CSotD: Too Smart For The Room

John Branch provides a welcome alternative to the flood of Emma Lazarus re-writes currently flooding the editorial cartooning pool.

I’m not sure that the best cartoons are wordless, but it’s not a theory I’d argue against, either.

The Emma Lazarus knock-offs are at a disadvantage anyway, because, while most people are familiar with more or less what it says — Give me your poor, your whatever, wretched refuse, lift my lamp — it’s not like the Pledge of Allegiance where every word is seared into our skulls.

Doing parodies of a poem people only vaguely know results in cartoons they only vaguely get.

Putting out the lamp — Pow! Bam! — There it is.

No footnotes required.


David Rowe takes advantage of a much more familiar story to make the point that Trump postponed his trade war in order to maintain holiday sales.

There are many things to like here, starting with the basic metaphor of the Grinch masquerading as Santa Claus and, in fact, let’s just stop and enjoy that one for a minute.

There are all sorts of Whos down here in Whoville who still mistake the Grinch for Santa Claus, despite the fact that he’s taking away all their presents and their roast beast.

I also appreciate that Rowe is the rare cartoonist who can parody verse without tripping all over the meter. These things usually make my teeth ache.

On the other hand, thinking too hard about this raises the problem that, while postponing the tariffs does benefit Chinese exports, the main benefit is not to Xi but to American consumers.

At best, it’s a shared benefit, but we’re going to buy presents anyway and the question is either how many presents or how much we’ll spend, and then the whole thing gets tangled up in who pays for these tariffs anyway.

Which gets us into “What does the President know and when does he know it?”

I’d love to hear how someone persuaded him to postpone the tariffs, given how delicately the toddler must be handled.

But I’m past the point of wondering whether his contention that tariff revenues are paid by China is genuine ignorance or a deliberate lie.

I don’t know, but I suspect most of the White House staff doesn’t know either.


However, with this one, Rowe is definitely being too smart for the room. (BTW, I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t bother him.)

I’ll admit I haven’t been hearing Marketplace regularly, but, when I Googled “Inverted Yield Curve,” I got plenty of hits, so I feel embarrassed that it wasn’t particularly familiar to me.

Especially when I saw that it’s a very scary term. Rowe may be assuming we all know more about economics than we do, but he’s right about the driving off a cliff part.

There’s all sorts of scary stuff in this article, which points out that inverted yield curves precede a recession.

The scariest part comes at the end, where she writes

Even if the shift in the yield curve is followed by a recession, the slowdown might not happen right away. A look back at previous downturns shows that yields have typically inverted an average of 18 months before the start of the recession.

Which means it all might crater around February 2021, about two weeks after Trump is sworn in for his second term.

Leaving David Rowe in the Cassandra role, his wisdom honored amid the wreckage.


Michael Ramirez offers a more puzzling piece, playing on the fable of Chicken Little, who was fooled into thinking the sky was falling so that he would gather all the barnyard fowl into the fox’s cave.

The problem here is that about half those accusations are demonstrably true and, of the others, most are more argumentative than plainly false.

For instance, Trump’s not a cloak-and-dagger spy, no, but he did reveal top secret information to Russian diplomats.

Meanwhile, he clearly is a racist and a xenophobe and a bigot and in sympathy with white supremacists, while his attitude towards women is unconscionable.


And if he’s not a tyrant, he clearly wishes he had that much power. He’s like General Dreedle, ordering that Major Danby be taken out and shot, only to have his nitwit son-in-law, Colonel Moodus, whisper in his ear, “I think you’d better wait a minute, Dad. I don’t think you can shoot him.”

(I have no idea what sort of advice Trump gets from his own nitwit son-in-law.)

In any case, the caption, “And eventually, nobody listened” is chilling, because I’m not sure of the alternative.

Should we stop pointing out the President’s flaws, errors and outrages?

The road to Nuremburg is paved with those sorts of good intentions.

This one may be too smart for the room I’m in. Or I’m overthinking it.


Finally, today, Dave Granlund circles back to the John Branch cartoon that started us off, because while several cartoonists have criticized Trump’s lack of support for the Endangered Species Act and wilderness protection generally, Granlund simply cuts to the chase.

Let’s go back to 1903, a date I do not choose at random.

Theodore Roosevelt was, on one hand, a champion of nature and wilderness, and, on the other, steeped in a Puritan culture that felt “unused” land should be put to some practical purpose.


He was, fortunately, one of our most thoughtful presidents and learned a great deal about ecology and the environment, and, as this brilliant, fascinating book describes, essentially invented the conservation movement, along with John Muir (seen above), John Burroughs, George Bird Grinnell and other giants, all of whom he knew personally and counted as friends and counselors.

If he was never a rabid preservationist like Muir, he did become a conservationist and recognized the value of open land and conscientious land use.

As he wrote to the nation’s children four years after his Yellowstone trip:

Preservationists and conservationists will always clash to some extent, but the outdated concept that “unused” land should be open to commercial use is something they should agree to oppose.

(Mother Bruin: Don’t be alarmed, children! This is not a shooting trip!)

2 thoughts on “CSotD: Too Smart For The Room

  1. As is my habit when I hear about a book I want to read, I went to Amazon and checked the one-star reviews. All of the negative reviews of the Wilderness Warrior book talk about its many errors and apparent lack of proper editing. Was this your experience with the book?

  2. Not at all. Were they signed Charlie Koch or David Koch?

    I used the book as a source for two lengthy pieces on Roosevelt and the environmental movement and found no times when it conflicted with another source, either secondary or primary.

    Brinkley is greatly admired and, though I am on firm record as not respecting awards a whole lot, he’s got a good collection of Lucite including from various groups that would know if he were getting the conservation stuff right.

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