon the firing of Don Regan as her husband's Chief of Staff.

Unpublished, February, 1987

In Through the Looking Glass, Alice encounters Humpty Dumpty, who sermonizes on his idiosyncratic definition of the word "glory." 

in NorthCountry Journal, Poynette WI, April, 1988
It is not one of the better known episodes in Carroll's books, and certainly not as popular as the nursery rhyme about Mr. Dumpty's fall. I have nevertheless used it twice (here and in a cartoon about Mitt Romney) because it comes in especially handy when Republicans give their policies an intentionally misleading name: such as crafting legislation to make polluting easier and calling it "The Clear Skies Act of 2003," for example.

in Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee, October, 1997
Elsewhere in Through the Looking Glass, Alice's encounter with Tweedledum and Tweedledee is well-known, if only because editorial cartoonists find it the perfect metaphor for any two entities that are supposed to be separate and distinct, but aren't. Indeed, the danger in using such an obvious metaphor increases the possibility that some other cartoonist might use the same image to express the same point about the same news item.

Q Syndicate, March, 2011
One way to avoid that possibility is to take the reference and stretch it out beyond its original limits.

Finally, I made use of Carroll's "Jabberwocky" a couple of times this year, in the background of a pair of cartoons about the presidential and vice presidential debates.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Q Toon: The Unveiling

Sure, there have already been plenty of cartoons mocking Donald Crybaby Trump's infantile refusal to accept defeat in the presidential election; but seriously, it's like I've been setting this cartoon up for two and a half years.

June of 2017 is when I started drawing him with a pig's snout, and I am eagerly looking forward to retiring the leitmotif. And everything else about him.

As one after another of Trump's frivolous lawsuits and recounts fail him, The Corrupt Trump Administration finally gave up his obstinate refusal to begin the transition process to the new Biden administration late Monday. Recounts in Wisconsin's Milwaukee and Dane Counties continue, however, in the GOP's on-going effort to disenfranchise people of color, students, and others who have the effrontery to live in urban centers — the GOP's desperate effort to, in fact, steal the election.

And Trump himself still refuses to concede, which we've known for the past four years that he could never bring himself to do.

In this cartoon, I am, of course, anticipating the day when Trump's official presidential portrait is unveiled in a White House ceremony. It is a traditional honor every American president has afforded to his predecessor since 1978, a tradition broken by Trump himself. (Former President Jimmy Carter declined having a ceremonial unveiling of his own portrait, but other than that, the tradition has stood.)

Now I suppose it's unlikely that Soon To Be Former President Trump will commission a portrait of himself as the Pig Baby from Alice in Wonderland. His official portrait is more likely to come from the guy who cranks out hagiographic paintings of Trump wrapped in an American flag and shaking Jesus's hand while walking on water.

Either way, he's unlikely to show up for the official unveiling. Unless that's the only way he can get anyone to pay attention to him any more by then. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Thanksgiving Week's Sneak Peek

 No, I didn't draw this lovely face. But it has plenty to do with this week's cartoon.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Slouching Toward Fallujah

in UWM Post (Milwaukee, Wis.), Nov. 13, 1990
One of the currents running through these Somewhatback Saturday posts of mine has been 30-year-old cartoons of mine. That current is now hitting the warm-up to Gulf War I, which I've covered in a number of other posts already, including just four years ago. Which seems a long time ago, I know. Well, I will probably want to mark the 50th anniversary of Nixon's resignation if I'm still around four years from now, in spite of reminiscing about it here last week. I guess four years is long enough.
in UW-Parkside Ranger (Kenosha, Wis.), Nov. 15, 1990
So here we go again. In case you haven't gotten to 1990's history in whatever education system has been cobbled together in your area, the war came about in response to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's invasion and annexation of the emirate of Kuwait in August, 1990. U.S. President George H.W. Bush spent the rest of the year cobbling together a coalition of nations in support of diplomatic and military action against Iraq to restore Kuwaiti sovereignty.

in UWM Post, Nov. 15, 1990

Diplomatic pressure on Iraq yielded only defiance from Hussein.

in Journal Times, Racine, Wis., Nov. 23, 1990
This is one of very, very few of my Journal Times cartoons that were not about local or state issues. I would have preferred not to have to label Neville Chamberlain or Lyndon Johnson, but one can't always count on every reader to recognize every caricature.
in UW-Parkside Ranger, Nov. 29, 1990
The Bush administration reached out to and received encouragement from Syria's President Hafez al-Assad, long a foe of U.S. ally Israel and an ally of the Soviet Union. At this point, war with Iraq became inevitable.

in UW-M Post, Nov. 29, 1990
Even if Saddam Hussein refused to believe it.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Q Toon: Article of Faith

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, in a wide-ranging speech to the right-wing Federalist Society, lambasted LGBTQ rights activists for insisting upon infringing upon conservative Christians' right to discriminate against them,
... even suggesting that the pressure Christians face surrounding their religious beliefs is akin to the strictures the U.S. placed on Germany and Japan after World War II.
“Is our country going to follow that course?” Alito asked. “For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry and can’t be tolerated, even when there is no evidence that anybody has been harmed. ... The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs.”

Alito offered as a case in point marriage equality, which he believes victimizes people who believe in opposite-sex marriage supremacy. 

The Gays aren't the only ones assaulting religious liberty, he said. Governmental attempts to stem the spread of COVID-19 also have Alito fuming: “Think of worship services! Churches closed on Easter Sunday, synagogues closed for Passover in Yom Kippur!”

As the present "third wave" of the disease dwarfs the first and second waves in this country, he's not going to like the looks of Christmas this year, either.

But it's not as if the coronavirus is ignoring secular holidays such as Black Friday, New Year's Eve, or Superbowl Sunday, either.

Some legal scholars seemed surprised by Alito's brazenly political speech. In one lawyer's tweet,

“This speech is like I woke up from a vampire dream,” University of Baltimore law professor and former federal prosecutor Kim Wehle wrote. “Unscrupulously biased, political, and even angry. I can’t imagine why Alito did this publicly. Totally inappropriate and damaging to the Supreme Court.”

I'm not sure why this should come as a shock to anyone. After all, Alito is the Supreme Court Justice caught shaking his head and clearly mouthing "Not true!" at Barack Obama during the then-President's 2010 State of the Union address. (Obama was criticizing the Court's Citizens United ruling.) While that's not quite in the same league as shouting "You lie!" or tearing up one's copy of the speech, the people who did those things were members of Congress — politicians — and I guess we've come to expect that behavior from the House and Senate. The other Justices present during Obama's address sat dispassionately throughout.

In another speech to the Federalist Society four years ago, Alito bemoaned the liberal "campus culture" at some colleges and universities that supposedly stifles conservatives' free speech. Maybe so. Alito might be afraid to speak on liberal campuses of higher learning, but he is right at home bravely speaking to right-wing and libertarian septic think tanks.

None of the views Alito expressed are likely to shock those who have read his legal opinions or other public statements, [University of Massachusetts School of Law professor John T.] Rice said, but their public airing flies in the face of Chief Justice John Roberts’s efforts to keep the court above the political fray.

“Is there a rule that Justice Alito violated? Is there any recourse against him? No,” Rice said. “But was it wise? No.”

Monday, November 16, 2020

More Advice from Dr. Atlas


Dr. Scott Atlas, the White House’s controversial coronavirus adviser, encouraged an insurrection on Sunday against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) over Michigan’s new COVID-19 safety protocols meant to curb the state’s skyrocketing infection rates.

The remarks by Atlas, who is a neuroradiologist with no formal training in treating infectious diseases, came in response to the Democratic governor announcing an epidemic order starting Wednesday for at least three weeks. The new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services regulations halt in-person learning for high schools and colleges, indoor dining, theaters, stadiums, organized sports, casinos and group exercise classes."

“The only way this stops is if people rise up,” the Trump adviser tweeted in response to the new regulations. “You get what you accept.

This Week's Sneak Peek

Is it too late to move to Georgia? I hear it's still election season down there. Golly, I miss all the campaign commercials and phone calls.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

We Have All Been Here Before

"The King Is Dead..." by Paul Conrad in Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1974
Very well: we have not all been here before; but if your mind's ear sang today's blog post title, yes, you were.
"'By the Dawn's Early Light'" by Eric Smith in Capital Gazette, Annapolis MD, Aug. 9, 1974

As we look forward to the end of one long national nightmare 68 days from now, Siricaback Saturday looks backward 46 years to the end of another. Facing certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and calls from leading Republican senators to resign, President Richard M. Nixon finally accepted the inevitable on August 8, 1974.

"Because I Have Lost the Support of the Crew..." by Bill Sanders in Milwaukee Journal, Aug. 9, 1974
By and large, the nation greeted Nixon's resignation with relief, and welcomed the new President, Gerald R. Ford, in spite of the fact that he remains the first and only person inaugurated President without having first run on a national ticket.

No caption, by Leonard Borozinski in Wisconsin State Journal (Madison), Aug. 9, 1974
Borozinski's cartoon, perhaps also punning on the new president's name, riffs on a television commercial for Hertz Rent-a-Car that was already a dated reference in 1974.

"Well, Let's Go At It" by Bill Sanders in Milwaukee Journal, Aug. 11, 1974
Ford had been House Minority Leader before Nixon named him to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew, but the career politician was not well known outside of Washington D.C. or Michigan. Still, he seemed to promise a calm, steady hand, and an end to Nixon's paranoia and the partisan rancor over the Watergate break-in and cover-up. Conservatives and liberals alike wished him well.

No caption, by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, Aug. 17, 1974
I can't tell you how tempting it is to redraw Dick Locher's cartoon with President-elect Joe Biden firing the flit. Of course, Locher was making reference to Nixon's tape recording system — bugs— in the Oval Office. This time around, we have at least been spared whatever unitelligibles and deleted expletives might have been revealed on any Trump tapes. But you never know for sure. Keeping Up with the Kushners could be coming up on E! any day now.
No caption, by Pat Oliphant in Denver Post, Aug. 7, 1974

A day before Nixon's resignation, Pat Oliphant drew Vice President Ford opening a White House closet to find the cobweb-ridden sign that had supposedly been carried by 13-year-old Vicki Lynne Cole at a 1968 Nixon for President rally in Deshler, Ohio. (Parts of the story may be apocryphal.) A friend of Nixon's had told his speechwriters about having seen the sign, and the phrase became a slogan for the campaign. It also figured prominently in Nixon's Election Night victory speech.
"I'll Try, Honey..." by Hugh Haynie in Louisville Courier-Journal, August, 1974
Somewhere, that teenager, now hitting retirement age, is still waiting for a president who can bring us together.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Q Toon: Throwing Shade

Anyone expecting the "blue wave" pollsters were predicting before November 3 is by now profoundly underwhelmed. Suburban housewives, we were told, were repelled by Trump's misogyny and the bad example he continually sets for the nation's children. People of color were motivated against him by his racist, fascist policies. Voters inclined to give him a try four years ago were dismayed by his feckless response to COVID-19 and empty promises on health care reform. Republican candidates were starting to distance themselves from him.

Even Texas was supposed to be in play!

Then came November 3, 2020, and it looked like Election Night 2016 all over again.

It has taken days for the massive numbers of early and absentee votes to be counted; they each have to be removed from envelopes, unfolded, checked for witness signatures and so forth, and that takes time. But they have turned the tide for Joe Biden. Hooray for that.

It was not, however, the sort of tide we had been promised.

"The fact is we are, perhaps more than any time since the late 1850s, a divided country—divided not only by ideology and policy preferences (that’s normal; it’s what elections are supposed to decide) but also by the way we see the world. The two sides seem to occupy different universes. One universe observes facts, respects science, and values at least the goals of democracy and civility; the other universe does not. And the two view each other with seething contempt. Trump may wind up defeated, but Trumpism very much endures."

Looking back, Dear Misleader found support in the polls from that hard-core base of his: the people who took time from their busy day to swarm the freeways in their Trump-flag-waving pick-ups and SUVs, to sink their pleasure boats in Trump flotillas, or, like one home we passed on our way home from vacation this week, to festoon its yard with upwards of fifty Trump Pence signs.

His poll numbers should have included all the people for whom criminalizing abortion is the one and only issue at all times. In September, when Biden came to the church where I work, for a community discussion of race and policing after the Jacob Blake shooting, comments from the anti-abortion zealots flooded the church's Facebook page and website, and the phone rang off the hook with their calls. Not all, but many of their irate messages were about abortion and nothing else.

To the hard-core Trumpsters and the anti-abortion zealots were added on Election Day a great many voters who told pollsters that they were "undecided." They may not have been Trumpsters loud and proud, but they saw him as a protector against the scary-looking rioters setting cities on fire, marauding through residential neighborhoods, and shooting police officers.

I know these people. The church where I work filled with the smell of smoke from the surrounding business district in the days after Jacob Blake was shot. Opportunistic thugs speeding through a suburban neighborhood the first night of the riots wrecked their car right outside the house of my in-laws. The Trump and America First ads on radio and television linking Biden, Kamala Harris, and every possible down-ballot Democrat to the burning and looting proved more effective around here than those clever ads from the Lincoln Project.

Sure, Biden eked out a victory in Wisconsin, but our well-gerrymandered Republicans in the legislature and Congress fared better in this general election year than they did in 2018.

Besides, as far as down-ballot races were concerned, did you really think those dismayed Republican housewives, even if they broke for Biden, were going to vote a straight ticket?

I predict that the Lincoln Projectors will turn against Biden in a heartbeat come January 20. But they may not be exactly welcomed back into the Grand Old Party they forsook. Trumpsters are in charge there now, they ain't leaving, and they ain't the forgiving type.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Post Card from Galena

My husband and I just returned home from an extended weekend in Galena, Illinois to celebrate our anniversary and a birthday with a zero in it. We have usually taken a trip abroad when either of us has a decade birthday, but COVID-19 kept us downsizing our plans again and again this year.

At least we hadn't continued planning, as we had been at one point, on driving down to central Florida. Last week's record-breaking mild weather in the Midwest was far and away better than what Hurricane Eta was affording Floridians.

Galena is a peculiar little town folded in among gullies and ravines on the steep valley walls of the Galena River, which used to be called Fever River, but 19th Century civic leaders decided that its name wasn't a particularly effective selling point for the place. It's the hometown of General and President Ulysses S. Grant, so you can visit his home, and a museum where there is a painting by Thomas Nast of General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. 

You can also browse a Main Street crowded with shops selling all manner of bric-a-brac. I found a used book of editorial cartoons by Frank Miller, culled from his entire career's output by his Des Moines Register editors after he died in 1983. I look forward to reading it.

Galena, population somewhere around 3,500, seems to have escaped the attentions of U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. It has two post offices, the same number that remain within the city limits of the burg of 78,000 where I was raised. We also came across those blue mailboxes in several places around Galena; where I live, you can only find those boxes at the Post Office.

This post comes as a way of explaining, or perhaps excusing, tomorrow's cartoon.

The birthday of my better half comes early in November, which coincides with regularly scheduled elections. For a political cartoonist, taking vacations in early November is like a tax attorney closing shop for the first half of April. But we do it anyway.

As we were about to leave for Puerto Vallarta in November, 2000, I proposed to my editor that I leave him two cartoons: one for use if George W. Bush won the election, and another for use if Al Gore won. He told me to come up with something else, and it's a good thing he did. That election had still not been decided by the time we returned home.

Tomorrow's cartoon was drawn after this year's ballots had been cast, but while only Donald Tommy Flanagan Trump was projecting any winner. I kept to my former editor's advice, and drew a cartoon that would reflect my views, whether the election would have been won by Trump, Joe Biden, or a player to be named later.

Anywho, it's good to be home again, to our own bed, to our own kitchen, and to a television that isn't programmed to tune in to Fox News every time we turn it on.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Harding Knocks

"The Favorite Son Rise" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 3, 1920

In celebration of America's exercise in democracy this week, Settleback Saturday recalls the election 100 years ago of the second most corrupt president in U.S. history.

But we're not here to talk about current events today.

"Thumbs Up Or Thumbs Down?" by Jay N. "Ding" Darling in Collier's, Nov. 6, 1920

Nelson Harding (no relation to the winner) may have had the cartoon at the top of today's post ready before the election results were final for the day-after-Election-Day newspaper but for the face; both candidates happened to be from Ohio. But as shown by Ding Darling's cartoon for Collier's weekly, published well before the votes were in, the outcome was never really in doubt. Cox carried only Virginia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas.

Darling, a Republican through and through, disagreed strongly with Warren Harding's stand against the League of Nations; he was also disappointed by Democrat James Cox's petty campaign that was less about what a Cox administration would do than about leveling charges of financial irregularities against the Republican Party.

"It's A Great Day for America" by Albert T. Reid in National Republican, ca. Nov. 3, 1920
Staunch Republican Albert T. Reid, on the other hand, had no reservations whatsoever that Harding's election was "a great day for America." This is the one and only cartoon I came across between the Republican National Convention and Election Day in which Calvin Coolidge appears in person. Here Columbia (then still a common representation of the U.S.) presents Harding and Coolidge with "Mandate[s] from the American People for the Government of the United States."

"The Birthday Gift" by Clifford Berryman in Washington Evening Star, Nov. 3, 1920
Speaking of gifts, a somewhat less partisan observer, Clifford Berryman noted that Election Day 1920 happened to be Warren Harding's 55th birthday.
"Victory" by Raymond O. Evans (Sr.) for National Welfare Union, Nov. 3, 1920
Googling the National Welfare Union mostly leads me to other newspapers running this particular cartoon by R.O. Evans, who was editorial cartoonist of the Baltimore American. A cartoon of this sort on the day after Election Day might not necessarily indicate the cartoonist's or the National Welfare Union's political leanings, although "America First" is a recurrent theme in a couple examples of Mr. Evans's work that have shown up in this here blog.
"Now for the House Cleaning," unsigned, for National Welfare Union, Nov. 3, 1920
I can't find a signature in this cartoon, also for the National Welfare Union, although the style suggests perhaps Clifford Berryman of the Washington Evening Star (see "The Birthday Gift" above). The cartoonist, whoever he was, attributed Harding's landslide win to the women, Harding Democrats, and Progressives. Curiously, the G.O.P. elephant peering out from behind a pillar doesn't appear to be doing any work at all — which, frankly, doesn't make a bit of sense to me.
"Der Kampf um den Völkerbund" by Arthur Johnson in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, Nov. 21, 1920
German cartoonists, while unfamiliar with Mr. Harding, were as happy as U.S. Republicans were to see the election results as a repudiation of President Woodrow Wilson and his League of Nations. Harding's promises of a return to "normalcy" guaranteed that Germany would no longer be pestered by moralizing from the White House.
"Wilsons Abschied" by Ernst Schilling in Simplicissimus, Munich, Nov. 24, 1920
Wilson did find some time to write in his final years, including some essays about the rise of totalitarianism; but he left authorship about his own administration to others.
"A New Front Porch" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 5, 1920
Returning, then, to the work of Nelson Harding, we find a nation ready to turn the page, a nation relieved by the relaxed, front-porch campaign style of Warren Harding after coming through a Great War, international upheaval, and a deadly global pandemic. Anyone expecting an end to Red Scares, Klan terrorism, or governmental mismanagement, however, was to be sadly disappointed.

"Let's Have a Real Election Bonfire" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 7, 1920

I daresay you can easily find plenty of agreement with this third Nelson Harding cartoon today.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Q Toon: Barer of Good News

What can I say?

The coronacrisis has been with us for over eight months. We have known since the outset that wearing face masks in public cuts down the virus's opportunity to spread.

We have also had a president who thinks he's smarter than all the people who have actual education and experience in virology. Who knew since January that COVID-19 is more serious than the flu, but didn't want to panic the stock markets. (He doesn't give a rat's ass about panicking the American public. He has been spreading panic about everything from Mexican immigrants to transgender Americans for over four years.)

We also have a sizeable portion of the populace who revel in their own ignorance, getting all their information from Qrackpots on the internet, AM radio, and Fox News. People who have developed a contempt for the greater society, seeing all social programs as evil socialism. People who think tearing down the Great Society will Make America Great Again.

And who have convinced themselves, egged on by His Crapulence, that having to wear a mask just because there's a deadly disease on the loose is exactly the kind of totalitarian tyranny that their pilgrim ancestors overthrew British Czar George Stalin III and his redcoats to prevent. They look to Dear Misleader's example and are convinced that if they do happen to catch COVID, they can just hop Air Force 1 over to Walter Reed for a couple days and then get right home again in time for Sunday's Game of the Week.

And if their carelessness infects others around them, tough. Don't say they never gave you nothin'.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

It All Comes Down to This

Screengrab of a message from the Trump campaign

 Yeah, that about sums it up.

Monday, November 2, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek

Election week is always a challenge.

I have to draw a cartoon by Monday morning that won't appear in client publications until after Election Day. It helps when there are other news items that aren't dependent on knowing whether anyone will have won by the end of the week.