Postage stamp tempest: Why can’t the U.S. have scandals like this?

July 15, 2013

Hey, David Dewhurst:  Do you really think the women who opposed your oppression of them were out of line?  None of them has said you must lick her derriére.

Here’s how they do it in Europe; from The Guardian:

Femen-inspired postage stamp angers French right

Designers say youthful depiction of Marianne for new stamp was partially inspired by Femen founder Inna Shevchenko

You know enough about France from your world history class to know that the nation has, for decades, used an image of a woman as their symbol of liberty (“liberté“).  For obscure reasons, the French have come to call their Liberty, Marianne.  Her image appears on coins, stamps, and wherever else an image can be used.  Most often an artist uses a beautiful French woman — Catherine Deneuve was the model for years — but about as often the name of the model is more obscure.  This is the first time anyone has said a non-French woman might be the model, though the woman named is living in France now, as a refugee from the Ukraine.

Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the new Marianne stamp. Photograph: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the new Marianne stamp. Photograph: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

 

It was supposed to be a straightforward new postage stamp to mark François Hollande’s presidency: a more youthful depiction of Marianne, the feminine symbol of the French Republic, reflecting the Socialist president’s promise to help the younger generation.

Instead, the portrait has sparked a spat on the political right after one of its designers said it was partially inspired by Inna Shevchenko, a leading member of the feminist activist group Femen.

The designers, David Kawena and Olivier Ciappa, had previously said their inspirations ran from the Renaissance to French comic strips and Japanese manga. But after the stamp’s launch on Sunday, Ciappa tweeted: “For all those who are asking who the model was for Marianne, it’s a mix of several women, but above all Inna Shevchenko, founder of Femen.”

Probably the most famous image comes from the painting by Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the Nation:

Eugene Delcroix's paiting, Liberty Leading the Nation,

Eugene Delacroix’s paiting, Liberty Leading the Nation, commemorating the 1830 uprising against the French King. That’s “Marianne” holding the flag.

That painting is in a division of the Louvre; it was defaced just this past February, in an odd September 11 protest, by a wacko who insisted the attacks on the World Trade Center and the United States were government-sponsored.   But I digress.

Christine Boutin, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and founder of the Christian Democrat party, tweeted her disgust and her party called for a boycott of “this outrageous stamp”, saying it was an attack “on the dignity of women and the sovereignty of France” and should immediately be withdrawn.

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women's rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women’s rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Femen, which often stages topless street protests, was started in Ukraine but is now based in Paris after Shevchenko was granted political asylum following outrage at her felling of a giant cross in Ukraine in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot.

Femen’s most high-profile protests in France have targeted the street demonstrations against same-sex marriage. It also recently staged an anti-fascist protest in Notre Dame cathedral and attempted to ambush the French president at an airshow.

Ciappa, whose exhibition of photographs of imagined gay couples was vandalised in Paris the anti same-sex marriage protests, wrote on Facebook on Monday that he had received “messages of threats and hatred” against him on Twitter, “some violent and some funny, such as Christine Boutin’s call to boycott my stamp”.

Yeah, but here’s the money line:

Shevchenko tweeted: “Femen is on French stamp. Now all homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter.”

Several French artists have designed different Mariannes for French stamps, but this is thought to be the first inspired in part by a woman who isn’t French.

I have some bad news, perhaps, for U.S radical right-wing wackoes:  I understand that the model for the French symbol of Liberty, Marianne, was really Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis.   The artist was seeking a model who demonstrated the French ideal of a woman standing up to lead her nation against the supposed juggernaut of Fascist oppression and repression.  President Hollande is fearful of noting that, however, because he doesn’t want Texas Gov. Rick Perry to make a trip to France to poach businesses to move to Texas.

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis reading documents at her Senate desk, in the photo perhaps used as a model for the new Marianne.

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis reading documents at her Senate desk, in the photo perhaps used as a model for the new Marianne.

Hollande doesn’t fear any businesses would actually relocate from France to Paris; he just doesn’t want to waste any good French cheese or wine on a visiting Rick Perry.

In other Austin rumors, according to my sources at the groseille à l’oignon,  the Texas Republic asked France for rights to the image for their own anti-State of Texas postage stamps just to tick off Rick Perry and the FBI, and the Texas Tea Party is considering using Marianne as their image on their stationery, posters and bumper stickers.  If only they knew.

In the end, we have an entirely pointless, postage stamp tempest, with an artist sneaking in as a model a topless protester to play the role of the top-slipping symbol of French liberty, and typical French insouciance in arguments.  You know darn well that Harry Reid would love to use that line Ms. Schevchenko Tweeted — and so would Wendy Davis, and Rick Perry, and Joe Biden, and even Orrin Hatch.

Maybe all they have to do is pose topless, protesting some infringement on freedom.  Would they do that, even for freedom?

More:

Delcroix's painting on display in Lens, France, earlier in 2013.  Foreign Policy image.

Delcroix’s painting on display in Lens, France, earlier in 2013. Foreign Policy image.

The 2008 version of Marianne, under President Sarkozsy.

The 2008 version of Marianne, under President Sarkozsy. This is the immediate predecessor of the 2013 version.

1945 version of Marianne

From Stampboards.com: “Marianne” is a national emblem of France and an allegory of Liberty and Reason. She has been portrayed in various ways on a number of stamps issued by France over the years, often wearing a Phrygian cap, symbolic of Liberty. Here is an image of a stamp featuring my favorite version of her: the “Grande Marianne de Gandon,” designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon, and issued by France on March 12, 1945, Scott No. 556, Y&T No. 733.

Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the French Senate.

Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the French Senate.

 


Quote of the moment repeat: Robert C. Lieberman, “Why the Rich Are Getting Richer: American Politics and the Second Gilded Age”

February 20, 2013

What? You missed this, on February 20, 2011? Well, here it is again. Please pay attention this time.

The U.S. economy appears to be coming apart at the seams.  Unemployment remains at nearly ten percent, the highest level in almost 30 years; foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes; and real incomes have fallen faster and further than at any time since the Great Depression.  Many of those laid off fear that the jobs they have lost — the secure, often unionized, industrial jobs that provided wealth, security and opportunity — will never return.  They are probably right.

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

And yet a curious thing has happened in the midst of all this misery.  The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer.  And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer.  In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else’s income went down.  This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom.  The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the “winner-take-all economy.”  It is not a picture of a healthy society.  Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class.  Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan.

Robert C. Lieberman, reviewing the book Winner-Take-All Politics:  How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Simon and Schuster, 2010, 368 pages.  $27.00.; review appears in Foreign Affairs, January/February 2011, pp. 154-158.

More:

Two years later, even more:


July 12, 1855 – Liberty proposed for U.S. Capitol

July 13, 2012

Liberty statue, atop U.S. Capitol - Library of Congress photo

On top of the Capitol Dome, the Statue of Freedom faces east away from the National Mall and the White House. Image courtesy of Library of Congress

History from the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives:

The Statue of Freedom

July 12, 1855

Statue of Freedom

Statue of Freedom (Liberty) which appears atop the U.S. Capitol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this date, Architect of the Capitol, Montgomery C. Meigs received the conceptual drawings from Thomas Crawford, an American neoclassical artist, for the Statue of Freedom.  The statue was to be the crown jewel of the dome atop the Capitol Rotunda.  The first sketch of the statue featured a woman with a liberty cap. When Secretary of War Jefferson Davis objected to the allegorical allusion to a freed Roman slave, the artist revised the drawing to feature a statue with a helmet.  Although construction on the dome began in 1856, the dome and its final accouterments were not in place until December 2, 1863. Freedom’s story contains an ironic twist; a slave named Philip Reid played an integral part in placing Freedom atop the dome.  A contract dispute threatened to halt the project’s progress until Reid determined how to complete the complicated casting of the statue.  As a result, he oversaw the remainder of the its construction.  To commemorate the completion of the statue and its crowning of the dome, officials organized a dramatic ceremony with a 35-gun military salute echoed by salutes from the 12 forts ringing the federal city.

The dome of the US Capitol building. Français ...

The dome of the US Capitol building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Barbara Ehrenreich wonders: What’s the real poverty rate in America?

August 10, 2011

Barbara Ehrenreich, “How America turned poverty into a crime,” Salon.com, August 9, 2011:

At the time I wrote “Nickel and Dimed,” I wasn’t sure how many people it directly applied to — only that the official definition of poverty was way off the mark, since it defined an individual earning $7 an hour, as I did on average, as well out of poverty. But three months after the book was published, the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., issued a report entitled “Hardships in America: The Real Story of Working Families,” which found an astounding 29 percent of American families living in what could be more reasonably defined as poverty, meaning that they earned less than a barebones budget covering housing, child care, health care, food, transportation, and taxes — though not, it should be noted, any entertainment, meals out, cable TV, Internet service, vacations, or holiday gifts. 29 percent is a minority, but not a reassuringly small one, and other studies in the early 2000s came up with similar figures.

The big question, 10 years later, is whether things have improved or worsened for those in the bottom third of the income distribution, the people who clean hotel rooms, work in warehouses, wash dishes in restaurants, care for the very young and very old, and keep the shelves stocked in our stores. The short answer is that things have gotten much worse, especially since the economic downturn that began in 2008.

Liberty does not flow to those who lack the money to eat, or keep warm.  We have strides to make to get to “liberty and justice for all.”

Libertarians, why do you oppose liberty for poor-but-working people?


Quote of the moment: Robert C. Lieberman, “Why the Rich Are Getting Richer: American Politics and the Second Gilded Age”

February 20, 2011

The U.S. economy appears to be coming apart at the seams.  Unemployment remains at nearly ten percent, the highest level in almost 30 years; foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes; and real incomes have fallen faster and further than at any time since the Great Depression.  Many of those laid off fear that the jobs they have lost — the secure, often unionized, industrial jobs that provided wealth, security and opportunity — will never return.  They are probably right.

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

And yet a curious thing has happened in the midst of all this misery.  The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer.  And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer.  In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else’s income went down.  This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom.  The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the “winner-take-all economy.”  It is not a picture of a healthy society.  Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class.  Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan.

Robert C. Lieberman, reviewing the book Winner-Take-All Politics:  How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Simon and Schuster, 2010, 368 pages.  $27.00.; review appears in Foreign Affairs, January/February 2011, pp. 154-158.

More:


Quote of the moment: Thomas Jefferson’s admonishment to Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and the Tea Party, and their War on Education

February 18, 2011

Thomas Jefferson's view of education, from a mural at the Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson’s view of Education illustrated in this mural by Ezra Winter — Thomas Jefferson’s view of Education is illustrated in this mural by Ezra Winter in the South Reading Room on the top floor of the Adams Building of the Library of Congress. Other murals dedicated to Jefferson decorate all of the reading room’s walls.

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.

Thomas Jefferson, letter from Paris to James Madison, December 20,1787, stating Jefferson’s objections to the proposed U.S. Constitution

This quotation comes from a letter more popular among Tea Partiers and other troglodytes for Jefferson’s harsh words against “energetic government,” which he feared might result from the Constitution.  In the letter Jefferson said that he’d go with the will of the people if the document was ratified (it was).  In the end, Jefferson said, just be sure to educate “the common people,” and things would work out to protect liberty.

Wise words much ignored and abused in state capitals and the U.S. Capitol these days.

I’ll wager that among the millions who did not study this letter are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  An uneducated populace is easier to cow, easier to control, and easier to enslave.

For a larger view of the mural, click on the thumbnail image.

Jefferson education views, mural at Libary of Congress, Adams Building


Brave 10-year-old Arkansas boy refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance, on principle

November 17, 2009

Adults worry about peer pressure.  Kids can goad other kids into doing stupid things, dangerous things, illegal things, and immoral things.

Pressure from adults on kids might be just as strong.

What about a 10-year-old kid who stands up to peer pressure, and stands for principle against adults who use all sorts of inducements to get him to do something he believes is wrong?

I offer a salute to Will Phillips of  West Fork School District, in Washington County, Arkansas.

Will believes homosexuals in America are not beneficiaries of  liberty and justice for all.  Will now refuses to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance for that reason.

It’s probably not what I’d advise the young man to do to protest, but he has every right.  He’s thought it through, which may not be said for the substitute teacher and the school administrator who tried to pressure him into giving up on his principles.

In the Arkansas Times, David Koon writes the story:

A boy and his flag

Why Will won’t pledge.

David Koon
Updated: 11/5/2009

WILL PHILLIPS: Freedom lover.

Will Phillips, freedom lover, in Arkansas (Arkansas Times photo)

Will Phillips isn’t like other boys his age.

For one thing, he’s smart. Scary smart. A student in the West Fork School District in Washington County, he skipped a grade this year, going directly from the third to the fifth. When his family goes for a drive, discussions are much more apt to be about Teddy Roosevelt and terraforming Mars than they are about Spongebob Squarepants and what’s playing on Radio Disney.

It was during one of those drives that the discussion turned to the pledge of allegiance and what it means. Laura Phillips is Will’s mother. “Yes, my son is 10,” she said. “But he’s probably more aware of the meaning of the pledge than a lot of adults. He’s not just doing it rote recitation. We raised him to be aware of what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s fair.”

Will’s family has a number of gay friends. In recent years, Laura Phillips said, they’ve been trying to be a straight ally to the gay community, going to the pride parades and standing up for the rights of their gay and lesbian neighbors. They’ve been especially dismayed by the effort to take away the rights of homosexuals – the right to marry, and the right to adopt. Given that, Will immediately saw a problem with the pledge of allegiance.

“I’ve always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer,” Will said. “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.”

After asking his parents whether it was against the law not to stand for the pledge, Will decided to do something. On Monday, Oct. 5, when the other kids in his class stood up to recite the pledge of allegiance, he remained sitting down. The class had a substitute teacher that week, a retired educator from the district, who knew Will’s mother and grandmother. Though the substitute tried to make him stand up, he respectfully refused. He did it again the next day, and the next day. Each day, the substitute got a little more cross with him. On Thursday, it finally came to a head. The teacher, Will said, told him that she knew his mother and grandmother, and they would want him to stand and say the pledge.

“She got a lot more angry and raised her voice and brought my mom and my grandma up,” Will said. “I was fuming and was too furious to really pay attention to what she was saying. After a few minutes, I said, ‘With all due respect, ma’am, you can go jump off a bridge.’ ”

Will was sent to the office, where he was given an assignment to look up information about the flag and what it represents. Meanwhile, the principal called his mother.

“She said we have to talk about Will, because he told a sub to jump off a bridge,” Laura Phillips said. “My first response was: Why? He’s not just going to say this because he doesn’t want to do his math work.”

Eventually, Phillips said, the principal told her that the altercation was over Will’s refusal to stand for the pledge of allegiance, and admitted that it was Will’s right not to stand. Given that, Laura Phillips asked the principal when they could expect an apology from the teacher. “She said, ‘Well I don’t think that’s necessary at this point,’ ” Phillips said.

After Phillips put a post on the instant-blogging site twitter.com about the incident, several of her friends got angry and alerted the news media. Meanwhile, Will Phillips still refuses to stand during the pledge of allegiance. Though many of his friends at school have told him they support his decision, those who don’t have been unkind, and louder.

“They [the kids who don’t support him] are much more crazy, and out of control and vocal about it than supporters are.”

Given that his protest is over the rights of gays and lesbians, the taunts have taken a predictable bent. “In the lunchroom and in the hallway, they’ve been making comments and doing pranks, and calling me gay,” he said. “It’s always the same people, walking up and calling me a gaywad.”

Even so, Will said that he can’t foresee anything in the near future that will make him stand for the pledge. To help him deal with the peer pressure, his parents have printed off posts in his support on blogs and websites. “We’ve told him that people here might not support you, but we’ve shown him there are people all over that support you,” Phillips said. “It’s really frustrating to him that people are being so immature.”

At the end of our interview, I ask young Will a question that might be a civics test nightmare for your average 10-year-old. Will’s answer, though, is good enough — simple enough, true enough — to give me a little rush of goose pimples.  What does being an American mean?

“Freedom of speech,” Will says, without even stopping to think. “The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.”

Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson smiles.


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