Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas Gift Ideas!

This episode of Sleighback Saturday is specifically tailored to meet the needs of all you last-minute shoppers out there. And by last-minute, I mean people who meant to get their Christmas shopping done, oh, about 100 years ago.

Check out these Christmas deals from December, 1917!

Or, if a typewriter was not in your holiday budget, Loftis Bros & Co. offered reasonable terms toward the purchase of  something more romantic:
There being a war on, Loftis Bros & Hos would accept Liberty Bonds in lieu of cash.

Graham, Crawford Co. of Bonham, Texas, while acknowledging the sorry state of world affairs, offers a merry list of gift suggestions:

From the Houston Post comes this advertisement from G.A. Stowers Furniture Company, suggesting the gift of a Columbia Grafonola, along with a variety of Columbia records to play on it. "Life in a Trench in Belgium," for example, is touted as "A record altogether out of the ordinary  — a startling picture of what 'digging in' means."
Or, if your tastes ran to something more musical, 75¢ could also get you recordings of "The Naval Reserve March" or "We're Going Over." The latter promises, "Just to listen to this rousing popular hit makes you wish you were 'going over,' too."

One thing that has always amazed me when I hear stories about how Christmas used to be is that whole cities weren't burned to the ground every December. Yes, Virginia, they used to put candles on Christmas trees in houses and churches, schools and institutions. Lit candles.

I suppose future generations will feel the same way about the incandescent light bulbs that are now gradually being replaced by LED lights that don't generate so much heat. One year, my husband and I put enough strings of lights on our tree that the heat could be felt across the room. The tree was artificial, but fake trees are not completely non-flammable. (We do try to avoid stringing that many lights these days. It's easier on the fuses.)
Once upon a time, a good pen was a thoughtful and considerate gift. I don't know how to explain fountain pens to a generation for whom ballpoint and felt tip pens are relics of ancient history; suffice it to say that you had to fill its barrel with ink at regular intervals, and blot the ink on a scrap of felt before continuing to write. There was a tendency from time to time for ink to rush out faster than one might want it to, leaving big indelible blotches on paper, hands, and clothes.

For the convenience of soldiers, who needed to pack light without a wardrobe of replacement uniforms, Parker ink was available in tablets instead of the standard ink bottle. And here's something those of us who still use pens have come to take for granted: when it came to these Parker pens, the clip was extra.

Parker pens are still around, by the way, although it has been bought out by Gillette and the company headquarters has moved from Janesville, Wisconsin, to St.-Herblain, France. I guess you really can't keep them down on the farm after they've seen Pa-ree.

But let's face it. Typewriters and pens and watches and army recruitment phonographs are all well and good, but Christmas is all about the kiddies.
I have no idea why the giants of Lilliputania are a Chinese launderer and a police officer standing on a colossal pair of scissors.  I guess I would have had to buy the absorbing fairy story book that went along with the 120-piece model city. Now we'll just have to wait for Disney to make the feature film version.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Ready for Their Tax Cut

Here's an extra cartoon for your Christmas stocking:

As I write, we're waiting to see whether Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) can persuade his party's deficit chicken hawks to increase the child credit in their tax bill to double the current amount. This as a sop to lower and middle class taxpayers so that the Republicans' so-called reforms don't come off as a complete give-away to corporations and the rich.

Republicans and their benefactors have long complained that tax rates for U.S. corporations and the richest Americans are the highest in the world — which they're not, but we have to let that pass for now. They gloss over the fact that the overwhelming majority of these upper-bracket filers end up paying little or no taxes thanks to a wealth of deductions that they have lobbied for over the years.

Slashing the upper income tax rates was supposed to be accompanied by erasing significant numbers of those tax loopholes, but by some miracle, the only exemptions and deductions being eliminated are the ones used by lower and middle class filers. Exemptions and deductions that benefit the top 1% — including many Republican members of Congress — remain or are increased.
For example, during the fall, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson — the 26th-richest member of Congress — withheld his support for the bill, leveraging his vote to pressure lawmakers to add provisions to the bill increasing tax breaks for investors in pass-through entities. The most recent federal records show Johnson has up to $30 million of ownership stakes in three LLCs that generate rental income. Johnson earned between $115,000 and $1,050,000 of income from those investments in 2016.
And if you still believe the theory that coddling the rich will enable the benefits to trickle down to everybody else once their wealth finally achieves some mythical critical mass, think again. They have plenty of other plans for their tax breaks, starting with mergers and acquisitions and ending with trimming the newly redundant employees from their mega-companies.

Well, at least Monopoly Man at the southeast corner of this cartoon is generating jobs for all the attendants at the sexual harassment clinic.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Q Toon: Second Best Wishes

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
🎂Dec 14, 2017

I have to confess that I'm conflicted about the Supreme Court's current case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. As a legally married gay man, I'm perturbed by the claim that I might be denied service by any given business establishment on the basis of the proprietor's religious-based prejudice against me.

On the other hand, as someone who draws freelance cartoons for publication, I think I ought to be able to refuse, were someone to offer to hire me to draw a cartoon I vehemently disagree with. I also play music for weddings and funerals, although I've never had the dilemma of being  presented with musical requests that I would have refused to play.

Still, refusing to stick two plastic grooms on the top of a wedding cake seems almost dickish to me. I've been around to see all manner of wedding cakes for different-sex couples, frosted to match the color of the bridesmaids' dresses or the groom's army camouflage, festooned with homages to Star Trek, country music or Harley Davidson.

Mr. Phillips may very well be the artiste that he portrays himself to be, but if he should win the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, how far does that right extend? The so-called religious right has been agitating for decades now for their right not to participate in society's progress; it is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that they would press further for the right of plumbers or auto mechanics or firefighters or emergency medical technicians or (now that corporations are people) insurance companies to refuse service to LGBTQ persons.

Given that the same religious right feels persecuted by commercial transactions during which the employees of the business sell them whatever goods and services they want, but wish them anything other than a Merry Christmas, it's hard to be completely sympathetic with their plight.

Monday, December 11, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

This week's cartoon won't be published until after we find out how many Alabama pedophilophiles came out to vote for Roy Moore, so my attitude for now is "Let them eat cake."

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Remembering John B. Anderson

SimonSezback Saturday today pays tribute to John B. Anderson, who died this week in Washington, D.C. at the age of 95. The Republican Congressman from Illinois was the first person I voted for in a presidential election, first in the 1980 Minnesota Republican caucuses, then in his Independent candidacy for the presidency.

We college students for Anderson were a devoted bunch, and I've seen a lot of Facebook comments from people my age who are still proud to have voted for him, and have never voted for a Republican candidate since. In the small town where I went to college, we vastly outnumbered supporters of all the other candidates —put together!— at the local caucuses, held on the same day as the New Hampshire primary.
John Anderson campaigning at UW-Parkside, March 27, 1980.
But by the time of the Minnesota Republican Convention to select the state's actual delegates to the National Convention, representatives from non-college districts had the votes to send a delegation committed entirely to the presumptive nominee, Ronald Reagan.

What endeared Anderson to us brand new voters was his earnestness and his willingness to go against a politician's instinct to say exactly what the people in the room might want to hear. From his New York Times obituary:
Mr. Anderson refused to pander, telling voters in Iowa that he favored President Jimmy Carter’s embargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union after it had invaded Afghanistan. He called for a gasoline tax of 50 cents per gallon — when a gallon cost $1.15 — to save energy.
Early on, when all six of his rivals for the Republican nomination assured the Gun Owners of New Hampshire that they firmly opposed gun control legislation, Mr. Anderson said, “I don’t understand why.”
“When in this country we license people to drive automobiles,” he added, “what is so wrong about proposing that we license guns to make sure that felons and mental incompetents don’t get a hold of them?”
He was roundly booed.
My cartoons of John Anderson in 1980 betray the humorless earnestness of a dewy-eyed supporter of a doomed cause (and the difficulty I've always had with drawing hands). My characters were stiff and two-dimensional in more ways than one.

Anderson's campaign left me with a lasting dislike of media coverage that focuses on the poll du jour. But for third-party candidates like Anderson, popularity polls have a real and practical effect on whether the League of Women Voters allow them to participate in televised debates, or even whether they can get on the ballot at all.

So too election rules crafted by the two major parties to safeguard their own interests. Anderson had to fight to get on the ballot in Ohio, where the deadline for an independent candidate to get on the November ballot was in March, well before either major party's nominee had been decided. In Anderson v. Celebrezze, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Anderson's favor, reasoning that
"Not only does the challenged Ohio statute totally exclude any candidate who makes the decision to run for President as an independent after the March deadline, it also burdens the signature-gathering efforts of independents who decide to run in time to meet the deadline. When the primary campaigns are far in the future and the election itself is even more remote, the obstacles facing an independent candidate's organizing efforts are compounded. Volunteers are more difficult to recruit and retain, media publicity and campaign contributions are more difficult to secure, and voters are less interested in the campaign. It is clear, then, that the March filing deadline places a particular burden on an identifiable segment of Ohio's independent-minded voters."
Mainstream cartoonists who had welcomed Anderson as a breath of fresh air in February were dismissing him as a quixotic kook in October. Still, I desperately clung to the prospect that The Issues were more important than The Polls. I even let the candidate of the Libertarian Party (which had a small but vocal presence on campus) in on the act.

President Carter in the above cartoon alludes to the brand spanking new Stealth Fighter planes (the F-117 and B-2 Spirit) announced by the Carter administration earlier that year.

This last cartoon was an extra wide oeuvre which you probably need to beclickify to embiggen to eulegibilitous size. I expect most readers to recognize the poem (itself a parody) and the song parodied by Ronald Reagan and John Anderson in this cartoon; the James Russell Lowell hymn parodied in the Jimmy Carter panel is more obscure today (my Lutheran denomination dropped it from its hymnals after 1978).

Ah, the zeal of youth! Been there. Voted that. Bought the t-shirt.
Thought I still had the bumper sticker, too.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Q Toon: Flip Service on AIDS

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍Dec 7, 2017

Last week's World AIDS Day proclamation from the Corrupt Trump Administration was curiously lacking one thing.

Any mention of the LGBTQ community.

If not for his record eliminating some of the Affordable Care Act's protections of LGBT individuals against discrimination and his ban on transgender soldiers serving in the armed forces, one might cut Mr. Trump some slack here. One might suppose that perhaps Mr. Trump was trying to decouple the concept of being LGBTQ from the concept of having AIDS.

But the fact remains that here in the West, HIV/AIDS still disproportionately impacts LGBTQ persons, persons of color, the poor, and intravenous drug users.

The influence of Republican Party Theocrats upon the Corrupt Trump Administration reveals itself in petty slights such as this (which continued this week as LGBTQ and Black White House reporters were not invited to this year's White House Christmas party).

The practical effects of Corrupt Trump Administration policy on HIV/AIDS, however, are anything but petty. As former George W. Bush speech writer Michael Gerson pointed out this week,
For the first time since early in the American AIDS response, a fundamental change in approach is being debated. In its 2018 budget, the Trump administration proposes an $800 million cut in America’s bilateral HIV/AIDS programs (along with a $225 million cut for the Global Fund). Resources would be concentrated on 13 “priority” countries, while current levels of treatment would be maintained in other places. Neither South Africa nor Nigeria — which together have about a quarter of AIDS cases in the world — would be in the “priority” category.
The results? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 800,000 fewer people (compared to the current trajectory) would be placed on treatment in the first year of the new strategy, and 2.7 million fewer by 2020.
Domestically, the Corrupt Trump Administration has still not appointed anyone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, whose web site has been a blank page all year. This year's White House budget proposal would have slashed nearly $1 billion from federal HIV-related programs, had not Congress reinstated the funds in a May omnibus bill.
However, Congress will be increasing funding for abstinence-only sexual education programs by $5 million, while also decreasing funding for the CDC’s [Sexually Transmitted Disease] division by the same amount.
"On this day, we pray for all those living with HIV, and those who have lost loved ones to AIDS," wrote whoever put together the White House proclamation last week. In the words of  Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal and one of six members who resigned in protest from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in June, "Prayers are good, but we need much more than prayers from this White House to solve the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States."

Update: The Corrupt Trump Administration's pettiness is not limited to its Christmas party. Congressional Jewish Democrats were also disinvited from the White House Hanukkah observance.

Monday, December 4, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

Oh, cussedarn... I forgot to draw Trump's lawyer drafting his tweet for him.