Banksy’s modern Nativity, revisited in 2015: Trump’s wall, and Jesus

December 25, 2015

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
==> Georges Santayana,
The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Those who don’t pay attention to history are condemned to repeat it? Then, gods forbid we should have leaders among the condemned, and heaven keep us from joining their folly.

Has there ever been a good wall that actually worked to keep trouble away? Do we need to rebuild the Berlin Wall in the Americas?

Thomas Nast helped bring down the crooks at Tammany Hall with cartoons. Boss Tweed, the chief antagonist of Nast, crook and leader of the Tammany Gang, understood that Nast’s drawings could do him in better than just hard hitting reporting — the pictures were clear to people who couldn’t read.

But a cartoon has to get to an audience to have an effect.

Here’s a cartoon below, a comment on the security wall being built in Israel, that got very little circulation in the west at Christmas time. Can you imagine the impact had this drawing run in newspapers in Europe, the U.S., and Canada?

It’s a mashup of a famous oil painting* related to the Christian Nativity, from a London-based artist who goes by the name Banksy. (Warning: Banksy pulls no punches; views shown are quite strong, often very funny, always provocative, generally safe for work unless you work for an authoritarian like Dick Cheney who wants no counter opinions.)

banksy-israels-wall-77721975_fda236f91a.jpg

Banksy’s modern nativity — does he ever bother to copyright his stuff, or would he rather you broadcast it?

*  At least I thought so in 2008.  I can’t find the painting now.  Anybody recognize a work underneath Banksy’s re-imagining?  Let us know in comments, eh?  Perhaps this one, by David Roberts?  Perhaps this engraving after Joseph M. W. TurnerTurner’s original? Plus, in 2008, most people said “Banksy who?”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Peoples Geography.

More, in 2011: 

More in 2012:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Thomas Nast in 1864: “The Union Christmas Dinner” pushed reconciliation in time of war

December 23, 2015

Thomas Nast may have done as much as Abraham Lincoln to invent the Republican Party.

Nast’s illustration for Harper’s Weekly for the issue of December 31, 1864, expressed his great desire for an end to the Civil War, and offered a vision of what could happen when arms were put down.

Image by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly.  White House History @WhiteHouseHstry Tweeted: “The Union Christmas Dinner,” an illustration which symbolically depicts the reconciliation of the war-torn nation.

Image by Thomas Nast, in Harper’s Weekly. White House History @WhiteHouseHstry Tweeted: “The Union Christmas Dinner,” an illustration which symbolically depicts the reconciliation of the war-torn nation.

We were alerted to the image by a Tweet from White House History; the image above comes via SonoftheSouth.net.

An explanation of the illustration comes from The New York Times Learning page (for teachers — you’re invited):

As the Union military advanced across the South in December 1864, making Confederate defeat seem to be only a matter of time, artist Thomas Nast drew a holiday illustration betokening mercy for the vanquished and sectional reconciliation for the nation. Under the Christmas proclamation of “Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men,” President Abraham Lincoln is the gracious host who generously welcomes the Confederates—President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and state governors—in from the cold, and gestures for them to return to their rightful seats at the sumptuous feast of the states. Seated at the table are the governors of the Union states, and on the wall behind them appear portraits of leading Union generals.

Framing the main banquet scene are four circular insets that convey the message that if the Confederacy will lay down its arms, surrender unconditionally, and be contrite, then the Union will be merciful and joyously welcome them back into the fold. Viewing them clockwise from the upper-left, the symbolic figure of Victory, backed by the American Eagle, offers the olive branch of peace to a submissive Confederate soldier; the forgiving father from the biblical parable embraces his wayward son, whose sorrow for his past rebellion prompts the father to honor his son with a celebratory dinner; under the tattered American flag, the ordinary soldiers of the Union and Confederacy reunite happily as friends and brothers after the Confederate arms and battle standards have been laid on the ground; and, General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander, bows respectfully and offers his sword in unconditional surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant, the commander of the Union troops. In the lower-center is a scene from a holiday table at which a Northern family drinks a toast to the Union servicemen.

While Nast could be partisan, as in his portrayal of Democrats as mules kicking down a barn, or Republicans as noble elephants, and Nast could be subject to bigotry, as in his frequent jabs at Catholics and his portrayal of Irish immigrants as near-gorillas, much of his work in illustration for Harper’s and other publications offered a vision of a much better America which welcomed everyone — as his later portrayal of “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” in 1869 demonstrated.

We could use more Republicans, and newspapermen, like the hopeful Nast, today (leave the bigotry behind).


25 most-viewed presidents’ documents at the American Presidency Project

December 4, 2015

Every U.S. history teacher is familiar with a great on-line resource assembled by John Woolley and Gerhard Peters at the University of California – Santa Barbara, The American Presidency Project.  Or, if by some oversight any teacher is not familiar with it, someone should do them a favor and let them know.

It’s an ambitious project of cataloging and making available in one place all the official papers of the presidents of the United States, speeches, press conferences, executive orders, and miscellaneous material including election speeches. The project started in 1999, and as of today contains more than 111,000 documents.

Masthead photo collage from the American Presidency Project at the University of California - Santa Barbara

Masthead photo collage from the American Presidency Project at the University of California – Santa Barbara

In 2008, the project started counting access to the documents, and can now give us seven years of data as to which documents of presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, are the most popularly accessed.

Before you read further, ponder this question: Which presidential speeches, documents and miscellanea do you think should be in the top 25 documents people look in a decade? Surely students and scholars, and policy wonks, would be interested in Lincoln’s inspiring words at Gettysburg, perhaps his two inaugural addresses, or the Emancipation Proclamation. FDR’s first inaugural address, “nothing to fear but fear itself,” ought to be among the top. Wilson’s 14 Points, perhaps? Washington’s Farewell? John Kennedy’s inaugural? Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society speech? Eisenhower’s farewell, warning of the “military-industrial complex?”

Now look at the list. What does it tell us that these are the top 25 sought-after documents from the American Presidency Project? What does it tell us that what we might expect to be in the top 25, are not? Tell us in comments what you think.

Here’s the top 25 Most Viewed Documents since 2008 at the American History Project; hotlinks go to the document at AHP:

The 25 Most Viewed Documents Since 2008
#1 John F. Kennedy
Inaugural Address
#2 Republican Party Platforms
Republican Party Platform of 1956
#3 Democratic Party Platforms
2008 Democratic Party Platform
#4 Republican Party Platforms
2008 Republican Party Platform
#5 John F. Kennedy
Executive Order 10990 – Reestablishing the Federal Safety Council
#6 Democratic Party Platforms
2012 Democratic Party Platform
#7 Republican Party Platforms
2012 Republican Party Platform
#8 George W. Bush
Address to the Nation on the Terrorist Attacks
#9 Ronald Reagan
Inaugural Address
#10 John F. Kennedy
Executive Order 11110 – Amendment of Executive Order No. 10289 as Amended, Relating to the Performance of Certain Functions Affecting the Department of the Treasury
#11 Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fireside Chat on Banking
#12 Barack Obama
Inaugural Address
#13 Franklin D. Roosevelt
Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service
#14 John F. Kennedy
Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere
#15 Franklin D. Roosevelt
1944 State of the Union Message to Congress
#16 Franklin D. Roosevelt
Inaugural Address
#17 Barack Obama
Executive Order 13603 – National Defense Resources Preparedness
#18 Franklin D. Roosevelt
Executive Order 6102 – Requiring Gold Coin, Gold Bullion and Gold Certificates to Be Delivered to the Government
#19 Republican Party Platforms
Republican Party Platform of 1860
#20 George Bush
Executive Order 12803 – Infrastructure Privatization
#21 Abraham Lincoln
Inaugural Address
#22 George Washington
First Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union
#23 William J. Clinton
Inaugural Address
#24 Democratic Party Platforms
Democratic Party Platform of 1960
#25 John F. Kennedy
Address of Senator John F. Kennedy Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States – Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

Why not a price on carbon, a tax with cap-and-trade capabilities?

October 29, 2015

Tax on air pollutants with a cap-and-trade process worked wonders cleaning up acid rain in the U.S.  Is there any rational reason to oppose such a plan, in the U.S. or anywhere else, to help clean up carbon air pollution to slow or stop global warming?

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a call for a carbon pricing system. Who will listen?

It’s a feature story from World Bank, who seems to have figured out that global warming poses great threats to commerce and growing the world’s economies.

Heads of State, City, Regional and Business Leaders Unite to Call for Price on Carbon

October 19, 2015

For the first time Heads of State, city and provincial leaders have come together with the support of leading companies to urge countries and companies around the world to put a price on carbon pollution.

For the first time Heads of State, city and provincial leaders have come together with the support of leading companies to urge countries and companies around the world to put a price on carbon pollution.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Carbon pricing is a key building block to tackle climate change and drive investment in a low carbon future.
  • Launched today, the Carbon Pricing Panel is an unprecedented alliance of Global Leaders united to put a price on carbon pollution.
  • The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments has nearly doubled since 2012, reaching an aggregate market value of about $50 billion.

What can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our environment, and help support people most vulnerable to climate change?

The answer is simple: A key element for any strategy to tackle climate change must be to put a price on carbon pollution. The transition to a cleaner future requires government action and the right incentives. Carbon pricing is a key building block to help cut pollution and drive investment in a low carbon future.

It’s a point recognized by leaders from Europe, across to Africa and Asia, who have today – for the first time – come together with the support of leading private companies to urge countries and businesses around the world to put a price on carbon.

Convened by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the high-level Carbon Pricing Panel is calling on their peers to follow their lead and put a price on carbon. They are joined in this effort by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria.

The call by the leaders comes on the first day of the last round of negotiations ahead of the Paris climate talks in December. The leaders aim to seize the momentum generated by the Paris talks to spur further, faster action towards carbon pricing, as a necessary path to a low carbon, productive, competitive economy of the future.

Members of the Carbon Pricing Panel include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, French President François Hollande, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Governor Jerry Brown of California, and Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro.

Private sector support is spearheaded by Anne Stausboll, CEO of US Institutional Investor CalPERS, Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of ENGIE of France, Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra Group of India, and Feike Sijbesma, Chairman and CEO of Netherlands-based Royal DSM.


” There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison. It marks a turning point from the debate on the economic systems needed for low carbon growth to the implementation of policies and pricing mechanisms to deliver jobs, clean growth and prosperity. The science is clear, the economics compelling and we now see political leadership emerging to take green investment to scale at a speed commensurate with the climate challenge. “

ImageJim Yong Kim
World Bank Group President

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and sub-national carbon pricing instruments (ETS and tax)

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and sub-national carbon pricing instruments (ETS and tax)


Around the world, about 40 nations and 23 cities, states and regions have implemented or are putting a price on carbon with programs and mechanisms covering about 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments has nearly doubled since 2012, reaching an aggregate market value of about $50 billion.

And already more than 400 businesses around the world are using a voluntary, internal price on carbon as part of their investment strategies, with prices ranging from US$4 to over US$100 per ton of CO2. This is a tripling in the number of companies compared with last year reporting that they price their emissions.

Carbon pricing delivers a triple dividend.

Firstly, it is good for the environment and it reduces emissions – lowering social costs of health impacts on people, as well as tackling the global warming.  A price on carbon can help alleviate health and environmental problems like premature deaths from exposure to outdoor air pollution. According to the World health Organization, an estimated 3.7 million people die prematurely from outdoor air pollution.

Secondly, carbon pricing is an essential part of getting prices right for the move to a low carbon more resilient growth. It raises revenue efficiently, making it possible to reduce more distortionary taxes, and it allows for targeted support for clean energy solutions rather than harmful subsidies that do little for poor people or the environment.

And thirdly, it drives innovation and critically needed investments in low-carbon solutions, boosting private sector investment in clean tech research and development, and offering the prospect of job creation in the sectors of the future.

Why is is it important to act now on carbon pricing? Because strong public policy gives the private sector the certainty and predictability to make the necessary long-term investments in climate-smart development and prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change. Carbon pricing is the cornerstone of a package of policy measures designed to achieve emission reductions at lowest cost.

Today, countries and regions are learning from one another and creating a set of successful approaches to pricing carbon. Some early lessons are described in the World Bank Group publication The FASTER Principles for Successful Carbon Pricing – which lays out principles for effective, efficient and fair pricing of carbon.

Some examples include:

  • The Canadian province of British Columbia was an early mover on carbon pricing, with the creation of a carbon tax in 2008, with the tax used to cut income taxes and fund tax credits. Also, British Columbia is home to a growing clean technology sector, with more than 150 firms in 2013, accounting for 22% of Canada’s clean tech presence in a province with only 12% of Canada’s GDP. Several experts attribute this growth to the carbon tax.
  • California, Quebec and the European Union allocate a portion of their emissions trading scheme (ETS) auction revenues to designated green technology funds and innovation, to support sectors affected directly or indirectly by higher carbon costs.
  • In Chile, the government has passed legislation on a carbon tax – effective as of 2017 – as part of a much larger tax reform package with the explicit aim of providing additional resources for education and other social protection programs.
  • In Northeastern United States, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is expected to save people money on energy bills. The RGGI states have invested over $1 billion from ETS proceeds in energy-efficiency program, which are expected to return more than $2.3 billion in lifetime energy bills savings to 1.2 million participating households. Also, from 2008-2012, RGGI invested more than $130 million to help energy and electricity customers in need.

The high level panel provides political momentum to complement the voices of government and industry leaders in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC), a working coalition that is being formed on the back of support for carbon pricing from 74 countries and 1,000 companies, at the 20014 UN summit on climate change.

Putting a price on carbon can be done in many ways: using an emissions trading system (ETS), like the one in Europe, or introducing carbon taxes and fees, like in Sweden and Norway. Most importantly, the “polluter pays” principle applies – those who are responsible for the pollution face the cost of it.


Quote of the moment encore: Hillary Clinton, on being a Cubs fan

October 26, 2015

Today is the birthday of Hillary Rodham Clinton, born October 26, 1948.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – Topnews image

Happy birthday, Hillary!

Without citation, Robert A. Nowlan’s Born This Day lists this as something Clinton said:

Being a Cubs fan prepares you for life — and Washington.

Still true, in 2015.

Didn’t the Cubbies have a great year, though?

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Texas Gov. Abbott sides with cancer, brags about it

October 23, 2015

I get e-mail from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and all too often it leaves me shaking my head in disgust.

This one came today. I suppose one needs to understand that the e-mail is intended to mislead the recipients about what Gov. Abbott is doing.

In the War on Cancer, Abbott has sided with cancer. As Attorney General in the later stages of the wilting administration of the beleaguered Rick Perry, Abbott refused to investigate a Texas Constitutionally-established, billion-dollar fund to support cancer research whose administration then-Gov. Perry had turned over to old political friends.

Tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money went into black holes of bank accounts of Perry’s political supporters.

Abbott should have recused himself from any investigation by his office, because under the laws setting up the research fund, he was on the board.  Any investigation would need to answer the question about what Abbott had done to be sure the funds were spent as the law intended.

Conflicts of interest don’t bother Greg Abbott, though, so long as the conflicts work in favor of his friends, and political donors.

Fortunately for Texas, there is another, separate office to investigate public wrongdoing in state agencies, the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office. That office indicted one of the cancer agency’s officials (he was convicted of misappropriating $11 million in public funds), and promised to indict more.

This so angered Perry he stepped all over the Texas Constitution to bring down the Travis County DA — and that earned Perry his own indictment after an investigation by a GOP-led task force.  Oh, yeah, there were other shenanigans by Perry that he might have wanted to cover up; but the cancer research abuse already sent one Perry buddy to jail.

You get the idea. Cancer research is political in Texas, and probably not all that serious a concern to GOP elected officials. Cancer is something poor people get. Republicans have health insurance.

For years, Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas and the rest of the nation offered free cancer screenings and checkups to women who otherwise could not get them for lack of money. These services have nothing to do with abortion, but a lot to do with obstetrical and gynecological care poor women cannot get otherwise.

Well, now Greg Abbott has ordered funding for those health care services to stop.

Read Abbott’s fund-raising letter — yes, he wants me (and you) to donate to his unholy campaign against women’s health care — and pay particular attention to how he avoids any mention of what kinds of services this funding cut-off will kill. He wants you to think he’s fighting abortion.

Which might be oddly and rarely true, if his denial of cancer screenings enables cancer to kill a woman who might have later gotten an abortion, or destroy her ability to conceive at all.

See the letter, sent with the subject, “Another win against Planned Parenthood”:

___________________________________

Friend,

Abbott cuts funding for cancer fightAbbott cuts funding for cancer fight disclaimer_______________________________________

So there you have it. Greg Abbott wants you to send him money, because he’s stopped poor women in Texas from getting cancer screenings.

Because, abortion, liberty, guns, and probably, illegal immigrants.

And, because he can get away with it.

How stupid must a Texas politician be to think promoting cancer will help any of those problems? How conniving must one be to try to hoodwink Texans into sending him money, neglecting to mention it’s money to support cutting medical care to women who need it?

How stupid must Texas voters be, if they don’t see through this corrupt ruse?

More:


October 9, 2015 – St. Denis’s Day, patron saint for those who have lost their head

October 8, 2015

Dear Reader: My apologies. As Cecil might say, we’ve been fighting ignorance since 1974, and it’s taking longer than we thought.  My hopes to retire this post have not been realized.  Heck, it doesn’t even need much editing from past years. Saints save us, please!

We might pause to reflect, too:  Recent years have seen the media rise of actual beheadings.  This practice, which now strikes many of us as barbaric, occurs in reality as well as memory and literature; unlike St. Denis, those beheaded do not usually carry on to do anything at all; like St. Denis, they are martyred. Vote well in your local elections, and national elections.  Your vote should be directed at preventing anyone’s losing their head, even just figuratively.

October 9 is the Feast Day of St. Denis.

Who?  He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people.   Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame  in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche).  He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.

English: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: porta...

St. Denis greets vistors to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche)

Our trusty friend Wikipedia explains:

According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way.[6] The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.[2]

Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no?  In 2013, we added Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives.  You catch my drift.

Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor.  In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.

Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache.  St. Denis seems to be our man. Or saint.

Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?

As Rod Stewart sang, just “let your imagination run wild.”  Maybe St. Denis is listening.

More:

Statue to St. Denis, in Cluny

Another portrayal, in sculpture, of St. Denis. Notice how this one’s face doesn’t really look like the one above? Ouvre du Musée de Cluny, Wikipedia photo by Guillaume Blanchard (Aoineko), June 2001, FinePix 1400Z.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday.  I still hope.  Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.


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