Saturday, May 27, 2023

To Tell the Truth Logo

The other day when I wrote about the Tim Scott graphics, I mentioned the old television show To Tell the Truth because it included silhouetted figures a bit like the one in Scott's graphic.

As I was searching for videos from the show to confirm my memory of it, I was reminded of what the show's logo looked like as well:

This graphic dates from 1956, and was in use through the mid-1960s, so it's the one I remember. Though until I saw it, I couldn't have told you that.

Now I can see that it's part of the Cartoon Modern aesthetic, which was cutting-edge at the time. The typefaces are Clarendon and Latin Wide. 

I don't see any indication online of who the designer was. William Golden was the design director or creative director of CBS, the network it ran on, at the time; Lou Dorfsman, who succeed Golden in 1959, was a designer with the company in 1956. Those are two famous names in the field of graphic design. But it could have been done for the production company that produced the show instead of the network.

For all I know, the designer is identified in a book somewhere, but the interweb does not know about it.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Who Makes the Potholes?

Have you ever heard someone say people who bike need to "pay their fair share" of the cost of maintaining the roads?

Here's an excellent explanation of how people who bike are subsidizing, not shirking, street costs.

In case you need to have such an article for reference some time in your future, as I do.

Photo by Zack Mensinger from the source post on

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Captured Court

Today I listened to a recent "More Perfect "podcast, which was an interview with two reporters, one from ProPublica who broke the series of Clarence Thomas/Harlan Crow stories, and the other a New York Times reporter who broke the recent Ginni-Thomas-paid-by-Harlan-Crow story.

It has interesting details of how they do their jobs covering the Supreme Court and how they, particularly ProPublica, came to find out about Harlan Crow flying Thomas around the country.

It made me remember something Chris Hayes said a few weeks ago on his show that I meant to mention. I think this is true, and I haven't seen it said elsewhere, though my reading/listening is limited, of course.

It's easy to say that Thomas was already a conservative when he got on the court, and that Crow isn't bribing him to do anything he wouldn't do anyway. But this information about Thomas is more than that. What Crow is doing is part of a larger plan set in motion by the Federalist Society and its allies (of which Crow is one). They saw one Republican-appointed justice after another since the 1970s fail to maintain conservative principles.

John Paul Stevens. David Souter. Sandra Day O'Connor in many ways. Even Anthony Kennedy. 

The majority of justices were appointed by Republican presidents, but the court would never move as far to the right as extremists wanted it to, Hayes said. All of those conservatives joined the court and instead of upholding the beliefs they were supposed to have, they were taken over by the "evil Left."

So the right took to locking down their vetting of candidates more strictly through the Federalist Society. Over the years, they built that organization's control from the law school level to clerkships and judgeships to the Supreme Court. That part has been fairly transparent (aside from the organization's funding source), especially in the last decade or so.

But the part that Hayes called my attention to is the what's relevant to the relationship of Thomas and Crow. The problem, in the view of the right, was that justices like Souter, Stevens, and the others were falling prey to "other influences"... all those liberals around the court. It couldn't be that those justices had open minds and grew with their jobs. No, that couldn't be possible within the right-wing worldview.

So they created the universe of conservative think tanks, conferences, and donors over time to envelope Republican-appointed justices. There were events to go to with rich people, private jets and yachts to travel on, and and retreats to attend. Hunting parties like the one where Antonin Scalia died. Meetings with handlers, essentially.

Hayes called it the "captured court."


The previous episode of "More Perfect" is called Clarence X, and it came out just before all of the stories about Thomas and Crow hit the news. I haven't listened to it yet, but I gather it traces Thomas's shift from Black radical to Black conservative. I also just learned that there's an entire podcast series coming out at the end of the month on that topic, which I may have to look into as well.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Not the Final Frontier

A few weeks ago, I posted about the way business- and finance-speak have infiltrated everyday English.

Since then, I thought of an example of business-speak that wasn't mentioned in the article that prompted that post:


No, not the final frontier kind of space, or the place where you live, or anything physical like that. It's a use of the word space to mean industry or field. Maybe field would be the closest synonym, but that word may be too connected to academia. 

I'm not sure when I first became aware of this usage of space. It seems like about 20 years ago, but time is slippery these days. Maybe it was the 1990s.

Here's the phrase I heard the other day that made me think of this example of business-speak: "Innovation in the lightbulb space."

If I had heard that phrase back in 1980, I would have thought it was a typo.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Tim Scott's New Graphics

Tim Scott of South Carolina has formally announced he's running for president. One of the first big decisions a candidate faces is what kind of campaign graphics to use.

Here's what Scott is going with:

It's an odd choice.

Most candidates I can think of don't put any aspect of their person in their main campaign graphic, so this is an strange variation to start with. (For instance, the Obama "Hope" graphic was not from the main campaign.) The few that have emphasized a unique characteristic of the candidate, like Bernie's wild hair and glasses. So that Scott is using a faceless black silhouette with a generic red Republican tie seems an odd choice. 

The reaction from lefty cultural critics was swift:

No comment except to say that it is a sign of our backlash dominated, revanchist times that Tim Scott’s advisors clearly thought it would be too off-putting for him to have… a face.
Dave Zirin (of The Nation)

This looks like something his "friends" use as target practice.

What kind of token, coon level alpha crap is this to put a literally FACELESS BLACK MAN on your campaign no I'M NOT WRITING ABOUT THIS MAN. Stop it, brain, just STOP IT.
Elie Mystal

I'm old enough that the graphic reminds me of the television show To Tell the Truth: but I doubt that's intentional, and given that two out of three contestants on the show were lying, it's not a very good reference.

I also note the divergent use of two different tag lines. Are we being A/B tested? 

Monday, May 22, 2023

Welcome to Minnesota

Tonight I met a couple who are moving to the Twin Cities from Omaha. They consider themselves internally displaced people: they're leaving Omaha because of the political climate there, the loss of rights. They chose Minnesota, and Saint Paul specifically, as their destination.

They have been living in Megan Hunt's district, the member of the Nebraska legislature who has been filibustering against a proposed anti-trans bill for months. Hunt is one of just a few members of the legislature who is not part of the far right, they told me.

It made me think of Jamelle Bouie's recent New York Times column, which I have seen cited many times but not fully read (because paywall). It's called The Four Freedoms, According to Republicans. This site has the heart of it.

Bouie wrote,

There are, I think, four freedoms we can glean from the Republican program.

There is the freedom to control — to restrict the bodily autonomy of women and repress the existence of anyone who does not conform to traditional gender roles.

There is the freedom to exploit — to allow the owners of business and capital to weaken labor and take advantage of workers as they see fit.

There is the freedom to censor — to suppress ideas that challenge and threaten the ideologies of the ruling class.

And there is the freedom to menace — to carry weapons wherever you please, to brandish them in public, to turn the right of self-defense into a right to threaten other people.

Roosevelt’s four freedoms were the building blocks of a humane society — a social democratic aspiration for egalitarians then and now. These Republican freedoms are also building blocks not of a humane society but of a rigid and hierarchical one, in which you can either dominate or be dominated.


It's a word that some on the Right are fond of, but not something they have a real interest in, or define in any meaningful way.

Nick Anderson's cartoon reminds me of something author Anand Giridharadas said a few days ago on MSNBC, about the political opportunity to make the case for freedom and stop giving up that terminology to Republicans:

Imagine being free from fearing death when you go to school. Free to decide what to do with your own body. Free to read a book. 

 Welcome to Minnesota, friends.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Gardening Season

It has been a day full of planting plants out in full sun, and I'm falling asleep at 8:00 p.m. So here are a couple of plants from my yard.

Good night!

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata 'Blue Moon')

Large yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium pubescens)

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Photo Escape

I've seen this photo somewhere or other a number of times:

The plant with the deep roots is perennial wheatgrass, known as Kernza, a plant that's still in development in Kansas and Minnesota. I've eaten baked goods and beer made from it.

I didn't know where the photo came from until I saw this Twitter thread.

The person who posted the photo accompanied it with the usual point I've seen before, contrasting Kernza's long roots with those of annual wheat's, and pointing out that the perennial crop can be harvested without replanting, which is good for soil health (because there's less tilling).

Author Charles Mann commented to identify that the photo was taken by Jim Richardson for an article he (Mann) wrote for National Geographic. The article specifically was about soil health and erosion.

The photographer commented in response: "What it shows is simple, perennials put energy into roots, annuals put energy into seeds."

He also credited Jerry Glover, the man in the photo:

It’s also important to me (the photographer) to recognize that Jerry Glover was very much the “author” of this picture, the person growing out the roots, side by side, digging the pit, and then doing a meticulous root wash so that the roots could be photographed.

Mann and Richardson are interested in how the photo has escaped its original purpose and how it has been modified (to add the red outlines around the roots, and the labels).

Another person, who forked the thread, was interested in talking about this:

Photo is compelling, but one issue with this is that perennial wheat has only ~1/3 the yield of conventional, meaning it requires ~3x the land to produce the same amount of wheat, which is an issue since we need to feed more people without land conversion.

Soon other people were modifying the photo in other ways to emphasize the parts above the soil, emphasizing how large the human-edible part of the wheat is compared to the edible part of the Kernza.

And so the photo's escape continues.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Go DFL, Pass Some Laws

Local readers already know this (probably), so this is addressed to my non-Minnesota readers.

The Democrats, in control of both houses of the Minnesota legislature as well as the governor's office, are just about to wrap up this year's legislative session by passing more bills than we have seen in years and holding the line against the right-wing onslaught we see in many other states across the country.

It's too much for me to list what they have gotten done since February, but the issues have ranged from rights to climate to gun reform and beyond. 

This is the top of today's Star Tribune:

And they're not done yet: they'll be working all weekend on some of the last big items, including funding public transit and the state's bonding bill.

Just now, I saw that one of our suburban Republican state reps — who is not as unreasonable as most — went on Twitter to complain about the DFL's lack of bipartisanship in the session. He wrote:

Whether you support or oppose the DFL's decision making is up to you. But it is an objective fact that the DFL has abandoned any pretense of moderation or pragmatism this session.

Criticizing lack of moderation and pragamatism? From a Republican?

I was glad to see the responders to his tweet were not having it. This is a sample:

If the GOP had the legislature and governor's office, you'd be banning abortion and giving tax cuts to the 1%.

I believe their votes reflect the wishes of the majority of Minnesotans as well as the majority of Americans. Exactly what they said they would do.

Whereas if Republicans were in charge you'd be moderately and pragmatically sending 12-year-olds into the mines and maternity wards. [Editor's note: Iowa!]

Man, it's just disgusting when political parties enact the platform they ran on. Horrifying stuff.

Your top guy is still claiming the election was stolen. Is that pragmatic?

Things are not perfect here, of course. I have disagreements with specific things that are or are not happening at the legislature. But compared to much of the rest of the country, it's nirvana, and a model for how to start getting somewhere.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Have Your Heard Podcast

I've been following education writer Jennifer Berkshire on Twitter for a while, but I only started listening to the podcast Have You Heard fairly recently. She co-creates it with education historian Jack Schneider. Together, they are also co-authors of the book A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of Public School.

Their most recent episode is called Digging Deep into the Education Wars, and though it's an hour and 40 minutes long, this interview with the two of them (originally from another podcast) is worth a full listen because it gives a complete background on the last 40 years of K–12 education reform (so-called) and how it has played out in Republican and Democratic politics. 

I've known for years that no mainstream national politician was anywhere close to correct about education, and this podcast tells me why that is. I already knew part of it from things I've picked up from Diane Ravitch and others, but this episode and a few others I've listened to recently put it together.

Berkshire and Schneider tie in the recent election of Brandon Johnson in the Chicago mayoral election as a hopeful sign, and that seems right to me. There's a lot of bad stuff happening in education right now, with book-banning and teacher-demoralizing and fake right-wing grassroots parent groups and voucherization... so it was good to hear that they see at least the beginning of "backlash to the backlash."

I know I've said podcasts are not a great fit for my life, but this is one to find the time for.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Minting the Birchers

Today I was reminded in an interview on the Fresh Air radio show that the John Birch Society was founded by the owner of the company that makes Junior Mints.

So I checked my past posts to see what I had said in the past about the Birchers, and found that I mentioned this sad fact back in 2011.

I've said it before, but my mother despised the Birchers. When I became aware of that at age 11, it was probably the beginning of my political awareness and also marked the rise of my overt skepticism of authority figures, since it was a teacher she was commenting on.

I've never taken them seriously because of that early exposure, so I'm afraid I've been unprepared for the rise of their latter-day inheritors, who seem like hollow cartoons to me. It officially went out of business in 1972, but it lived on in people like Phyllis Schlafly and the Koch brothers. 

Now it's mainstream Republican orthodoxy.


Tuesday, May 16, 2023


Maybe I'm tired, but I enjoyed the split second delay I experienced this morning before I "got" this morning's Rhymes with Orange cartoon:

(Click for enlarged viewing.)

I didn't read the little prefatory comment under the comic's title, and I focused on the first cat and what it is holding. Not finding that shape very discernible, I then looked at what the other two cats were holding and the meaning became clear.

I think it's funnier because of that bit of wondering followed quickly by the resolution.