Doonesbury Explains Dinosaur Extinction for Louisianans

New Orleans   I don’t read the comics or the funny papers.  No big thing, just one of those things where you make a personal decision about time and choose the box scores rather than the talking balloons.   But science and politics are still important and when facts confront the popularity and prejudice of people, it’s worth paying attention, regardless of the source, so I felt lucky to find that one of my family had saved G. B. Trudeau’s Doonesbury from the Sunday paper for me.

Trudeau has certainly been the preeminent political cartoonists of our generation, so although I don’t make exceptions for him and his work, I certainly would if I had the time and interest.   In this case Trudeau was lending a hand to all of the young people, and the rest of us, who are suffering through the unprincipled right wing ridiculousness of the Louisiana government under the direction of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.  Science, as we learned painfully and repeatedly during the British Petroleum oil spill, is not Bobby’s thing.  He repeatedly tried to get one thing after another built regardless of how many of the experts told him he was wasting time and money, but that’s something for another day, because what we are really dealing with here is the craziness that “creationism” be taught in Louisiana skills.  So much for the separation of church and state, it seems.

As Louisianans if we didn’t feel foolish and powerless enough, Trudeau wanted to make sure that we couldn’t just hide behind an LSU football jersey and hope we got away with it.  The text of his cartoon picturing a high school class and a beleaguered science teacher went like this:

Boy:     “You believe we’re descended from apes?”

Girl:     “Well, boys definitely are.”

Boy:     “And girls?”

Girl:     “Unicorns”

Teacher:   “So all the evidence massively supports a theory to evolution that knits together everything we know about biology!”

Teacher:   “However, as high school students in the State of Louisiana, you are entitled to learn an alternative theory support by no scientific evidence whatsoever!”

Teacher:    “It goes like this.  5,700 years ago a male deity created the heavens and earth and all life on it in six days…”

Teacher:    “Unfortunately, he didn’t like his own handiwork, so god created genocide and drowned everyone on earth except the family of Noah, a 600-year old man who was charge with saving animals…”

Student:    “Mr. Stiller?

Teacher:     “Yes?”

Student:     “Please stop.  I’d like to get into a good college.”

Teacher:     “Almost done.  So Noah took two of everything including microbes, but forgot the dinosaurs…”

Believe it or not, this cartoon was held out of numerous papers around the country!  There was no indication how many of them may have been in Louisiana.  We don’t believe in math either, so we didn’t bother to count.

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Regulations, Contractors, and the Gulf Oil Spill

BP blame game
BP blame game

New Orleans The wave of news comments was provoked by the release of an almost 400 page report by the National Oil Spill Commission in Washington head by former Florida Senator and Governor Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency chief William Reilly during Republican administrations.  In the inimitable words of Aaron Viles of Gulf Restoration Network, this commission was “not a bunch of bomb throwers.”  Their recommendations included improved regulations, dedication of a significant percentage of the BP settlement money to Gulf Coast restoration, and raising the liability cap on companies making Tr mess.  Reasonable observers might even say that the Commission had not gone nearly far enough, especially when the front page picture on my hometown paper, The Times Picayune, had a fisherman on his knees begging Kenneth Feinberg, the fund administrator, to release promised money since he was without heat and utilities now.   Even Senator Mary Landrieu, who Lord love her, almost never misses an opportunity to apologize for the oil companies, expressed herself satisfied with the report, so how could anyone be against moving forward on what is bound to be weak tea.

Most interesting to me were Reilly’s comments about contractors where a lot of the accountability needs to be increased.  He noted that the big companies “dependency upon contractors who operate in virtually every one of the world’s oceans” is at the core of the problem.  He reasonably doubts that this could be anything but a “systemic problem,” because to do so we would have “to believe also that Halliburton would only have supplied faulty cement to BP.  Or that Transocean, on any other rig but a BP rig, would have detected gas rising in the drill pipe.”  The problem of down-the-chain lack of accountability and reliance on contractors keeps cropping up everywhere whether in the Gulf or Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere on the service and production chain.  This is huge, unanswered problem in modern social and economic society where responsibility and accountability is totally sacrificed at the altar of cheaper pricing, shady dealing, and “who me, not me, who you, not you” finger pointing and foot shuffling.

So much is at stake in every endeavor that we just have to do better!

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