Saturday, July 30, 2022

Klan Sweeps Texas Election

Another thread of history that we're following through 1922 is the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

A Klan candidate for the U.S. Senate, Earle B. Mayfield, led the results in Texas's Democratic primary for the seat held by Charles Allen Culberson. Culberson had been the state's Attorney General, then Governor, before being elected Senator in 1898. Culberson came out strongly against the Klan and was supported by the anti-Klan Dallas Morning News; but the four-term senator was in ill health. In the six-candidate Democratic primary on July 22, 1922, Culberson came in third, behind Mayfield and impeached former Governor James "Farmer Jim" Ferguson.

"Something to Kick About" by Bill Sykes Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 26, 1922

Because none of the candidates garnered a majority of the vote, there would be a run-off election between the top two. Ferguson was barred by the legislature from seeking office in Texas because of his impeachment and conviction on ten counts of misapplication of public funds and receiving $156,000 from some unnamed source. (The accusations stemmed from Gov. Ferguson's veto of funds for the University of Texas in retaliation against political rivals among the faculty.) Sen. Culberson tried to get Ferguson stricken from the run-off ballot, but to no avail.

"I'll Sure Be Glad When This Primary Season Is Over" by Clifford Berryman in Washington (DC) Evening Star, August 3, 1922

Incidentally, the Klan also backed incumbent Governor Patrick M. Neff, who cruised to renomination. Neff did not campaign on Klan issues, however, unless you count his declaring marshal law against striking railroad workers in Denison as a Klan issue.

"The Day After" by John Knott in Galveston Daily News, July 23, 1922

I had hoped to include some wisdom here from John Knott, who, to the best of my knowledge, was the only working editorial cartoonist in Texas at the time. I'm disappointed that the only cartoon of his that I have been able to find was this offering from the Sunday morning immediately after the Saturday primary.

Chances are that Knott drew this cartoon before the results were known; but even in the weeks before the July 22 primary, I found nothing from Knott about the senate race in Texas. He did, on the other hand, find inspiration to draw two cartoons in July about the apparently hotly debated topic of whether or not quail eat boll weevils.

Oh, well. We'll come back to Knott's August cartoons about the campaign, but I'm afraid that wisdom I was hoping for from him is less insightful than I had expected.

"The Menace" by H. Bensten in Minneapolis Star, Aug. 3, 1922

As the Texas run-off campaign chugged on, Mayfield accused Ferguson of being an "unrepentant perjurer," and of having received 3,500 Black votes in Bexar County in violation of Democratic primary rules. Ferguson charged that Mayfield "might vote dry, but drank wet," and was “guilty of conduct with the opposite sex that I cannot, in decency, mention when ladies are present in the audience.”

Supported by Texas's other U.S. Senator, Morris Sheppard, Mayfield won the August 26 run-off election for the Democratic nomination and subsequent endorsement at the state party convention.

Republicans, still associated with the so-called "Northern War of Aggression" and Reconstruction, were a negligible force in Texas politics at this time. The GOP lent its support to an anti-Klan Democrat running as an independent, George Peddy, whose write-in campaign netted 33.1% of the vote on November 7 to Mayfield's 66.9%.

Charging irregularities in Texas filing deadlines, Peddy challenged the November results, which only delayed Mayfield from assuming the Senate seat until December 3. Mayfield would serve only one term, ousted in 1928 by Democrat Tom Connally.

And just to the north, the Klan — despite its protestations to the contrary — was also active in Oklahoma's Democratic primary, with some success.

The Tulsa World includes another story on the left side of the front page that would make bigger headlines later on.

Few editorial cartoonists put out anything about the Klan candidates that summer. The coal and railroad union strikes were a more immediate issue for nearly all of them, as was the topic of summer vacations. Besides, there were plenty of local primary races all over the country, closer to the drawing board than down Texas way.

"Pollyanna's Patter" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 31, 1922

Friday, July 29, 2022

Burning Issues of the Day

"We Shure Would Like to Get This Important Question Settled" by John Knott in Galveston Daily News, July 16, 1922

Tune in tomorrow, when we'll dive into the pressing issues of the 1922 political campaign.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Q Toon: Pox Populi

This week's cartoon serves as a reminder that monkey pox is spreading like, well, a virus. The World Health Organization reports that cases are doubling every two weeks, and time to control its spread is rapidly running out.

As any virus would that is spread through contact with skin and bodily fluids, monkey pox has found a convenient outlet among sexually active men who have sex with other men. Particularly, men who have sex with more than one other man. It's not fair, but it's true.

When HIV/AIDS burst onto the scene four decades ago, many gay men resisted the calls to change their behavior. 

Sadly, many of those men are no longer with us.

But the resistance to health warnings remains, and not just from men who have sex with other men.

Otherwise, COVID-19 might now be the answer to a trivia question. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

This Week's Sneak Peek

We had a busy weekend Chez Bergetoons... A storm knocked the power out early Saturday morning for a good chunk of the day; after that, we found that my computer (on which scanning and coloring my cartoons and sending them off to Q Syndicate depends) was extremely reluctant to boot up. Then came a highly over-scheduled Sunday, so I didn't put pencil to bristol board until quite late at night.

Whatever is wrong with this week's cartoon, you now know why.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The 1922 Coal Strike (continued)

One of the trends we've been following in our Graphical History Tour is the labor strife that followed once World War I was over over there.

"Intelligence" by Roy H. James in St. Louis Star, July 19, 1922

100 years ago this past week, there was more deadly violence in the coal miners' nationwide strike that had been going on since April. On July 17, 1922, eight union miners (possibly more) and local Sheriff H.H. Duval were killed in an attack on a non-union mine in Cliffton, West Virginia. Scores more were wounded, mostly union men who, according to contemporary reports, were there from just across the state line in Pennsylvania.

This after striking miners had killed a supervisor and 22 strike-breakers at Southern Illinois Coal Company near Herrin, Illinois in June.

"Time to Look Ahead" by Michael Callaghan in Minneapolis Star, July 10, 1922

Given the violence, it's surprising that most of these cartoons take the sanguine approach of worrying about the prospect of coal shortages in the colder months ahead. Or, in this next Callaghan cartoon, the more immediate effect on railroad transportation (the concurrent strike by railroad workers nearing a temporary resolution at this point).

"The Harding Plan" by Michael Callaghan in Minneapolis Star, July 26, 1922

Of course, a coal shortage in 1922 would be a bigger deal than high gasoline prices have been this year. Most U.S. homes in wintry climes were heated by coal. (If Joe Manchin had his way, they still would be.)

"The Public Should Keep Cool" by J.N. "Ding" Darling in Des Moines Register, July 19, 1922

The text next to John Q. Public's fevered imagination is too small to read on line, so here's what it says: "For instance, why not let the mind dwell on next winter?"

"Any Idea of Fire Prevention" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 19, 1922

Criticized for not having acted to resolve the miners' strike, the Harding administration offered a proposal that the union workers go back to work while talks continued with the mine owners.

"No Thanks" by Walter "Pat" Enright in New York World, ca. July 19, 1922

That didn't go over so well with the rank and file, so shortly after the Clifton Mine incident, President Harding ordered the striking miners to return to work. To prevent any further violence, he promised military assistance to mine owners and to state governments.

"Relief in Sight" by William Hanny in St. Joseph News-Press, July 19, 2022

This news was greeted with relief by some. Since I haven’t reprinted anything by Bill Hanny in a while, he gets to represent those cartoonists today.

"R-S-V-P" by Grover Page in Louisville Courier-Journal, July 20, 2022

I'm not entirely sure how to interpret Grover Page's cartoon here, published two days after Harding's ultimatum to the union. Page can't be criticizing Harding for resting idly by; is Harding instead all tuckered out from wrestling with the unions and mine owners? Is he waiting patiently for them to RSVP to the "Invitation to End Strike" that is still sitting on his escritoire?

Detail from "The Tiny Tribune" by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, July 26, 2022

Even with the heating season half a year away, cartoonists such as those at the Chicago Tribune were ready for drastic action to bring the miners' strike to an end. After all, you couldn't run a railroad, forge iron into steel, or otherwise run an industrial nation without coal.

Fortunately, the United States was blessed with a multi-talented crisis manager, Harding's Secretary of Commerce (and "Undersecretary of Everything Else"), a jack-of-all-trades go-to hero who hadn’t ain't never failed us yet:

"To the Rescue" by Bill Sykes in Philadelphia Public Register, July 27, 1922
None other than Herbert Clark Hoover!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Q Toon: Put-Asunders' Ragtime Band

Senator Ted Cruz (R-UnAwayToCancun) joined right-wing Justice Clarence Thomas Saturday in urging the Supreme Court to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples.

"Obergefell, like Roe v. Wade, ignored two centuries of our nation's history," the senator argued in the clip from his podcast. "Marriage was always an issue that was left to the states. We saw states before Obergefell—some states were moving to allow gay marriage, other states were moving to allow civil partnerships. There were different standards that the states were adopting."

As heartening as it is to see the House of Representatives pass a bill Tuesday to protect same-sex marriage — with the support of 47 of the 211 Republicans, I don't foresee the measure finding ten Republicans and Joe Manchin who would let it come to a vote in the Senate.

The House bill also would protect interracial marriage, which leaves a glimmer of hope that at least that part of the bill might make it out of committee in the other chamber. Still, you've got Josh Hawley, Rand Paul, and their ilk needing to stay on the good side of the You Will Not Replace Us crowd. 

And as I'm sure Professor Cruz would tell you, Loving v. Virginia ignored a couple centuries of our nation's history, too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Wis. Dems Running for Senate

The five candidates running for Wisconsin's Democratic nomination to unseat Senator Ron Johnson met in what, for lack of a better word, was a debate in Milwaukee on Sunday night. Just about all of the questions by Moderators Charles Benson and Shannon Sims were in the form of "How has issue X directly affected you, and what, specifically, are you going to do about it? You have 120 seconds."

With barely any difference between one candidate and the next on any issue, most of their time was spent attacking Senator Johnson. There were very few attacks on each other; the rules allowed any candidate mentioned by name by another candidate 60 seconds to respond, so they wisely refrained from thereby giving someone else the last word.

We've seen a lot of the candidates in the foreground of my sketch: from left to right, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Milwaukee Bucks executive Vice President Alex Lasry, and Wisconsin Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, both on TV and in social media. 

When Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson's ad touting his rural roots aired after the debate, it was the first time I'd seen anything from him. (So I added the hat he wore in the commercial to the drawing.) He was the only one to talk about the Green New Deal by name; his repeated talking point was that he got himself elected County Exec in a solidly Republican county.

For the fifth candidate, Steven Olikara, founder of "The Millennial Action Project," the debate was an opportunity for him to finally reach beyond his Tik Tok followers. Instead of talking about how Issue X had directly affected him and what specifically he wanted to do about it — even when Issue X was abortion rights — he quickly pivoted to getting money out of politics.

There is no daylight between the front-runners on the issue of a woman's right to bodily autonomy; the difference has been how quickly they responded to Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Godlewski had a TV ad of her on the Supreme Court steps the very next day after the court's decision was announced. Lasry soon followed with an ad of him in a kitchen with his wife, who works at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and their toddler daughter. Barnes has recently begun airing an ad featuring his mother talking about her decision to end a pregnancy.

An aside here: I saw an ad on TV last week from a candidate for office touting her commitment to protect women's reproductive rights. I had never heard of her, and it turned out that she is running to succeed Godlewski as State Treasurer.

I'm kind of wondering what role our State Treasurer has in restoring abortion rights (an 1849 ban has supposedly gone back into effect here), but you can bet it will add one more reason why state Republicans want to get rid of the office.

The Republican candidates for Governor meet for one of these televised debates next week, and it promises to be a more lively affair. There will be fewer people on stage, for one thing. And the two leading candidates, former newscaster turned former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and Trump-endorsed construction executive Tim Michels, have been brutally attacking each other in their television ads for weeks.

Monday, July 18, 2022

This Week's Sneak Peek

What are The Gays upset about this time?

Check back in on us Thursday and find out.

Meanwhile, I've got some extra stuff in the pipeline between now and then; so it's back to the drawing board, and see you soon!

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Forty Summers of Twos

Last month, I noted that I had apparently drawn only one cartoon in the whole month of June, 1982 and offered that there was a probable reason for that.

The reason was that I was involved in the start-up of the Kenosha Tribune, which published its inaugural issue on July 1, 1982. Jumping from the well-established Journal Times in Racine to an upstart free weekly paper was a risky one, and one that didn't quite pay off. (I've already posted about the dispute between the publisher and the rest of the staff that doomed the Tribune, so I won't get into that here.)

"Hers & His" in Kenosha Tribune, July 1, 1982

The Kenosha Tribune focused on local issues, but my initial cartoons for the editorial page were devoted to national and international topics. I had put in time helping clean the new office, a block behind Washington Middle School; but I hadn't been equally diligent in catching up with Kenosha politics.

Happily, I did not draw a cartoon to accompany the publisher's issue one, page one article that alleged — without ever using the word "allegedly" or any synonym thereof — malfeasance by a police officer.  

"Start Negotiations" in Kenosha Tribune, July 8, 1982

My second cartoon touches on a couple points I've discussed here recently. As in last week's Q Syndicate cartoon, I used Cyrillic-style lettering to signify that a character (here Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev) is Russian.

I've also warned against using rubber cement as an adhesive. I used rubber cement to paste the text in Brezhnev's thought balloon over my original text there, and it has since discolored significantly.

Compare that with the dog in the Phyllis Schlaffly cartoon. I used a glue stick to add the dog to the cartoon, and there's almost no discoloration at all on the original drawing.

(As for the point of the Brezhnev cartoon, Ronald Reagan had campaigned against the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, or SALT, negotiations between the Carter administration and the Soviet Union. As President, Reagan basically renamed the negotiations "Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty," keeping one of the t's in "Strategic" so he could call it StART.)

"A Thoroughly Enjoyable Race" in Kenosha Tribune, July 22, 1982

With midterm elections heating up, it wasn't long before I was drawing more local cartoons such as this one about Wisconsin's upcoming gubernatorial primary, and sketching the candidates who came to the Tribune's humble offices to be interviewed.

Interestingly, none of the candidates in this cartoon would be elected Governor in the fall: not Republican nominee Terry Kohler (of the bathroom fixture family), his Republican rival Lowell Jackson (a former and future member of the Governor's cabinet), or Democratic former Governor Marty Schreiber.

Marty Schreiber, for Kenosha Tribune, July/August, 1982, but unpublished

Kohler, the son of a past Governor of Wisconsin, would win the September primary, secured the GOP nomination for Governor, but was trounced in the general election by Democrat Tony Earl, 57% to 42%, the worst showing for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 40 years before or 40 years since. (To be fair, three Democratic gubernatorial candidates made worse showings in those 80 years: William Sullivan in 1942, Daniel Hoan in 1946, and Bill Proxmire in 1952.)

Moving along: Having spent so much of this post on 1982, I don't want to skip over 1992 entirely...

"Boola Boolah," unpublished, July, 1992

Besides, I drew each of those blades of grass individually with quill pen and ink, so it's about time they finally got to be seen by somebody somewhere.

We can discuss whether the Bush administration deserves credit for the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and how much of it, some other time.

"Ah, Wikstrom" in Business Journal, Milwaukee, July 12, 2002

Jumping ahead to 2002, I have absolutely no recollection of the staff editorial this cartoon was drawn to accompany. But it affords me the opportunity to offer yet another take on Donald Joffrey Trump and his stubborn refusal to recognize that he lost the 2020 election.

Yes, he's a grifter and a spoiled brat grown up and grown old without ever once being held accountable for diddley squat. And yes, the Founding Fathers left him a glimmer of hope by creating the Electoral College because they were elitists who didn't entirely trust the Will of the People to elect the best President every time.

But I think that what the Trump presidency shows us is that coming from the World of Business is not such a great qualification for high office after all. Neither Wendell Willkie nor H. Ross Perot got to prove themselves in the Oval Office, but thanks to that damned Electoral College, we were treated to the Trumpian shitshow for four years

In the World of Business, your accounting team can take the same set of numbers and tease stockholders with tales of exponentially growing profits on the one hand, and plead to the IRS that losses swallowed up all your earnings. So naturally, if election officials in Georgia tell you that you're 11,780 votes short, you simply tell them to juggle the books and find you 11,780 more votes.

And if that fails, launch a hostile take-over.

for Q Syndicate, July, 2002

I wasn't colorizing my syndicated cartoons in 2002 (I had done so for the Business Journal's Biz insert cartoons and some InStep covers), but I went ahead and added color to this one before posting it on the GeoCities site I had at the time.

It deserved a little taupe, after all.

It was in 2012 that I started including a color version of every cartoon when sending them to Q Syndicate. I'll sign off today with one of my favorites from that year.

"Where the Boycotts Are," July, 2012

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Q Toon: Heat Index

Euphoria. Minx. White Lotus. The Boys. Sex/Life. The Deuce. Elite. The Time Traveler's Wife.

Thanks to streaming services and series developed for pay cable channels, there is no shortage of guys baring it all on television nowadays.

We may have to stop calling it "the boob tube."

Okay, there's no shortage of that, either. It may be time, however, to find, shall we say, a more gender-neutral term.

As it turns out, most of the penises showing up on TV are in fact prosthetic devices there to shield the actors' modesties.

I suspect that has not historically been the case with female mammaries. 

But I could be wrong. I'm no expert there.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Desperately Seeking Moujik

My cartoon for Q Syndicate this week featured the return of Brittney Griner and a character meant to be her Russian lawyer. When I first introduced Товарищ Юрист, I remarked that I had some difficulty figuring out how to get across visually that he, a fictional character, was meant to be Russian, and not, say, an American consular official.

Back when I was a junior high school student showing an interest in cartooning, my dad enrolled in Palmer Martino's class in cartooning at the local technical college for the specific purpose of allowing me to tag along. In one of the books for the course, this was how you are supposed to draw a Russian:

Detail from Cartooning the Head & Figure by Jack Hamm. Grosset & Dunlap, 1967

Clearly, Mrs. Griner's lawyer would not be showing up at her prison or in court looking like that guy.

If one looks instead to the movies, there were Dr. Zhivago (portrayed by an Egyptian), the Russian ambassador in Dr. Strangelove, (Peter Bull, a Brit), the crew of the submarine in Red October (led by a Scot), and Vladimir Ivanov in Moscow on the Hudson (Mork from Ork). None of them look like Jack Hamm's drawing, either, so let's turn back to cartooning:

"Samson et Delilah" by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot in Le Rire, Paris, ca. June/July, 1917

At the time of the Russian revolution, cartoonists' stereotypical Russian was the fellow with the gun in this cartoon. The French called him Moujik (from the Russian word мужи́к, peasant.) There are various transliterations in English; I'm going to stick with M. Jeanniot's spelling today.

"Sharpening the Rusty Sword" by John Cassel in New York Evening World, June 23, 1917

Here's an American cartoonist's version of M. Moujik.

In the popular imagination circa World War I, the typical Russian wore his hair long, and perhaps unkempt — or perhaps neatly combed, as in this cartoon by Dutchman Louis Raemaekers.

"A Poison Gass Attack on New Russia" by Louis Raemaekers for Philadelphia Public Ledger Co., ca. July, 1917

More common, or at least more durable, in the American imagination was this older moujik by Ted Brown:

"Set 'em Up Again" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, Nov. 10, 1917

German cartoonist Lutz Chremberger offers us four versions of M. Moujik; at that particular moment during World War I, Germans anticipated that Russia's February Revolution would necessitate the Kerensky government withdrawing from the war.

"Aus dem Toten Hause" by Lutz Chremberger in Lustige Blätter, Berlin, March 16, 1917

At the same time, Germans had another, more menacing version of M. Moujik. Another Lustige Blätter cartoonist portrays the revolutionary Duma as a doll not to be messed with.

in Lustige Blätter, March 16, 1917 (?)

This less charitable characterization is dominant in German cartoons during World War II, even when trying to minimize him.

"Dies Kind, Kein Engel Ist So Sein" by Hans-Maria Lindloff in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, Feb. 1, 1942

By the end of the war, as the German army is falling back all across the eastern front, Herr Moujik has bulked up considerably — he is even more menacing than Tsar Nicholas's plaything.

"Die Geöffnete Tür" by Ernst Schilling in Simplicissimus, Munich, Aug. 30, 1944

I notice, however, that he has lost his mop of hair. Just to confirm his new haircut, here's another from the late days of the war:

"Der Englische Koch..." by Wilhelm Schultz in Simplicissimus, Munich, Sept. 13, 1944

Contrast the brutish, balding German Moujik with one from the United States, an ally for the time being:

A Fourth for Bridge" by Melville Bernstein in PM, New York, Oct. 8, 1944

By this point, Moujik was something of a rarity in American cartoons. Russia was far more often represented by Josef Stalin or, if one was hesitant to portray Russia in a positive light, this old stand-by:

"He Hibernates Long..." by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, Jan. 22, 1945

In this case, the bear is a propos; neither Moujik nor Stalin was known for habitual hibernation. As a symbol, the Russian bear goes way back, possibly to the 1500's. I do find the gratuitous "Br'er" in Carey Orr's cartoon a bit curious; but, having spent some time cartooning in Tennessee, allusions to southern folklore prolly came a tad natural-like to him.

Excerpt from "Suffern on the Steppes" in Pogo Peek-a-Book by Walt Kelly. Simon & Schuster, 1955

Speaking of Southern stuff, let's move along to our Cold War depictions of Russian folk with this example from Walt Kelly.

For "Suffern on the Steppes, or 1984 and All That," Pogo cartoonist Kelly shifted his characters from the Okefenokee to the Soviet Union for a tale drawn expressly for a comic book. To do so, he simply drew Pogo, Howland, Albert, Churchy and Beauregard in Russian costumes. He tossed in some 1984-style revisionist dialectic, a round of Russian roulette, and the occasional onion dome in the background, and Так! We're in Russia, Comrade!

"Bootstraps Gorbachev" by Pat Oliphant, July 22, 1991

By the sunset of the Soviet Union, Pat Oliphant's M. & Mme. Moujik were his prevalent image of the common tovarisch. Gone are Moujik's flowing locks, and hers are tucked safely away under her babushka. For all the reports in the West of bare grocery shelves, he and she nevertheless appear not to be starving.

I guess those bootstraps must be pretty filling after all.

Still, none of these images strike me as being quite right for my Russian lawyer character.

So let me rummage through my own cartoons for inspiration. Ah, here's a Russian couple my generation grew up with!

for Q Syndicate, July, 2013

Pish posh. We all knew where Pottsylvania really was.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Q Toon: From the Highest Court


The trial Olympic athlete and WNBA star Brittney Griner, accused of having cannabis oil in a vape cartridge when she arrived at the Moscow airport last winter, is set to begin sometime in the next few weeks. She was seen arriving for a pre-trial hearing last week, and a letter from her to President Biden asking for him to intervene on her behalf became public this week.

Clearly, she doesn't have much confidence in the Russian judicial system letting her return home any time soon.

My cartoon lawyer for her presents a gloomier picture for Mrs. Griner than the Russian legal system theoretically affords. She will, in fact, have an opportunity to address the court at the beginning of her trial and again before the judge, lay assessors, and/or jury decide on a verdict.* 

On the other hand, she is obviously being used as a political pawn toward the release of a Russian citizen convicted in the U.S. ten years ago of illegal arms dealing. Arms dealing vs. a trace of THC oil... yeah, sure, that's an even trade.

You can ask Alexei Navalny how fair the Russian judicial system is. (Well, no, you probably can't.) Russia having become under Vladimir Putin a highly autocratic state, even if Mrs. Griner should get a fair trial and either acquittal or sent home with a fine, authorities may not be done with her. Consider this:

The shakiness of the presumption of innocence in Russian criminal trials is reflected by the fact that acquittals are almost nonexistent. They occurred in only 0.36 percent of all cases in 1998. During the perestroika years the Soviet public was shocked by many stories of innocent people having been convicted due to coerced or tortured confessions and this was one reason why reforms were pushed, among them, that of returning to trial by jury. Indeed, juries have acquitted substantially more than nonjury courts, anywhere from 1822 percent of the time. A disturbing development has been the refusal of law enforcement organs to accept acquittals. For instance, in November 1999 in Moscow, officers of the Federal Security Service, the successor of the KGB, entered a courtroom in camouflage uniforms and black masks and re-arrested two defendants who had been acquitted at trial by a military court. Such occurrences are not rare.

And that's before Mr. Putin became President.

I'm gradually making adjustments to my fictional lawyer for Mrs. Griner (first appearing here), including reversing the N's and R's in his dialogue balloons — realizing, of course, that they are not the Cyrillic equivalent of Roman N's and R's.

Check back on Saturday for some further thoughts on How To Draw A Russian.

*Update: Brittney Griner has entered a guilty plea, according to this morning's news reports. That does not necessarily mean that the trial skips ahead to sentencing; the prosecution is still allowed to present its case.