Monday, March 28, 2011

Labor Murals in Maine are Gone. Labor is near death. Long Live the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

On Friday I wrote about Maine's new Tea Party governor's decision to remove murals depicting aspects of LABOR from the LABOR department offices.  He didn't wait long.  Over the weekend, workers (Yes, laborers) removed them and they're now in storage somewhere.  This is what the walls look like now:



This is what adorned them before the weekend:




These are the murals in their entirety:


The decision apparently was made on the strength of one letter to the new governor.  The letter-writer pleaded with the governor to "TEAR DOWN THAT MURAL!"  He/she wrote, "I felt for a moment that I was in Communist North Korea where they use  murals like these to brainwash the masses."After praising the governor for his candor, the letter-writer bravely signed off as "A secret admirer".

Amanda Terkel wrote about the governor's decision today in the Huffington Post:

On Friday, LePage's office sent out a press release asking for new artwork "that depicts the cooperative relationship that exists between Maine’s job creators and the workers who power Maine’s economy" that can be displayed in the Labor Department's administrative offices and in the lobbies of career centers around the state.
In addition to the mural being removed, LePage's office also ordered the names be changed on eight rooms in the Department of Labor, many of which commemorate former labor leaders and one of which honors the first female U.S. Cabinet secretary.
LePage's office originally said that the governor made his decision after complaints from businesses owners, eventually pointing to a single anonymous letter, in which the author said that when looking at the mural, he or she felt like it was something from "communist North Korea."
In an e-mail to The Huffington Post, Bennett also pointed to a Sunday blog post by Mike Violette, a conservative radio host in Maine, along with other anonymous statements from employers who support what LePage is doing and believe the mural has helped make the Department of Labor a "militant, angry, business-hating environment."

So after looking at the murals above, do you see what they see?  I'm not seeing it, either, but then I'm not looking for any excuse to take down labor.  Removing those murals was meant as a stick in the eye to workers everywhere.   I wonder why nobody picketed those offices?  Why were there no crowds 10-deep in front of the door, forcing authorities to bodily move them out of the way before those murals could come down off those walls?  Where were the chants, the songs, the signs?  Where were the cameras?  The reporters?  Don't they do things like that in Maine? 

I was wrong when I said the murals would be stuffed into a locked bathroom in a gas station down the street.  There's talk of placing them in the Portland City Hall now.  Rep. Ben Chipman , an Independent whose district surrounds Portland, and who fought to keep them displayed somewhere in a public building, said this:  

“While I do not agree with the governor’s decision to remove the mural, locating it to the site of the original Maine State House where it can be on public display and continue to be owned by the people of Maine will allow it to receive the recognition and appreciation it deserves." 

 Portland is some 65 miles south of Maine's capital, Augusta, and at 230,000 population is the largest city in Maine.  There's some consolation in that, but really--what was so terrible about murals depicting various aspects of labor hanging on the walls of the state Labor Department?

In any other time this could never have happened.  Not in a public building. The last time murals were stripped from walls under protest in this country was in 1933, when Nelson Rockefeller demanded that Diego Rivera remove an image of Lenin he had painted into a mural he was working on at Rockefeller Center.  Rivera refused, and the mural was covered with tarps and destroyed in 1934.  There was a significant outcry against the destruction of those incredible artworks, and even now there are people who can't talk about it without choking up.


 I met two of Diego Rivera's assistants, Lucienne Bloch and Stephen Dimitroff, when I did a story in 1986 on their return to the Detroit Institute of Arts to lecture about their work on the Rivera murals there.  Lucienne took the last photos of the Rockefeller Center mural before it was covered over and locked up out of sight.  When we talked about what had happened that last day in New York in 1933 before they were escorted out of the building, the two of them could barely talk about it.  It had happened 52 years earlier and the wounds were still festering.

The two fell in love in New York while they worked on the ill-fated Rockefeller Center frescoes. After seven months of work the murals were almost completed when Rivera, an avowed Communist trying to get back in the good graces of the party, painted the head of Lenin into one prominent scene. The sponsors protested, but Rivera refused to remove it. All work stopped and the murals were eventually smashed to bits.


As Dimitroff and the other assistants ground colors and applied the five coats of plaster needed for Rivera's style of fresco, Bloch shot roll after roll of film. Later, when the assistants got wind of the shut-down, the photographs took on a new importance. Near the end, when RCA guards were ordered to confiscate cameras, Bloch tucked her little Leica into her blouse and entered the building with Dimitroff, saying they had last-minute work to finish up. While Dimitroff pounded on boards to mask the sounds of the clicking shutter, Bloch took the final photos of the murals--including the controversial head of Lenin.


"It was insane, that destruction," Bloch said. "Ill never understand why they couldn't just cover the murals with canvas. To destroy such a work. . .and to think it could have happened to the Detroit murals, too."

The Maine Labor Department murals are not the quality of, say, a Rivera mural, but they are works of art and deserve to stay where those who originally commissioned the panels intended them to be displayed.  They were designed to honor the workers of the state of Maine.  I don't believe anybody but the governor and his henchfolk objected to them.  I don't believe these actions took place on the strength of a single, unexceptional letter.  I hope there is someone in that great state who cares enough about art on the people's walls to work at getting to the bottom of the latest of these phony Right Wing attempts to minimize the hard work and sacrifices made by working people. 

Yes, there is a vast Right Wing conspiracy out there, no longer making any effort to disguise their contempt for the people who built this country board by board, stone by stone, life by life.  Let's call them what they are and then let's get them the hell out of our lives.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: On Legendary Liz, Cute Joe Biden, the Moon and the Loon

Elizabeth Taylor was the most beautiful human being on this earth for so many years you had to wonder if her not-of-this-world violet eyes didn't have something to do with it.  Because, honestly, who else on this earth ever had violet eyes?  But beyond her beauty, she had something else that most incredibly pampered child stars never had: an ability to look outside herself and see the other half of the world.  She worked tirelessly to bring attention to HIV/Aids, bringing honest assessments and putting human faces on a scourge that others chose to ignore because it was only a "gay issue" and didn't affect the rest of us.  Except it did, and she showed us why.

I adored her when she was young, but I admit it was because she was so gorgeous, so wonderful to look at.  I loved her even more as she matured and became an advocate for afflicted shadow people who, at the height of the Aids epidemic, had to endure more than just the physical aspects of the disease.  There were many who saw it as appropriate punishment for a "deviant" lifestyle, but Elizabeth Taylor waded right into that fight and, I believe, changed minds.  What a dame!


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This was the week of the Supermoon.  The moon was the closest it has been to earth in 18 years, and the hype before it happened gave cause to be prepared for something spectacular.  Luckily, we were in a place where the skies were clear and we could watch as it cleared the horizon and rose higher and higher.  At first, because we so wanted to believe it, we convinced ourselves that what we were seeing was more special than usual.  But how long can you keep that up?  It was a moonrise and it didn't look any different, no matter how clear the sky or how unobstructed the view.  On a scale of one to 10 I'd give it a C-minus.


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The Latin word for moon is "Luna".  The word "lunatic" comes from "Luna", because there is still some thought that a full moon brings out the craziness in some people.  It's all explained in this nutty video, but I bring it up here because of this next FF segment:


The Snewz Guyz spent days talking about Michele Bachmann's hint at a chance she might consider the possibility of throwing her goofy hat into the presidential ring. That's THIS Michele Bachmann.  For president.  Of the United States.

Makes you just want to crawl under the covers and pretend the 21st century never got started, doesn't it?

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Oops.  Dave Weigel thinks "Wait, wait, don't tell me" is a legitimate news program?  This is what he had to say (It's short so I post it here in its entirety.  Dave can sue me if he wants, but I doubt he wants to bring any more attention to it):

A Weird Smear Against Michelle Malkin

I happened to catch this snippet of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" while driving in Austin -- my excuse is that the reception on the Alex Jones channel was choppy -- and Michelle Malkin is right. It made little sense for a fake news segment about a Muslim-fearing conservative pundit to start this way.
Conservative commentator and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin has expressed her fear that there are Muslims amongst us who are hiding their true identity. The most prominent, she claims, being Barack Obama. 
This has never been Malkin's position. She writes a whole lot of words. None of them go there. Her long-running, consistent, un-PC argument has been that the Obama administration is blowing the war on terror and the search for Islamic extremists by refusing to recognize that the extremism exists. This is not a crazy position held by crazy people. It is, occasionally, Joe Lieberman's position.

See, the ridiculous question was one of three where only one answer is right.  The Malkin question was a wrong one,  That's the fun of the program, all that silly stuff.  But Dave took it as one in a long list of left-wing NPR smears against the poor, abused Right Wing Wackos, and just another reason (hidden, but there nonetheless) to quit giving money to those radicals.
Sorta backfired.
How sad. . .
Pathetic, even.

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 Okay, on to better stuff:  Did I ever tell you I LOVE Joe Biden?  I do.  Yes, he can be slightly wacky at times but in a good way.  A cute way.  He's fluffy tough and the reason the word "gaffe" was invented.  But the other day he spoke to union activists and every word was a keeper.  Try parsing THIS, Faux News!  Ha!



"You guys built the middle class," said Biden in a virtual town hall conversation hosted by the AFL-CIO. "I would just emphasize what Hilda [Solis] said and say it slightly different: We don't see the value of collective bargaining, we see the absolute positive necessity of collective bargaining. Let's get something straight: The only people who have the capacity -- organizational capacity and muscle -- to keep, as they say, the barbarians from the gate, is organized labor. And make no mistake about it, the guys on the other team get it. They know if they cripple labor, the gate is open, man. The gate is wide open. And we know that too."
 ***

So let's keep those good thoughts about Joe Biden as we wade into the mire caused by Maine's Right Wing governor, Paul LePage.  One day he got a visit from his Big Business bosses and it seems they got their feelings hurt because the 36-foot LABOR mural depicting LABOR history in the LABOR department wasn't all about them.  What gives?  So pretty soon Pauly sees the light and tells the LABOR department that it's absolutely the wrong place for a LABOR mural.  It's going to be moved, possibly to the locked bathroom at the gas station down the street.   (See, this is why we need our Vice President (could use a little help from the Prez. . .) talking to union activists.  And the rest of us listening and making ready to DO SOMETHING.)




 
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Cartoon of the Week
Courtesy of Mikeb30200 - Thanks!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Women and Children and the Choices we Make

"I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," [North Dakota governor] Daugaard said in a written statement. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices."

The governor said state attorneys have agreed to defend the law and that he's spoken with a sponsor who has pledged to finance the state's legal costs, the Associated Press reports.   --  Politics Daily, 3/22/11
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I have met thousands and thousands of pro-choice men and women. I have never met anyone who is pro-abortion. Being pro-choice is not being pro-abortion. Being pro-choice is trusting the individual to make the right decision for herself and her family, and not entrusting that decision to anyone wearing the authority of government in any regard. --Hillary Clinton

 In the summer of 1954, just before we entered our Senior year, my friend Rosie, with no forewarning or even a goodbye, went to live with her aunt.  A week or so earlier, we were leaving a drug store after having a couple of cherry Cokes and she fainted dead away, crumpling to the ground right in front of me.  It was a hot day and she convinced me that the heat had caused it, but when I called her house and her mother told me she had gone to live with her aunt in a town many miles away I put two and two together and realized with a shock that she was pregnant (or PG as we said back then). None of us who had been Rosie's friends knew the torment she was going through; nor did we ever hear from her again.  Later, we heard that she had given her baby up for adoption.  Shame was the reason she didn't tell me there on the sidewalk, and shame was the reason she never kept in touch with any of us.   

Shame was big back then.  When I was a young mother myself, living in neighborhoods where most of us barely had a pot to pee in, shame kept many of my friends from admitting they were pregnant until the evidence was beyond the point of ignoring.  Then the coffee table conversations went something like this:
 "Well, I'm PG again."
"Oh, no!"
"oh, GOD no!"
"_______'s gonna kill me."
(Crying here.  Sighing. Muttering.)
"I can't have this baby!"
"Maybe it'll be okay."
"No, it won't."

It was always the woman's fault.  Birth control was either with condoms or diaphragm or the rhythm method, and if they failed it was because the woman did something wrong.  That accusation was so ingrained, the women themselves believed it was their fault.  There were the lucky few who welcomed another pregnancy, but many, many more were devastated.  I can't say I knew any woman who went the coat hanger route, (mainly because they never would have admitted to it), but many of them tried drinking supposed miscarriage herbals or douching with chemicals or bumping into things or "falling" down stairs. 

 The feminist movement and Roe v. Wade, if they hadn't ever done anything else, can be credited with changing the prevailing perception that there were no choices for a person in a woman's body.  The fact that the works for conceiving were built into them no longer meant that women would be forced to conceive. 

That is the underlying wisdom of freedom of choice and it's what the Supreme Court saw as a constitutional right.

If, since Roe v. Wade, every child born in this country was afforded the kinds of protections necessary to ensure health and happiness, safety and well-being,  the argument that a fetus must be saved at all costs might hold water.

The sorry truth is that 14 million American children live in poverty right now.

Over 17 million children live in households where there is not enough food.

1.5 million kids go to sleep without a home of their own each year.

In 2007, approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations. 

A woman who makes the choice to abort a fetus can never be accused of doing it lightly.  That is a cruel falsehood perpetrated either by men who will never know the pain of having to live with either choice, or by women who consider their own life choices so superior they have no problem with forcing others of their own gender to bear children--which they then have no problem forgetting about completely and entirely.

None of them lose any sleep over their own actions, but will band together, collecting millions of dollars that could be used to save children living in misery and instead use it to convince the public and a few callous legislators that aborting a fetus is akin to murder and should be outlawed.

Children are our precious gifts and should be our foremost obligations.  There is something crushing and terrible about the fact that lawmakers across the country are systematically defunding social programs currently helping families to just get through the day, if nothing else.  Many of those same lawmakers vigorously support the supposed pro-life groups without once considering the damage they're doing to the children we need to protect.  These children, no longer fetuses, need us.  The women who make the decision to terminate a pregnancy are not pariahs.  Our moral obligations are to the lesser and to the helpless already in our keep.

Shame on anyone who works against that very basic societal tenet.  Most of us are better than that.

Boy with Frogs - Brookgreen Gardens
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Friday, March 18, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: On Click and Clack, Coulter, The Donald, and the question of Looting

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Normally I'm not that thrilled with loudmouths from New York but with Anthony Weiner I make the grand exception.  When he gives up his Good Fight gig in Congress, he could take over Late Night and give Leno and Letterman big time runs for their money.  Here he defends the already puny government funding of NPR by talking about my favorite Car Talk guys, Click and Clack:



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And normally I'm even less thrilled with loudmouths like Ann Coulter, and almost never mention her here, but when Annie tells Billo that scientists say more radiation is good for you in a voice that could kill a cat, it's hard to pass up:




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 I guess you've heard that Donald Trump is thinking about a run for the presidency?  The Donald sees all kinds of problems here in these United States and the quadruple-bankrupted mop-head mogul thinks he's the only one who has the solutions.  He may had set his campaign back a bit the other day, though, when he couldn't quite bring himself to side with the people who believe our president was born in the U.S.  He'll deny he's a birther, but only a birther (or someone who wants badly to run for president as a Tea Party favorite) would still be waffling over the biggest non-issue of our time:
 



Barack Obama's Birth Certificate
Barack Obama's kindergarten picture - Courtesy of Wini Otagaro, Hawaii
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I might be the last to discover her, but I found Sally Kohn the other day through a link from a link from a link, I think.  She's a progressive grassroots organizer and frequent contributor to Fox News (uh huh), where she mixes it up with people who actually think they're winning when they go up against her. 
Sally Kohn explains our budget using home-made circles and the hair of a darling dog.  Makes sense to me:



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Jack Cafferty can be as irritating as a burr in my sock, but every now and then he comes up with a quotable or a comment that actually stops me in my tracks.  This is one of them:



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Cartoon of the Week:

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Michigan under threat of Dictatorship. NOW can we panic?

Friends and neighbors,


The call has gone out and I'm asking everyone who can to take Wednesday [3/16/11] off and head to the State Capitol in Lansing to protest the cruel and downright frightening legislation currently being jammed down our throats.


What is most shocking to many is that the new governor, who ran against the Tea Party and defeated the right wing of his party in the primaries -- and then ran in the general election as "just a nerd from Ann Arbor" who was a moderate, not an ideologue -- has pulled off one of the biggest Jekyll and Hyde ruses I've ever seen in electoral politics.


Governor Snyder, once elected, yanked off his nice-guy mask to reveal that he is in fact a multi-millionaire hell-bent on destroying our state and turning it over to his buddies from Wall Street.


Michael Moore, Letter to my Fellow Michiganders - 3/14/11

Rick Snyder pulled a fast one, all right.  He even fooled trusting old Bill Milliken, the only Republican I ever voted for and one of the best governors Michigan ever had.  Gov. Milliken endorsed Snyder, thereby causing thousands of fence-sitters to get up off of their doubts and give the "millionaire nerd" their votes, along with the keys to the kingdom.
I'm a Michigander who voted against Rick Snyder by voting for Virg Bernero (sigh).  Instead of putting us on a path to order and sanity, which is where Virg would've taken us, the election gave us an entire state Republican majority who saw their win as a power-grabbing mandate.

Once safely ensconced in Lansing, Snyder figured out a way to take over the entire state, town by town, school by school, poor schnook by poor schnook.  With the upcoming vote on Wednesday  (pretty much a slam-dunk unless a few Republicans in the legislature decide they're not into state privatization), Michigan will officially become the only state in the union under threat of full dictatorship.

His big idea is to cut aid to Michigan cities and towns and when they get into trouble because they have no money he can then declare any municipality or school district a financial emergency and send in a financial emergency manager who will have the authority to take over the town or school district and dismiss all local officials.  They can disband unions and pretty much make the town or school district into anything they want.  A  take-over.

We should have know something smelly was brewing when his first order of business was to "balance the budget" by figuring out a way to squeeze 1.7 billion dollars out of seniors and the poor so that he can give back 1.8 billion dollars in the form of tax breaks to Big Business.

There is a lot of talk about what this is or isn't but fortunately Rachel Maddow has been studying up on it and understands it better from afar than most of us do from within our own state:




Even Forbes Magazine saw this power grab for what it was. Rick Ungar reported on it in his article, "Union Busting, Michigan Style".

I hope and pray (Did I say that?) that Michiganders and their BFFS everywhere will listen to Michael Moore and Rachel Maddow and everyone else sending out the call to action tomorrow at noon on the steps of the Capitol Building in Lansing.  

More of Michael Moore's letter:

These actions are breathtaking when you realize they will drive our already battered state straight into the ground. What we needed right now was an inspiring leader to help us reinvent Michigan and to find creative ways to create new jobs and lift us out of our economic depression. The rest of the country may call what they're experiencing the "Great Recession," but few argue that Michigan is suffering a "one-state Depression."

I know many of you are filled with a great sense of despair and a justifiable loss of hope these days in Michigan. But you must not let things get even worse. You must stand up against these Draconian measures and this outrageous attempt to rip our democratic rights from us by turning our state over to well-paid hacks from Wall Street and corporate America. They see our state as one big fire sale -- and they are licking their chops to get their hands on what is still a state rich in natural resources and industrial infrastructure.

Please show up at noon on Wednesday for our first mega-rally against this insanity. Hundreds of groups are already organizing car pools and buses. You can right now just declare yourself an organizer and get your friends and neighbors committed to being in Lansing. If ever there were a day to call in sick, Wednesday is it (because this IS sick). Students, if ever there were a day to cut class and become a participant in your democracy, Wednesday is it. This event needs to be HUGE -- and I believe it will be if you will simply be there and take a stand.

Much attention has been paid to Wisconsin in recent weeks. Well, they got nothing on what's going on here in Michigan. Rick Snyder is Scott Walker on steroids. There's never been what even the AARP calls "an all-out attack" like this on us. Trust me, you will rue the day you sat home and did nothing while thieves posing as politicians stole your Great Lakes State from you.

Don't let it happen. Be at the capitol by noon on Wednesday for the largest demonstration the state has ever seen.

The AFL-CIO is looking for volunteers.  Go here.

The UAW is providing free transportation in five locations:
GET ON THE BUS FOR WEDNESDAY PROTEST:

UAW Region 1A in Taylor (313-291-2750)
UAW Region 1A in Flint (810-767-0910)
UAW Region 1D in Grand Rapids (616-949-4100)
UAW Local 699 in Saginaw (616-949-4100)
UAW Local 652 in Lansing (517-373-7581), shuttle
from 426 Clare St. at 10:00 AM

All are welcome, no charge – but you MUST
call to reserve a seat!

Note, too, that this is happening today:

 Tuesday, March 15th: Early Bird Special
Join the AARP, Michigan League for Human Services and others from
11:00 AM-1:00 PM to say NO to Republican attacks
on Michigan's seniors.

 I'm a thousand miles away, and it's frustrating that I can't be there today and tomorrow, but I'm there in spirit and I'll keep spreading the word. 


If we ever needed solidarity, we need it now.  In every community, in every state.  We can't let this die.


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Friday, March 11, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: On Gingrich and Dust Devils and Supply Side Jesus.

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Possible presidential candidate and every parent's nightmare of a potential son-in-law, Newt Gingrich,  revealed on the CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) that we're not the only ones who think he's been a bad boy:  "There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

Hard work and love of country--it'll do it to you every time.  Thank God for our lazy, unemployed America haters.  That's all we need--to be awash in infidelity on top of everything else we've got going on.

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You can call me Red, you can call me Fred, but don't call me a BANKER!

The Guardian reportsThe controversial former bank chief Sir Fred Goodwin is the latest high profile figure to obtain a superinjunction, it has emerged.
The existence of the measure – which bans the press from reporting that an injunction has been obtained – can be revealed after a backbench Liberal Democrat, John Hemming, raised the issue in the Commons.
"In a secret hearing this week Fred Goodwin has obtained a superinjunction preventing him being identified as a banker," said Hemming, the MP for Birmingham Yardley.


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Warning, sacrilege alert:  By way of Blogging Blue (a great liberal site from Wisconsin) here is Al Franken's "Supply-side Jesus" (from his before-senator days, but worth resurrecting again).   From Al's lips to God's ears--if we're lucky.




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 I've mentioned a couple of times that I fight the Right Wing with the kind of passive resistance that most people would say is more than just passive, it's a snoozer, but I've convinced at least one other person that stealth shelf shuffling can be loads of fun.

Here's how it works: 
If you find a bookstore that promotes Right Wing books over the more liberal kind (by placing them prominently on tables by the doors or at eye level facing forward on the shelves), you pretend you're checking out Our Good Books and then, instead of putting them back on the bottom shelves or behind the RWNJ books where you found them, you casually place them where they belong:  on top of or instead of the stinkers.  Note that there are cameras on the ceiling, hence the "stealth".  And remember not to buy anything while you're there.

Anyway, I saw this story about a guy who stocks Walmart shelves with obscene photos of himself in drag, and I realized that when it comes to really making waves, I'm pathetic.

FREMONT -- The Toledo man who told police he placed naked photographs of himself inside and outside Fremont's Walmart store will face felony charges.
Fremont police arrested Rodney Kunkel, 44, after store employees called at 7:45 a.m. to report they recognized the man's car in the parking lot while reviewing video footage from earlier in the week. Fremont Detective Sean O'Connell said the store was able to identify the man because the obscene photos found at the store were developed by its photo center.

So in case you're ever looking for a place to develop your obscene photos, Walmart's the place.  But don't go looking for liberal books there.  You won't find them.  They only carry the RWNJs.


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I found this amazing video on The Political Carnival, another great liberal website.  A slow dust devil creates a gorgeous ballet with plastic sheeting covering strawberry fields in Germany.  It needs music badly.   I chose Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts" from Appalachian Spring.  You might hear something entirely different.

Martha Graham performing in Appalachian Spring, 1944.
© Jerry Cooke/Corbis

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Cartoon of the week:



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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Michigan is under siege. Is Anybody Watching?

Right now, [Michigan] Gov. [Rick] Snyder is pushing a bill that would give himself, Gov. Snyder and his administration, the power to declare any town or school district to be in a financial emergency. If a town was declared by the governor and his administration to be in a financial emergency they would get to put somebody in charge of that town, and they want to give that emergency manager that they just put in charge of the town the power to, “reject, modify, or terminate any contracts that the town may have entered in to, including any collective bargaining agreements.”
Rachel Maddow, 3/9/11

If I had been watching anyone but Rachel Maddow last night I never would have believed what I heard.  Rachel, so far, isn't given to exaggeration or hyperbole.  She does her homework.  She has a staff who work tirelessly to get things right.  But I heard what I heard, and what I heard is that Michigan's governor is on his way to one-upping Wisconsin's Governor big time.  He not only wants to kill the unions, he wants to take over whole villages and towns and give them to his own private Genghises of Nottingham.

Rachel:  “What year was your town founded? Does it say so like on the town border as you drive into your town? Does it say what year your town was founded? What did your town’s founding fathers and founding mothers have to go through to incorporate your town? Republicans in Michigan want to be able to unilaterally abolish your town and disincorporate it. Regardless of what you as resident of that town think about it. You don’t even have the right to express an opinion about it through your locally elected officials who represent you, because the Republicans in Michigan say they reserve the right to dismiss your measly elected officials and to do what they want instead because they know best.”

Rachel also had this to say about the proposed bill--the same bill that no one in Michigan seems to think is such a much:This emergency person also gets the power under the bill to suspend or dismiss elected officials. Think about that for a second. Doesn’t matter who you voted for in Michigan. Doesn’t matter who you elected. Your elected local government can be dismissed at will. The emergency person sent in by the Rick Snyder administration could recommend that a school district be absorbed into another school district. That emergency person is also granted power specifically to disincorporate or dissolve entire city governments.”

And this:  “The version of this bill that passed the Republican controlled Michigan House said it was fine for this emergency power to declare a fiscal emergency invoking all of these extreme powers, it was fine for that power to be held by a corporation. So swaths of Michigan could at the governor’s disposal be handed over to the discretion of a company. You still want your town to exist? Take it up with this board of directors of this corporation that will be overseeing your future now, or rather don’t take it up with them. Frankly, they’re not interested.”
And then there was this from Rachel, who would not lie:  “The power to overrule and suspend elected government justified by a financial emergency. Oh, and how do you know you’re in a financial emergency, because the governor tells you, you’re in a financial emergency, or a company he hires to do so, does that instead. The Senate version of the bill in Michigan says it has to be humans declaring your fiscal emergency. The House bill says a firm can do that just as well.


This is about a lot of things. This is not about a budget. This is using or fabricating crisis to push for an agenda you’d never be able to sell under normal circumstances, and so you have to convince everyone that these are not normal circumstances. These are desperate circumstances and your desperate measures are there for somehow required. What this is has a name. It is called Shock Doctrine.”
 
My God. if it becomes as far-reaching as Rachel suggests (and as the Detroit newspapers sort of hint at, though without any real sense of  panic),  this is gigantic news on the battle front.  This is war, Genghis Khan style. (Sorry, Genghis)  Power-hungry hordes are coming to take over our towns and villages, not with cross-bows and sabers but with the mighty pen struck to the mighty bill.  Our home-grown Genghises came for us not by your typical marauding and force, but by convincing more than half of us dumb schleps that the solution to all our problems requires nothing more than a check-mark next to the R on your ballot.



My thanks to Sarah Jones at PoliticusUsa.com for a great post about Snyder and for the transcription of the most pertinent of Maddow's words about the Republican attack on Michigan.

We have to keep this stuff going.  We have to know our enemies and understand their strategies.  They are ruthless and conniving and laser-beamed on their goals to take over the states and then the entire country.  They bear watching every minute of every day.  We can only do that with millions of eyes upon them and with millions of voices shouting to my country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty--This is WRONG!

Pass it on.

ADDENDUM:  click here for HB-4214, passed by Michigan Senate 3/9/2011.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Michael Moore and the War of the Classes

For weeks now, ever since the people took over the State House in Wisconsin, we've been looking for a leader.  We've watched the momentum building, knowing this was our chance and we couldn't let this die.  Each of us in our own way has been spreading the word, supporting labor, doing what we could to build this movement to such a juggernaut nothing would stop it, ever again.

We all knew that without leaders, once the cheering stopped we were dead in the water.  We looked first to the leaders in the Democratic Party, starting with the president, Barack Obama.  It wasn't just silence we got from the White House, it was a slap on the hand to the DNC for jumping into the fray (as they should have) and a slap in the face for the rest of us when they called the Wisconsin triumph a "distraction".

With the exception of a few Democratic politicians, my party leaders--those same party leaders who depend on labor to get them elected--have been maddeningly  non-commital, pretending this is a states issue and all they can muster are a few rah rahs from the sidelines.  The few who have come out in support haven't been able to find their way to Wisconsin yet.  Russ Feingold has been there, but Feingold, as good as he is, as impassioned as he is, isn't in office any more. 

So here comes Michael Moore, our resident comedic rabble-rouser, our Hollywood style muckraker, and what is he out there doing?  He's doing what our Democratic politicians should have been doing all along.  He's committing himself to a cause worth fighting for.

I wasn't surprised that MM took up the Wisconsin cause.  He's from Michigan, my Michigan, and Wisconsin is right next door.  We're so much alike, we two states, we could be twins.  But what did surprise me is the level of thought that went into what he chose to do.

Michael Moore, as unlikely--no, incongruous--as it  seems, is, in my eyes, now the de facto leader of the long-time-coming 21st Century American Class War.  He is our general.  He is leading the troops and if we have any sense about us we will follow.

I know. Look at him.  Michael Moore. 


But give him a chance.  Listen to him.  I turn the rest of this post over to Michael Moore.  Just read what he has to say.  Take your time. Understand what we're up against.  This isn't just a battle but an all-out war.  A Class War that's been in the making since the dawning of the Industrial Age and is now so weighted against us it's going to take massive effort to even get us back to a level where we can breathe again.  (Reading this may take a while, following the links and all, but remember, we're in a war.  This is just a small part of our preparation):

How I Got to Madison, Wisconsin ...a letter from Michael Moore
Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Friends,
Early yesterday morning, around 1:00 AM, I had finished work for the day
on my current "project" (top secret for now -- sorry, no spoiler
alerts!). Someone had sent me a link to a discussion Bill O'Reilly had
had with Sarah Palin a few hours earlier about my belief that the money
the 21st Century rich have absconded with really isn't theirs -- and that
a vast chunk of it should be taken away from them.
They were referring to comments I had made earlier in the week on a small
cable show called GRITtv (Part 1 (
I honestly didn't know this was going to air that night (I had been asked
to stop by and say a few words of support for a nurses union video), but
I spoke from my heart about the millions of our fellow Americans who have
had their homes and jobs stolen from them by a criminal class of
millionaires and billionaires. It was the morning after the Oscars, at
which the winner of Best Documentary for "Inside Job" stood at the
microphone and declared, "I must start by pointing out that three years
after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a
single financial executive has gone to jail. And that's wrong." And he
was applauded for saying this. (When did they stop booing Oscar speeches?
Damn!)

So GRITtv ran my comments -- and all week the right wingopoly has been
upset over what I said: That the money that the rich have stolen (or not
paid taxes on) belongs to the American people. Drudge/Limbaugh/Beck and
even Donald Trump went nuts, calling me names and suggesting I move to
Cuba.

So in the wee hours of yesterday morning I sat down to write an answer to
them. By 3:00 AM, it had turned into more of a manifesto of class war --
or, I should say, a manifesto *against* the class war the rich have been
conducting on the American people for the past 30 years. I read it aloud
to myself to see how it sounded (trying not to wake anyone else in the
apartment) and then -- and this is why no one should be up at 3:00 AM --
the crazy kicked in: I needed to get in the car and drive to Madison and
give this speech.

I went online to get directions and saw that there was no official big
rally planned like the one they had last Saturday and will have again
next Saturday. Just the normal ongoing demonstration and occupation of
the State Capitol that's been in process since February 12th (the day
after Mubarak was overthrown in Egypt) to protest the Republican
governor's move to kill the state's public unions.

So, it's three in the morning and I'm a thousand miles from Madison and I
see that the open microphone for speakers starts at noon. Hmm. No time to
drive from New York. I was off to the airport. I left a note on the
kitchen table saying I'd be back at 9:00 PM. Called a friend and asked
him if he wanted to meet me at the Delta counter. Called the guy who
manages my website, woke him up, and asked him to track down the
coordinators in Madison and tell them I'm on my way and would like to say
a few words if possible -- "but tell them if they've got other plans or
no room for me, I'll be happy just to stand there holding a sign and
singing Solidarity Forever."

So I just showed up. The firefighters, hearing I'm there, ask me to lead
their protest parade through downtown Madison. I march with them, along
with John Nichols (who lives in Madison and writes for the *Nation*).
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and the great singer Michelle Shocked have
also decided to show up.

The scene in Madison is nothing like what they are showing you on TV or
in the newspaper. First, you notice that the whole town is behind this.
Yard signs and signs in store windows are everywhere supporting public
workers. There are thousands of people out just randomly lining the
streets for the six blocks leading to the Capitol building carrying
signs, shouting and cheering and cajoling. Then there are stages and
friendly competing demos on all sides of the building (yesterday's total
estimate of people was 50,000-70,000, the smallest one yet)! A big semi
truck has been sent by James Hoffa of the Teamsters and is parked like a
don't-even-think-of-effing-with-us Sherman tank on the street in front of
the Capitol. There is a long line -- *separate* from these other
demonstrations -- of 4,000 people, waiting their turn to get through the
only open door to the Capitol so they can join the occupation inside.
And inside the Rotunda is ... well, it will bring tears to your eyes if
you go there. It's like a shrine to working people -- to what America is
and should be about -- packed with families and kids and so many senior
citizens that it made me happy for science and its impact on life
expectancy over the past century. There were grandmas and great-grandpas
who remember FDR and Wisconsin's La Follette and the long view of this
struggle. Standing in that Rotunda was like a religious experience. There
had been nothing like it, for me, in decades.

And so it was in this setting, out of doors now on the steps of the
Capitol, with so many people in front of me that I couldn't see where
they ended, that I just "showed up" and gave a speech that felt unlike
any other I had ever given. As I had just written it and had no time to
memorize it, I read from the pages I brought with me. I wanted to make
sure that the words I had chosen were clear and exact. I knew they had
the potential to drive the haters into a rabid state (not a pretty sight)
but I also feared that the Right's wealthy patrons would see a need to
retaliate should these words be met with citizen action across the land.
I was, after all, putting them on notice: We are coming after you, we are
stopping you and we are going to return the money/jobs/homes you stole
from the people. You have gone too far. It's too bad you couldn't have
been satisfied with making millions, you had to have billions  -- and now
you want to strip us of our ability to talk and bargain and provide. This
is your tipping point, Wall Street; your come-to-Jesus moment, Corporate
America. And I'm glad I'm going to be able to be a witness to it.
You can find the written version of my speech on my website 
 Please read it and pass it around far and wide. You can also watch a
video of me giving the spoken version from the Capitol steps by clicking
here ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgNuSEZ8CDw ). 

I will be sending you a second email shortly with just the speech so
you can forward a clean version of it without the above story of how I
abandoned my family in the middle of the night to go to Wisconsin for the
day.

I can't express enough the level of admiration I have for the people of
Wisconsin who, for three weeks, have braved the brutal winter cold and
taken over their state Capitol. All told, literally hundreds of thousands
of people have made their way to Madison to make their voices heard. It
all began with high school students cutting class and marching on the
building (you can read their reports on my High School Newspaper (
http://www.mikeshighschoolnews.com/ ) site). Then their parents joined
them. Then 14 brave Democratic state senators left the state so the
governor wouldn't have his quorum.

And all this while the White House was trying to stop this movement (read
this (http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/latest-news/excerpt-from-less-drama )!

But it didn't matter. The People's train had left the station. And now
protests were springing up in all 50 states.
The media has done a poor job covering this (imagine a takeover of the
government HQ in any other country, free or totalitarian -- our media
would be all over it). But this one scares them and their masters -- as
it should. The organizers told me this morning that my showing up got
them more coverage yesterday than they would have had, "a shot in the arm
that we needed to keep momentum going." Well, I'm glad I could help. But
they need a lot more than just me -- and they need you doing similar
things in your own states and towns.
How 'bout it? I know you know this: This is our moment. Let's seize it.
Everyone can do something.  
Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFl...@aol.com
MichaelMoore ( http://www.michaelmoore.com )

P.S. This local Madison paper/blog captured best (http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=32648 ) what happened yesterday, and got what I'm really up to. Someone please send this to O'Reilly and Palin so there's no mistaking my true intentions. 

P.P.S. Full disclosure: I am a proud union member of four unions: the
Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA
(the last two have passed resolutions supporting the workers in
Wisconsin). My production company has signed union contracts with five
unions (and soon to be a 6th). All my full-time employees have full
medical and dental insurance with NO DEDUCTIBLE. So, yes, I'm biased. 


***

So, okay, I've promoted MM to General, but we need many more.  We need more leaders, and so far they're not flocking to us.  We need to get out there and recruit.  We can start with the Labor Unions and their leaders.  Let them know we're behind them and ask them what we can do.  Spread the word.  We're gearing up and ready for War. (And don't forget to sign up for MM's newsletters.  They're messages from our General.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: On Sheen, Cryer, Franco, Oscar, Boehner, and small triumphs where we find them

 ***

Okay, this was the week of Charlie Sheen.  He was all over the place (in more ways than one) and actually set a Guinness World Record  by opening a Twitter account and getting a million followers in 25 hours and 17 minutes.  (Thereby giving some credence to his semi-delusional "Rock Star of the Planet" claim.) 

But there are a few of us who would rather be talking about his "Two and a Half Men" co-star, Jon Cryer.  William K. Wolfrum (known affectionately as "Wolfie" to a teeny-tiny contingency) set aside his vast storehouse of wild Charlie Sheen events and went digging for the real Jon Cryer, instead.   Yay and yay--and may I say?  Yay.

***

I have a confession to make.  It has to do with my addiction to the Academy Awards, so if you're not interested, or if you think it may drastically change your image of me for the worst, then it's on to the next piece with you--with my blessing.

I have never missed watching the Oscars since their very first telecast on March 19, 1953.  Not one.  I've slept through parts of them, and groaned through many of them, but I have a reputation to uphold now, and I guess this is how it will be until the end of (my) time.  In my small circle it is known as "Mona's Only Claim to Fame", and I hang onto it for dear life.

So this year I sat through it, and only fell asleep for what I'm guessing was about 5 minutes, 31 seconds.  If I could have timed my naps to James Franco's appearances, I would have been almost as happy as I was when "The King's Speech" won best picture.  I like the guy and I hate to add to the pile-ups on whatever the heck he thought he was doing up there, but man, he was dreadful.  (Anne Hathaway clearly saw she was in the middle of a train wreck and was trying not to panic, but there were moments when I thought she was going to tear off one of her many dresses and run screaming out of the theater.)

But for Franco, it wasn't over even when it was over.  He got into a Tweet war with a 20-year-old fellow Yalie (He's working on a Doctorate in English at Yale), and she posted this about him in her blog:  "Combined with his Oscars hosting performance and in accordance with the opinion of commenter's [sic] on my last blog, I'm becoming convinced that James Franco's whole life is a form of postmodern performance art. In that context, his Twitter fits right in."    Oh, ouch.  That's harsh. 

***

Here, I'll insert the joke that has gone so viral I think I saw it on a banner streaming off the back of a plane the other day.  It's too long for a bumper sticker, otherwise it would be there, too.  It's everywhere, and now it's here because I love it: 

"A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table in the middle of which sits a plate with a dozen cookies. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, 'Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.'"


 ***

But on to the serious political stuff:  John Boehner's House is dumping the Green, cornstarch-based tableware in the House cafeterias and replacing it with the petroleum-based, non-biodegradable plastic of the olden days.   Take THAT you Greenies!  Take THAT, Nancy Pelosi!  Want more salt rubbed in those wounds?  The contract for the Styrofoam cups went to a former Koch Industries executive.  It's just one thing after another, isn't it?

***

But there are lemons and then there is lemonade.  Ever wondered how you could get that grin off of John Boehner's happy/sad/happy/sad/happy face?  As often happens in periods of adversity there comes a shining moment of resourceful brilliance.  This was just one little sparkle, but I'm in awe of the person who started this one:  On the Planned Parenthood donation page there is a link to "Honorary Giving".    There is a button for "I would like to make this gift in honor of"  Then a fill-in the-blank where John Boehner's name could go.  Then an address block where an acknowledgment will be sent to:  John Boehner!

So. . .Donate $5 to Planned Parenthood and do it in John Boehner's name.  He'll receive as many acknowledgments from Planned Parenthood as there are those of us who decide to do it.  So come on, let's do it!

Fill in the blanks with:

John Boehner
Washington, D.C. Office
1011 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-6205
(202) 225-0704 fax

See? That felt good!

***

This was another week where Wisconsin labor kept the lights on.  I can't let this go without bringing in a bright moment from that on-going effort to defend the rights to representation for people in Wisconsin and all across the country.  This is Marge Holicek, a 92 year-old woman who was a proud member of the union and is still out there fighting for their rights:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAfVONQtZ8A&w=640&h=390

***

Cartoon of the week:


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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I am a Democrat, that's who I am

I am a Democrat, just as I'm a liberal and an American and a Michigander and a woman.  I make no apologies for any of those titles.  They're indelibly, irrefutably, absolutely who I am. 

I'm hearing cries these days from many people who voted Democratic and now feel betrayed.  Used and abused by what they consider "the party".  They're yelling loud and clear that either the party changes or they're outta there.  What they really mean is either the leadership changes or they're gone, but by their actions they're working toward killing the entire party.

I won't go along in order to get along, no matter how much I admire some of the very people making those charges.  I'm a Democrat.  This is my party.  The Democratic party is one of only two viable parties in the United States at the moment, and I'm getting more than a little alarmed at the calls from every quarter for the destruction of the one party that has consistently worked for protections for all.

We are the party of the working class.  The only party of the working class.  We don't always choose our leaders wisely, but very often, we do.  We've had some great leaders, some good leaders, some mediocre leaders and some truly bad leaders.  But through it all, we've been the only party dedicated to advancing the needs of the people who some would consider "the least of us".  We're still doing it; we the people of the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party is made up of people--millions of people--some of whom have worked tirelessly to keep it going.   Over the years we've changed the entire landscape of this country for the better.  If we're being forced to take a back seat to stronger, more powerful forces bent on erasing all we've done, the reasonable course of action is to band together to make us stronger, not weaker.  And yet what I'm seeing now is a rage against my party because some of our elected leaders aren't delivering on what they've promised. 

The anger against certain politicians is, for the most part, justified.  But the politicians aren't the party.  They are representatives of the party, and they can be replaced.  The party, once it's destroyed, will never come back. 

I'm prepared to fight our enemies.  I fully expect that battle to continue.  But when I find myself having to fight against those who were once allies, I can't help but think it won't be long before the final surrender. 

I'm not going to let that happen without a fight.  I'll defend my party as being the better of the two, and I'll work at making it the best it can be.  Because I'm a Democrat.  That's who I am.


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