Friday, December 2, 2016

"We see a lot of babies come into our clinics with high lead levels." Poisoning and killing our children, to fill the wallets of super-wealthy sociopaths.

Above: The description for this photograph, ca. 1936-1939, reads, "Baby gets a bath with all modern conveniences at the Allegany County Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA." The Allegany County Hospital was completed with funds from the New Deal's Public Works Administration. All across America, New Deal policymakers and New Deal workers built hundreds of new hospitals and health clinics; installed thousands of miles of new water and sewer lines; created nutritious school lunch programs for underprivileged children; and much more. Why? Because they cared about the health of children far more than we do. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Poisoning Children With Contaminated Water

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about 70,000 homes need water line replacements because of lead contamination. The city has started handing out free filtration systems, but they don't have enough for everyone. Parents are worried. "My kids are growing," said one, "I don't know what lead in the water is doing to their bodies or brains. We should all have clean drinking water no matter where we live." And a community health care provider said, "We see a lot of babies come into our clinics with high lead levels" ("Hundreds of people line up for free water filters in Milwaukee," WTMJ-TV, November 30, 2016).

Lead contamination is happening all across the country, and people have good reason for concern. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage, organ damage, and bone damage - and the CDC has warned us that no amount of lead ingestion is safe for children.

In light of these facts & events, one would expect to see a large nationwide infrastructure program to replace all questionable water mains, connection lines, and plumbing fixtures. Do you see such a movement? I don't. What I see are some local, albeit noble, efforts to replace water lines (most cities and towns don't have enough money for complete replacement); water bottle distribution (though Republican-led Michigan is fighting that effort); free water filters (though they are not always 100% effective); and a federal government that refuses to adequately address the problem.

Above: The description for this 1938 photograph reads, "Family of five children, with mother in hospital, receives [WPA] housekeeping aid service at home..." If you suggested something like this today (hiring the unemployed to help assist families in need) you'd be laughed out of the room. Heck, we don't even like giving mothers paid time off to care for their newborns - let alone manpower assistance. Why? Because we don't care about children as much as New Deal policymakers did. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Killing Children With Air Pollution

In addition to lead water poisoning, we also know that "Some 300 million children around the world are breathing highly toxic air... [and] Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year..." ("300 Million Children Are Breathing Extremely Toxic Air, UNICEF Says," NPR, October 31, 2016). And for those who think this is a just a third world problem (as if that makes it any "better"), we also have extremely toxic air in the United States. For example, see: "Most Polluted Cities," American Lung Association, and "Doctors in Utah say state’s poor air quality poses risks for pregnant women," Fox 13 Salt Lake City, February 10, 2016.

So, why aren't we doing a better job of delivering clean air and clean water to children? Answer: Because the super-wealthy sociopaths of the world don't want their money going towards such things. That's not the type of investment that brings them more cash. Also, they prefer war to the common good. You see, war does bring them profit. "Why should we be taxed to fix infrastructure," they ask, "when, instead, we can invest in profit-making companies that produce bombs, missiles, and rockets? Especially when it will be other people's children who die in our wars - while our own children can comfortably soak in gold bathtubs and flaunt their luxurious lives on Instagram?"

But here's the overarching problem: Super-wealthy sociopaths have bought so many politicians, and have successfully duped so many voters into thinking that the super-rich are our saviors and holy "JOB CREATORS," that the great mass of humanity can no longer think straight. In America, tens of millions of people continue to support (or sit by and let happen) more wars and more tax breaks for the super-wealthy. All signs are indicating that the Trump Administration is preparing us for more multi-trillion-dollar "regime changes," and more gargantuan tax breaks for the rich. Sixty million Americans voted for that. But, replacing toxic water lines? Cleaning the air? "No, no, no," they collectively say, "for GOD'S SAKE!! How will we pay for it?!? You tax-and-spend liberal!!"

You see, when it comes to helping those in need, or providing children with clean air & clean water, the super-wealthy and their conservative marionettes want limited government. But when it comes to pampering the wealthy, and bombing "the other" for profit, they want unrestrained and unlimited government.

Indeed, the conservative cry of "limited government" is a farce. It's code for, "Let's slavishly devote our lives to the rich, no matter how much we, and our children, are abused, poisoned, and killed."

"... we have collectively lost our ability to process information and make good judgments. To be truly stupid, you need to have poor reasoning skills. So our problem isn’t just that we have lies substituted for facts; it is that we don’t even know how to process information anymore." 

--Dr. Sophia McClennen, "I'm With Stupid: The Entire 2016 Election Has Been an Insult to Our Intelligence," Alternet, November 1, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Deal Art: "Cafeteria"

Above: "Cafeteria," a color lithograph by Jacob Kainen (1909-2001), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, November 28, 2016

New Deal Art: "Blue Monday"

Above: "Blue Monday," an oil panting by August Casciano (1910-1993), made while the artist was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. A description for the painting reads, in part: "The day's wash hangs on clotheslines outside both houses and the basement door of the house on the right is slightly ajar. Despite this evidence of human life, the houses look as though they could be deserted, creating a ghostly feeling that permeates the painting." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

New Deal Artist Eugenie Gershoy and the "Ill-Fated Toreador"

Above: "Ill-Fated Toreador," a wood sculpture by Eugenie Gershoy (1901-1986), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: Eugenie Gershoy with some of her sculptures, including the "Ill-Fated Toreador," at an art exhibit in New York City, 1938. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Above: Gershoy at work in her New York City studio, 1940. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1964, when Eugenie Gershoy was interviewed by Robert and Mary McChesney in San Francisco, for the Smithsonian Institution, the following exchange occurred:

Mary McChesney: Looking back on [the WPA] period, how do you feel about the government sponsorship of the arts in America?

Eugenie Gershoy: Oh, I think it was one of the most vital, vigorous, and remarkable experiences I have ever had, and I was fully joined in that feeling by everybody who worked on it. I suppose this has been said before, but it was a renaissance of the arts. I think some of the finest work that was done in the United States in that period was produced on the WPA, on the government-sponsored art projects. It was a tremendous thing!

Mary McChesney: Do you think this was true of yourself, that your own work was at a peak then?

Eugenie Gershoy: Oh, definitely! Definitely! I've never been so productive and so enthused and so stimulated by the group activity, too, and the feeling of working together. I think many people got a beginning in their own particular work on the art project, which they couldn't have done otherwise, you see. They didn't have the means; they didn't have the materials; they didn't have the impetus; they didn't have the projecting that stimulated everybody. All sorts of people. In particular, I remember Philip Guston, who had been in a very bad way, got his start on the WPA art project. And so many artists. I could name endless ones who had the opportunity to develop with that beginning. And have developed enormously since. It was a glorious period, really glorious.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Roosevelts Enjoy Thanksgiving

Above: The description for this 1935 photograph reads, "Eleanor Roosevelt watches as the President operates on the big turkey, setting in motion the annual Thanksgiving feast at Warm Springs, Georgia." Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: In Michigan, the state makes children drink lead and says they have no right to literacy

Above: The description for this photograph reads, "The Education Division of the WPA of LA [Louisiana]. [Its] drive against illiteracy... has taught 75,181 illiterates out of a total of 219,000 to read and write and reduced illiteracy in the state about 32%. A recent campaign to stamp out illiteracy in three LA parishes, Lafayette, Tensas and Terrebonne resulted in 3,918 negroes and 624 white persons attending classes in the parishes." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

After years of its children being exposed to lead-contaminated water, the residents of Michigan heard another bit of bad news from their Republican-controlled state government: Their children have no right to literacy ("State of Michigan says literacy is not a fundamental right," Detroit Free Press, November 21, 2016). And, as if that were not bad enough, many schools in Detroit are "rodent-infested... crumbling, damaged by water... pockmarked with black mold... [and have] unrepaired bullet holes, exposed wires, and boarded-up windows" ("Detroit public schools hit with lawsuit," CNN, January 28, 2016).

Lead-poisoned children? No right to literacy? Crumbling & dangerous schools? Yep, that's Republicanism 101 for you - starve the government of revenue, hand out tax breaks to the wealthy (who, in turn, funnel some of that money back into Republican political campaigns), and to hell with the people. But, amazingly, millions of Americans support these policies, as evidenced by their voting habits (or lack thereof). Americans are infamous for voting on social issues, to the complete detriment of their physical and financial health.

During the New Deal, massive investments were made in schools, children, and clean drinking water. Our parents and grandparents reaped the benefits of such investments. Today, however, more and more younger Americans are being victimized by Republican neglect. Republicans and their super-wealthy donors have created a net of misinformation & propaganda (think Fox News) and cast it over the middle-class & poor. And it's working extremely well. For example, tens of millions of people voted for Donald Trump, thinking he understood their problems. Yes, they thought that a multi-millionaire, born into great wealth, understood the problems of the working class. Wow. (Of course, since the Democratic Establishment rigged their primaries against Bernie Sanders, we were left with "Wall Street," i.e., "Hillary Clinton," as the alternative candidate - and that's a hard sell, especially after Wall Street tanked the economy through greed & fraud.) 

Above: A WPA exhibit from 1940, highlighting the New Deal's commitment to improving the quality of life for children. My, oh my, how things have changed since then. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

During his Second Bill of Rights speech, President Franklin Roosevelt said: "We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are... the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health... The right to a good education." It was a noble sentiment, but FDR was ultimately wrong. The poisoned children of Michigan, and the state's claim that there is no right to literacy (facts and sentiments that are prevalent throughout the nation) shows us that we have not accepted the right to good health, or the right to a good education, but have, instead, thoroughly rejected them. 

Shameful, and extremely harmful to children... but true.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The New Deal helped defeat fascism abroad. But the betrayal of the New Deal established it here.


Above: In this video clip, Irish legislator Aodhan O'Riordain speaks on the election of Donald Trump, America's turn towards fascism, and the weak response from Ireland. He says, "Can the government not understand what's happening? We're at an ugly international crossroads... it has echoes from the 1930s. And America, the most powerful country in the world, has just elected a fascist." Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOTpuF0TMzk.

The Axis powers of World War II--Germany, Italy, and Japan--were each controlled by fascist governments (those government are sometimes labeled differently, e.g., "Nazism" or "Statism," according to certain policy variations). The rulers in each of these countries sought to subjugate other nations through military action, and also sought to instill hyper-nationalistic & racial pride in their citizenry while simultaneously squashing any dissent. To disagree with the rulers meant imprisonment, torture, or death.

The New Deal Helped Prevent A Fascist Empire 

The New Deal played an integral role in defeating the Axis powers, and thus fascism. Consider:

The Civilian Conservation Corps taught leadership and work skills to millions of young men. General Mark Clark, commander of the Allied Fifth Army during World War II, said: "To my way of thinking the CCC...became a potent factor in enabling us to win WW-II...though we did not realize it at the time, we were training Non-Commissioned Officers." Even more importantly, the CCC showed these young men that their president, and their country, cared about them; and when someone feels good about their country, they're more likely to fight hard for it.

The Bonneville Power Administration, created by New Deal policymakers in 1937, provided power to many defense industries, and thereby helped build, among other things, thousands of fighter planes. After the war was won, President Truman said: "Without Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams it would have been almost impossible to win this war."

Additionally, the National Youth Administration trained many Rosie the Riveters; the WPA improved hundreds of military bases and airfields; the TVA supplied raw materials for America's war machine; and the Public Works Administration provided funds for submarines, cruisers, destroyers, gun boats, coast guard vessels, and aircraft carriers, including the U.S.S. Enterprise (CV-6), "the most decorated U.S. ship of World War II."  

Today, the political right hopes you know none of this - because it doesn't promote their foolish narrative that we the people are the problem (i.e., government) and millionaires & billionaires are the solution. But the fact remains that the New Deal was one of the main reasons we won World War II.

Above: WPA poster, 1941, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The New Deal Was The Foundation For An Economic Boom

New Deal policies remained firmly in place for several decades, making capitalism less harsh and allowing the middle-class to grow like never before or since. Under New Deal policies, and with New Deal infrastructure, America became an economic powerhouse. In fact, New Deal policies worked so well that even Republicans embraced them. In the 1956 Republican Party Platform, Republicans promoted their achievements in increasing the minimum wage, expanding Social Security, enhancing unemployment insurance, strengthening unions, and more.

Unfortunately, a Republican voter today, soaked in the propaganda & misinformation of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and libertarian billionaires, would not even recognize his/her 1950s predecessor. But that predecessor understood economics better (specifically, the concept of market failure) - and that's why he/she enjoyed a better quality of life, and more opportunity, than what middle and lower-income Republicans enjoy today.

The New Deal Is Disassembled, And The Seeds Of Fascism Are Planted

Beginning in the 1980s, and carrying on through today, Trickle-Down Republicans and Neoliberal Democrats have disassembled the New Deal: Glass-Steagall was repealed; the banking industry was coddled; taxes were cut on the super-wealthy (even as they shipped jobs overseas); unions have been attacked; infrastructure has been left to rot; the idea of a new CCC or WPA laughed at; and more. In so doing, the Trickle-Down Republicans and the Neoliberal Democrats created fertile ground for creeping fascism. As Thomas Frank and other political commentators have highlighted, the Republicans have served the top 1%, the Democrats have served the top 10%, and the bottom 90% have been told to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get used to perpetual re-training and lower wages. Is it any wonder that Trump won, with his populist (albeit fake) speeches?

In Donald Trump, and his crazy cabinet and administration selections, we are seeing huge steps taken towards a fascist state. Indeed, white nationalist organizations are considering Trump administration picks to be early Christmas gifts; and over the weekend, in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, a leader of a prominent alt-right, white nationalist organization told an audience: "America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us... To be white is to be a creator, an explorer, a conqueror." According to the New York Times: "As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute. When Mr. Spencer, or perhaps another person standing near him at the front of the room--it was not clear who--shouted, 'Heil the people! Heil victory,' the room shouted it back... Now the movement’s leaders hope to have, if not a seat at the table, at least the ear of the Trump White House."

And they certainly will, since Donald Trump has selected Steve Bannon, a symbolic leader of the alt-right movement, to be his top adviser. No one should be fooled as to the direction America is heading. With right-wing extremists in control of the White House, Congress, and (soon) the Supreme Court, as well as the majority of states, America is no longer a bulwark against fascism - it is fascism. With war hawks being selected for the Trump Administration; and interment camps, torture, and ethnic & religious registries being discussed in positive ways; and racial acts of violence & intimidation on the rise (and Trump and his supporters refusing to denounce it in strong terms or speeches); and signs that dissent will not be tolerated (see my blog post from yesterday), we are seeing the fundamental components of fascism put in place.

Fascism: The End Result Of A Misinformed, Duped Public

White nationalists, and many Republican voters, are being played by the rich - in a game as old as humanity itself. Throughout all of history, the rich have gobbled up all the resources for themselves, thrown some crumbs to the masses, and laughed as the "commoners" fought & blamed each other, divided along racial lines. Today, the white nationalists blame low-income blacks and illegal immigrants, while super-wealthy and predominately white CEOs and investors buy politicians for the permission to ship good jobs overseas - or perhaps bring in foreign workers to fill such jobs here (sometimes even forcing American workers to train their replacements). And the super-wealthy know that they can get away with it. They know that right-wing rhetoric will always target, for example, powerless illegal immigrants, but will remain forgiving, or even oblivious to the wealthy white business owners who employ them. The rhetoric is always, "Build the wall!", and rarely, "Find out whose hiring them!"

In any event, isn't it interesting how the New Deal helped defeat fascism abroad, but the betrayal of the New Deal established fascism here? And we can blame Donald Trump if we want to, but the real blame lies with Trickle-Down Republicans, Neoliberal Democrats, and the holy "JOB CREATORS" (who have hoarded all the profits and socialized all the costs).

*****

"Let there be no doubt. We stand in the face of danger. Danger to our nation, to our values, to our liberties, to all that our nation stands for. We have done this to ourselves. We underestimated the risk.... 

Having turned our lives, our safety, and our children’s futures over to the whims of a thoughtless, reckless, ignorant, and immoral huckster, we must stand guard and fight back against peril... We should not underestimate the threat. 

We must remember that at different times throughout our history we have owned slaves, denied women the vote, segregated children because of their race, burned crosses, lynched innocent black men, interned almost 100,000 American citizens because of their Japanese ancestry, imprisoned thousands of Americans because they criticized the first World War, blacklisted tens of thousands of our fellow citizens because of their political beliefs during the age of McCarthy, and driven millions of our fellow Americans into the closet and treated them as strange freaks of nature because we ignorantly despised their sexual orientation. We are capable of great ugliness and hatred. 

Let us not kid ourselves."

--Geoffrey Stone, professor of law, University of Chicago, "The Struggle Ahead," Huffington Post, November 20, 2016