(It is the embiggenation process that begins when you click any of these images.) Bizarro is brought to you today by Simple Logic. It was not a quiet week here at Rancho Bizarro. One of my cartoons sparked the largest and most heated argument on my FB page that I've ever seen and I was buried under an avalanche of angry emails and comments. I've been called a lot of things this week, but we'll get to that in a moment. But first, look at the cute cat/mouse cartoons above! They're cute and they don't poke a stick at any controversial social, political, or medical issues! Yay! And now the shitstorms: This cartoon from Feb 27 was accidentally omitted from last week's blog. Call it a brain fart on my part. I posted it on my FB page the day it ran and it got a lot of angry comments demanding I stop doing political cartoons and stop making fun of Trump. Those were accompanied by a lot of snide comments from anti-Trump folks toward the angry comments by the pro-Trump folks. Here's an excerpt from one that I found amusing in a tragic way: "Donald trump is the responsible adult (what a peculiar phrase to use in reference to Trump) and all you idiots pounding your fist and drawing pictures in class (metaphorically and literally apparently) to try and deface him are too busy sniffing your own farts and trying to be politically trendy, ...to realize the man is TRYING TO FUCKING HELP YOU. What kind of person has fame, power, money and the exact kind of lifestyle they want and flat out abandons it knowing full well what l media and personal firestorm that's about to hit them. Somebody who actually gives a shit about this country and the people in it." There is a strange kind of almost-logic about this guy's case, but for it to make sense you'd have to pretend that the Cheeto Mussolini isn't a severe narcissist who has consistently demonstrated throughout his life that he'll do anything for attention and power and hasn't the slightest regard for anyone outside of the ruling class. This one was fun, too. Here it is in its entirety: "You're a moran." I could not resist responding to that one thusly: "Well, at least you didn't call me a moron." I could go on for paragraphs with these kinds of angry comments but you get the point. And still, this isn't the record-breaking cartoon I mentioned in the first paragraph. From this past Monday we have this snapshot of an imaginary future president tossing who he sees as the troublemakers out of the country. Again, I received an avalanche of hate mail from readers who are "unliking" me, never to read another one of my comics because I had crossed some line. I was called a racist, of course, and plenty of other things. I was also told that whites no longer have an advantage in the U.S. and that anyone who says so has drunk some kind of Kool-aid (this particular tired beverage cliche often accompanies such quaint notions). None of that came as a surprise. But here's an interesting back story and twist I didn't see coming. When I wrote that cartoon, I wanted a typical-sounding Indian name and remembered that the president of my high school's student council back in Tulsa, Oklahoma was a kid whose last name was Standing Bear. (I'm withholding his first name to protect his privacy if he doesn't wish to be bothered by this kind of thing.) It was the perfect name for this cartoon and it had a relationship to my personal life, so I used it. The day this cartoon published, someone contacted me on FB and said that I must be from Ponca City, Oklahoma because I had referenced Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe. He went on to explain that in the late 19th century, after his tribe was forced to leave their lands in Nebraska at gunpoint by the U.S. government and march hundreds of miles to Indian Teritory (modern-day Oklahoma) resulting in the death of many of his people, including the Chief's own son, Standing Bear petitioned a U.S. District Court to recognize Native Americans as human beings with legal rights. And, lo and behold, in 1879 the judge found in his favor and it became a historical first. It's a fascinating story and you can read more about it here. BUT...what makes this a strange coincidence is that before my family moved to Tulsa, I actually lived in Ponca City, Oklahoma (where his tribe was forced to settle after being chased from Nebraska) for nearly the entirety of my elementary school years in the mid-sixties. Even so, I'd not heard of Chief Standing Bear nor his landmark court case. I only chose the name because of my school mate in a different Oklahoma town in the 70s. Cool, huh? A happy addendum to this story is that Nebraska recently awarded some official recognition to the chief, his story, and the modern-day Ponca Indians who are his descendants. This courtroom cartoon is useless. I wrote it when I was pissed that the Trump Klux Klan tend to circumvent due process of the law and just want to push people around like the arrogant white assholes of the Old West. Let's forget this one and move on. This cartoon about a meeting of mythological creatures is the one I referred to in the opening paragraph as having caused more controversy than any other cartoon in my 32-year career. I knew it would kick up some dust but I had no idea the backlash would be so widespread and vitriolic. Lots of people from the anti-vaccine movement hurled profanities and insults at me both via emails and social media, and the pro-vaccine folks hurled profanities and insults at the anti-vaxers in the comments of the same posts, with the anti-vaxers returning fire accordingly, and so on. Nearly a week later, the whole angry battle continues on my Bizarro FB page. This is an extremely emotional and complex issue that strikes at the heart of people's greatest concerns; their children's health and safety. So I can easily understand the anger it inspires on both sides of the issue. One side is convinced that Big Pharma and the government are colluding to injure their children for profit, the other side is convinced that epidemics of life threatening diseases are being welcomed back into their community. I believe in the value of spirited debate but I am truly disheartened by some people's inability to keep this conversation civil. Courtesy is what keeps societies livable and it seems the U.S. has lost a LOT of that lately. (On both sides of the aisle.) So, regarding this cartoon, I must start by saying that I've heard from a lot of people whose families have experienced great tragedy and who thought that with this cartoon I was either making fun of them or saying that their suffering is of no consequence. Nothing could be further from the truth and I am loathe to think that I added to the pain of people who have experienced this kind of heartbreak. I assure you I do recognize that tragedies have occurred, and I have no desire to make light of that. I also recognize that billions of dollars in compensation have been paid out by the U.S. government to families whose children experienced permanent side effects from vaccinations, and that the system by which those payments were made was set up because the companies that make and sell vaccines have been protected from litigation by the U.S. government since 1986. I get why the gov thought it needed to do this––if vaccine makers and distributors could be sued into bankruptcy, they'd stop making the product, and nobody could deny that vaccines were saving hundreds of thousands of lives––but I also sense that this kind of blanket immunity for corporations will always lead to abuse of one kind or another. How could it not? Big Pharma exists purely for profit and if they can't be sued, what keeps them honest? I think we've all learned over the years that Big Pharma cannot be left to regulate themselves and be expected to do the right thing. It also seems obvious from the conversations I've had with those who believe their children were injured by vaccines that it is this stone wall that most angers and frustrates them. But that's an entire other can of worms for another discussion. I will say that, if nothing else, I hope the anti-vaccination movement leads to more scrutiny of vaccine manufacturers. That aside, I've read a lot about this issue over the years and especially in the past week and one thing I'm certain of is that unless you are a trained scientist in areas that relate to this, it is very easy to be confused by what is true and what is myth. That's why in these cases, there is no logical position to take other than to side with the majority of experts. I'm not a doctor or a scientist, but it is clear that the vast majority of doctors, scientists, and medical organizations whose job it is to study, research, and know this stuff still adamantly say there is no causal relationship between vaccines and autism. Simple logic tells you that they cannot all be on some secret payroll. Scores of doctors, scientists, health professionals and spokespersons for health organizations contacted me last week to thank me for what they thought was an important public health message and asked if they could use my cartoon to help educate people. That's never happened to me in such large numbers before. That is not to say you can't find doctors who believe there is or might be a relationship between vaccines and autism, nor is it to say that all vaccines are completely safe for all children––it seems a small percentage of children who take vaccines will experience negative side effects of one kind or another, some that can be debilitating for life. It is only to say that as far as anyone can prove right now––and a lot of people have spent a lot of time looking––there is no demonstrable connection between vaccines and (specifically) autism. It is, as the cartoon suggests, a myth. And in recent years, Americans by the millions are believing unfounded stories they find on the Internet and proudly proclaiming their disbelief in what experts say on these same issues as though there were some gigantic, worldwide conspiracy to mislead everyone on every topic and only this one guy whose podcast they listen to has discovered the truth. That's a huge mistake that can have tremendously negative consequences. In all cases such as this, it is important to remember that correlation does not prove causation. In other words, because thousands of children have developed symptoms of autism within a short amount of time after being vaccinated, it does not mean the vaccine is the cause. Autism symptoms typically arise at about the same age as children are vaccinated, so when millions per year are vaccinated, thousands per year will produce autism symptoms at about the same time. That much is statistically guaranteed. Does that mean the vaccines did NOT contribute to their symptoms in every case? No. But neither does it mean that they did. You can similarly argue that virtually all murderers consumed a leafy green vegetable within 30 days before committing their crime. Is it safe to say that leafy greens cause people to kill? No. Correlation does not prove causation. Can you confidently say leafy greens do not cause some tiny fraction of people to commit murder? No. Maybe a certain number of people with some rare allergy chlorophyll go into a rage when they consume too much spinach, but there's not currently any medical evidence to say we should all fear leafy greens. For most of us, they are essential to good health. The larger point is that in the world before vaccines (my own parent's childhood) many thousands of children died each year from diseases we don't even think about anymore. Vaccines are far from perfect, modern medicine is far from perfect, but returning to that world would cause far more death and misery than the current model does. It wouldn't even be close. These are nothing more than my own conclusions and yours may vary, but always keep in mind that confirmation bias is a powerful force in human beings and is largely subconscious. If you read enough of any viewpoint, you will likely begin to believe it and once you do, you will subconsciously remember things you read/hear thereafter that confirm your belief, and discount any evidence that disputes it. This, to me, is the most compelling reason for siding with the majority of experts in matters of fact (like science, as opposed to matters of opinion, like romance.) When the majority of experts who have spent years studying a topic provisionally agree on something, it is more likely to be true than what amateurs have come to believe, no matter how much anecdotal evidence they have or how convincingly they have arranged their argument. In fact, this is the entire point of the scientific method; to take emotion, preference, prejudice, and desire out of the search for the truth. In this case, the vast majority of medical and scientific experts are certain there is no substantial causation between autism and vaccines. And, as I said before, they can't all be on some secret payroll. This cartoon can be seen as political or simply psychological but I still think it is funny. This cartoon about Mr. PH might get lost in this week of high controversy but I hope it doesn't because I'm really proud of it. It's funny, a little subversive (when you consider that it was published in hundreds of newspapers that normally eschew racy cartoons) and the punch line is enough disguised that a fair percentage of people won't get it until it is explained to them. I love jokes like that. When I figure them out I feel smarter than most people, which is always fun, and even if I don't and have to have them explained, I laugh because I missed what was right in front of me. SPOILER ALERT, HERE'S A CLUE: If you've not figured it out yet, remember that all of Mr. Potato Head's appendages are detachable. If you still can't figure it out, look up what a urologist does. This last cartoon is a bit of wordplay for some reason. I have nothing more to say about it. That's it for this week, Jazz Pickles. If you've read every word of this post I congratulate and thank you. Below are some ways you can experience joy by helping to support the art and ideas that matter to you. If you're enjoying my work online instead of in a newspaper, as most people do these days, I don't get a penny for that. As the society and the economy changes, I have to look for new ways to make a living in this field. Thanks in advance for your support. Get a few copies of my new book, full of crazy groovy art and only $6. (Buying it from any site that sells books is fine, doesn't have to be the one I linked here.) Make a one-time donation or a monthly contribution to the good people at Rancho Bizarro (there are only two of us––my beloved Olive Oyl and me) who fearlessly bring Bizarro to you 365 days a year in spite of the obvious dangers of publicly attacking a powerful, thin-skinned, authoritarian egomaniac. Buy a print of any Bizarro cartoon you can find by using the calendar function on Bizarro.com. Starts at around $25. Buy a larger, limited-edition, signed and numbered, archival, color print of one of my personal favorite Bizarro cartoons from an LA art dealer. ($200) They also sell some of my original ink drawings from Bizarro. ($1000) Until next time, be well, be smart, be nice.