Monday, February 19, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

I arose on Monday morning and started to plan out the day as I turned the coffee pot on and came into the office to start up the computer. I remembered that I hadn't switched on the space heater in the bathroom; on the way back to take care of that, I noticed that the light was on in the basement, but I figured I'd take care of that later.

When I entered the bedroom, I found my husband snoring in bed and realized that it wasn't time to wake up; I hadn't even gone to bed yet. So I started back to turn off the basement light.

And then I woke up for real, and it was barely 12:20 a.m.

Dreams like that just piss me off.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Environmental Stewarship: A Terrible Thing to Waste

Once a month, Dad writes a column for the newsletter of the church where he is a member, and for any other publication which might like to use it. This column is free for anyone to use; please credit John Berge as the author.

The old adage “Waste not; want not” may be more truly stated in the United States as “Want not; waste a lot.” In one of the richest countries in the world, we waste the most on a per capita basis. While most of our people have all that they need, if not all they want, we pour more waste into our landfills than any other country.

Last month, I attended a program entitled “Erase the Waste” sponsored by the Racine Library and Greening Greater Racine. Are you aware that there is an organization in town that has set for itself the tremendous task of making Racine a zero-waste city? There are many cities that have set such a goal and some that are nearing it, especially out west and in Europe. The February program set somewhat lower goals for each of us.

Mike Williams, Division Manager for Kestrel Hawk Landfill, told of how surprised and disappointed he was after the new recycling bins had been distributed in the City of Racine. Watching the city’s garbage trucks dumping their loads into the landfill, he saw no detectable reduction in the amount of recyclables that residents were tossing into their garbage bins instead. There was just as much paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic water bottles and food – lots of food waste! If clean, the first four should be in the recycle bins, not the garbage bins. Food waste I will discuss below.

So what? At the current rate, Kestrel Hawk Landfill will be full in about four years. Then we will have to ship our waste longer distances, out of the county, and that will be more expensive. The city has sent a wrong message with the size of the wheeled containers. The garbage container is larger than the recycle container, and it should be the other way around! Also, that unrecycled material will be replaced by cutting down more trees, mining and drilling for oil and gas (fracking).

As an extreme example of what can be done, I know a man in Racine who, when the containers were delivered last September, told himself that he would not take that big garbage container out to the curb until it was full. Now, five months later, it is nearly full. Unfortunately it is well snowed in. His recycle bin has been out to the curb regularly.

The other main speaker was Mike Keleman, Manager of Environmental Engineering for Emerson. He pointed out the advantages of using your garbage disposer to recycle food waste. This way, your food waste is transported to the wastewater treatment plant where it goes to an anaerobic digester, in which much of it is converted to methane used to generate heat for the treatment process. This happens in hours or days rather than the partial decomposition in a landfill, which generates methane ever so slowly. Kestrel Hawk’s is sold to SC Johnson to run Waxdale. The solid residue from the waste treatment plant is available for agriculture; the waste in the landfill stays there for decades and centuries!

Keleman told how, after breakfast he grinds up the orange peels, coffee grounds and egg shells and sends them down the sewer. I take all those, along with other plant waste, down to my compost pile, using our disposer for meat, plate scrapings and greasy food waste.

I asked for a rule of thumb about grinding up bones. He said if it had fins or feathers, grind ‘em up; if it had hair, probably best to send them to the landfill; but in their lab, they have ground up beef bones. It just takes longer and is awfully noisy. Another person asked about clogging. He said this is rarely (or never) a problem if you do things in the right order. First turn on the water, then the disposer, and only then add the food waste. Let the water run a short while after the food has gone down and the disposer is turned off and you need not worry about clogs.

There were many other ideas for reducing waste in the handout sheet which I don’t have room for here.  I want to publicize the next two programs: March 12 – Recycling with Dan Jongetjes of John’s Disposal  and April 9 – Pollinator Gardens with Michelle Blaynley, Master Horticulturalist with Stein’s Home Garden Center.  The programs are held on the second floor of the Racine Library starting at 6:00 p.m. and include appropriate gifts and door prizes.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Olympic Fever

I've long been a sucker for the Olympics. I'll spend hours watching sports I won't watch for two seconds over the next four years. And come the next Olympiad, I won't even remember how curling is scored or how many periods there are in ice hockey.

To follow up my syndicated cartoon this week about Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon and his snub of Vice President Pence, Slalomback Saturday presents a selection of earlier cartoons I drew about the Winter Games.
I had wanted to lead off with this cover drawing I did for the UW-Milwaukee Post, thinking it had been for a winter Olympics issue. But when I finally dug it up the other day, I discovered that this December, 1990 issue of the Post had nothing to do with the Olympics at all. Perhaps I used a photo from the 1984 or 1988 games as the basis for this drawing.

At any rate, I didn't have the use of computer graphics in making and shading this picture; instead, I used an exacto knife to cut the shapes of each individual shade of black or blue from screentone sheets, very thin adhesive plastic, clear but for the halftone dot pattern printed on it, which I then very carefully applied onto the drawing (or, in the case of the blue shades, to a separate sheet).

I left plenty of room for teaser headlines, but the editors for whatever reason opted not to include any.

This year's Olympics mark the second time that the Russian national anthem would not be played for Russian gold medalists. The Soviet Union had broken up only a few months before the Albertville games of 1992 (the last time the winter and summer games were held in the same year). Most of the newly separated nations did not yet have their own Olympic committees; the U.S.S.R.'s State Committee on Sports had been disbanded and its funds for athletes disappeared along with it.

Officially, athletes from Russia and eleven other former socialist republics that year competed instead as the "Unified Team" ("Équipe Unifiée" in the host French) under the Olympic flag; popularly, they were known as the "Commonwealth of Independent States" team. They did win 45 gold medals that year. As is the case again in 2018, when those winners stood on the podium, the Olympic anthem was played.


When the Winter Olympics returned a short two years later, there was a more personal drama dominating American coverage. You may have heard about it.

On January 6, 1994, U.S. Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a hit man hired by the ex-husband of another U.S. Olympic skater, Tonya Harding. The attacker attempted to break Kerrigan's right leg with a metal baton; Kerrigan was merely bruised, but was forced to withdraw from the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship underway at the time.

Media attention to today's Olympians is nothing compared to the feeding frenzy around Kerrigan and Harding, packing their practice sessions and camping out in front of their homes as the attack plot quickly unraveled. In the end, Kerrigan won a silver medal at Lillehammer, Norway; Harding, after crying to the judges about a problem with her skate laces, was allowed a reskate of her aborted routine but came in eighth anyway. And while no complicity on Harding's part in the attack plot has ever been proven, she was driven from the sport and stripped of all her titles and awards.

So she tried boxing instead.


The organizing committee (SLOC) for the 2002 games in Salt Lake City was overwhelmingly white, straight and male (and, yes, Mormon) until one of the few trustees not in that demographic, Lillian Taylor, convinced the SLOC that it needed to diversify. As part of its effort to do so, the SLOC created a minority-outreach council responsible for recruiting volunteers from various minority groups, eventually including the LGBT community.

A gay man and a lesbian woman were named to the SLOC's diversity committee, and LGBT volunteers were involved in everything from working as translators to parking cars to working security details to managing volunteers for an entire venue. The Gay and Lesbian Times enthused that the Salt Lake City games “will go down as one of the most-gay inclusive Olympics to date.”

That same year, I drew this cartoon to accompany a Milwaukee Business Journal editorial characterizing Milwaukee businesses as being slow, steady, and ethical, as opposed to the fast and loose reckless opportunism of national firms. The inflated profit claims of Enron papered over by its accountants at Arthur Andersen had helped usher in the dotcom bust of the previous year.

Meanwhile, Apolo Ohno had grabbed the world's attention in short track speed skating. In the finals of the 1,000 meter race, he and three of his rivals collided in a massive jumble, allowing the sole skater remaining upright, Australian Steven Bradbury, skate past them to cross the finish line first. It seemed a natural image for that week's editorial.


I hasten to point out that all that form-fitting lycra is not the reason I get so wrapped up in watching the Olympic games.

Well, not the only reason.

And back to Russia we quickly go.

The pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies is not to be missed, as each host endeavors to outdo the ones which had gone before. So, too, do the fashion designers who create the outfits the athletes wear as they parade, cell phones held aloft, into the stadium.

Some of the outfits are more successful than others, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics included some curiously complex pastels that looked as if the athletes had engaged in a frosted doughnut fight outside the stadium. That is not to say that all the outfits were as hideous as Cartoon Costas makes them out to be.

But it must be frustrating to put all one's hard work into designing and manufacturing fresh, new, and exciting jackets, caps and sports gear for the fastest, highest, strongest men and women as they strut onto an international stage... or to be the organizing committee responsible for paying those top-notch designers tens of thousands of dollars, yuan, euro, or rubles for their brilliant, imaginative ideas ...

...and the only thing anyone remembers is the guy from Tonga wearing nothing but baby oil.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Q Toon: On the Thin Ice of a New Day

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍Feb 15, 2018

In case you're Donald Trump Jr., you might be unaware that Vice President Mike Pence was hoping to have a little meeting with openly gay U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon, but Rippon turned him down.
"...a White House official confirmed that the vice president's chief of staff Nick Ayers called U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun after Rippon had initially criticized Pence last month."
Adding, "Ayers offered to have someone from the vice president's team explain to Rippon the confusion over Pence's stance. Ayers also said that Pence would meet with Rippon or speak with him over the phone if he preferred, the White House official said."
We've been over Mike Pence's gubernatorial record on LGBTQ and religious issues. He campaigned in favor of "conversion therapy" to Clockwork Orange the LGBTQness out of us; and as Governor of Indiana signed a bill to bless religion-based discrimination by businesses, health care workers, landlords and passers-by against LGBTQ citizens.

Which he now says is just fake news.

Since his job these days (when he's not on hand to be the 51st Republican vote in the Senate) apparently includes attending sporting events simply so he can stalk out of them in a huff, Rippon wisely perceived that Mr. Pence wouldn't be able to flounce away from their meeting if Rippon decided to sit this one out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Toon: Play It Again, Louis

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✑Feb 13, 2018

Okay, okay, so it's a cliché to have a cartoon character declare that he is "shocked, shocked!"

But we've been here so many times before. Republicans in Congress pass a tax cut, promising that it will stimulate economic growth. But the economic benefit of the tax cut is as ephemeral as a sugar rush, and as a result, the deficit spikes and the national debt grows that much faster.

But Republicans are happy because they have successfully transferred that much more of the cost of society from the upper class to the middle and lower classes, and they can point to the national debt as proof that the government can't afford to keep schools open, water potable, or bridges from crumbling, let alone any effort to make health care affordable.

Even so, if the last tax cut didn't balance the budget as advertised, surely the next one will.

As soon as Republicans come up with original economic theory, clichés are all I've got for them.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

South of the Border

Trump's racist ranting against Latinos occasioned last Saturday's post about the U.S. crackdown on Germans during World War I; today, let's catch up on the news south of the Rio Grande at this point in 1918.

When last we checked in on U.S.-Latin American relations, it was coming to light that reports of Pancho Villa's death were greatly exaggerated, but U.S. expeditionary forces were being withdrawn from Mexico in exchange for promises by Mexican President Venustiano Carranza to do more to stop Villa's border raids.
"Gulliver en la Tierra de los Liliputienses" in El Momo, Mexico City, before February, 1918
The above cartoon depicts Carranza tied down by members of his own political party, the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista. I regret that that I cannot credit the Latin-American cartoonists in this blog post by name; they were not credited in Cartoons magazine and each of the cartoons appear to have been unsigned. (Given the autocratic tendencies and instability of many Latin American governments, signing one's name to a political cartoon could be hazardous to one's health.)

Pancho Villa was not the only issue dividing Mexico and the U.S. The American occupation of Veracruz in the Tampico Oil Fields affair of 1914 had led to the downfall of Carranza's predecessor and was a continued irritant to the Mexican government. By 1917, the Tampico oil fields were under the control of Manuel Pelaez, whose sympathies toward the Allies did not come without a cost. Cartoons magazine's Latin America correspondent, Harry H. Dunn, described Pelaez's modus operandi:
"These fields, in which are more than 50 wells which flow an average of 100,000 barrels a day, are policed and protected by Manuel Pelaez, better known in the 200 square miles which he controls as "King Pelaez." For this protection, which is real and thoroughly carried out against Mexicans and foreign intruders impartially, Pelaez receives $20,000 a month from the owners of the wells. ... Britishers, Americans and Frenchmen come and go freely in the territory Pelaez controls, but anyone of Teutonic tendencies or anyone against whom the oil well owners have the slightest suspicion is held for examination, or unceremoniously hustled out of that region."
"Moses" in El Momo, Mexico City, before January, 1918
The Mexican government collected its taxes on oil exports on top of the protection payments charged by King Pelaez, but in a move to more effectively control Mexico's most important natural resource,  Carranza ordered Pelaez and his soldiers driven out of the district in November, 1917. This did not result in any savings to Mexico's petroleum customers; Carranza simply raised the petroleum export tax.
"Von Rin Rin y Su Mundo" in El Momo, Mexico City, before January, 1918
Rafael Martinez, the editor of Mexico City's El Demócrata newspaper, was a German sympathizer described by Mr. Dunn, as "right-hand man" to Mexico's Ambassador to Germany, Rafael Zubaran. In 1917, Martinez also acquired rival newspaper El Mundo (which, of course, translates to "The World"). El Momo, a Mexico City satirical magazine, skewered the two, referring to Martinez by the nickname Von Rin Rin ("Von Laugh Laugh") and portraying the ambassador as a bloviating academic.
"Dr. Zubaran" in El Momo, Mexico City, before January, 1918
By now, you may have detected that El Momo (The Mimic) had Yanquí sympathies. Here is a fairly flattering caricature of the American Ambassador to Mexico at this time, Henry P. Fletcher.

There's a lot to unpack in this next cartoon, in which the central characters are El Demócrata's Rafael Martinez and Jose Pavalicini, the pro-American editor of El Universal. The caped figure in black on the far right is germanófilo General Obregón, who despite his German sympathies was on a U.S. tour in early 1918 to promote "friendship between the two nations." Appearing as his nemesis on the far left is aliadófilo General Gonzales.
"En el Signo del Laurel" in El Momo, Mexico City, before February, 1918
For the most part, Latin American countries tried to steer a neutral course in the war, but after three Brazilian ships were torpedoed by the Germans, Brazil declared war on Germany in October, 1917. Brazilian troops would not be significantly involved in the fighting, however; perhaps they would have been if the war had lasted longer. Instead, Brazil's primary contribution to the Allies was its naval patrols of the southern Atlantic, and its exports of beef, beans and sugar.
"Come Over Here, Kid" (possibly by J. Carlos?) in A Careta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February, 1918 or earlier
The Allies' interception of a note from German chargé d'affaires at Buenos Aires Karl von Luxburg via the Swedish legation to German Foreign Minister Alfred Zimmerman after the sinking of two Argentine ships sparked protests in Argentina, but Argentine President Hipólyto Yrigoyen still refused to be drawn into the conflict.
It was poor psychology, Luxburg wrote, to allow news of such maritime losses to be circulated, therefore Argentine ships should either be left alone altogether or else sunk without a trace, which involved gunning the survivors in lifeboats. Luxburg went on to sneer at the Indianism of South America, make disparaging remarks about Yrigoyen and Foreign Minister Honorio Puerrydon whom he characterized as "a notorious ass and Anglophile." These coldblooded remarks as well as the insults aroused public feeling and German-owned businesses and clubs were wrecked by angry mobs. Luxburg was expelled and in September, 1917 the Argentine Congress voted 76-19 to sever relations with Germany. Yrigoyen, however, was amazingly patient and ignored the clamor of the "best people," continuing diplomatic relations.
"Now Get Out," (possibly by J. Carlos?) in A Careta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, probably September, 1917.
Contemporary American sources spell the president's name with an "I" instead of a "Y."
Immediately following the U.S. declaration of war, Yrigoyen proposed a conference to be attended by only the Spanish-American states. His plan was to isolate the United States and possibly Brazil from the other American republics and to assert a dominant influence over Latin American affairs. Although most of the invited governments at first accepted the invitation, their enthusiasm soon cooled when they realized how unwise it was to exclude the United States. In the end only Mexico sent delegates, who arrived in Buenos Aires to find that the congress had been postponed indefinitely.
Luxburg's "bundle" in the above cartoon is wrapped in the Swedish flag. Incidentally, instead of Berlin, Luxburg went to Uruguay to represent the German government in Montevideo.

Cartoons magazine thought that his cover illustration from the Argentine magazine Sucesos is complimentary to the American President, but it doesn't appear so to me. Perhaps it was more flattering in color. You decide.
From Sucesos, Buenos Aires, February, 1918 or before.