Monday, October 23, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

This will be Vice President Mike Pence's third appearance this year in one of my cartoons, but the first of them in which he has the starring role.

I believe that sets a record for Vice Presidential Appearances in a Berge Cartoon During the First Year of an Administration.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Election Quadranscentennial

Return with us this Solaceback Saturday to that halcyon moment only a quarter century ago when America stood at a crossroads and elected not to go with the egotistical millionaire claiming to have all the answers.

These are some of my cartoons from October, 1992. With only a month to go before the election, the representatives of the two major party nominees had finally agreed to a debate schedule and formats, only to have H. Ross Perot, who had quit his independent campaign in the summer, announce that he was back in the race.

Wisconsin's First Congressional District was represented by eleven-term Democrat Les Aspin. 1992 would be the last election for that seat in which a Democratic victory was virtually assured. As Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Aspin had only token opposition from Janesville realtor Mark Neumann in 1992, and attacks on him by Republican interest groups and a national newspaper barely dented his popularity in southeast Wisconsin.
President Clinton would choose Aspin to be his Secretary of Defense in 1993, necessitating a special election. And while that election would be won by Democrat Peter Barca, it was only by 675 votes, and Barca would lose to Republican Mark Neumann in the rematch the following year. After 1996, the Democratic Party all but stopped contesting the seat entirely. Redistricting in 2001 and 2011, the decline of the auto industry, and widening exurban sprawl out of Chicago have made Wisconsin's CD1 safely Republican.

H. Ross Perot had originally entered the presidential race by promising on Larry King's CNN program to run if enough people committed to support his campaign. His withdrawal from the presidential race in July — making unsubstantiated claims that Republicans and the CIA had doctored photographs to portray his daughter as a lesbian and thus ruin her wedding — came as a stunning betrayal to those who had done the legwork to get his name on their state ballots, since polls had been showing him running ahead of both President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.

This next cartoon spoofs a Bush campaign ad which blurred Bill Clinton's face while accusing him of flip-flopping on the issues.

Tune in again next week for the exciting conclusion of Decision 92!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Q Toon: What's a Cthulhu to Do?

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
👾Oct 19, 2017
This is supposed to be my LGBTQ cartoon for the week, but I have to admit that I just wasn't finding any inspiration in the LGBTQ news stories over the weekend.

Australia is holding a vote on marriage equality, with the usual suspects weighing in pro and con. Antigay pogroms are underway in Egypt and former Soviet republics. Some Balkan nations are holding their first Pride parades over right-wing objections; so is a rural town in Iowa. Alabama will probably elect an antigay fascist to the U.S. Senate this year (but what else is new?).

Perhaps I could have tried harder to come up with an LGBTQ angle on the Harvey Weinstein scandal. My problem was that what ideas I did come up with could rightfully be accused of making light of the situation. (No, Mr. Weinstein, women do not consider watching you jerk off "foreplay.") Twitting those silly heterosexuals wasn't going to work, either; we have testimony that some male actors have had to put up with sexual harassment or assault from other Hollywood or Broadway moguls, but so far, James Vanderbeek, Alex Winter, Javier Muñoz and Terry Crews have not dared to name those perpetrators.

As Corey Feldman explained this week,
“Everybody deals with things differently. I’m not able to name names. People are frustrated, people are angry, they want to know how is this happening, and they want answers—and they turn to me and they say, ‘Why don’t you be a man and stand up and name names and stop hiding and being a coward?’ I have to deal with that, which is not pleasant, especially given the fact that I would love to name names. I’d love to be the first to do it. But unfortunately California conveniently enough has a statute of limitations that prevents that from happening. Because if I were to go and mention anybody’s name, I would be the one that would be in legal problems and I’m the one that would be sued. We should be talking to the district attorneys and the lawmakers in California, especially because this is where the entertainment industry is and this is a place where adults have more direct and inappropriate connection with children than probably anywhere else in the world.”
So perhaps I could have made this cartoon about Hollywood instead of Washington, as long as I had monsters on my mind. In the end, I decided that we have had such an unending stream of ghastly news emanating from the White House this year that more readers would understand this cartoon if it were about a president who has no interest in any policy other than reversing every accomplishment of his immediate predecessor; who has no loyalty to anything but his own bloated ego; who doesn't give two shits about the environment, the working class, or our men and women in uniform; and who is a consummate con man who has been able to get by with the unquestioning support of the 33% he can easily fool.

When America finally grasps the impact of the Trumps' rape of the nation, my fear is that the statute of limitations will have passed.

And we'll be told by an uncaring world that we knew what we were getting into.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Environmental Stewardship: Solar Sanctuaries

by John Berge

For many individuals and businesses, protection of the environment, reducing their carbon footprint, and doing their bit to reduce global warming and climate change are the primary reasons for installing solar panels. For some, the federal tax credits may be the deciding factor, since they reduce the overall costs and the “payback” time. But for churches and other non-profit organizations, those credits are not available; yet they may still want to do their part as good environmental stewards.

Solar energy promotes a cleaner and healthier environment, lowers energy costs which means more money for mission and programs, and provides an excellent and very visible example to their community.
The former Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Racine installed solar panels on its south roof
So if there are no tax incentives, what is available? Renew Wisconsin provides grants for churches and other non-profits installing solar panels. They can provide up to 20% of costs of solar arrays as well as grants for site assessment ($250) and engineering review ($500). Renew Wisconsin, thanks to a local philanthropist, will award up to $125,000 to churches and other non-profits in Wisconsin. They have been “the organized voice for renewable energy since 1991.”

Another route is to team up with a business or individual that can use these tax incentives. Newer churches often have sufficient land, and older churches frequently have large roof areas for solar panels that businesses might not have. A church and a business can form a Limited Liability Corporation, in which  the church is the minority (such as 15%) partner and the business or individual is the majority owner which can use the federal tax credit. The LLC will build the solar array on the property of the church, thus lowering the costs for both the church and the business.

The potential for the business is to deduct as depreciation up to 85% of the costs over five or six years. The church will get its electric power at a significant discount over the life of the project. In addition, the church usually will be given, or be offered at a sharply discounted price, the solar system at the end of the period of tax credits. This is a new and innovated legal structure for the advantage of the church or non-profit and the business or individual that form the LLC — one that churches should look into. I obviously cannot give all the ins and outs of such a decision, but I can refer everyone to Focus on Energy, Renew Wisconsin, Arch Electric (Wisconsin’s number one installer of solar systems) and Southeast Wisconsin Solar Group Buy for further information.

Obviously, switching to renewable solar power is a major decision for any congregation. I believe that church councils, social ministry, green and property committees, and staff should be investigating all possibilities for reducing their congregation’s carbon footprint.

I also believe that individuals should be expressing their interests in this area to the leaders of their congregation. Wouldn’t it be good environmental stewardship if all congregations would get their electric power from a renewable source such as solar rather than from a coal-fired, carbon dioxide spewing power plant?

Monday, October 16, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

Positions open: Mixologist. Hours flexible. Must be available second shift. Must be able to multitask while listening to customers' complaints, woes, hopes and ramblings. Psychoanalytical degree a plus. Apply within.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

War Declared; Hilarity Ensues

This is kind of a Scattershotback Saturday post of 100-year-old cartoons today. Let's start with the serious stuff: Boardman Robinson illustrates suffragettes in front of the White House protesting President Woodrow Wilson's opposition to women's suffrage. Between June and November 1917, 218 protesters from 26 states were arrested and charged with "obstructing sidewalk traffic" outside the White House gates. The banner in the cartoon directly quotes a banner carried by one of the arrested women.
"Kaiser Wilson" by Boardman Robinson in The Masses, October, 1917
The German press seized upon England's arrest and imprisonment of British politician Edmund Morel, a leader of the antiwar Union of Democratic Control. He was convicted of violating the Defence of the Realm Act by sending a UDC pamphlet to a friend in Switzerland. Simplicissimus cartoonist Olaf Gulbransson here compares Morel's fate to that of French Socialist Jean Jaurès, who was actively working to head off World War I when he was assassinated on July 31, 1914 by a French nationalist.
"Der Geist Jaurès'" by Olav Gulbransson in Simplicissimus, Munich, October 16, 1917
Morel served six months in Pentonville Prison, which was six months longer than any punishment  Jaurès's assassin ever received (although the assassin eventually met a rather ignominious end in Spain during its civil war).

If the cartoons of the day are to be believed, Germany had high hopes for a peace settlement proposed by Pope Benedict XV. The proposal included freedom for Belgium, Poland and Armenia, restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France and Italian-speaking areas of Austria's empire to Italy, and negotiations for the status of Balkan states — essentially wiping out any of the Central Powers' military gains. Since England, France and the U.S. refused to negotiate with the existing governments of the Central Powers, however, Germans were pleased to be able to blame the continuation of the war on the Entente powers.
"Englands Antwort auf die Papstnote" by Thomas Theodor Heine in Simplicissimus, Munich, October 16, 1917
But turning to the lighter side: as terribly, soul-crushingly awful as the Great War was, cartoonists were still able to find nuggets of humor amidst the death and devastation. This French cartoon depicts that country's warm welcome to the freshly arriving American troops.
"Spirit of Conquest" by Maurice Radiguet in Le Rire, Paris, September or October, 1917
Mademoiselle from Armentières had quite the reputation at home, as well as the one that quickly spread abroad. Do you suppose this could be the earliest appearance of cabbage patch kids, mon petit chou?
"Jardins de Guerre" by Adolphe Willette in La Baïonette, Paris, May 24, 1917
For American cartoonists, further removed from the front than their French counterparts, it was easier to make light of the war. Keeping things light was better for morale, after all.
"Hey, Mister," by R. B. Fuller in Cartoons Magazine, Chicago, October, 1917
The war made its presence felt on newspapers' comics pages in a way unparalleled in the century since. Certainly many adventure strips during World War II had their heroes fighting Nazis and "Japs," but American comic strips of the 1910's were almost exclusively of the humorous variety. Not every comic strip was suited to wartime boosterism, but it was hardly a stretch to have "Bobby Make-Believe" imagining himself battling the Huns. Other comic children put on shows or collected rags to raise funds for the troops, or engaged in other darling displays of patriotism.
"Freckles and His Friends" by Merrill Blosser for NEA, December 31, 1917
Among adult comic strip characters, even chinless Andy Gump answered the call to arms (only to be rejected as physically unfit). In Walter Allman's domestic comic strip "Doings of the Duffs," one of the Duff family members, Wilbur, was conscripted into the service.
"Doings of the Duffs" by Walter Allman, NEA, October 9, 1917
Wilbur Duff was not alone among comic characters to serve his country in the Great War, yet you don't find the denizens of Funky Winkerbean, Luann, or Dilbert volunteering to ship overseas nowadays. Racking my brain to come up with any modern comic strip characters who have gone to war, I can only think of Doonesbury, a few of whose characters who have served in Vietnam or Iraq. Of course, there's Beetle Bailey, but he has never left the relative comfort of Camp Swampy, wherever that is. (Is someone still drawing Sad Sack these days?)

If there is any cartoon that demonstrates how startling the realistic portrayal of Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe would be to the next generation of American cartoon readers, it's got to be this drawing for the cover of the Newspaper Enterprise Association's monthly bulletin to its subscribing editors, Pep.
Cover illustration by DeAlton Valentine for Pep, NEA, Cleveland, Ohio, September, 1917
Which is not to say that there was not more realistic humor about the war, but as with Sgt. Bill Mauldin in World War II, it came from cartoonists with first-hand knowledge of life in the field. By far the most famous was the British cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather. Having been promoted to the rank of Captain in the British Army before being hospitalized with shellshock and hearing loss at Ypres in 1915, Bairnsfather drew the exploits and travails of soldiers he named Old Bill, Bert and Alf for the humor weekly The Bystander.
"A Miner Success" by Bruce Bairnsfather in The Bystander, London, July, 1917
Bairnsfather garnered considerable fame despite initial protest from civilian readers to his "vulgar caricature" of the troops. His best-known cartoon, in which Old Bill counsels the soldier complaining about the miserable foxhole they share, "Well, if you knows of a better 'ole, go to it," has been borrowed as the basis for countless cartoons since. But if Old Bill could be fairly wise, Bert and Alf were not necessarily the brightest bulbs in the trench.
"A Carriage Full of Bairnsfathers" by E.T. Reed in The Bystander, London, August, 1917
Well, that's enough World War I for a while. Log in again next week for some more recent history.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Q Toon: On a Roll

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
ᏈOct 12, 2017

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III this month delivered on a promise to grant Christian conservatives a "license to discriminate" against LGBTQ employees, consumers, patients, neighbors, students, and passers-by. Any victims of discrimination will find the Department of Justice deaf to their complaints.
[T]he relentless message [in Sessions' memo] is that whenever federal agents in the course of their activities collide with claims that they conflict with religious tenets, they should back off. One of its 20 “principles of religious liberty” bluntly tells federal entities that civil-rights laws protecting people of faith from employment discrimination on religious grounds must be strictly enforced — but they do not apply to religious employers themselves.
It's more than a question of wedding cakes and bathrooms. The Human Rights Campaign lists a number of ways Mr. Sessions' rules encourage antigay discrimination:
● A Social Security Administration employee could refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse.
● A federal contractor could refuse to provide services to LGBTQ people, including in emergencies, without risk of losing federal contracts.
● Organizations that had previously been prohibited from requiring all of their employees from following the tenets of the organization's faith could now possibly discriminate against LGBTQ people in the provision of benefits and overall employment status.
● Agencies receiving federal funding, and even their individual staff members, could refuse to provide services to LGBTQ children in crisis, or to place adoptive or foster children with a same-sex couple or transgender couple.
The day before Sessions published his memo, he had released a memorandum excluding transgender persons from civil rights protections. These assaults on LGBTQ civil rights were written under the guiding hand of the theocratic Alliance Defending Freedom, a hard-line anti-LGBTQ activist legal advocacy group with deep pockets.
In 2012, [Alan] Sears, then-president of the ADF (called “Alliance Defense Fund” at the time) delivered remarks at a U.S-led conservative conference called the World Congress of Families in Madrid. “In the course of the now hundreds of cases the Alliance Defense Fund has now fought involving this homosexual agenda, one thing is certain,” said Sears at a session titled “The Homosexual Agenda.” “There is no room for compromise with those who would call evil ‘good’.”
So to all those gay Trump Loyalists over at Breitbart who post that one picture of Trump holding the rainbow flag upside-down as some sort of proof that he's not as bad as the people who make up his administration, I'm having none of it. Your president is not a details guy. Sessions, Pence, DeVos et al. are in charge of bringing back Puritan Rule, and no hastily scrawled message on a flag is going to change the fact that they are his legacy. He's just there for the signing ceremony and the applause.
“Trump’s supporters like to say, ‘It’s not what he says, it’s what he does that matters.’ That’s definitely the case when it comes to issues affecting LGBT Americans,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, who started the now-defunct conservative gay rights group GOProud along with Barron. “I never thought that Donald Trump was an anti-gay homophobe. I certainly didn’t think that when I met him back in 2011. But we’ve all learned a lot about who he really is since then. With his political pandering and posturing to endear himself to the intolerant wing of the GOP over the last few years, it doesn’t surprise me that this administration will go down as the most anti-LGBT in history.”