Thursday, August 16, 2018

As Republicans focus on tax breaks for the rich, and also on making life more difficult for the middle-class & poor, thousands of old water lines continue to burst

Above: A new water supply system for New Orleans, funded by the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA), ca. 1935-1940. This was just one of tens of thousands of New Deal waterwork projects across America. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Punishing the middle-class & poor, kissing the feet of the rich, and watching water lines explode

As Republicans work day and night to cut off food assistance and healthcare for the poor (see here and here), and to reduce retirement income and healthcare for senior citizens--in order to give more tax breaks to millionaires & billionaires--water lines are bursting across the nation, usually due to old age or some other form of infrastructure neglect.

In just the past few days, water lines have burst in Long Beach, California; Loveland, Colorado; Davie, Florida; Worcester, Massachusetts; San Diego; and other areas. And a few weeks ago, a water line that was installed in 1886 (just a few years after Billy the Kid was shot and killed) ruptured in Detroit. These types of breaks typically result in loss of water service, damaged roads, traffic jams, and flooded homes & businesses.

Americans experience about a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks every year, and watch about two trillion gallons of water wasted, thanks to our crumbling, neglected infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave America a "D" letter grade in their latest infrastructure report card; and they were probably being merciful.

And all the while, Trump and Republican lawmakers twiddle their thumbs, blissfully unconcerned. Where is that giant infrastructure program that Trump promised us? Do you see it? I don't. Do you see him working hard to make it happen? I don't.

But Trump supporters and other Republican voters don't seem to mind too much, do they? They'll put up with the broken water lines... they'll let the financial future of their kids & grandkids fall apart (the GOP-proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts linked above)... and they'll put up with stagnant or dropping real wages... if that's what it takes to punish African Americans, gays, migrants, and Muslims... if that's what it takes to get back at the "libtard"... if that's what it takes to serve the holy "JOB CREATORS" - the "job creators" who, by the way, have sent so many of our good-paying jobs to other countries.

Isn't that amazing? Isn't that just jaw-droppingly stupid? Doesn't that make you want to pull your hair out and scream: "WTF is wrong with these people?!?"

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New Deal Art: "WPA Art Class Painting"

Above: "WPA Art Class Painting," a color lithograph by Eleanor Coen (1916-2010), created while she was in the WPA, 1940. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: The WPA offered many art opportunities to youth during the 1930s and 40s, for example, art classes and exhibitions of their work. In this photo, we see two boys painting a mural in a town hall in Montague, Massachusetts, as part of a WPA recreation program, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The WPA worker who twice wore the Hope Diamond

Above: May Yohe, unknown date (but probably around 1900-1905). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

May Yohe (1869-1938) was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and became a world renown actress in the late 1800s. She married Lord Francis Hope of England, owner of the Hope Diamond, and she wore that famous stone on two occasions. 

After her marriage to Lord Hope, however, Yohe led a life of near-constant rise and fall - both in love and fortune: marrying and divorcing, venturing into this business or that business, acquiring and losing large sums of money, and even farming for a while.

In her older years, serious financial and health problems arose for Yohe and her husband, Captain John A. Smuts. So, she took a job as a WPA clerk in April 1938, transcribing Boston's vital records (for example, births and marriages) from "ancient ledgers to card catalogs," for $16.50 a week. But Yohe took things in stride, shut down the notion that she was the latest victim of the Hope Diamond curse, and said: "I've had this job three weeks and I'm proud of it. I'm happier than ever before" ("May Yohe, Once Star, Found As WPA Clerk," Oakland Tribune, May 4, 1938) 

But even though Yohe had a bluntness and spirit that would have made WPA chief Harry Hopkins proud too, she wasn't entirely immune from wistful remembrance: "Sometimes I dream of the lights and the music and the applause and I wish I could go back to the stage for a while" ("May Yohe, Once Stage Darling of Two Continents, Owner of Hope Diamond, Dies In Poverty After Working For WPA," Pensacola News Journal (Pensacola, Florida), August 29, 1938).

Perhaps if Yohe had lived just a little bit longer, she could have found a role in the WPA's Federal Theatre Project... for one last show, one last season under the lights, and one more round of applause.

"I wore it twice and didn't care if I never wore it again. It looked like a bum sapphire. Why I gave the old stone more publicity than it ever had before or since."

--May Yohe, discussing the Hope Diamond (see Pensacola News Journal article cited above.)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Why isn't the progressive message catching on more?

Above: This etching by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943, reminds me of how Corporate America and the mainstream media suppress progressive economic ideas. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

I was watching CNN yesterday, and anchor Brooke Balwin asked a couple of her guests why the progressive agenda wasn't catching on more (some progressive candidates didn't do so well during this last round of elections). One respondent said she wasn't sure, and right-winger Erick Erickson explained--in a surprisingly generous way--that progressive ideas do well in some parts of the country and not-so-well in others.

But I would like to offer the following reason instead: The progressive message, especially it's economic message, isn't catching on as well as it could because Corporate America, super-wealthy individuals, and the mainstream media are actively suppressing it. There is big money behind Fox News, a right-wing propaganda outlet, and CNN, a centrist propaganda outlet. (CNN is essentially a pharmaceutical advertising agent, running dozens of drug ads every day.) But there isn't much big money behind progressive media outlets.

There is no progressive equivalent to Fox News and CNN on cable TV, and so the progressive message doesn't get aired to the same degree as the right-wing and centrist messages. One of the main reasons for this, no doubt, is because the progressive movement calls for much higher taxes on the wealthy, and the wealthy executives, anchors, talking heads, and advertisers of Fox News and CNN don't like that too much, and don't want that message to get much air time. (CNN did host a few town halls showcasing Bernie Sanders but, conveniently, most or all of these occurred after he had already lost the primaries / race.)

Those of us who watched CNN during the 2015-2016 debates, primaries, and presidential race remember, quite clearly, that CNN engaged in a near black-out of the Bernie Sanders' campaign. They devoted most of their airtime to the Donald Trump carnival, pausing only long enough to tacitly endorse Hillary Clinton and openly ridicule Sanders and his supporters (see, for example, "Money Talks: Why CNN Wants You to Believe That Hillary Clinton Won the Democratic Debate," Huffington Post, October 16, 2015, and also my blog post on May 19, 2016, "Nevada's Democratic Convention and America's Mainstream Media: Joseph Goebbels, eat your heart out!").

There are, of course, other reasons why the progressive agenda isn't catching on as fast we'd like, for example, wealthy liberals are putting little-to-no money or effort towards the education of the American citizenry - a citizenry that is infamous for its lack of history knowledge and lack of critical thinking skills. Also, progressives are not well-coordinated, and are spending too much of their time & energy bickering with their Democratic Establishment overlords (they should form their own party instead). 

But if Brooke Baldwin wants to know why the progressive agenda isn't catching on faster, she should look to her own network's obsession with Trump, her network's suppression of forward-thinking candidates, and her network's routine disinterest in discussing and thoroughly analyzing policy ideas that threaten the wealth & opportunity hoarding of the financial elite.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Solution-Avoiding America

Above: A WPA poster. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Trying to heal injuries, by impaling ourselves

Super-wealthy Americans are greedily hoarding more and more wealth, and hiding their money in tax havens... and we respond by giving them more tax breaks.

Global temperatures are rising and wildfires are getting larger and more deadly... and we respond by blaming the "libtard."

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at record levels... and we respond by scaling back air pollution restrictions

Our children are drinking lead... and we respond--not with a large scale infrastructure investment--but by giving more cash to the Pentagon, for their Perpetual War Campaign, and by floating the idea of a Space Force to fight (I suppose) hostile extraterrestrials.

Our paychecks are stagnant against inflation... and we praise the holy "JOB CREATORS" for a job well done.

The super-wealthy ship our jobs overseas to increase their profits... but we blame the migrants, who are fleeing violence and poverty, for our economic woes.

There is a growing retirement crisis, and senior citizens must now file for bankruptcy more often... and Republicans respond by trying to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Welcome to Solution-Avoiding America.

The New Deal solved problems. Today, we wander around in a daze of foolishness.

During his 1932 presidential campaign, Franklin Roosevelt noted: "The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." 

FDR and his fellow New Deal policymakers--like Harry Hopkins and Frances Perkins--were men & women of action. They created FDIC to protect Americans' life savings; they created the WPA to hire the unemployed and create infrastructure that we still use today; they created the CCC to better manage our forests; they created the SEC to police against stock market fraud; they created Social Security and the 30-year mortgage--and they backed unions that fought for better pensions--so that Americans could retire in peace and security.

But today, mesmerized by magical words like "innovation!" "entrepreneur!!" and "the power of the market!!!", Americans are letting New Deal advances slip away. And the more our quality of life deteriorates, the more perplexed we become as to how to solve it. The New Deal sits in front of our faces, like a mile-wide flashing light, but we stubbornly turn away: "No, goddammit, we have to give more tax breaks to the rich! We have to let them pollute more!! That's how you grow the economy!!!"

But what good is a growing economy when the rich are pocketing all the growth, and our planet is on fire?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

WPA workers vs. dogs, snakes, spiders, scorpions, bees, and vicious fish

Above: A mobile first aid unit for a large WPA project in Mobile, Alabama, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

WPA workers sometimes faced insect and animal hazards on the job. Here are a few accounts:

In March 1940, John Barnum of Port Huron, Michigan was bitten by a dog while working on a WPA project ("WPA Worker Bitten," The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan), March 23, 1940).

In May 1940, Leonard Morrow of Thickety, South Carolina, felt a bite on his back and then killed what was likely a spider. He then became very ill and was taken to the hospital ("WPA Worker Bitten By Poisonous Spider," The Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina), May 23, 1940).

In August 1939, a WPA inspector was walking through high weeds, looking over some work, when he was bitten by a snake. After his foot began to swell, his doctor had him admitted to a hospital for some type of surgical treatment ("WPA Inspector Bitten By Snake," Alton Evening Telegraph (Alton, Illinois), August 1, 1939).

Herman Barnes, of Flintstone, Maryland, was bitten by a Copperhead while working on a WPA road project. He was given anti-venom and apparently recovered ("Man Bitten By Snake," The Baltimore Sun, June 5, 1938). 

WPA worker Clinton Elijak was severely bitten by a pickerel (a toothy, fast-moving, and barracuda-like freshwater fish) while clearing brush from Many Point Lake in Minnesota in August 1938 ("WPA Worker Bitten By Bold Pickerel," Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), August 13, 1938).

WPA engineer John Ryan was bitten by a rattlesnake while walking along a highway improvement project in Casa Grande, Arizona, March 1936. The bite was not life-threatening ("WPA Engineer Bitten By Rattler," Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), March 15, 1936).

In June 1937, a Copperhead bit WPA worker Charles Fagley in Pennsylvania, and struck at another, before it was killed. Fagley's arm "swelled rapidly" and he was rushed to a hospital ("Bitten by Copperhead," Republican and Herald (Pottsville, Pennsylvania) June 18, 1937). 

Near Billings, Montana, March 1938, a scorpion crawled up the pant leg of WPA worker A.W. Brown and gave him a nasty sting, causing serious but probably not life-threatening illness ("Local WPA Worker Stung By Scorpion," The Billings Gazette, March 12, 1938). This was most probably the Northern Scorpion

WPA worker Roger Harris was stung by many bees while clearing out stumps on a WPA project in Texas, June, 1938 ("Speed Is Shown By WPA Worker; Hits Bees' Nest," The Eagle (Bryan, Texas), June 18, 1938).

WPA worker Alfred Berg was bitten by a Black Widow spider in Ohio, September 1939, but "given a good chance of recovery by attending physicians" ("Bitten By Spider," The Coshocton Tribune, (Coshocton, Ohio), September 7, 1939).

Pennsylvania resident James Ekins was working on a WPA project in March 1936 when he was bitten on the hand by a dog ("Bitten By Dog," The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), March 28, 1936).

Above: A WPA safety poster. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

After a record-breaking year of greenhouse gases, the Trump Administration is trying to increase air pollution levels (again)

Above: A WPA-funded air pollution survey in New York City, ca. 1935-1943. During the New Deal, there was a greater appreciation and focus on science, research, and environmental protection & improvement. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Today, we learned from the new State of the Climate report (which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looks to for information) that greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere were at record levels in 2017. Other records were set too, such as sea-level rise and arctic & antarctic ice reduction.

However, we also heard today that the Trump Administration wants to pull back air pollution regulations, thus clearing "the way for vehicles to, by 2030, spew an addition 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere." And this is just the latest effort by the Trump Administration to increase air pollution, CO2 concentrations, and global temperatures (see, e.g., "EPA fans struggling coal industry by rolling back pollution regulations," The Guardian, July 18, 2018). 

There is a phenomenon in the United States called "rolling coal," where drivers modify their vehicles to spew out more exhaust pollution. It's essentially a way for right-wingers to irritate liberals and thumb their noses at science and education. Well, it's clear that the Trump Administration, and their fossil fuel donors, are engaging in "rolling coal" too, but on a national & global scale. It is also clear, that if we don't remove these people from political power, they will eventually destroy the human race. 

"Last year, and the year before, we warned that world leaders were failing to act with the speed and on the scale required to protect citizens from the extreme danger posed by climate change and nuclear war. During the past year, the need for leadership only intensified - yet inaction and brinksmanship have continued, endangering every person, everywhere on Earth."

--Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2017 Doomsday Clock Statement 

According to UNICEF, fossil fuel-contributed air pollution already kills hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 5, around the globe, every year. And according to MIT, there are 200,000 premature deaths in the United States attributable to air pollution, mainly from vehicle emissions. And pregnant women in Utah are routinely urged to stay indoors due to that state's horrendous air quality. And now the Trump Administration wants to loosen air pollution regulations?

Are Trump and his supporters, and the Republican Party, and their fossil fuel donors, and America's super-wealthy shareholders, polluting on purpose, because profit means more to them than health and life? Or are they so stupid that they think polluting has no consequences? Or is it just their spiteful way of getting back at the "libtards"?

Perhaps the reasons don't matter, because the results are the same: Heavier rain events, deadlier temperatures, record-setting wildfires, polluted fish, and death by air pollution. And these things are going to get worse and worse as long as the political-right, and their Corporate-Democrat-Enablers, are in power.