Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday evening toons: Cleveland – A performance in five parts, with intermission

The GOP nominating convention had five parts:

Part I-A: Statement of (Anti-)Thesis: A parade of D-Listers, scraped up at the last minute because Ted Nugent and Tim Tebow wouldn't make themselves available, launched an evening's worth of attacks on Hillary Clinton, while offering nothing in the way of positive policy ideas.

Part I-B: Diversion: The Melania Speech and the utterly inevitable tsunami of plagiarism jokes that followed. I have to say I felt a little sorry for the current Mrs. Trump – not a lot, but a little. True, she certainly knew what she was getting into when she signed on to be arm candy for a rich American jerk, but I imagine that even her iron-clad pre-nup didn't have a clause covering the reading a speech in her second language at a national political convention in a context where if there was one blunder she'd be gutted like a fish inside of half an hour on Twitter.

Part II-A: The Soprano Aria: Donald Trump Jr. stuns the crowd with his a capella rendition of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me."

Part II-B: The Trial: The Governor, advances charges that Hillary Clinton had trafficked with Lucifer, engaged in witchcraft, and committed marvelous and supernatural murder, and promises a hangin' if she'll not confess.

Part III: Betrayal from Within: Cruz Agonistes, in which our hero laments:
Why was my breeding ordered and prescribed
As of a person separate to God,
Designed for great exploits, if I must die
Betrayed, captived, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this heaven-gifted strength?

Part IV – I'm Ready for My Close-Up, Ms. Riefenstahl: With a lot of hand-waving and podium-pounding and lower-lip-protruding, Trump delivers a long, excedingly dark acceptance speech which, as Molly Ivins, of the p3 pantheon of gods, remarked in another context, probably sounded better in the original German.

Part V – Epilog: In which white supremacist and former Klan Grand Wizard David Duke announces that the nomination of Trump is an omen appearing strongly to favor his campaign for the United States Senate, and Hillary Clinton steers away from Trump-ish drama by selecting the most un-Elizabeth Warren-y figure imaginable for her running mate. Outraged fans of Senators Warren and Sanders contemplate whether this is indeed the final straw, apparently failing to appreciate that if Tim Kaine is indeed their worst fears realized, there's hardly a better place to keep him out of mischief than the Vice Presidency.

If you executed one of a zillion variations on the Melania-blithely-stealing-a-famous-quote theme, you almost certainly didn't make the cut this week. On the other hand, if you noticed that anything else was happening this week other than the Republican convention, you most likely got a second look.

Today's toons were selected following a shut-out of all other contenders by the Rules Committee from the week's offerings at McClatchy DC, Cartoon Movement, Go Comics, Politico's Cartoon Gallery, Daryl Cagle's Political Cartoons,, and other fine sources of toony goodness.

p3 Best of Show: Matt Davies.

p3 Legion of Merit: Chan Lowe.

p3 Catching the Problem Everyone Else Missed Award: Joel Pett.

p3 "When They Outlaw Behavioral Therapists . . . " Certificate: Darrin Bell (although in defense of the otherwise-indefensible officer who fired the shot, and who shouldn't be allowed to have a toy truck, let alone a loaded gun, he did shoot the unarmed man in the leg, rather than in the belly; so, you know, there's that).

p3 "Perspective: Use It Or Lose It" Award: Steve Kelley.

Ann Telnaes captures the fiery oratory of Cruz on Night 3.

Tom Tomorrow demonstrates why there is no Donald Trump Drinking Game: Everyone would be dead of alcohol poisoning by late afternoon.

Keith Knight explains that frozen moment when everyone sees what's on the end of every fork – and it's you.

Reuben Bolling invites you to participate in Donald Trump's Augmented Reality.

Carol Lay examines post-hairstyle-change remorse. Hey, we've all been there.

Red Meat's Ted Johnson knows that any tactical response depends on advance planning.

The Comic Curmudgeon notes that the usually-adorbs Mutts took a dark turn this week.

Comic Strip of the Day not only explains why the donut wasn't powdered but produced a line I'm going to be duty-bound to repeat at some point: "a foggy smear of unplumbable probabilities where reality has no meaning."

Humans are suckers for dogs – all you gotta do is give them the "soulful eyes" routine! "Little Orphan Airedale," directed in 1947 by Chuck Jones from a story by Tedd Pierce (both uncredited, along with voice work by Portland's Own Mel Blanc and musical direction by Carl Stalling of the p3 pantheon of gods), is the very first appearance of Charlie Dog (like Smokey, he doesn't have a middle name). The essence of Charlie's character is his search for a master (usually, but not always, Porky Pig) and a comfortable home – a search he's no less optimistic about simply because he's so obnoxious that no one wants him. (The original version of the story was "Porky's Pooch," directed in 1941 by Bob Clampett and written by Warren Foster. We may check that out next week.) Charlie got a total of five appearances in Warner Bros short films. Watch "Little Orphan Airedale" on DailyMotion (warning: autoplay).

The Mighty Oregon Toon Block:

Ex-Oregonian Jack Ohman looks on the bright side, to the extent that there is one, of Trump's apocalyptic acceptance speech.

Documented Ex-Oregonian Jen Sorensen traces the backlash from that guy living over his parents' garage all the way up to the man who will soon get a national security briefing from the CIA – generated an non-convention event this week.

Matt Bors zeros in on an important distinction.

Jesse Springer returns to a topic that was the blackberry seed in his wisdom tooth for quite awhile back in the day: The unsuccessful relationship between Oregon's health care exchange and Oracle the IT company that created its unsuccessful online registration management system. You'd think, with a name like Oracle, somebody would have seen this coming.

Test your mastery of the toon-captioning Force at The New Yorker's weekly caption-the-cartoon contest. (Rules here.) And you can browse The New Yorker's cartoon gallery here.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday evening toons: Decisions, decisions

Do we focus this week's toon review on the continuing problem with guns in our violent country (in contrast, Nice had a truck problem; will the NRA say this proves everyone at the celebration should have had a truck too?), or do we turn our attention to the circus of D-list celebrities, political neverwozzers, and Trump family members who are filling the stage at the Republican National Convention this week – a scene with its own promise of violence?

At this point, are political cartoonists starting to stockpile shooting-death ideas, just trying to tread water in a world where they've needed three of them since Monday?

An interesting sidelight to both the police and civilian deaths in the last couple of weeks is that several of the civilians shot (or shooting) had carry or concealed carry permits. Apart from the fact that this didn't keep anyone safe (or change the score), police – who've never been fans of concealed carry for everyone – are starting to be more upfront about their opinion that the free-fire zone approach isn't making their jobs easier. It would be interesting to see a cage match between the NRA and the police unions – although I shudder to think how much worse things might have to get before that happens.

Oddly enough, beyond Jesse Springer having some Oregon-themed fun with it (below) there wasn't much in the way of Pokémon Go this week. Are cartoonists too cool for it? Or were they so busy shuffling down the sidewalk, head down over their phones, bumping into things, that there just wasn't time? (And may I say that the arguments about the health benefits of walking around playing Pokémon Go have to be just about the silliest thing I've ever heard.) Steve Breen's in the neighborhood though, with a good one about our (d)evolving idea of how to vacation. (Shorter version: No pix or it didn't happen!)

And while Jeff Danziger got wrong-footed by Trump's screwy VP selection process (if it deserves the term, since it appears that the decision wasn't so much "made" as it was "congealed"), it's a fabulous image so I'm including it.

And by the way, the Notorious RBG was right and she shouldn't have apologized. Jack Ohman (below), Ann Telnaes (below), and John Cole all address that this week, Ohman going for the outrage, and Telnaes and Cole going for the laugh. And I'm working on a piece to go up in the next day or two. But in the meantime, just so we're all clear: apology, wrong.

Oh, and one other thing: Because I held off last Sunday's toon review until Tuesday evening in the naïve belief that we might get a break in all the shooting, it threw off the timing for several regulars around here who publish weekly. They'll be back next week, now that I'm back on schedule. Promise.

p3 Best of Show: Rob Rogers.

p3 Legion of Merit: Robert Ariail.

In a bit of a turn-around, this week Gary Varvel gives, rather than receives, the p3 "Mr. Congeniality" Award.

p3 Award for Best Adaptation from Another Medium (tie): Jerry Holbert and Matt Weurker.

Ann Telnaes watches in glee as the Notorious RBG gives the vulgar one a trimmin'.

Keith Knight notes America's five-year economic boom, of sorts. Thanks, Obama.

Reuben Bolling wonders: What's wrong with this picture?

Carol Lay tells a beautiful story with an ending that's so her.

The Comic Curmudgeon stumbles on a notion in Hagar the Horrible that is deeply, deeply disturbing.

Comic Strip of the Day hits the Friday comics perfecta, though he just misses the trifecta. But for a good reason.

What a zany! What a knucklehead! What a dope! What a – yipe! A nation that spent the last week walking around staring at their iPhones looking for fictional creatures clearly needs to be reminded of the simpler pleasures, like burlesque and vaudeville. (Did you say Farmville? No! Shush!) "Stage Door Cartoon," directed in 1944 by Fritz Freleng from a story by Michael Maltese, with uncredited voice work by Portland's Own Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny) and Arthur Q. Lewis (Elmer Fudd), and great musical direction (also uncredited) by Carl Stalling. Watch the expression on Bugs' face at the end of the piano gag. That was when animation was animation. Also watch for an early version of the character who would become Yosimite Sam. Watch "Stage Door Cartoon" at DailyMotion.

The Exalted Oregon Toon Block:

Ex-Oregonian Jack Ohman draws a dark comparison.

Documented Ex-Oregonian Jen Sorensen points to the next public health crisis. But there may be a cure.

Jesse Springer has some pocket monsters you may discover here in the Beaver State:

Test your toon-captioning powers at The New Yorker's weekly caption-the-cartoon contest. (Rules here.) And you can browse The New Yorker's cartoon gallery here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The unforgiving minute: Succession dreams, and scarier things

A couple of days ago, in that last dream you sometimes have before the alarm goes off, I dreamed that Trump and Pence got elected. The residue of dismay from that dream was hard to shake off.

Then, this morning, presumably safe in the wakened world and browsing the news, it occurred to me that if those two got elected, and if Trump (now the Cheetos Jesus in Chief) were to leave the Oval Office suddenly vacant mid-term – whether by getting his hair caught up in the compressor fan of an Air Force One jet engine or succumbing to his signature inability to stay focused – it would be Pence who would succeed him as President of the United States. 

Then, as the shakes began to set in, I realized: Pence, perfectly awful as he is (and I chose that phrase with some care), would merely be first in line to replace him. Based on the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, signed into law by Harry Truman (who could not on his worst day have imagined things coming to this), should Pence slip and fall in the shower, he would be succeeded by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. 

Were Ryan to be killed in a freak weight-training accident, the next in line would be President Pro Tempore of the Senate Orrin Hatch.  

Should Hatch inadvertently impale himself on one of his collar stays, the next in line would be . . . whoever Trump had seen fit to select as his Secretary of State.

I came to about four hours later next to a dumpster twenty blocks from here. Two little kids were prodding me nervously with a stick.

Minute's up, thank heavens.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ah, the Hoosier state, where Republicans fail upwards

(Updated below.)

 Wow. So it's going to be Pence.  Proud son of the state where I was born, although not the state I'm from.

Not sure why Trump would pick him, but it's his business. Maybe the Short-Fingered Vulgarian needed someone to put a happy face on bigotry, misogyny, and corporate fascism. I never thought that Gingrich had much of a chance -- Trump would never allow another ego that big on the same stage with him. And the same, probably, for Christie, with the added fact that Trump might be smart enough to know he could never turn his back on him.

Or maybe, as Trump himself said not long ago, he wants a Veep with executive and legislative experience (however dubious the outcome) running all the day-to-day business of the last superpower, while he . . . does whatever he'll do. maybe. Thinking up smart, big ideas that people will love. Continuing his twitter war with Elizabeth Warren, Whatever.

From Pence's side it's probably easier to explain: He can't go back the House, really; Evan Bayh just bigfooted the hell out of the Senate race; and after last year's Religious Freedom Restoration Act debacle, he's polling within the margin of error for re-election as governor in a very red state.  If he still wants to be a Name (for anything other than sending back a steak) in 2020, he needs to stay at least somewhat visible  (Does Pence want to run in 2020? Of course he does. Name me one GOP governor, congressional rep, or senator who didn't look at the 2016 primary and think, "Hey, maybe I've got a shot here.") Apparently being remembered as the Sarah Palin (or perhaps the Dan Quayle) of 2016 will do it, in his mind.

So he'll be scheduled for Wednesday night of the convention, after the Florida AG who ended her investigation of Trump U after she got a considerable contribution check from a Trump charity, followed by an astronaut, a golfer who Trump once fired on Celebrity Apprentice, and Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz. I think I detect a theme here: I'll take Losers who Will Crawl on Their Bellies for Me for $200, Alec.  (I just can't figure out what the astronaut did wrong to get this gig.*)

Good luck with all that, Governor Pence.

*Update 7/21/2016: Eileen Collins, all is forgiven.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Quote of the day: Hearts and minds, greeting us as liberators, yada, yada, yada

“Today I feel so happy,” said Salim Hamid, 44. “It is like a wedding to me to see the person who destroyed my country being nervous because of being asked a lot of questions.”

Mr. Hamid said he wished he could throw a shoe at Mr. Blair — a grievous insult in the Arab world — just as an Iraqi journalist did to President George W. Bush when he visited Baghdad in 2008.

- Salid Hamid, Iraqi citizen and a man after my own heart, reflecting on the Chilcot Report forcing former British Prime Minister and Bush Administration lap poodle to take "full responsibility" for Britain's part in Bush's invasion of Iraq, which he adds he would do all over again if he were faced with the choice, so that's nice.

p3 Pro tip: Mr. Blair, never repeat the charge while denying the charge.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tuesday afternoon (delayed from Sunday) toons: Always look on the bright side of life

I decided to hold on past my usual Saturday night deadline for this post just to see if the extra day or two could shift the needle past pearly-gates and Uncle-Sam-wept cartoons to handle last week's outburst of All-American Violence. The results were mixed.

I woke up early yesterday morning and couldn't get back to sleep. So, for the first time in ten or fifteen years, I listened to NPR's Morning Edition. I discovered to my slowly-increasing horror that (1) rightwing legacy admission Jonah Goldberg has, at some point during my long absence, become Cokie Robert's sidekick on her Monday morning salon, and (2) no matter how many black men were shot to death by cops, or how many cops were shot to death by black men in the US in the space of a few days . . . well, there's always a silver lining:
Yeah, it's always hard when the cloud is this dark to look for silver linings to it. But I think one of the things - one of the benefits, if that's the - not an inappropriate word - of these horrible shootings in Minnesota and in Louisiana, combined with this horrible event in Dallas, is that it forces a little humility on every side of this sort of culture war.

Yeah, that one's got it all: The discovery of an upside to violent death in our violent country; enforced humility, whatever that might be; and – my favorite – a "both-siderist" approach to the culture war.

I stopped listening at that point. Then a few minutes later I had second thoughts– perhaps I had judged too harshly – maybe that annoying couple of minutes after all those years might not be a fair sampling. So I tuned in again, and found Fox News face Mara Liasson interviewing Melania Trump to determine what kind of a first lady the latter would make. So apparently I wasn't too harsh, and I needn't tune back in for another ten or fifteen years.

(Side note to NPR: Give them all the jobs you want, but Pierce is right: They'll still hate you.)

Although with the benefit of hindsight and a big ol' wad of 2016-style cynicism, I suppose you could say Hillary Clinton supporters found a silver lining, since the horror of Dallas and St. Paul and Baton Rouge forced even her most implacable foes to divert their attention for a couple of days, knocking Benghazi, emails, and the FBI declining to bring charges against her off-screen.

Same thing happened with Great Britain's turmoil after Brexit, although Americans were never going to be that interested in it anyway because first, we don't understand what the EU does (much the same could be said for most English voters who weren't young or living in London); and second, we don't understand how their parliamentary system works (what kind of system produces a new leader in four weeks instead of four years?), and third, well, let's be frank – it's not the US, so who cares?

Roger Ailes got a break from the spectacle of more and more Fox News Blondes lining up for or against him regarding the sexual harrassment charges against him. (Ailes was producer of The Merv Griffin Show, one of the best musical/variety/talk shows of the 1960s. Today he runs Fox News. If it would assure that the latter never existed, would you give up the former? Discuss.)

And the hapless people whose job it is to explain why Donald Trump isn't a bigoted boor got a day or two off until He came roaring back to explain why a six-point star isn't a Star of David, no matter where he found it or how he used it. And the GOP convention organizers got a respite from explaining why Carrot Top declined a speaking slot.

So, in lieu of our traditional p3 Picks of the week, we're going to break it down into who had a good week, and who had a bad week. Today's toons were selected from the week's offerings at McClatchy DC, Cartoon Movement, Go Comics, Politico's Cartoon Gallery, Daryl Cagle's Political Cartoons,, and other fine sources of toony goodness.

Bad week:

Everybody else:

p3 Best of Show: Brian McFadden.

p3 "Pick Your Amendmen"t Prize: Dan Wasserman.

p3 Certificate of Harmonic Toon Convergence: Bob Gorrell, Milt Priggee, and Ken Catalino..

Ann Telnaes captures a moment that many feared would never happen, and some true-believers might have trouble coping with now that it has.

Tom Tomorrow discovers the truth. Duck and cover.

Keith Knight struggles, as father, educator, and artist, to explain the naked lunch moment..

Reuben Bolling sez, forget about Trump University, and the Trump Institute! If you want to make money by the truckload, here is the course for you. (All Trump scams should be played for entertainment purposes only, not investment purposes.)

Red Meat's Bug-Eyed Earl wrestles with the problem of a niche readership.

Mike Peterson, pre-dawn proprieter of Comic Strip of the Day, is taking time out, so to speak, for surgery, and has placed his blog in the capable hands of a friend and colleague. He's being a lot more taciturn about the whole thing than I would be, but then he has a pretty good explanation for why that would be so. Mike mentioned this a week or two on Facebook, but Liking it seemed pretty ghoulish at the time, so instead, I dedicate this song to him along with wishes for a speedy recovery.

"Oh, won'tcha come and climb the mountain with me?" "I-Ski Love-Ski You-Ski," directed by Dave Fleischer in 1936, with uncredited voice work by Jack Mercer (Popeye), Gus Wickie (Bluto), and Mae Questel (The Slender One). Also uncredited, musical director Sammy Timberg (who, along with lyricist Bob Rothenberg), wrote the main theme song, "Won't You Come and Climb a Mountain With Me." By the way, the opening credits mention a patent-pending process used in the making of the cartoon; it's the stereoptic process in which different layers of background are painted on separate panes that move left-to-right as the characters cross the screen, creating a surprising sense of depth of field.

The Right-Sized Oregon Toon Block:

Ex-Oregonian Jack Ohman brings up an interesting question: When they came to arrest Anne Frank, why didn't she arrest them right back? Hmm? Eh? Trump's got your number there, hasn't he?

Documented Ex-Oregonian Jen Sorensen finds one aspect of the recent mass shootings and in-custody shootings that we can all get together about. Hint: For a lot of people, it slipped through the cracks of last week's stories, but it shouldn't have.

Matt Bors sympathizes: It's tough to be a really good guy when those wacky coincidences keep getting in the way. "I bet I've got the best coincidences you ever saw! People love my coincidences!"

Jesse Springer has his doubts about the proposed Oregon corporate tax hike known as IP 28 – which puts him on the same bus as just about everyone else in the state who likes the fact that we have the lowest corporate income tax rate in the nation.

Test your toon-captioning superpowers at The New Yorker's weekly caption-the-cartoon contest. (Rules here.) And you can browse The New Yorker's cartoon gallery here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Quote of the day: And Kicking off George Bush's sorta sad week

(Updated below)

Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.

- That's the first sentence of the preface to Jean Edward Smith’s biography of George W. Bush. After this, one supposes, Smith really settles down to rendering a judgment on Bush's presidency. (Hat-tip to Thomas Mallon's review in The New Yorker.)

Smith's line is also being added to my collection of great opening sentences (non-fiction division).

Poor Dubya hasn't been having a very good week, has he? Smith's bio came out on Monday the 4th. Then, on Wednesday, the day Bush turned 70 – a day when more reflective people than Dubya (which is to say, almost anyone) might want to pause and consider how they've spent their time on this old world – the Chilcot Report dropped, providing a withering assessment of the British role in the Iraq War (pdf).

The Chilcot Report mainly takes the actions of the Blair government to task, leaving to the US the task of producing a similar official accounting of the mendacity, incompetence, and barefaced illegality by the Bush Administration before, during, and after the war. (Not gonna happen, I'm afraid.)

I should note that the Report has a pretty pedestrian first sentence: "We were appointed to consider the UK’s policy on Iraq from 2001 to 2009, and to identify lessons for the future." Less of a Jane Austen, as these things go, more of a Richard Nixon. So it wasn't placed in competition with other worthy opening lines. But you don't have to read far into the executive summary to get to the zingers – and they seem all the more harsh to my American ear by their understatedness.

(Update:  And here's the last sentence of Smith's biography. Serves me right for waiting until the book comes to my local library:

Whether George W. Bush was the worst president in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”