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Mistaking Absolutism for Principle, III

February 11, 2013 Leave a comment

tomdrone

[Tom Tomorrow]

Mistaking Absolutism for Principle: If I Do It, It Is Not Illegal

I’ve written two posts in the last four days (here and here) on Obama’s use of drones to kill US citizens, with reference to the Department of Justice White Paper released a week ago that provides a legal framework for this practice. Perhaps there’s no need for a third. But how can I resist, when this week’s Tom Tomorrow* cartoon at Daily Kos captures the issues so well?

*By the way, consider supporting Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World by subscribing. Each Friday (give or take a day), subscribers get a preview of the cartoon that appears at Daily Kos the following Monday, with additional commentary from Tom. This for just $9.99 per six months. With shrinking newspaper support for political cartoonists, direct reader support may be the only way for their work to survive. Tom asks only that you don’t share his cartoon until its Monday posting.

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Categories: Cartoons, Law, Politics

Sparky’s List

May 29, 2012 Leave a comment

I regularly include Tom Tomorrow cartoons in my posts. It’s all I can do not to put up his new cartoon every week. (His latest is above.) But he can’t continue to produce them without income.

It’s a tough time for political cartoonists. Newspapers, in their on-going quest to cut costs, have dropped them right and left. One bright spot is Daily Kos, which has stepped in to provide a home for a group of top-notch cartoonists, Tom Tomorrow among them. Yet, even Tom’s income continues to decline, and this has prompted him to create a new subscription service, Sparky’s List, which he rolled out last week. Here is a portion of his announcement.

Following the path recently trailblazed by my good friend Ruben Bolling, I am unveiling a new feature for the truly devoted This Modern World reader: SPARKY’S LIST.

As you may have heard, the newspaper industry has been undergoing some difficulties of late. As regular readers of this blog are aware, too many altweeklies have decided to save literally tens of dollars a week by cutting their most popular features — the comics.

Thanks to the internet, my cartoons are more widely read than I could have ever imagined possible, when I started out twenty or so years ago. But as my readership expands exponentially, my income remains in steady decline. I’m no economist, but that doesn’t seem sustainable to me.

I’m still fortunate enough to have a substantial number of clients both in print and online, for which I am profoundly grateful — but the reality is that the world is changing rapidly, and we all need to keep figuring out different ways to adapt.

So I’ve decided to add a new component to the overall Tomorrowco strategy for survival, and offer my own email subscription service which — as previously noted — I’m calling SPARKY’S LIST. Like Ruben, I didn’t want to ask for charity — I’ve always been somewhat uncomfortable even having that donations button on the blog. Instead, I wanted to offer something of value to TMW’s most devoted readers — the opportunity to see the cartoon several days before it appears online or in print, as well as the convenience of having it delivered directly to your inbox. …

But wait, there’s more.

I’ll also offer occasional extras, such as alternate unpublished drafts of cartoons, contest/giveaways, “classics” from years past, and other bonus content to be determined. But don’t worry, I won’t spam your inbox — these will simply be the sprinkles on the delicious, weekly ice cream sundae that is SPARKY’S LIST.

The cost is $9.99 for a six month subscription, which, for comparative purposes, is literally less than any common item or experience you can think of that would cost you more than $9.99!

And in all seriousness, you’ll be helping to support the cartoon, and keep it alive. Which is no small thing.

I subscribed immediately. You can too, by going here. I recommend that you do. If you already have an Amazon account, signing up takes just a moment. You’ll be supporting a good cause.

Categories: Cartoons, Media, Politics

A Shortage of Higgs Bosons

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

I wrote two weeks ago about starting Jim Baggott’s The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments, and again a week ago with a minor complaint and further thoughts about the book. As I continued reading (finishing Thursday evening), I found a great deal of interest and regretted some of my less than enthusiastic comments. The philosophical issues raised by quantum mechanics, treated early in the book in detailed discussions of Bohr’s complementarity principle and the Bohr-Einstein debates, return through Baggott’s treatment of the experimental work performed a few decades later on entanglement and related matters. Another strength is his description of the standard model of physics (explaining all the elementary particles and uniting the electroweak and strong forces), which emerges lucidly over the course of several chapters. The closing chapters treat approaches to quantum gravity: superstring theory and loops. Plus, there’s a diagram, adapted from a book by Roger Penrose, that I found especially enlightening, illustrating the three extensions one can attempt to perform to a theory of physics by gravitizing, relativizing, or quantizing it. Newton, for example, gravitated naive Galilean physics and Einstein relativized it. Gravitizing and relativizing yields general relativity. And so on.

Baggott’s story ends with the still-ongoing search for the Higgs boson, the standard model’s lone missing particle, which is introduced about halfway through the book as a possible explanation for particles’ having mass. Just last week, word came from Fermilab that it may have been observed, as it also may have been at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.

However, what prompted this post is not my finishing of Baggott’s book or the news that the Higgs boson may have been seen at long last. Rather, it’s the use the brilliant Ted Rall made of the Higgs boson in his cartoon today, which you can see above. Rall explains:

Scientists claim to have finally isolated the long-hypothesized Higgs Boson, a particular responsible for endowing other elementary particles with mass. Which gives us an opportunity to, as many editorial cartoonists do, blend two completely unrelated news stories into an awkward cartoon about contemporary politics.

(By the way, please visit Rall’s site. I feel guilty about embedding his cartoon in this post, as he should get credit via page views. You should head over there, check out his other cartoons, maybe click on his donation link — which I tried to do this morning, but something went wrong in my effort to donate. I’ll try again.)

Categories: Cartoons, Politics, Science

Fun With Words

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

I can’t resist posting Tom Tomorrow’s new cartoon (above) at Daily Kos as a follow up to my post last night on Eric Holder’s speech at Northwestern a week ago. In my post, I quoted from Scott Horton’s analysis of the speech , including comments on Holder’s use of the word ‘assassination’. Since assassinations are illegal, and the whole point of Holder’s speech was to explain why US actions are legal, he took care to point out that when the US assassinates people, we call it something else.

Haven’t we been through this before, with a president who explained that since torture is illegal and what the US does is legal, it therefore follows that when we torture people, we call it something else? And didn’t Obama and Holder object to this behavior?

Categories: Cartoons, Language, Law

Change We Can Believe In, XXVII

January 8, 2012 Leave a comment

[Mr. Fish, Harper’s Magazine, January 6, 2012]

I saw this two days ago and couldn’t resist adding it to my Change We Can Believe In series. Perhaps it should become the new graphic for future installments. I was slow to warm to Mr. Fish, but in the last half year I’ve become a big fan. You can find more of his work by following this link and selecting the “Creator of” tab.

Categories: Cartoons, Politics

Calculus Cartoon

December 15, 2009 1 comment

Ted Rall’s latest cartoon (above) is the rare political cartoon with an embedded calculus lesson. We might well wonder, as Rall does, why we are so excited by the news that unemployment continues to increase, only at a slower rate.

Rates of change are exactly what calculus allows us to discuss precisely. Rather than being some forbidden subject, calculus is simply the language to quantify and discuss such matters. But even without studying (or remembering) calculus, we all understand the basic issues, at least qualitatively.

Given a quantity we wish to measure, like the number of people unemployed, or how far we have traveled from home, the derivative tells us how quickly this quantity is changing (increase or decrease in unemployment figures per month; increase or decrease in distance from home per hour, otherwise known as velocity). And the second derivative, which is what has been in the news lately with regard to unemployment figures, measures how quickly that first rate of change is changing. This is indeed a subtle notion, but one we talk about all the time. In the unemployment example, it is the rate at which the change in unemployment is going up or down. Thus, unemployment may still be increasing this month, but perhaps it is increasing more slowly than it has increased in recent months. That slower rate of increase is measured by the second derivative, and its slowing means the second derivative is negative. In the example of leaving home, we might be driving away, but the velocity at which we are driving is decreasing — perhaps we braked but haven’t yet come to a stop. This means the second derivative of the distance from home is negative. And we have a familiar name for that second derivative. Acceleration. So acceleration is negative when the velocity is going down, even though the velocity may still be large and we may still be moving rapidly away from home. Just less rapidly.

So that’s that. Simple enough ideas, but fundamental.

By the way, let’s say I desperately wanted to get home for dinner, but I had taken a wrong turn and found myself entering the freeway in the wrong direction, taking me farther away from home. I had no choice but to drive to the next exit, another five miles away. Alas, a couple of miles down the road, traffic slowed because of a car stuck on the side of the road. I would have to brake gently and begin to drive 20 mph rather than 55 mph. Thus, the rate at which my distance from home is increasing would have begun to decrease. I would continue to get farther from home, that’s for sure, but at a slower speed. Is this good news?

Categories: Cartoons, Economy, Math

Do I Feel Lucky?

July 30, 2009 Leave a comment

feelinglucky

I haven’t posted a Ted Rall cartoon in over three weeks, so maybe I can get away with posting one again. His latest is above.

Um, do I need to explain anything? You see, there’s Skip Gates. And Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department. You know them. And there’s this famous movie, Dirty Harry, with Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan. In the movie, well, see for yourself in the clip below. The key lines start at 1’35”, but the entire clip is useful for context.