Thursday, July 29, 2021

Q Toon: Hungary and Thirst for Rightwingness

This is one of those weeks when I wish I were one of those cartoonists who didn't care whether the subject of my cartoon bore the slightest resemblance to my caricature of them.


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is an ultra-right-wing politician who came to power in 2010 whipping up fear and anger against Muslim refugees fleeing civil wars in Syria, Sudan, Libya and Afghanistan. His administration has been marked by an assault on press freedoms and dissent, and by unchecked kleptocracy.

Part and parcel of this right-wing package has been enforcement of a conservative brand of Christian "traditional values," primarily by attacking LGBTQ+ rights in every aspect of Hungarian life. The latest move has been a law prohibiting any positive mention of LGBTQ+ orientation or persons in the nation's education system.

Faced with outrage from Western members of the European Union, Orbán has proposed a national referendum to prove that his criminalization of LGBTQ+ discussion in schools enjoys popular support. Arriving at a meeting of his fellow EU leaders last month, Orbán claimed that there was nothing at all antigay about his antigay law.

He even portrayed himself as an LGBTQ+ rights hero:

"I am a fighter for their rights. I am a freedom fighter in the communist regime. Homosexuality was punished and I fought for their freedom and their rights. So I am defending the rights of the homosexual guys, but this law is not about that."

His anticommunist activities in 1989 notwithstanding, in the last two years, his agenda to defend the rights of the homosexual guys has involved rescinding recognition of transgender persons, and censoring LGBTQ+-positive content from television and film.

Orbán last appeared in this blog last December, when Hungarian representative to the European Union Parliament, József Szájer, a founder of Orbán's Fidesz Party, was caught at a gay sex party in Brussels that had too many participants according to Belgian COVID-19 restrictions then in effect. Orbán quickly accepted Szájer's resignation, telling the Hungarian press that "What our fellow member József Szájer has done does not fit into the values of our political community."

I doubt that Orbán's concern for the values of his political community was that there had been too many homosexual guys in that apartment.

Monday, July 26, 2021

This Week's Sneak Peek

Drawing this week's cartoon last night with only out-of-date photos and teensy weensy pictures on an iPod for reference, I had to make some hasty edits by computer this morning.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Cheer the Deer!

In honor of the Milwaukee Bucks clinching the national championship 50 years after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robinson, John McGlocklin and Bob Dandridge brought home the title, I've decided to dig up some of the Bucks-related cartoons I drew for the Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee back when I was their editorial cartoonist.

in Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee, January 15, 1999

The Beej, of course, didn't ask me for cartoons about the team per se; this cartoon drawn to accompany an editorial celebrating the end of the 1998-99 NBA lock-out is as close as we'll come today to a cartoon about the game itself.

in Business Journal oGM, Nov. 30, 2001
Most of these cartoons concern negotiations to merge the Bradley Center, the Bucks' home since 1988, with the Wisconsin Center, two blocks to its south.
in Business Journal, March 22, 2002
This one accompanied an editorial congratulating UHF Channel 41 for winning the rights to televise Bucks games for the 2002-03 season. Then using the call letters WMLW-LP (now WBME-CD), Channel 41 is a low-powered station whose broadcast signal has never extended far from Milwaukee County; local cable monopoly Time Warner only grudgingly added it to its line-up in 2003.

Channel 41 didn't retain the rights to Bucks games for long, however. It now runs TV reruns from the 1950's to '70's as part of the MeTV brand.

in Business Journal, Feb. 14, 2003

Now, this one was probably about the Bradley Center-Wisconsin Center merger, unless it was about the above-mentioned renovation plans, or something else entirely. I'm afraid I don't remember. Obviously, the Beej had some trepidations about whatever it was. What I really liked about this cartoon was that it didn't take very long to draw it.

I wish I could take credit for the composition of the cartoon, but credit is rightly due to the great Pat Oliphant. A basketball-themed cartoon of his years earlier demonstrated how to exaggerate height in a horizontally oriented cartoon, and I followed his example quite closely.

The bowling ball, however, was my idea.

in Business Journal, Dec. 19, 2003
Principals in the merger negotiations were Bradley Center Chair Ulice Payne, Jr. and Frank Gimbel, Chair of the Wisconsin Center District Board, so you'll be seeing them again in subsequent cartoons.
May 21, 2004

A proposal to rent out space at the Bradley Center was, of course, aimed at commercial development, but it was fun to imagine the Center opening up to residential occupancy instead. Of the cartoons in today's post, this is probably my favorite.

in Business Journal, Dec. 17, 2004

Editorially, the Business Journal was eager to see the Bradley Center-Wisconsin Center merger come through, and frustrated that negotiations were not getting anywhere.

in Business Journal, March 11, 2005

As negotiations dragged on, the Bucks' lease at the Bradley Center came due. Team management viewed the 17-year-old arena as out-of-date, and there was talk of the team considering pulling up stakes to find a more modern facility elsewhere.

in Business Journal, Oct. 14, 2005

The Business Journal decided to drop editorial cartoons at the end of 2005, before this merger business ever got settled. Once Wisconsin state government approved replacing the Bradley Center with Fiserve Forum in 2015, the merger was made moot. 

(If the merger ever happened, I've been unable to find a report of it. An on-line timeline from the Wisconsin Center District mentions the talks in the early '00's. It doesn't mention the Bradley Center again until July, 2015, when the Wisconsin State Senate's financing package for the Fiserv Forum included a provision for the WCD Board to oversee the Bradley Center. The Bradley Center was demolished in 2019, leaving plenty of room for the 65,000 fans massing outside Fiserv Forum on Tuesday.)


I can't end today's post without adding a much earlier cartoon of then-owner of the Bucks, Herb Kohl, when he was running to succeed U.S. Senator Bill Proxmire (D-WI). Kohl won the September primary against former Governor Tony Earl, former Senate candidate Steve Garvey, Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, and perennial also-ran Edmond Hou-Seye; Republican nominee Susan Engeleiter was a State Senator from Brookfield who had won her nomination over state party Chair Steve King.

in UW-M Post, Milwaukee, Wis., Sept. 20, 1988

Kohl's deep pockets helped him to a decisive victory over Engeleiter; that he had brought the Bucks to Milwaukee didn't hurt, either. Kohl sold the Bucks in 2014, and a son of new co-owner Marc Lasry is one of a swarm of Democratic candidates vying for the nomination to challenge Senator Ron Johnson next year. Alex Lasry sponsors posts that show up in my Facebook feed every day.

Time — and there is plenty of it between now and August, 2022 — will tell whether the Bucks' championship is enough to propel Lasry to the front of the pack.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Q Toon: Is Fox News Evil?

I'm exaggerating any antigay animus on Fox News's part because this is a cartoon drawn for the LGBTQ+ press. That animus exists — especially against transgender people as the whipping boy/girl/children du jour — even if Fox News hasn't been up in alarms about marriage equality or Gays In The Military lately.

What I'm not exaggerating is Fox News's reliance upon stirring up its audience's phobias and resentment against The Other, and promoting The Big Lie. As a Republican media outlet, Fox News is acutely aware that majority rule is a potential threat to their party; so it is eager to cast doubt upon the legitimacy of free and open elections.

Absent any real evidence of massive voter fraud by Democrats, Fox News can't state it as fact. (Indeed, nearly all of the instances of voter fraud that have come to light, rare as they are, have been individuals casting a second vote for Republican candidates.) Instead, Fox News puts democracy in jeopardy by casting its aspersions in the form of a question.

Fox News isn't accusing Democrats of busing dead illegal immigrant voters to the polls. It's just asking whether they might be doing it. Journalists are supposed to ask questions, aren't we?.

Hence the title of today's post.

Monday, July 19, 2021

This Week's Sneak Peek

My dad keeps joining and quitting these wine-of-the-month clubs that send him an entire case of wine every four weeks. The wines come with cards describing of the wine, the vineyard's history, and pairing suggestions.

My better half and I were over to Dad's for dinner yesterday, and Dad had selected a merlot from the Pays d'Oc region. I'd describe it as richer than a lot of merlots that you'll find out there; but as you may know, Wine People describe wine a bit more precisely than that. The card accompanying this merlot described its taste and aroma as incorporating black cherry, baking spices, truffles, pie crust, and riparian fauna.

Okay, I'll grant that maybe there was a bouquet reminiscent of cherry pie. If you say so.

But saying it smells like a wet beaver isn't going to be much of a selling point.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Eire Apparent

"If" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch  July, 1921

I get to start this week's history tour off with a cartoon about Ireland by Ireland — Billy Ireland, that is.

"The Twelfth" celebrations in Northern Ireland in the early part of July feature twelve days of parades and bonfires in celebration of the anniversary of Protestant King William of Orange's victory over Catholic King James II on July 12, 1691 (Julian calendar). For centuries, these festivities deliberately provoked Irish Catholics, marching through their neighborhoods and burning Irish flags.

"Too Hot" by Rollin Kirby in New York Evening World, July 22, 1921

So it may have been a happy coincidence that British forces and the Irish Republican Army declared a truce in the two-year-old Irish War of Independence on July 11, 1921.

"The Next Stop" by Roy H. James in St. Louis Star, July, 1921
American newspaper reports told of the news being greeted with celebrations and parades, although I have to wonder how many of those celebrations had more to do with "The Twelfth" than the announcement of the truce.
Untitled, by Bill Satterfield for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., by July 11, 1921

American cartoonists certainly received the news with enthusiasm...

Untitled, by Wm. C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, July, 1921

... even if they didn't quite agree upon who was inviting whom to the peace table.

"They'll Both Enjoy a Refreshing Plunge..." by Leo Bushnell for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., by July 13, 1921

Declaring a truce was one thing. Agreeing to a peace settlement was another thing entirely. The proposal from British Prime Minister David Lloyd George offered only limited autonomy to Ireland within the British Empire, analogous to England's dominion over Canada at the time. Irish Republic President Eamonn de Valera demanded complete independence for a united Ireland. Ulster Premier Sir James Craig insisted Northern Ireland would not be governed by Dublin.

"Getting Together to Drive the Snakes Out" by Wm. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, July, 1921

Nor did hostilities stop completely. Sinn Fein founder Arthur Griffith was convinced that the violence alone had no chance of achieving victory over the British army, but irregulars in the IRA continued to recruit fighters and to stage guerilla attacks against royalist targets. Peace negotiations, mediated by South African Premier Jan Smuts, kept plugging away nevertheless.
"Bearding the Lion in His Den" by Leo Bushnell for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., by July 20, 1921

Bushnell's second cartoon here hangs on a relatively obscure story from the Old Testament; cartoonists could get away with a greater store of biblical references a century ago than we can today.
"Getting Together..." by J.N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, July 25, 1921
Whereas virtually everybody can understand the challenge of getting a bulldog and a cat into the same basket.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Q Toon: One Small Step

Or, Friends In High Places:

Richard Branson won the billionaires' race to space on Sunday (or maybe not quite), and there have been a spaceshipload of cartoons criticizing Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk for squandering so much capital on vanity flights when there are still so many problems down here on Earth.

Rather than strain to find an original way to make that well-worn point, I expound today upon a minor sidebar article. Among the guests and bric-a-brac Branson took on his Virgin Galactic spaceplane was an LGBTQ+ pride flag*, intended to commemorate the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre five years ago.

He also brought along a photo of Stephen Colbert, which I didn't catch what that was supposed to commemorate, but having to cut it down to postage stamp size because of the weight taught a valuable lesson about materialism or whatever. And he's organizing some sort of a Go Fund Me to send a couple random less-than-billionaires up to the outer limits of the thermosphere.

So he went to space and he's trying his darnedest not to be a dick about it, and he respectfully asks all you earthbound socialists to get off his back, like, as if you wouldn't jet up to outer space if you had several billion quatloos burning a hole in your bank vault, okay?


* Update: Turns out it was a ribbon, not a flag.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Brumaire Guitar

h/t to Kevin Zirkelbach for the guitar

I have always known the year of the French Revolution — and by extension, the U.S. Constitution — thanks to Allan Sherman.

Monday, July 12, 2021

This Week's Sneak Peek

 Against all odds, I shall attempt to boldly go where no cartoonist has gone before.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

A Summer NIMBY-cue

I've been stuck in 1921 for over a month now, so lest my Saturdays turn into the Dead Cartoonists Society, allow me to catch up on the stuff I drew thirty years ago.

The UW-M Post published only two issues that summer, and there wasn't an editorial page in either of them; so I'm pretty sure that this cartoon, drawn when President George H.W. Bush replaced the Supreme Court's African-American civil rights lion with an African-American civil rights dog-in-the-manger, was never published. I did, however, get a few cartoons published in the Racine Journal Times over the summer of 1991.
in Journal Times, Racine, Wis., June 23, 1991

Wisconsin nearly lost a congressional seat in the 1990 census, threatening the end of the congressional career of one of the state's nine representatives: Les Aspin (D-WI1), Scott Klug (R-WI2), Steve Gunderson (R-WI3), Gerry Kleczka, (D-WI4), Jim Moody (D-WI5), Tom Petri (R-WI6), David Obey (D-WI7), Toby Roth (R-WI8), and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI9). 

Wisconsin narrowly escaped the cut in 1990, only to lose one of the the two Milwaukee seats after the 2000 census. Of these nine congressmen, only Kleczka, Petri, Obey, and Sensenbrenner were still in Congress by then. The last of the nine to leave Congress was Sensenbrenner, in January of this year.

There is nothing particularly original about my cartoon, although I do like how I incorporated the 1990 census's logo onto the record album.

in Journal Times, Racine, Wis., June 30, 1991

The rest of these cartoons were drawn about local issues and thus will require a bit of explaining. There was a proposal at the time to reroute and widen Wisconsin State Highway 38, a two-lane roadway between Racine and Milwaukee. For about three curvy miles, it dips in and out of creek valleys, so there are very few opportunities to pass if one should come up behind a slow driver. Joining up with County Trunk Highway G for an east-west mile, it passes through the unincorporated intersection of Husher, Wisconsin, notorious as little more than a speed trap. Tabor, on the other hand, doesn't even have a sign to mark where it is.

I put the distance to the 38-G exit in kilometers to indicate that the image was sometime in the future, but obviously I had no clue what cars of the future were going to look like...aside from that Smart Car at top center. (You may have noticed how far into the future they lasted.) No matter. Neither metric conversion nor the Highway 38 "Lake Arterial" have come to pass.


in Journal Times, Racine, Wis., August 4, 1991

A proposed sludge drying site in Mount Pleasant also sparked a lot of opposition from its would-be neighbors, to nobody's surprise. It's a dirty job that has to be done; you can't just let sludge build up in the sewer system and wastewater treatment systems. After humankind discovered that just dumping the stuff in our rivers, lakes, and oceans was a terrible idea, we had to come up with something else. And no, shooting it all into outer space is not the solution.

Step one, apparently, is to rename sludge "biosolids."

in Journal Times, Racine, Wis., August 12, 1991

When drawing cartoons critical of NIMBYism, I am mindful that one of the earlier Lake Arterial proposals had it running quite literally through my parents' back yard.

As illustrated by the Foxconn deal (their Potemkin factory now easily visible from my back yard), the lesson learned by the present leadership of Mount Pleasant has been to work in secret and only let the public know about a controversial project after it's too late to object to it.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Q Toon: Reveal Rethought

Or, What To Deflect When You're Expecting.

Gender reveal displays for newborns have become increasingly extravagant —and dangerous — as expectant parents seek to outdo every expectant couple that has gone before. Gender reveals have shaken the earth for miles around, or have sparked deadly wildfires and burnt tens of thousands of acres, or have killed guests or the father-to-would-have been.

Which must weigh awfully heavily on those kids as they grow up.

Especially if their birth gender isn't the one they want to stick with.

Imagine the scene: "You can't undergo gender correction surgery! Your father killed himself telling our friends you were a boy!" "We burned down an entire city to tell everyone you're a girl!"

Maybe it's past time to tone down the whole gender reveal game. Maybe even put it off a little while until everyone is on the same page. Just sayin'.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Independence Day, 1921

"When Dad Was a Boy and Today" by Goeta, July 4, 1921

It's Independence Eve, so while we anxiously await Thomas Jefferson's coming down our chimneys tonight to leave fireworks under our cherry tree, Sparklerback Saturday brings you the latest in 100-year-old cartoons celebrating the holiday.

"Just as the Youngsters Were Setting Off Their Big Firecracker" by Fontaine Fox in New York Evening Sun, July 1, 1921

Fontaine Fox's long-running cartoon feature included the very popular "Toonerville Trolley," which made the jump to animated shorts for the movie theatres. That might be before your time, so I'll add that one of its regular characters would be the inspiration for Looney Tunes's Yosemite Sam. And if you're too young to know who that is, I can't help you.

Fourth of July firecrackers blowing up unintended targets was a staple of Independence Day cartoons, as were admonitions to observe a "Safe and Sane Fourth." 

"The Safe and Sane Fourth" by Alfred G. "Zere" Ablitzere in New York Evening Post, July 2, 1921

Your great-grandparents were just as likely as you are to engage in unsafe and insane activities to celebrate our nation's birthday, although I don't think they ever managed to burn down everything west of the Rockies.

"Independence Day" by Harold T. Webster in New York Tribune, July 4, 1921

Prohibition showed up in a number of Independence Day cartoons in 1921. In case the print is too small to read on your iPhone, the book flying out of the cellar in H.T. Webster's cartoon is titled Recipes for Home Brew.

At the risk of stirring up some long-settled dirt: a year later, Fontaine Fox would use the same basic idea as Webster did for the holiday. Fox described his inspiration for the 1922 cartoon to Wesley Stout in a syndicated article that December:

“Cartoonists are supposed to work by inspiration. I do not, nor any I have known, We get our background from our own lives. In my case the particular idea almost invariably is the result of the impact of two disassociated ideas, produced after much thought and experiment. I first noticed the trick in the stories of O. Henry, who, like a cartoonist, first thought out his climax, then worked back. My last Fourth of July cartoon is an example. I thought over all the hackneyed subjects of the day; no idea there. I remembered a last-year’s cartoon contrasting the stealthy home-brewer with the title ‘Independence Day.’ That conception had been exhausted. Home-brewing and exploding firecrackers bear no relation to each other, but suddenly they came together and produced a cartoon.

"Neighborhood News" by Fontaine Fox, July 5, 1922

“Why not have the home-brewer’s still explode, but in the midst of the usual racket of the Fourth and thereby escape notice? There it was. It was original, it was laughable, and it was possible. That’s all there is to it.”

As Fox freely admitted, he had seen some cartoon linking home stills and fireworks, and it very well may not have been that of the widely syndicated Webster. It's quite possible that there is some other cartoon out there that Fox did see; Webster was not the only cartoonist in 1921 to contrast the ideals of the Founding Fathers with the ideals of the Parading Prohibitionists.

"When We Read History to the Children..." by Rube Goldberg, July 4, 1921

This Rube Goldberg cartoon just goes to show that there is absolutely nothing new in opinions about current events showing up on the comics page.

Since the print is so small, here is the text of the first panel:

Father: "'On July 4th, 1776, our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence and made us a free people."

Child: "But Daddy, I don't understand."

Picket sign: "Don't set off fireworks. Don't play cards. Don't drink. Don't smoke. Don't play pool. Don't laugh. Don't everything."

"Our National Birthright and Bulwark..." by Leo Bushnell for Central Press Assn., July 4, 1921

As always, there were enough politically neutral patriotic cartoons for newspapers in the Great American Middle to splash across Page One of the Fourth of July edition. 
"The Heart of the Nation" by Bill Satterfield for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., by July 4, 1921

"Zip —Boom—Bang" by Magnus Kettner for Western Newspaper Union, by July 5, 1921

(Side note: Independence Day fell on a Monday that year, and many evening papers did not publish on the holiday.)

"Political Freedom, 1776..." by John Baer, by July 1, 1921

Striking a more confrontational tone, labor cartoonist and former Congressman John Baer penned this cartoon for labor newspapers touting a pronouncement from the American Federation of Labor. Under Republican presidents and congresses, and in spite of Baer's cartoon, organized labor in the 1920's saw a decline in union membership and political influence.

The orator in Baer's cartoon does not much resemble AFL President Samuel Gompers, his successor William Green, or Baer himself. If anyone can identify him, I'd be pleased to hear it.

"Those Americans Don't Know What Real Independence Is" by Clifford Berryman in Washington Evening Star, July 4, 1921
Meanwhile, Clifford Berryman draws a contrast between the United States and the workers' paradise in Soviet Russia, depicting Lenin and Trotsky standing incongruously in a field of Greek ruins.
"Safe and Sane" by J.N. "Ding" Darling in Colliers, July 9, 1921
Making a more pointed observation, "Ding" Darling notes that the U.S. was celebrating its independence from an imperial power on the other side of an ocean despite having become a transoceanic imperial power itself.

As it happened, neither Russia nor the Philippines were the Big News that Independence Day weekend. Jack Dempsey's victory over Frenchman Georges Carpentier to retain the title of World Boxing Champion made banner headlines — and EXTRA! editions — in many newspapers around the country.

Nobody was able to watch it live Cable+ Pay Per View in those days, you know.

Some papers, on the other hand, had local news to report — in this case with a startling level of cheering-on:

Ah, but you were not expecting to run into any Critical Race Theory today, so let us blithely return to holiday hijinks and gentle giggles. 

"Polly and Her Pals" by Cliff Sterrett, July 4, 1921

To end today's post on a lighter note, here are the July 4 episode of "Polly and Her Pals" and Gluyas Williams's "Guide to Fourth of July Oratory." To those of you reading on a hand-held device, I apologize for not replacing Mr. Williams's captions with larger print or cutting the cartoon up into nine separate image files.  To the rest of you, enjoy the cartoon as it was originally meant to be seen. 

On a desktop computer screen.

"A Complete Guide to Fourth of July Oratory" by Gluyas Williams in Life, July 7, 1921