Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sundays in the Park with Adolf

Retiring Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has vowed to stay out of the Republican primary to succeed him.

So have the most prominent politicians who could have run.

Wisconsin State Assembly Majority Leader Robin Vos and former Republican Party National Chairman Reince Priebus were the only potential candidates with name recognition outside their own respective bailiwicks, but withdrew from consideration in the first couple days after Ryan announced his retirement. State Senators David Craig, Van Wangaard, and Steve Nass and Assembly members Amy Laudenbeck and Tyler August also took themselves out of the running.

So far, the only announced Republican candidate is Paul Nehlen*. Nehlen had announced his candidacy well before Ryan withdrew his; Nehlen had challenged Ryan in 2016, representing the Breitbart/Steve Bannon/Ann Coulter wing of the party. He was endorsed by Phyllis Schlaffly, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, and Gun Rights PAC that year. Donald Trump had toyed with the prospect of endorsing Nehlen in retaliation for Ryan's reluctance to support Trump's presidential campaign, but ultimately made nice with the Speaker of the House, who trounced Nehlen in the 2016 primary by a 6-to-1 margin.

Newspapers in Wisconsin's First CD were calling on Nehlen to quit the 2018 race because of his execrable racist views, even before Ryan pulled out. He was banned from Twitter in February after posting an image of Prince Harry's biracial fiancée Meghan Markle that was photoshopped to make her look like prehistoric Cheddar Man. A few days before that, he had posted a list of his critics, their phone numbers, e-mails and Twitter handles, adding, “Of those 81 people, 74 are Jews, while only 7 are non-Jews,” sparking a neo-Nazi flame war against them.

In another anti-Semitic tweet, Nehlen posted “Poop, incest, and pedophilia. Why are those common themes repeated so often with Jews?” But he's an equal opportunity bigot. He has told listeners of fellow Nazi David Duke's podcast that he'd like to see Trump's Ugly Wall equipped with “armed machine gun turrets every 300 yards. And you can automate those. Anyone who approaches that barrier will be treated as an enemy combatant. Man, woman or child.”

Rest assured, however, that Nehlen will not remain unchallenged for his party's nomination.

Bryan Steil, a former Ryan staffer currently serving on the board of regents of the University of Wisconsin, and State Rep. Samantha Kerkman are still weighing their options. Lack of name recognition at this date shouldn't hurt either one; very few residents had heard of Paul Ryan before he first ran for Congress in 1998, but he had the strong backing of the national GOP. Redistricting in 2000 and 2010 coupled with exurban sprawl out of Chicago has made the 1st CD increasingly Republican, so whoever wins the August primary may still have an advantage over the Democratic nominee even in this "blue wave" year.
* Update: There's some guy named Nick Polce who also announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination last fall. All I know about him is that he's an Army Green Beret veteran (2002-2014) from Lake Geneva who checks all the far right-wing boxes and describes himself as part of the "freedom movement."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Enviro-Stewardship: And Behold, It Was Tov Me’od

Since October, I've been posting Dad's monthly "Environmental Stewardship" column, which he writes for local church newsletters. Here's John Berge's column for May: 

I recently read that “The Hebrew vocabulary includes no word equivalent to our term ‘Nature,’" by which we include all the plants, animals and microscopic creatures, usually excluding human beings.

I presume this lack of of a Hebrew word is also true of the term ‘Environment,’ which includes the physical elements that surround us – rocks, soil, air and water. ‘Ecology’ comes to us from the Greek, but even though the New Testament was written in Greek, I doubt its inclusion since the word was coined much later. This does does make it difficult at times to translate environmental and ecological messages from the Old Testament to the present. But the messages are there in abundance.
"Genesis 1" by Maximino Cerezo Barredo
For example, in the first creation story in Genesis, after each of the first stages (days) of the creation, God saw that it was “good.” After the creation of man and woman he saw that it was “very good” because now there were stewards to care for His creation, to have “dominion” over all. Dominion is best interpreted as not domination but stewardship.

In the New Testament, in an event which is not generally considered an ecological or environmental reference, Luke tells of the healing of ten lepers. (Luke 17:11-14) They were told to “go and show.” They were to walk in order to be cleansed. Likewise, to be good stewards of God’s creation, we must act, not just talk or muse about the problems that face us in protecting our environment for ourselves, our offspring and our God, but walk the talk.

The City of Racine is taking two such actions: There is a growing group, including the City Administrator, who are aiming Racine towards being a waste-free city, an excellent target to work toward – whether it can eventually be attained or not. Every department in the city is to search out goals and programs to reach this objective, not only within their department but within those portions of the city over which they have jurisdiction or influence.

The second action is to initiate a city commitment to the Paris Accord. This agreement aims to respond to the global climate change threat by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2º Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Several cities in Wisconsin, including Kenosha to our south and Milwaukee to our north, have committed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

What specific goals, challenges and efforts the city will make has not been determined at this time, but it will take actions by all citizens as well as government to reach the goals of the Paris Accord, with or without leadership by the President and the Federal Government. As environmental stewards, appointed by God in Genesis, we all must act.

Note from Paul: Google Translate gives "טבע" (teva) as the Hebrew word for "nature." It may be a non-Talmudic word; if you want to delve into that further, there's a theological discussion here.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Tax Week's Sneak Peek

I was trying to find a more Marxist-sounding honorific for this cartoon, but couldn't find anything that fit in one line.

Most exalted comrade?

Your proletariacy?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

New to My Comic Book Collection

Today's installment of Sketchback Saturday takes the form of a book report.

A few months ago, I pre-ordered Bill Sanders's forthcoming retrospective of his editorial cartooning career. I have both of the books published while he was the cartoonist for The Milwaukee Journal. Head for the Oval Room deals primarily the Nixon administration, some of which is also repeated in The Sanders Book. The latter book includes cartoons not only about the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, but about Wisconsin and Milwaukee issues as well.

I'm looking forward to receiving the new book, which promises cartoons from his retiree years, but also examples of Sanders's early career with Stars and Stripes, The Greensboro Daily News, and The Kansas City Star. Given how different in style his Milwaukee cartoons are from his earlier work, it should be interesting to see how that evolution took place.
"How Much Are We Really Involved Here" by Bill Sanders in Greensboro Daily News, ca. March, 1962
When I pre-ordered Against the Grain, I browsed around to see if there was anything else I'd be interested in, finding Jim Morin's 2016 collection from his 40+ years with The Miami Herald. I've long been fascinated by his distinctive cross-hatch style, which I'd describe as David Levine meets "Ding" Darling.
One of the more intriguing facets of Morin's book is how the date of publication influenced his choice of cartoons. In particular, there are a handful of cartoons about Donald Trump's brief campaign in 1999 for the presidential nomination of H. Ross Perot's Reform Party. Editorial cartoon books take up two and a half shelves of my bookcase, and although three or four of those books deal specifically with the year 1999, Jim Morin's World is the first book I've seen to devote any ink to Trump's short-lived flirtation with presidential politics that year.

I have to say that I barely took any notice of Candidate Trump at the time, myself; my editors at Q Syndicate, the Milwaukee Business Journal, and the Racine Journal Times probably wouldn't have been interested in cartoons about him anyway. Had Jim Morin published his book a year earlier, I suspect none of his Donald Trump cartoons would have made the cut for this book, so it's fortuitous that he had a chance to dig up his material about a nearly forgotten episode from when current president first dipped his toes into political waters.
"Looks Like His Last Trip to Moscow Just Backfired" by Jim Morin in Miami Herald, June, 1985.
As another example of how the date of publication influences choice of material, the above cartoon is not in Morin's book. I'm not advocating for this particular cartoon, merely noting that it might have been included if this were a book about the Reagan years, since Nicaragua was a BFD in the 1980s. The Iran-Contra scandal, which hinged in part on a White House scheme to circumvent Congress to send arms to right-wing guerrillas in the Central American country, threatened to bring down the Reagan administration, but rates only two cartoons in this book. Nowadays, we only hear about Nicaragua when it gets hit by an earthquake or hurricane, so it's of less interest today.

Besides, there was so much else going on in the 1980s, even without a president tweeting all his brain farts every morning. If anyone is still publishing editorial cartoon memoirs thirty years from now, there will be an awful lot that seems of tremendous import today that will end up on the cutting room floor tomorrow.

Another cartooning memoir recent to my collection is The First and Only Book of Sack (only available from the Star Tribune and currently only on back order) by Steve Sack, featuring the best of his cartoons for the Minneapolis Star Tribune from 1981 to 2017. It's too bad that he didn't also include his older cartoons for The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, such as the one below. Mr. Sack is not a packrat, however, and it's extremely unlikely that foraging through his Indiana cartoons would have turned up any early drawings of Mike Pence, who, after all, was still in college at the time.
"Jump!" by Steve Sack in Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, August, 1980
From a cartoonist's standpoint, one of the joys of this book is to watch how Sack has adapted his style to evolving technologies. Sack has been an early adopter of computerized drawing techniques, ditching the extensive pen and ink crosshatching of his early work in favor of a succession of various media: charcoal, sharpie, watercolor, digital tablet, and iPad. Through it all remains a distinctive touch unlike that of anyone else in the biz.

Due to its publication date, Sack's book includes a handful of cartoons about Senator Al Franken (who also wrote the first of the book's four forewords) and one of Garrison Keillor, but none which reflect either man's #TimesUp fall from grace. The Keillor cartoon is especially unintentionally ironic, depicting the Prairie Home Companion host hiding out from a horde of sex-crazed women. The original context of the cartoon was that Keillor had been named one of Playgirl's Sexiest Men Alive in 1986. (Sack observes that one of the other men on that year's list was Donald Trump).

Such is the risk in any collection of topical writing; editorial cartoons almost always have an ephemeral quality to them. (Just check out any cartoon about Herbert Hoover before October, 1929.) I don't imagine that Sack's book is on back order because he's slipping in some hasty updates, because he'd just have to do it again in a matter of months.

We'll just have to wait until The First and Only Book's sequel.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Q Toon: All Your Data Are Belong to Us

While Facebook has been getting a lot of attention from Congress and the mainstream media this week, Grindr has also had to hastily explain to its customers that its same-sex dating app has shared users' HIV statuses (stati?), with two outside analytics firms.
Further analysis also revealed that Grindr is sharing users’ precise GPS position, sexuality, relationship status, ethnicity, and phone ID to other third-party advertising companies. This information – which didn’t include HIV status data – was sometimes being shared in a ‘plain text’ format, which meant it could be easily hacked.

Anyone who uses a computer hooked up to the internet has seen their privacy eroded bit by megabit over the years. Those cookies piling up unseen in the bowels of our computers are, we are told, essential components of our on-line existence. But they result in experiences such as this: I was looking for some sheet music on-line last week, and ever since, the advertising on has been nothing but sheet music.

You no doubt have had the same experience. Well after you bought that clothes dryer at Best Buy, every Dick and Harry seems to be trying to sell you another one.

Facebook took that business even further, enabling Big to glean everything knowable about you because some idle friend of yours on Facebook answered a questionnaire to find out which H.R. Puff'n'stuff character he is, or decided to prove that, why yes, she could indeed think of a word that contains a vowel, so there!

Then, through no fault of your own, your news feed becomes rife with stories about Hillary Clinton wanting to confiscate everyone's clothes dryers.

Now, as for the Grindr breach, the company assures its LGBTQ users that their data was shared responsibly, and that they're in no danger of it (them?) getting out to potential employers, TMZ or Vice President Pence.
Still, [chief security officer Bryce] Case defended Grindr's decision to share the data, arguing that Apptimize and Localytics are simply tools to help apps like Grindr function better, and that the information was not shared to make money or for other nefarious purposes.
Case stressed that the HIV data had only been shared with Apptimize as part of Grindr's standard rollout procedure for new features on the app. In this case, it was part of a new opt-in feature that would allow users to be reminded to get tested for HIV. The company stopped sharing the information with the third party when the feature was rolled out last week, Case said.
Whether or not Grindr's users begin to shy away from the company's outreach efforts, this episode demonstrates the need to update the 22-year-old rules for patient privacy observed by every hospital, doctor, and insurance company in the country.
Grindr data breach is a wake-up call for policymakers to revisit and revise privacy regulations, specifically the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Since 1996, HIPAA has governed the patient privacy and protection of private medical information. Back then, policymakers did not foresee situations in which sensitive medical data is shared with a platform that is not involved in medical care. Therefore HIPAA only covers medical providers and their business associates and does not pertain to platforms such as Grindr. Had a similar breach happened at a hospital, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would immediately start a thorough investigation, fine the hospital, and ensure that adequate policies are in place to prevent breaches in future.
Under the Corrupt Trump Administration, I doubt that any investigation into Grindr's data breach would not be focused on protecting user's privacy but in shutting the app down, or at least ferreting out gay, bi and trans soldiers in the armed forces. And I shudder to imagine what the congressional hearings would be like.

Monday, April 9, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

On this day 152 years ago, The Civil Rights Act of 1866, the United States' first federal law to affirm that all citizens are equally protected by the law, was enacted, overriding a veto by President Andrew Johnson.

This week's cartoon has nothing to do with that, since the law didn't do anything to prevent states from requiring this guy to go to the back of the bus.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

50 Years After MLK

When I found out that in his blog on Wednesday, Mike Peterson was going to display editorial cartoons drawn upon the assassination 50 years ago this week of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I seriously considered shelving my plans to do the same today.

But I had already begun the project; and really, what topic more deserves a trip in the wayback machine this week?
"The Nation Is Shamed — Again" by "T.S." in Washington Afro-American, Washington, D.C., April 9, 1968
I'll start with two examples I found in the African-American press. Many of the editorial cartoons in the Afro-American were left unsigned, but this one (and eventually several more in the 1970s and 80s) is signed with the initials "T.S." I believe "T.S" is Ted Shearer, most famous for creating the comic strip Quincy in 1970; Tim Jackson's Pioneering Cartoonists of Color is the only reference I have found to mention specifically his having drawn editorial cartoons. Shearer did draw for the Afro-American before launching Quincy, so until someone tells me otherwise, I'll credit this one to him.

Surely Dr. King's legacy influenced King Features' decision to syndicate Shearer's comic strip centered on Black American children in an un-whitewashed urban setting.
"Leadership..." by Robert S. Pious for Continental Features, April, 1968
Robert Savon Pious, in addition to drawing for pulp magazines, posters and WPA murals, had an established a career drawing editorial cartoons for the African-American press since the 1930s. His memorial cartoon here attempts to sum up Dr. King's life in images and brief quotations, and one can only imagine how difficult emotionally it must have been for Pious to draw it. (Regrettably, The Indianapolis Recorder cropped this cartoon rather poorly, and there is an unfortunate typo in the cut line.)
"Civil Rights Report" by Herblock in Washington Post, April, 1968
So, on to the white guys.

In those first days of April, 1968, editorial cartoonists must have felt inundated by the monumentally important news events cascading one after another. You may have become numb to the barrage of earthshaking news we feel on a minute-by-minute basis every day of the Corrupt Trump Administration in which this morning's lead story is this afternoon's sidebar; but 1968 was before the age of Twitter, or 24-hour news channels propelling the national conversation.
"Below Olympus" by Frank Interlandi in Los Angeles Times, April, 1968
President Johnson had gone on TV on March 31 to announce a halt to U.S. bombing of North Vietnam and also that he would not run for reelection. The first was to bolster peace talks, still foundering on the shape of the negotiating table at that point; the second threw the presidential race wide open. Students across the nation were protesting against racial discrimination and the war; an occupation of  college officials' offices at Bowie State College in Baltimore had just ended. A group of white students at the University of St. Thomas in Houston had organized themselves as a barrier to protect black protesters on college campuses from hostile police. In Congress, Conservative Southern Democrats, Goldwater Republicans, and real estate lobbyists were trying to block the Fair Housing Act.

And Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King announced that he would return to Memphis meet with strategists of the Garbage Collectors' strike and business boycott, in spite of violence having broken out while he was there to march in support of the sanitation workers on March 28. People started breaking windows, and in the police response, a 16-year-old was fatally shot and 62 were injured. From the April 2 edition (above) of The Washington Afro-American:
Dr. King, admitting a mistake had been made when he joined the march without having done some intelligence work or brought in staffers to control the violent element declared:
"Riots are here. Riots are part of the ugly atmosphere of our society now."
"What So Proudly We Hailed—" by Reginald Manning in Arizona Republic, April, 1968
After King's assassination, riots and looting broke out in several cities across the nation at once, including Washington D.C; Columbia, South Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; Macon, Georgia; Detroit, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Chicago, Illinois. That Sunday, a white gunman named Norris Edwards burst into a black church in Indianapolis and began firing at parishioners, killing three. Many cities imposed curfews on their citizens, including my hometown. (I was 8 years old at the time, old enough to imagine from media coverage that marauding hordes might come charging over the hill and down my dead end suburban street any minute.)
"Note to Congress" by Jack Knox in Nashville Banner, April 6, 1968
While some cartoonists' first response after King's assassination was to decry the riots, a more hopeful theme was repeated among others wishing to focus more on Dr. King's legacy.
"His Truth Goes Marching On—" by Lou Grant in Los Angeles Times, April, 1968

"...But His Truth Is Marching On..." by Hugh Haynie in Louisville Courier-Journal, April, 1968
Since my source for Hugh Haynie's cartoon is a little out of focus, I'll note that the printing on the man's sleeve identifies him as "Dr. King."
"His Spirit Marches On" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 6, 1968
From the vantage point of 50 years later, it seems curious that these three white cartoonists would all reference the same poem written by a white woman, yet I could find only two cartoons which quoted Dr. King himself. (Mike Peterson's post includes two others that refer to the "I Have a Dream" speech; but although we have posted a few cartoons in common, I am not copying cartoons from his post.)
"NOW!" by Pat Oliphant in Denver Post, April, 1968
As tragic as Dr. King's assassination and the ensuing urban violence were, they succeeded in bringing a sense of urgency to the need for progress in racial justice in the United States that some had refused to acknowledge.
"The Time Has Come to Face the Challenge" by Dan Dowling in Kansas City Star, April, 1968
On April 5, President Johnson sent Congress a strongly worded letter (cited in the Jack Knox cartoon above) demanding passage of the Fair Housing Act. Also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, it passed on April 10 with provisions making it a federal crime to interfere with anyone's civil rights. Its main aim was to add federal enforcement provisions to the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and to explicitly prohibit discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, national origin, or religion.
"More Lasting than Flowers" by Bill Crawford in Newark News, April, 1968