Great cartoons: The Economist

April 26, 2009

Best, wisest and most cynical cartoon of the week, on the cover of the current North American edition of The Economist:

Cover, The Economist, North American edition, April 25-May 1, 2009

Cover, The Economist, North American edition, April 25-May 1, 2009; illustration by Jon Berkeley

For a week at least, you can get the story behind the cover for free, here.

THE rays are diffuse, but the specks of light are unmistakable. Share prices are up sharply. Even after slipping early this week, two-thirds of the 42 stockmarkets that The Economist tracks have risen in the past six weeks by more than 20%. Different economic indicators from different parts of the world have brightened. China’s economy is picking up. The slump in global manufacturing seems to be easing. Property markets in America and Britain are showing signs of life, as mortgage rates fall and homes become more affordable. Confidence is growing. A widely tracked index of investor sentiment in Germany has turned positive for the first time in almost two years.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

But, welcome as it is, optimism contains two traps, one obvious, the other more subtle. The obvious trap is that confidence proves misplaced—that the glimmers of hope are misinterpreted as the beginnings of a strong recovery when all they really show is that the rate of decline is slowing. The subtler trap, particularly for politicians, is that confidence and better news create ruinous complacency. Optimism is one thing, but hubris that the world economy is returning to normal could hinder recovery and block policies to protect against a further plunge into the depths.

The cover almost says it all, doesn’t it?  Week in and week out, The Economist has great covers, a phase of newsstand-oriented journalism that I hope never goes away, regardless the medium.

Complaint against the blogger

April 25, 2009

Oregon Live!.com has a .pdf of the complaint against the blogger who carried his paranoia about Obama’s eligibility too far.

The complaint details some of the tragedy the blogger’s life has become but, no surprise, offers nothing to suggest that Obama is ineligible, nor that bloggers who claim Obama isn’t eligible for the presidency have any better evidence than the guy arrested for threatening federal agents.

Here’s the indictment.

Moral to the story?  Dial down your rage, and stick to the facts.  This guy isn’t exactly engaged in mainstream politics, nor anything mainstream. (Looks to me as if he’s claiming some connection to Vietnam, though he would have been about 9 when the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam.  Weird.)

Other stuff:

Texas Forest Expo!

April 25, 2009

Are you out near Conroe on Sunday? April 26 is the third (and last) day of Texas Forest Expo 2009 at the Conroe Convention Center.

It’s free.  It’s kid friendly ( a great place to take Cub Scouts or a group of Boy Scouts working on the Forestry merit badge).  I’d be there if I could.

Get your name on the mailing list for notice for next year’s expo.

Putting the Tea Parties into the history books

April 24, 2009

Ghost in the Machine has the story, really, “U.S. History for Dummies.”  Well worth clicking over to read it in full.

But I also want to call attention to this brilliant graphic — a sort of photographic political cartoon, and it’s quietly, subtly, savage:

We dont like taxes!  Dont need em!

What things in this photograph were paid for by taxes?

Oh, there are a couple of inaccuracies — the phone lines were probably paid for by the telephone company, but eminent domain was used to get the easements in many cases.  (Who did the photo and the captioning?  Anyone know?)

Ben Sargent was a little less subtle, in the Austin American-Statesman, using that Oliver Wendell Holmes quote we looked at some time ago.

Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman, copyright 2009

Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman, copyright 2009

I dunno. Is this story humorous? True?

April 24, 2009

Collected April 2009:

A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One day on campus a local radio station did a live broadcast from the quad of the college, with their right-wing, flag-waving, self-proclaimed patriot “on a mission for God and Country” loud-mouthed cigar-smoking host.

The Marine watched, stunned, as the radio host goaded the college crowd by saying, “Is God real?  Of course He is.  And He favors our glorious war in Iraq, and He favors waterboarding every ‘towel-head’ we can catch — the more the better.  Do I think that’s unChristian?  No — and here’s my offer:  God, if you disagree and think we shouldn’t be waterboarding everyone who might bear ill-will to the U.S. of A., you can come down here, knock me off this platform and shut off my microphone in the next ten minutes.”

The crowd fell silent. You could hear the pigeons on the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest cooing, but even they got quieter.

Five minutes went by, the station cut to a series of ads, and then the radio host proclaimed, ‘”Here I am God. I’m still waiting.  Do you think we should take it easy on our enemies, or torture them because they deserve it?” It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine strode out of the crowd, walked up to the radio host, and cold-cocked him, knocking him off the platform.  Then the marine found the switch on the microphone and turned it off.  Even the radio station’s engineer was too stunned to do anything.  The radio guy was out cold.

The Marine went back into the crowd and sat down on the grass, silently. The other students were shocked, stunned, and sat there looking on in silence. No one even called campus police.  Eventually the radio station called the engineer on his cell phone and everyone heard the engineer describe what had just happened.  “No, he’s out cold.”  But the radio announcer was stirring.

The talk jock eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, “What the h— is the wrong with you, you f——up m———-ing dope smoker? Why did you do that?”

The Marine calmly replied, “God was too busy today protecting American soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot.   So, God sent me.  If we waterboard their guys, our soldiers will have worse stuff done to them.  That punch was from every Marine and soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan who wants to come home to his wife and children.”

Is this a true story?  Is it funny?  Is it tragic?  What is it?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula.  P.Z. made me do it.

McLeroy’s appointment in trouble in the Texas lege?

April 23, 2009

Another casualty of my real life crises, trying to keep readers informed about education policy in Texas has suffered here in the Bathtub.  My apologies.

The good news is that Don McLeroy’s attempts to eviscerate public school curricula have gotten some attention in the Texas Lege (as Molly Ivins called it). Gov. Rick Perry appointed McLeroy to a full term as chair of the State Board of Education (SBOE), but that appointment needs approval by the Texas Senate.  The hearing (if you can call it that) was scheduled for yesterday, and when it actually occurred it became obvious that the senators noticed McLeroy is a one-man wrecking crew, apparently drunk, and loose in the state’s china cabinet.

Will there be more good news, that the Senate can rein in McLeroy?

Steve Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, has a very complete story on the events at his blog at the Houston Chronicle site, Evosphere.  Steve’s piece includes links to several other writings that fully describe the troubled waters that have become the SBOE.

Schafersman points to an article in the Austin American-Statesman by Kate Alexander, which suggests there’s a chance that McLeroy’s nomination might actually be rejected.  The Lege leans so far to the right that the right shoulders of their suit coats are scraped by the pavement, but even the legislators understand that snubbing the economists of Texas A&M and every Spanish-speaking Texan is something your mother would not approve of, and shouldn’t be the normal business of an official state agency like the SBOE.  (Austin American-Statesman — another of the great daily newspapers in America, still doing outstanding reporting despite staff cutbacks).

Legislators are rightly concerned about the simple incompetence SBOE demonstrates on every subject, not just science, and the general atmosphere of unnecessary bickering McLeroy has fostered.  In the latest, but mostly unreported move, SBOE stopped the review of social studies standards by experts and expert teachers in Texas.  Among the chief complaints is that the economics team recommended calling capitalism “capitalism.”  McLeroy is unhappy with using the appropriate term to describe America’s economic system.

Is it possible to get much more divorced from reality than that, and still keep one’s driving and hunting licenses?

Schafersman has one paragraph that sums up the situation rather well:

Alexander writes: “Shapleigh said there is a perception that McLeroy is using the chairmanship of the State Board of Education as a bully pulpit for promoting his religious point-of-view and pushing it into the public arena.” McLeroy disingenuously denies this, claiming the fight is over different “educational philosophies,” and “that is the source of the controversy, not his religious views.” While that may be true of some actions, such as forcing a traditional English Language Arts curriculum unwanted by ELA professionals on the state and illegally throwing out a mathematics textbook, in most cases the Fundamentalist Protestant Christian religious beliefs of McLeroy and his six cronies on the State Board were definitely behind their actions. These include the adoption of flawed, damaged science standards, the explicit attacks on evolution, the fossil record, and ancient geological ages of the Earth and universe, adoption of a flawed and inadequate Bible curriculum that will permit unscholarly and unscientific Bible instruction, and the frequent threats to publishers–which is a form of extortion that publishers come to expect–to reject their textbooks if they don’t contain sufficient anti-scientific information against evolution and in favor of Intelligent Design Creationism. McLeroy tried to censor textbooks previously in 2003 by threatening publishers, but failed.

What happens if the Senate rejects Perry’s nomination of McLeroy?  McLeroy would remain a member of SBOE.  Who, or whether, Perry would appoint to replace McLeroy has not been discussed.  Do any of the current members have the respect of a majority of the board, enough to do the job?  Is anyone on the board capable of administering the group when religious fanatics appear so hell bent on shattering foundations of public education?

Don’t get hopes up.  Rejecting McLeroy’s nomination might be the rational thing to do, but it might push Perry to even deeper acts of irrationality in appointing a new chair, difficult though it may be to imagine that.

Stay tuned.


Creationist hypocrisy. Film at 11:00

April 22, 2009

Under the ironic headline, “Why is critical evaluation of Darwinism not allowed in the public square?” Wintery Knight‘s blog has a bold, typically inaccurate defense of the bullying tactics of ID advocates.

But critical evaluation?  Just try to post a comment critical of intelligent design.

Why are ID advocates almost to a person such supreme hypocrites, and unintentional clowns?  Is there a law that says one must be a noob to be an ID advocate?


Update, May 3: Here’s my challenge to you, dear reader:  See if you can post a comment at all at Wintery Knight’s rant. Post a copy of your comments here, too, and let’s count to see whether this fellow is just one more supreme, Pharisaical hypocrite, or just an incompetent blogger.

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