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Fairy Tales

By: David Cox Saturday September 20, 2014 10:21 am

By David Glenn Cox

 

This fairy tale begins with “Once upon a time.” All the best fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time.” It seems however, the practice has fallen out of favor, especially among broadcast news circles; which routinely tell stories far more fantastical than talking frogs, glass slippers or poisoned apples, without even the slightest regard to the grand old tradition of good fairy tales. The general purpose of beginning a fairy tale with “Once upon a time” is to frame the story, to warn the readers in advance that the bounds of reality will be exceeded and bent beyond credibility. But as the ship of state drifts further from the shores of reality the odd ends and accessories become the appendix of the body politic.

 

Bloomberg – In nine strikes over two days, the U.S. destroyed Islamic State Humvees and armed vehicles, along with a checkpoint and bunker, according to statements issued by U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

When did Al Qaeda become the Islamic State?

Where did the Islamic State acquire the money and logistics to build an armed force, Go Fund Me perhaps? Was there a draft held somewhere, where Al Qaeda could reserve their best fighters, leaving only the scrubs and rookies to join the new team? In our non-reality society, the equation goes something like this: – 6 = 4 you don’t need to know any of the other factors, about silly, magic mirrors or wicked step-mothers. Come on! After thirteen years of perpetual war, haven’t you learned to trust us yet!

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Syria hmm. Could that be the same Syria the administration accused of dastardly crimes it was unable to prove? The same Syrian conflict the American public declared by a wide margin it wanted no part of? Well, I guess the American public was all wet. When will we learn to just listen to the Pentagon? Because of our reticence, the founders of ISIS took their ill-gotten funds down to Honest Achmed’s Used Humvees and Armed Vehicles (Just around the corner from high prices! 60 month financing available for qualified Jihads) and set up a check point and a bunker. Clearly, we are dealing with military masterminds!

After just nine air strikes with laser guided bombs and high-tech weaponry, we were able to destroy that check point, that bunker and some trucks! I guess now, the President’s hands are tied. I imagine he paces nervously in the Oval Office, talking to himself. “Gosh darn it, the American public didn’t want me to invade Syria, but I have no other choice now…now that there is an Islamic group with Syria in its title. Besides, they have armed trucks and Humvees!”

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, codes of conduct were decided upon by the wise people’s of a war-weary, primitive world. They decreed it a crime, to invade another country unilaterally. They decreed that any occupier setting up a government in an occupied nation would be declared illegitimate. These things were decided after an evil one had conquered many lands and had set up friendly governments, they called Quislings. The imaginary Winston Churchill once said; “Democracy isn’t a harlot to be purchased on a street corner for the price of a Tommy gun.” He then flew off on his magic dragon to join Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Now it’s been a long time and perhaps my memory has dimmed a might, but didn’t we invade Iraq because the former administration claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of Mass Destruction? Didn’t it turn out that they were wrong? Didn’t they further try to justify the invasion by saying; Saddam was a bad man who was killing his own people? So after this country finished killing Iraqis, aren’t they back in the business killing each other again? It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.”  The more that darn cat tried to clean up his mess, the bigger the mess became.

But here is where that non-reality comes into play: Dateline Whoville – Armed mercenaries fighting under the banner of CATS, Chaotic-Antichrist’s -Taking – Syria have invaded a house and are holding two small children as human shields. The children identified only as Sally and her brother, have been engulfed by a whirlwind of destruction and violence. CATS has polluted the entire house with a pink substance suspected of being a chemical weapon or possibly even a nuclear isotope or biological agent

A CATS member identified only as little CAT Z, is believed to be in possession of a device known only as a “Voom.” It’s alleged the device is small enough to fit inside of a hat; the device has the power to alter the weather and to change reality, all by itself. US intelligence sources have tracked the terrorist suspect Little Cat Z to Pakistan, and informed sources suspect he has ties to A.Q. Khan. Photos of Little Cat Z have surfaced playing ping-pong in North Korea, backgammon in Iran and Yahtzee with Fidel Castro in Cuba.

The President has warned Congress, he will not hesitate; a “Voom” is too small to allow reaching our shores, we don’t want the next “Voom” to be a mushroom cloud.

John McCain responded, “The President hasn’t done enough to combat the CATS organization. There are sleeper cells across the country known as Young – Muslim – Cats of America, better known by the acronym YMCA!”

Meanwhile, back in reality, there is only one thing the American public should know with the lead pipe certainty: we are never, ever, ever told the truth. We weren’t told the truth about the battleship Maine in Havana harbor, we weren’t told the truth about the Bay of Pigs. We weren’t told the truth about the Gulf of Tonkin, or Vietnam, nor were we told the truth about the invasions of Grenada or Panama. We weren’t told the truth about 9-11 or the invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq. We weren’t told the truth about Somalia and we’re not being told the truth about the Ukraine. The only thing you can bet your money on is regardless of political party, our leaders are liars; they’re such liars they’ve got to get strangers to call their dogs for them!

Every story is a cover story, to hide the ugly truth. Evil men believed they could reshuffle the cards and rebuild the Middle East in our own image. After swatting a hornet’s nest and these men ask themselves, “Why do these hornets act so crazy?” Saddam Hussein might have been a dictator, but he was their dictator. The Taliban might have been ruthless in their prosecution of Sharia law, but they were Afghans and Sharia law was the law of their land for hundreds of years. Before the US invasion of Afghanistan, the selected President Hamid Karzai, hadn’t stepped foot on Afghan soil since 1957. Outside of the non-reality zone, Karzai is considered one of the most corrupt leaders on the planet, but we like him just fine.

Maliki in Iraq was our selected candidate, until he wasn’t. Ever notice the candidate we support always wins the election? Ever notice the leaders the US doesn’t support get toppled or murdered? Obviously, democracy never makes a mistake when the US sponsors an election. This country fought a civil war on the largest battlefield ever in its time and ended it, in four years. We fought the combined might of Germany, Italy and Japan and ended it, in four years. We fought for ten years in Vietnam, coming to an agreement to end US involvement in 1973. One year later, Richard Nixon was forced from office because of knowledge of a petty break in. Just think, a war criminal removed from office over a parking ticket. Gosh; America loves its fairy tales.

 

Cross posted from  http://www.alifeahead.com/2014/09/15/fairy-tales/

 

Scotland Rejects Independence: A Victory for the Rich?

By: lauraw Saturday September 20, 2014 9:52 am

It wasn’t about kilts and bagpipes. It was about economics and political power.

On September 18, 55% of Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom. 45% supported the Yes-Scotland initiative, voting in support of a Scottish divorce from England. The division was largely along class lines: the rich voted No to independence, the poor voted Yes.

The voter turnout was about 90% of the population, with many voters weighing in who previously had not taken an interest in electoral politics.

Emotions ran extremely high. After a poll suggested that a slim majority was in favor of the Yes Initiative,  “British politicians, banks and businessmen closed ranks to warn of economic hardship, job losses and investment flight should Scots decide to go it alone.” (Al Jazeera)

The Al Jazeera summary also made the following interesting points:

The independence movement said Scots should be able to choose their own leaders and make their own decisions rather than be ruled from London. Many of those who voted for independence felt that being governed from the Westminster parliament had opened too wide a gap between rich and poor … Defence was also be a big question – Britain’s submarine-borne nuclear arsenal, part of NATO’s defences, is based in Scotland’s Firth of Clyde.

After the vote, the Guardian interviewed Scottish ex-patriates in Australia. “I’m devastated,” said Kevin Headley.  “I thought Scotland would reject right-wing politics and the corrupt Westminster system. This is bad for the UK, and it reinforces everything that’s wrong about politics.” However, Professor Gerry Simpson of the Melbourne Law School expressed a less passionate view: “… it would have been such a daring and enormous step, even though they know the sensible thing to do is remain part of the UK. However, independence too is often a disappointment. People expect independence to lead to some sort of solution to deep-seated social, economic and political problems and in reality it is not that simple.”

After the vote, a Guardian editorial opined that promises made by a panicky England must now be kept.

[UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised that] Scotland will now get further taxing and governing powers …. What is crucial, in the Guardian’s view, is that the new plans give greater control to Holyrood in as many areas as practicable while continuing to give the UK government a meaningful role in defending the things that bind the people of these islands together … Too many Conservative politicians are far more interested in the politics of England than in those of Scotland or the UK as a whole. This would be a terrible response to a contest in Scotland which has again exposed the disconnect between the political parties and the people.

In the end, though, we should not kid ourselves. The grievances that animated this campaign were above all material rather than constitutional. The economic model which dominates the lives of Scots is broken. Nationalism offered an escape, but it was one with too many risks. Yet the economic model is still broken and is still at the root of discontents that should unite England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, not force them apart.

The referendum was a “once in a generation” opportunity. Whether the movement will continue, remains to be seen. The movement’s website hasn’t yet posted an update.

This independence movement made some other countries nervous, notably Spain, whose Basque and Catalan minorities have been making noises about breaking free. Yes, it’s a can of worms. Quebec. Kurdistan. Eastern Ukraine. The North Caucasus.  How many more minority groups are angry that an established government is giving them short shrift, politically and economically? A recent excellent Joe Shikspack analysis about Iraq on FDL noted that the U.S. and European powers seem intent on retaining current, historic (read colonial) boundaries at all costs (bloodshed included). The current Atlas is sacred. One wonders why.

This post is dedicated to the memory of efbeall. Last year he alerted us to this burgeoning Scottish independence movement, and he and I took a brief break from the Marathon bombing discussions to talk about Scottish culture. He noted his Scottish ancestry and described the Scots as “gadflies.” Gadfly being defined as “a person who annoys others or rouses them from complacency.” Yes! (I too am proud to count Scots among my ancestors.)

 

Carbon Shock: A Tale of Risk and Calculus on the Front Lines of a Disrupted Global Economy – Book Salon Preview

By: Elliott Saturday September 20, 2014 9:13 am

How Carbon Is Changing the Cost of Everything

Carbon Shock: A Tale of Risk and Calculus on the Front Lines of a Disrupted Global Economy

Chat with Mark Schapiro about his new book, hosted by our friend Steve Horn. Today, 5pm ET, 2pm PT.

In Carbon Shock, veteran journalist Mark Schapiro takes readers on a journey into a world where the same chaotic forces reshaping our natural world are also transforming the economy, playing havoc with corporate calculations, shifting economic and political power, and upending our understanding of the real risks, costs, and possibilities of what lies ahead.

In this ever-changing world, carbon—the stand-in for all greenhouse gases—rules, and disrupts, and calls upon us to seek new ways to reduce it while factoring it into nearly every long-term financial plan we have. But how?

From the jungles of the Amazon to the farms in California’s Central Valley, from ‘greening’ cities like Pittsburgh to rising powerhouses like China, from the oil-splattered beaches of Spain to carbon-trading desks in London, Schapiro deftly explores the key axis points of change.

For almost two decades, global climate talks have focused on how to make polluters pay for the carbon they emit. It remains an unfolding financial mystery: What are the costs? Who will pay for them? Who do you pay? How do you pay? And what are the potential impacts? The answers to these questions, and more, are crucial to understanding, if not shaping, the coming decade.

Carbon Shock evokes a world in which the parameters of our understanding are shifting—on a scale even more monumental than how the digital revolution transformed financial decision-making—toward a slow but steady acknowledgement of the costs and consequences of climate change. It also offers a critical new perspective as global leaders gear up for the next round of climate talks in 2015.

Journalist Mark Schapiro explores the intersection of the environment, economics, and political power, most recently as a correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting. His work has been published in Harpers, The Atlantic, Yale 360, and other publications. He has reported stories for the PBS newsmagazine Frontline/World, NOW with Bill Moyers, and public radio’s Marketplace, and is the author of Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. (Chelsea Green Publishing)

Fracking cannot fail, but only be failed

By: danps Saturday September 20, 2014 6:28 am

Cross posted from Pruning Shears.

We’ve known for a while that fracking wells have serious integrity issues. A couple of years ago Anthony Ingraffea reported (PDF) on extensive well failures in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale. In June Ingraffea and a team of researches at Cornell followed up with a study estimating forty percent of Marcellus wells will fail over time. Newer wells appear to show higher leakage rates than older ones, so structural integrity is an increasing risk. Since there is no financial or regulatory incentive to build them well, they are getting less and not more reliable. The team also noted that the oil and gas industry was not exactly forthcoming on this topic:

Due to the lack of publicly available structural integrity monitoring records for onshore wells from industry, more recent studies have used data from state well inspection records to estimate the proportion of unconventional wells drilled that develop cement and/or casing structural integrity issues.

This is terrible, but at this point it is not news. So it was a little surprising Monday to see a new study about the structural integrity of fracking wells getting lots of play. Not that I’m complaining – better late than never – but it just seems like something to be treated as further confirmation of what we already knew, not some startling new discovery.

To her credit, Becky Oskin brought up the prior study and framed it in context. Mose Buchele of StateImpact Texas didn’t bring in the Marcellus angle, though maybe it’s outside his scope. A couple other reports really missed the mark though, and for the same reason: an industry-friendly framing of the scope of fracking.

From an environmental, policy, and public health perspective, fracking ought to be viewed as any activity in the entire industrial chain of unconventional natural gas extraction. Silica sand mining in Minnesota is fracking. Its transport to sites is fracking. The drilling of the well is fracking, the extraction from the well is fracking, the transport of the gas is fracking, and the storage of the toxic byproducts – until the last molecule goes inert – is fracking. Calling just the extraction of natural gas fracking is misleading at best and deceptive at worst, because that thing could not exist without all those other things. For anyone who cares about the entire impact of the process, it is absurd to characterize one part as the entirety.

Yet that is just what Matt McGrath of the BBC did, in an article headlined “Weak wells not fracking caused US gas leaks into water.” His article largely gives a pass to the industry, at one point flatly stating: “In none of the investigated wells was there a direct link to fracking.” As though those with contaminated water will be relieved the reason was shoddy practices by the industry and not something intrinsic to drilling. Ben Geman’s piece similarly leads with that framing: “They found that problems with gas-well construction, not fracking itself, is letting gases escape and reach drinking-water wells in some cases.”

Geman does a good job including caveats, and towards the end argues against exactly the framing he uses at the top: “the issues of water quality and fracking can’t be considered in isolation regardless of what’s allowing contaminants to escape.” But it’s damned frustrating to see what most people will take away – the headline and the start of the article – make the opposite point.

It could be that McGrath and Geman were too quick to accept a carefully parsed description from one of the authors:

“These results appear to rule out the possibility that methane has migrated up into drinking water aquifers because of horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, as some people feared,” said Prof Avner Vengosh, from Duke University.

The team attempted to isolate a single variable and examine it, which they did, and they reported the results. All well and good. But outlets like the BBC and the National Journal report on a PNAS paper in the public’s interest. In other words, the important thing here is not the “horizontal drilling” part but the “methane in drinking water” part. So a study that exonerates one part of the process, but that says nothing about another (already-known) reason for contamination, gets us exactly nowhere in terms of its importance for the average citizen.

Maybe the reporters were swayed by the optimistic recommendations from the researchers. McGrath: “‘You need strong rules and regulations on well integrity,’ said Prof Jackson.” Geman: “[Ohio State earth-sciences professor Thomas Darrah] said that the findings are ‘relatively good news’ because ‘most of the issues we have identified can potentially be avoided by future improvements in well integrity.’” I don’t see how an industry that pushes through anti-transparency exceptions, buys politicians left and right, routinely outpaces the ability of agencies to monitor it, requires omertà for regulators but has a revolving door for them when they leave, violates the law yet continues to operate with impunity, doesn’t have sound construction practices elsewhere, and has a corrosive effect on democracy itself is going to embrace strict new rules on well construction.

That seems to be an important bit of context for the story. Leading with an (at best) incomplete framing and following up with hopeful policy prescriptions from scientists seems more likely to misinform readers than enlighten them. Because here is the message that comes across: There is a great and wonderful theoretical version of fracking out there we all should believe in, and any failure to see it in the real world is the fault of those who don’t share the vision, not of fracking itself. Yet somehow the fracking we end up with always ends up being so much worse than the fracking we are promised. Maybe someone could write an article about that.

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Robert Louis Stevenson

By: dakine01 Saturday September 20, 2014 4:05 am
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 1887

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1887

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

All of the above being said, yeah I’d say that Robert Louis Stevenson fits the classic definition of an Influential Author. From his wiki introduction:

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson now ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world.[1] His works have been admired by many other writers, including Jorge Luis Borges, Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Proust, Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, Cesare Pavese, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Vladimir Nabokov,[2] J. M. Barrie,[3] and G. K. Chesterton, who said of him that he “seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins.”[4]

Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Definitely influential books and characters. Treasure Island alone provided the inspiration for many of the popular images we associate with pirates:

The influence of Treasure Island on popular perceptions of pirates has been enormous, introducing such elements as treasure maps marked with an “X”, schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen bearing parrots on their shoulders.[1]

If you say that someone has a “Jekyll and Hyde personality,” most everyone will know exactly what you mean thanks to the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

The work is commonly associated with the rare mental condition often spuriously called “split personality”, referred to in psychiatry as dissociative identity disorder , where within the same body there exists more than one distinct personality.[4] In this case, there are two personalities within Dr Jekyll, one apparently good and the other evil. The novella’s impact is such that it has become a part of the language, with the very phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” coming to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next.[4][5]

While not as influential as the first two, Kidnapped does offer some interesting historical perspective.

I know I read Treasure Island as a boy and …Dr. Jekyll… while in high school. Other Stevenson works I have read includes The Master of Ballantrae and I am currently reading The Black Arrow thanks to Project Gutenberg.

Stevenson wrote many short stories and non-fiction as well as his novels. Looking through the list of his books from Goodreads.com there is a wide variety available. For instance, South Sea Tales is described as:

…at the height of his career, Robert Louis Stevenson announced his intention to settle permanently in Samoa. His readers were equally shocked when he began to use the subject material offered by his new environment, not to promote a romance of empire, but to produce some of the most ironic and critical treatments of imperialism in nineteenth-century fiction.

In stories such as ‘The Beach of Falesá’, ‘The Bottle Imp’, and ‘The Isle of Voices’ Stevenson shows himself to be virtuoso of narrative styles. This is the first collection to bring together all his shorter Pacific fiction in one volume and in it Stevenson emerges as a witness to the cross-cultural encounters of nineteenth-century imperialism and to the creation of the global culture which characterizes the post-colonial world.(

Stevenson was also a poet and wrote A Child’s Garden of Verses amongst other works. (Some folks may remember a comedy book and album from the early ’70s which obviously played on Stevenson’s poem.)

IMDB shows Stevenson with 249 writing credits. Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Black Arrow, The Master of Ballantrae and …Dr Jekyll… have all received multiple movie and TV interpretations, sometimes serious and sometimes for fun (think Muppet Treasure Island or Mr Magoo’s Treasure Island or Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

As the wiki intro noted, Stevenson was popular during his lifetime. As his Goodreads intro notes, modern critics have also begun recognizing his influence on Western Literature

Saturday Art and Archaeology: Unique Discovery in Pennsylvania Dig

By: Ruth Calvo Saturday September 20, 2014 2:32 am

Appearance of woven material in feature indicates fabric content.

Having access to the site of a dig that produced the rare find of what appears to be at least an 800 year old fabric remnant from late Woodland era tribal inhabitants, our FDL commenter, spudtruckowner, has provided us with pictures he was able to take on the scene and as the artifact was prepared for removal for further study. The find was covered to protect it from the elements, so was not visible after the original discovery.   In the picture, careful inspection shows a weave that is not part of the material surrounding the artifact, and a material at variance with the earth that surrounds it. The era has produced no other remnant of fabric, and the piece is regarded as a rare and desirable find. This is the second year of digging at the site, which has produced several pottery and tool artifacts, and may have further layers below those already excavated.

Fabric find, covered and encased in frame of stainless steel and concrete lining, to preserve the material for transport to lab for study.

More standard finds have also been brought out from the site, and some include pottery and tools, as well as charcoal from cooking that has been used to date the era that produced the evidence of life in times before the present, and farther back than the confederate tribes that were here when European settlers arrived on the scene.

Removal of surrounding dirt reveals pottery shape and characteristics, held separately from the pit and remaining shards for picture taking purposes.

Pull Up a Chair: Kiddie Lit

By: Elliott Friday September 19, 2014 11:38 pm

What’s your favorite children’s book(s)?

I’ve always loved One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. May be the first book I could read my own self. But is there an unbeloved Dr. Suess book?

Also loved reading Winnie the Pooh books and A. A. Milne’s kiddie poetry, especially fond of “Alexander Beetle” and:

“Now We Are Six”

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now and forever.

My mother would read us fairy tales from “My Book House,” a multivolume set compiled by Olive Beaupré Miller, I suspect her mother read to her from the very same volumes. Classic illustrations.

My grandmother always gave us books at Christmas, I still have my Lonely Doll books, (that Edith!). I remember coming home from a visit with Timid Timothy: The Kitten Who Learned to be Brave, we must have gone to a library sale because it still had the pocket in the back. And I still have the book.

This is but a few off the top of my head. What books and authors did you enjoy growing up?

What books would you give a little kid today?

Cartoon Friday: Count Duckula

By: Kit OConnell Friday September 19, 2014 7:38 pm

 

I may not be working for Firedoglake anymore but … It’s STILL Cartoon Friday!

During my two years at Firedoglake I turned the Watercooler — MyFDL’s end of the night wrap up post — into something I looked forward to assembling every night. Partway through that process, I realized I could do almost anything I wanted with the feature. And between that and my love of cartoons, Cartoon Friday was born.

If you’re new or want to review past installments, here’s a retrospective of Cartoon Friday 2013 and a bunch of more recent installments.

Tonight’s selection is the Count Duckula episode, “There are Werewolves at the Bottom of our Garden.” It originally aired in November of 1990.

Duckula is a British cartoon which spun off from another popular series that also saw syndication in the United States, Danger Mouse. In the original series, Duckula was a fearsome villain — at least relatively speaking when you remember the main characters of the original series were a mouse and a mole.

For his feature series, he was reimagined as something far less fierce.

A colorful Mandarin duck

Ok, a bit more fierce than that.

 

Perhaps because Danger Mouse dispatched Duckula in the original, Duckula finds himself revived through an ancient and mystic rite — only Nanny, a clumsy hen and one of the vampire duck’s closest allies, substitutes ketchup for blood. Now the mighty warrior is much closer to an Inspector Gadget-like figure: he becomes a hapless vegetarian that survives primarily through the aid of his friends and servants like the tireless but cynical butler, Igor.

So curl up with a favorite libation and get ready to get silly — from the very first moments. Oh, they don’t make theme songs like that anymore.

Thank God.

Seen any good cartoons lately?