Mr. Tufte Goes to Washington

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On Friday, the White House crowned its latest czar: Edward Tufte was named to the newly created Recovery Independent Advisory Panel, making him the Obama administration’s unofficial data visualization guru, at least for all things stimulus-related. That’s exciting news for graphics and data geeks, who generally revere Tufte as an evangelist of clean yet complex information design, the inventor of sparklines, and the sworn enemy of chartjunk and slideware. For non-geeks who need a translation: He’s good at drawing charts. Plus, Tufte has some experience cutting through visual bureaucracy: He did risk-assessment work for NASA following the Challenger and Columbia explosions, concluding that the agency’s unthinking reliance on bullet points and PowerPoint helped bring down the Space Shuttles. So what can E.T. (as the faithful call him) do for an administration that, for all its messaging failures, is pretty good at tooting its horn in chart form? His advisory panel is tasked with explaining the use and abuse recovery funds. On his website, Tufte is vague, saying that “I’m doing this because I like accountability and transparency.” At the very least, let’s hope Tufte uses his time in D.C. to drum up some support for bipartisan chart reform so we never again have to see an abomination like this:

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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