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February 6th, 2003:

Invasive species

A group calling itself the Union of Concerned Scientists – I’m picturing a bunch of white lab coats and deeply furrowed brows here – has released a report of over 100 nonnative plant and animal species which are threatening native flora and fauna.

Included in the 122 harmful invasive species listed by the Union of Concerned Scientists are such exotic critters as the channeled applesnail — a Filipino gastropod found in a canal in Alvin in 2000 with a voracious appetite for rice — and bastardcabbage, a noxious weed.

Obligatory Dave Barry reference: “Bastard Cabbage” would make an excellent name for a rock band.

“In Texas, if you saw an exotic shellfish in a local stream, there is nobody in particular you should report that to,” said Robert Howells, a fisheries research biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which restricts the importation and possession of 600 species of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants.

“That’s all we are legally allowed to regulate,” he said.

Over the years, he has kept lists. “I do the best I can,” he said, “but it is really an unofficial thing.”

Obviously, not everyone takes this problem as seriously as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Texas Department of Agriculture regulates and oversees species that could harm the state’s farms and nurseries.

Beverly Boyd, a spokeswoman, took issue with some of the “problem” species on the group’s list. She said a few have become so common, they seem almost native.

“There are a lot of lawns with bermudagrass ,” Boyd said. “We all grew up with Chinaberries.”

Well, yeah, but that doesn’t make it a good thing.

Anway, if you want to learn more about native vs. nonnative plants and why the former is better, I recommend the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which is also a fine place to visit if you’re in Austin.

Pro-war cartoons

Barry points to this piece by Dirk Deppey which asks “Where are the pro-war editorial cartoons?”. Dirk in turn was inspired by this Indian Express story:

“Empty warheads” is how an American cartoonist recently described Washington’s war planners. The rest of the doodling gang hasn’t been any kinder. In fact, American cartoonists seem to be orchestrating a campaign against their presidential wisdom to attack Iraq. Not a single cartoon even obliquely pro-war has been sighted.

What accounts for this unusual herd instinct among the cartooning tribe? Unusual, because cartoonists normally present a variety of views. They are no less divided on politics, economics and ecology than the rest of the media and the readers. Some love to target the Republican elephant and some the Democratic donkey and some gun for the visual hybrid of the two. And many can’t escape the occupational hazard of contradicting themselves over weeks and months of having to combat the newsbreak of the day.

The writer notes that cartoonists are not inherently pacifistic, as the World War II experience clearly demonstrated. He goes on to make a distinction between anti-Saddam cartoons and pro-war ones:

What has changed since [World War II]? The Vietnam simile doesn’t hold either. Saddam is no Ho Chi Minh. He isn’t a much more desirable human specimen than Hitler or Mussolini and is an equally caricaturable target. The cartoonist does attack him but he spares the enemy’s enemy no less. More than war itself it is the collateral damage to a free society that comes with it that bothers the cartoonist.

With all that in mind, and since Dirk says he hasn’t seen any such cartoons recently, I spent a little time looking for pro-war editorial cartoons. Mostly, I went to the Cagle Collection at Slate. It was certainly easy enough to find anti-Saddam cartoons here. Many of these have as a theme the uselessness of inspections and/or the UN. Given that this is a major part of the pro-invasion argument, then surely at some point this message becomes more than just a Saddam-is-bad one. We have examples of Saddam resisting inspections (here and here), inspectors being incompetent (here and here), the inspection process itself being a waste of time (here), and Saddam being very tricky about hiding weapons (here, here, and here).

Such cartoons may not seem like they’re directly pro-invasion, but if their point is that inspections can’t or won’t do the job, then what else is there? Of course, the idea is really driven home in cartoons like this one, which would fit right in on the most hawkish of blogs.

As this cartoon by Cagle himself from February 5 attests, there are cartoonists who believe that the administration has made its case. If this isn’t a pro-war editorial cartoon, there ain’t no such thing.

And of course, no discussion of pro-war cartoonists is complete without mentioning the LA Times’ master of subtlety, Michael Ramirez. His Feb 6 cartoon is similar in nature to the one linked in the last paragraph, and there are at least a half-dozen other examples of invasion boosterism since December 15. You can be sure there’ll be plenty more in the future.