Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

The Maine Labor Mural is now on display in the Maine State Museum   Leave a comment

Maine Labor Mural - Clarke Canfield, AP

Clarke Canfield, AP

Maine Labor Mural - Andy Molloy, Kennebec Journal

Andy Molloy, Kennebec Journal

Five years ago, in 2008, Maine artist Judy Taylor completed a 36-foot, eleven-panel mural depicting the history of labor in our state, which was then displayed in the lobby of the Maine Department of Labor in Augusta.

And there it sat until March 2011, when our blustering illustrious governor decided he didn’t like its pro-labor message and had taken from the walls of the Labor Department.

Gov. LePage received an anonymous letter signed by a “secret admirer” who sputtered in outrage at the presence of pro-union, Communist North Korean-style propaganda adorning the walls of a government building. This right-wing mouth-breather’s heartfelt plea for the state government to embrace reactionary anti-union paranoia resonated with LePage’s “Solidarity for Businesses and the People Who Own Them” agenda, and thus Dear Leader declared the mural objectum non grata in the very building it was commissioned to adorn.

It was a nasty if pathetically impotent attack on the labor movement, and it seriously pissed off quite a lot of Mainers.

Of course, it ended up backfiring completely on LePage: he made himself look like an obnoxious, bullying despot, the issue became a distraction for his administration and a rallying point for his detractors, and the mural became famous, celebrated – beloved, even – and is now prominently displayed in the Maine State Museum.

Bangor Daily News: Labor mural unveiled at new home, the Maine State Museum in Augusta

By Matthew Stone

AUGUSTA, Maine — Nearly two years after Gov. Paul LePage had a mural depicting Maine labor history removed from the lobby of the Department of Labor building, the artwork resurfaced Monday at its new home: the Maine State Museum.

Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette and Maine State Museum Director Bernard Fishman unveiled the Maine Labor History Mural in the atrium ofthe state Cultural Building in Augusta, which houses the museum, the Maine State Library and the Maine State Archives.

The Department of Labor has loaned the mural to the Maine State Museum for three years. Fishman, the museum’s director, said Monday that museum staff and others would work to find the artwork a permanent home during that period. The mural’s final home might be the museum, he said, but that would require some renovation.

“The murals, when they first came to public attention, were only contemporary art in a functional office,” Fishman said. “And after their removal became a public issue, they became historic in their own right. They recall and commemorate the past, but they also remind us of the power of art to stir thought and to stir feelings.”

This is a satisfying victory, and even if the  resolution is quiet and a bit undramatic, it’s a wonderful outcome. LePage failed, and the things he attacked came out stronger. It still doesn’t make up for that fact a bullying little puke is our governor, but it’s a nice offset to the damage he’s done to our state.

Maine Labor Mural

Maine Labor Mural 2

Mayan Apocolypse   Leave a comment

The world is ending. Or maybe not. There’s been talk over the past couple years about how the Mayan calendar predicts that the world is going to end today, December 21, 2012.

In the ancient Long Count calendar used by the Maya and other Central American cultures, dates are measured by their distance from the date of creation, which was 3114 BC in our years. The largest unit of time was the b’ak’tun, a length of 144,00 days or 394.25 years. We are currently in the 13th b’ak’tun, which will end on 12/21/2012, at which point the 14th b’ak’tun will begin.

mayan-long-count-calendar

Now, according to one account of Mayan beliefs, our universe is the fourth one that has been created. The first three were imperfect, and the gods only created men after the fourth creation. The thing is, the third creation lasted for exactly 13 b’ak’tuns, and the current universe was created at the start of the 14th b’ak’tun of the third universe, which became year 0 for the fourth and current universe. Some have concluded, therefore, that at the start of the 14th b’ak’tun of the fourth universe on December 12, 2012, our world will extinguished and another will take it’s place.

There are two problems with this theory. First, the third cosmos was a failure, unlike ours, so there’s no reason to believe that our universe will be replaced after the same period of time. There’s no mention of an apocalyptic event on that date in Mayan writing, and experts say there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that the Mayans thought the world would end at that time.

Secondly, the Mayan religion is mythological and not actually true. I can’t stress this fact enough. The universe will not be ending today.

“I like PBS, I love Big Bird…”   Leave a comment

Mitt Romney: “I’m sorry, [debate moderator and PBS news anchor] Jim [Lehrer], I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I love Big Bird — I actually like you too — but I am not going to keep spending money on things [we have] to borrow money from China to pay for.”

Isn’t it funny how the things Republicans love to cut, the things that make up a tiny portion of our national budget, and the things that have an enormously positive effect on our society – that lead to happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives, especially for minorities and the poor – tend to all be the same things?

Andrew Breitbart is dead   1 comment

Never heard of this guy? Consider yourself lucky. Imagine if Rush Limbaugh were more of a rabid semi-fascist ideologue instead of just an ignorant loudmouth, and you have some idea what sort of character Breitbart was. He ran several liberal-bashing right-wing news sites – although the word “news” is here used in the loosest possible sense of the term. His work was meant to be journalism, but the ideological slant of the news articles and opinion essays he published was so strong that the content he published was nothing more than propaganda.

Viscous partisanship, lies, slander, character assassination, fear mongering, vitriol, rancor, bigotry – this is the sad, vile legacy of Andrew Brietbart. His life’s work was to rally right wingers around an ideology of paranoia and hate and to demonize anyone who disagreed with him.

His death is like bin Laden’s: I honestly can’t take any joy in it, no matter how utterly evil the man was, but his kicking the bucket is a decidedly positive development for the human race.

The execution of Troy Davis   1 comment

On Wednesday night, a black man was executed by the state of Georgia for the shooting death a white police officer, despite the fact that he was very likely innocent.

The execution of an innocent person in repressive police states like China, Iran or North Korea is horrific enough, even if it comes as little surprise. And it shouldn’t shock anyone to know that this happens even in America today, though it’s difficult to accept that such a thing could happen in our own country, a first world nation, in the 21st century.

Troy Davis at his trial in 1991

Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 of the murder of off-duty police officer Mark McPhail in Savanah, Georgia. McPhail was shot to death as he rushed to help a homeless man who was being beaten; prosecutors identified Davis as the assailant and the shooter. No conclusive forensic evidence connected him to the crime. Nine witnesses originally testified that they saw him pull the trigger. Since the trial, it has come to light that the police mishandled the interrogation of witnesses, manipulating them into identifying Davis as the killer and contaminating the evidence in the case. Seven of these have since recanted, and six say the police coerced them into identifying Davis as the killer. One of those who has not recanted has been identified by other witnesses as the real perpetrator. Three of the jurors who originally voted to sentence Davis to death now believe that vote was a mistake.

Hundreds of thousands of petitions calling for Davis’ life to be spared arrived at the Georgia Board of Parole and Pardons, including 26 signed by death-row exonerees and 110 by relatives of murder victims. Calls for Davis to be spared execution were made by Jimmy Carter, the Pope, a former FBI director, a former Supreme Court chief justice of Georgia and a former U.S. attorney general. Unfortunately, two decades worth of appeals, including an 11th hour appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States the evening of his execution, were all unsuccessful for Troy.

Before his execution by lethal injection, he proclaimed his innocence one last time, and told Officer McPhail’s family, who believed he was guilty, that he was sorry for their loss and that he was not responsible for McPhail’s death. His last words to his executioners were, “For those who are about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls … may God bless your souls.” He was pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m.

Troy Davis October 9, 1968 – September 21, 2011

 


Even if we were to agree that capital punishment is a morally acceptable practice and that every person who kills a police officer ought to be put to death, there’s still one problem with Troy’s execution: he almost certainly didn’t do it.

Even if he was guilty, which is highly unlikely, it is absolutely unacceptable to put a person to death if there’s any doubt as to their guilt. I know the law says “reasonable doubt,” but to paraphrase Atticus Finch, not even the tiniest bit of doubt ought to be allowed in the case of an execution. And in Troy’s case, there was far more than reasonable doubt.

A lynching is still a lynching, even if it’s state-sanctioned and court-approved.

America, the land of the free? Obviously not. But with all the voices that were raised in support of Troy, and the courage and dignity with which he faced his death, I think it’s still fair to say that we’re the home of the brave.

If only those brave ones sat in places of the cowards who would rather kill an innocent man that admit that the system is flawed. Rest in peace, Troy.

Burn your country down   Leave a comment

Sometimes, when people are angry and desperate and marginalized, they do things that no rational person would ever think of doing. Honestly, though, people behave stupidly even in the best of times. The human mind is an incredible thing, but it’s only so strong, and sometimes doing the right thing is just too hard for some people to deal with.

What I’m getting at is that England is burning, and the people who are doing the burning are from the English underclass. These are the people who have fallen through the cracks of society. Joblessness and poverty are a way of life for them. Many of them are minorities and immigrants. Desperation, violence and and drug use are rampant in the places where they live, and racism and police harassment aren’t unknown to them. Last Thursday, on Aug. 4, a black man named Mark Duggan was involved in a confrontation with police near his home in an area of London called Tottenham. He was allegedly a cocaine dealer and a member of a gang and he was carrying a loaded handgun. Police reported that he fired at them, but that bullet was identified as a police bullet, which must have ricocheted. A protest on Saturday, Aug. 6 was staged by Duggan’s friends and family as well as community leaders and neighbors, and about 200 people wound up in front of the Tottenham police station demanding to speak with police. I suppose the presence of a crowd of outraged people looked similar enough to an angry mob to spark some good ol’ fashioned mob mentality, and before long a demented orgy of looting, vandalism, violence and arson was under way. It spread through London and to Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Bristol and other cities across England, and it’s continued every evening since.

What started off as anger over a man’s death quickly devolved into a brutal free-for-all almost completely devoid of any reasonable sense or human decency. Whatever it is that normally encourages the members of the human race to treat each other with respect and decency and keeps them from slaughtering each other has vanished for these people.

I’m struck by how different this scene is from the scenes of the uprisings across the Arab world. Those people, too, suffered from unemployment, police brutality and bleak futures, but when those crowds gathered, they stood together trying to construct a better future for their societies. In Cairo, the only looting being done was by pro-government forces trying to discredit the opposition; the protesters formed neighborhood patrols to put an end to the thuggery.

And of course I can’t help but look at the Tea Party and think that they’re doing the same damn thing to our country. They haven’t set anything on fire, of course – they’re a bit more subtle than that. What they have done is worked tirelessly to destroy nearly every single thing that makes our country great: our welfare system, our unions, the protection of our environment, freedom of religion, the conservation of our natural resources, and the idea that everyone – no matter who they are, no matter their race, background, beliefs or even nationality – is one of our fellow human beings whose rights and whose life and whose dignity must be respected and protected. After a watered-down version of the GOP’s effort to balance our massive deficit on the backs of everyone other that the super wealthy passed, Vice-President Biden said that Tea Party Republicans “acted like terrorists” during the course of the debt ceiling debate. The Tea Party, of course, was outraged and replied that they were no terrorists, they were patriots! And the terrifying thing is that they really seem to think that the things that they’re doing, the things that are undoing decades of work by progressives to make the United States of America a better country and a better place to live in, are good things to do. As do the rioters in England. Rational thought, of course, would tell us that destroying your country is a pretty terrible idea, but it seems that destruction is just too fun for some people to resist.

But all hope certainly isn’t lost. As long as people like this awesome lady are around, I have faith that things can still be turned around, no matter how bad it gets. (This lady’s speech is fantastic, but she does use the F-word pretty liberally, so heads up before you watch this.)

Pet Peeve #154: Advertising slogans that don’t make any sense if you actually stop to think about them   Leave a comment

So, apparently this is a real thing:

“Dear America,

The Liberals are coming.

The Liberals are coming.

My good friend Paul Revere laid out the blueprint of how to deal with this. Sound the alarm! One if by land, Two If By Tea®!

Two If By Tea® represents traditional American values of capitalism and the pursuit of excellence. Each bottle is designed to rise above the sameness and mediocrity that threatens our great nation. Just grab a 12-pack and join the fight to preserve the America we know and love. It’s worth it!

.   .   .    Fellow Americans, hold on to our exceptional values, stand up against those who want to suppress your individual rights and above all take pride in being an American! While you’re at it, join me in drinking a bottle of my tea as we admire the great United States of America and the military and law enforcement officials who fight to defend our freedom every day. Thank God, yes God, for the blessings of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and of course, this wonderful drink – Two If By Tea®!

– Rush Limbaugh”

It seems our good friend Rush thought up a way to cash in on the Tea Party movement – y’know, besides his radio show. I don’t know why it took him two whole years to realize he could just slap some jingoistic flimflam onto an already existing product and make a killing off it, but he’s finally gotten around to doing it, and here it is.

Unfortunately, the folks down in marketing didn’t quite think these slogans through (or maybe they did, and decided a “witty” pun was better than one that stood up to scrutiny – actually, that’s almost certainly what happened.) “Tea the people,” “From tea to shining tea” – those puns I get. “Two if by tea,” on the other hand, does not hold up. “Two if by tea” is obviously a pun on “One if by land, two if by sea,” a reference to the Paul Revere’s nighttime ride on the eve of the Battle of Lexington and Concord in which two lanterns signaled that British troops would be arriving by boat rather than over land … “two if by sea,” therefore, means is a warning that America is under attack by sea … the word “tea” in the pun obviously refers to the Tea Party movement … so the only logical conclusion we can draw from the name of Rush’s new drink is that two lanterns should be hung (or two bells rung, two warning shots fired, etc.) to warn America that it’s under attack by the Tea Party.

Hmm, that sounds about right to me. “One if by Islamists, two if by Tea Party.” I like it, let’s keep going with this – “Three if natural disaster, four if by idiot politicians, five if by police state authoritarianism, six if by rogue state, seven if by our own stupidity, eight if by zombies, etc.”