Saturday, September 29, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh, the fire-breathing choir boy, will exact his revenge on all of us, for decades, from the bench

Above: Brett Kavanaugh, during his denial of attempted rape allegations, before a congressional committee, on Thursday, September 27, 2018. Photo from the Yahoo News article, "Congrats to Brett Kavanaugh on getting to be angry," used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

"He-said-she-said" becomes something much more

Normally, "he-said-she-said" cases mean very little to me, because there are few if any ways of evaluating the allegations, other than relying on stereotypes (for example, women as gold-diggers or men as licentious beasts). So, when allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh were first aired, I didn't think much of it. But then Dr. Ford identified herself; and then there were other allegations; and then all sorts of recollections of Kavanaugh being a "mean drunk" came out; and then Dr. Ford gave a very credible showing of herself; and then Kavanaugh became partisan, belligerent, and evasive; and then we learn that he probably lied about several things, for example, describing "Devil's Triangle" as a drinking game, and "Boof" as flatulence, when they are both, instead, more commonly known as sexual acts. 

Though I'm not quite as certain as Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh say they are about the allegations (they both said "100%"... yes and no respectively of course), I'm 99% convinced that Kavanaugh did exactly what Dr. Ford said he did.

"Payback time" will come (further destroying our country)

To be clear, Kavanaugh's anger, alone, didn't bother me (people have a right to be emotional during these types of things) but added to his evasiveness, his extreme partisanship (which he has a long history of), his back-talking to the Democratic questioners, and his probable lies, he didn't come off well - especially after a day of digesting it all. And I think his overall behavior points to how he will rule from the bench (and he will be on the bench, because it appears that the majority of Republicans don't care whether he did it or not - see, for example, "Sexual assault should not disqualify Kavanaugh [even] if proven, majority of Republicans believe: Poll," Newsweek, September 27, 2018).

Yes, we can be certain how Kavanaugh will judge cases: With an eye towards revenge.

Of course, we already know that Kavanaugh will overturn Roe v. Wade if the opportunity presents itself. And we already know that he will protect Trump if any of Trump's cases reach the highest court. And we already know that he will rule consistently (and likely exclusively) in favor of CEOs and shareholders over workers and unions. But we now know--after his diatribe against Democrats and the left--that he will decide cases with an eye towards "getting even". Kavanaugh said to the Democrats: "your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drive me out." If Kavanaugh thinks Democrats and the political left coordinated to destroy his family, how do you think he will rule - especially given his past hyper-partisanship?

Kavanaugh is going to look at any case that Democrats or Progressives have an interest in and think, "Remember when you destroyed my family? Well here's your payback you (insert your favorite expletive)!" And Kavanaugh is going to love every minute of it. Just look at how he sneered at Democrats when Lindsey Graham went on his rabid, vein-popping tirade (starting at about the 49-second mark in the video below).

What can be done?

If Democrats ever regain political power, they're going to have to try to impeach Kavanaugh--on legitimate grounds, not just for the sake of it--or pack the Supreme Court, because Kavanaugh is going to turn that court into a vengeful, even more nakedly partisan and political body (it is also possible that Maryland's Montgomery County--under certain circumstances--could arrest, charge, and try Kavanaugh). Will Democrats have the spine to impeach or pack? Who knows. But what we do know, is that Kavanaugh will be working feverishly, day and night, to undo the New Deal, destroy unions, limit our healthcare, bestow favor after favor upon the rich (which, of course, conveniently includes himself, his family, and his friends), facilitate theocracy, get revenge on his political enemies, and make sure that the lower income groups "know their place" in America's sickening and vile caste system - a caste system that has benefited Kavanaugh so greatly his entire life.


Above: Senator Lindsey Graham goes on an unhinged rant at the Kavanaugh hearings on September 27, 2018. Watch Kavanaugh sneer and hold his nose up at Senate Democrats during this tirade (beginning at about the 49-second mark). You better believe that this will be the attitude he decides cases with. He wants revenge... and he'll get it. Original YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTBxPPx62s4.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: Rawlins Park

Above: Rawlins Park, Washington, DC, between 18th and 19th streets, and across the street from the United Unions Building on New York Avenue, NW (seen here in the background). According to the "New Deal Washington Walking Tour Guide" (Humanities Council of Washington, DC, 2009), "This lovely little oasis, built in 1938, includes a reflecting pool and walkways... [and] is typical of the Works Progress Administration projects that rehabilitated parks throughout the U.S." Some maps actually have Rawlins Park marked between 19th and 20th streets. There is a green area there too, so that may be considered part of the park, but the statue of John A. Rawlins is in the area between 18th and 19th streets shown above. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: The reflecting pools of Rawlins Park are crumbling pretty badly. Rawlins Park actually has history dating back to 1874 (The WPA Guide to Washington, DC, pp. 280-281, 1983 Random House reprint), but according to Washington, DC's Inventory of Historic Sites (2009), a "redesign and reconstruction" occurred between 1935 and 1938, including a new "reflecting pool and landscaping" (p. 134). The work was probably done with WPA labor, as referenced in the previous caption, but rock solid information on this is scarce. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: The water fountain at Rawlins Park. On the day I visited, the whole park smelled like algae (but see power washing a few photos down). Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: A closer look at the fountain. I don't know if this is from the WPA's work, but it definitely looks like a very old design / mechanism. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: The statue of John A. Rawlins (1831-1869), a Union General during the Civil War. According to the Wikipedia entry for Rawlins, he served as Secretary of War for President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869, just before his untimely death from tuberculosis. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: Rawlins Park has three levels - the highest along the north border, and then descending down towards the south. I visited the park around 10am and there wasn't a lot of activity, but apparently this is a popular spot during lunch hour. And on the Internet, you can find several spectacular images of Rawlins Park in the Spring, when its Cherry Blossoms are blooming. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: A National Park Service employee, power washing one of the two reflecting pools. The park seems to be fairly well-maintained but, as I noted above, the pools are in desperate need of resurfacing. Unfortunately, due to super-wealthy Americans demanding (and receiving) round after round of tax cuts these past several decades, it probably won't happen anytime soon (for example, as the rich are buying more mansions, yachts, and private islands, the National Park Service has a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog). Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: "Government employees reading papers" at Rawlins Park, June 1942. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: "View of Rawlins Park looking northwest from the roof of the Department of Interior building." The date of this photo is not given, but judging by the vehicles I'd say sometime between 1985 and 1995. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Monday, September 24, 2018

New Deal Art: "White House, Washington, DC"

Above: "White House, Washington, DC," a lithograph by Grant Arnold (1904-1988), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: The former site of WPA headquarters, office of Harry Hopkins

Above: The Walker-Johnson Building, at 1734 New York Ave., Washington, DC, between 17th and 18th streets, just a few blocks west of the White House, March 1938. According to information from various sources--for example, the description accompanying this photograph and a "New Deal Washington Walking Tour Guide" (Humanities Council of Washington, DC, 2009)--this is the building where FDR's federal relief administrator, Harry Hopkins, supervised the big work-relief programs of the New Deal: The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA); the Civil Works Administration (CWA); the Works Progress Administration (WPA); and the National Youth Administration (NYA). From this building, jobs and paychecks were facilitated for somewhere around 15-20 million struggling Americans (the WPA alone employed 8.5 million); and from this building, America's infrastructure was repaired & modernized like never before or since (and we're still using much of that infrastructure today - see The Living New Deal). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The site today. According to information in the walking tour guide (cited in the previous photo caption), and from "Emporis," a buildings information website, the Walker-Johnson building was constructed in 1913, then demolished at some point (year not specified), and replaced with today's "United Unions Building" (above; now listed as 1750 New York Ave, NW). And according to Emporis, the Walker-Johnson Building had 10 floors (including its below-ground floor) and was 95 feet tall; and the United Unions Building has 8 floors, "above ground," and is also 95 feet tall. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: The description for this photograph, taken on August 24, 1937, reads: "WPA workers stage march in fight for reinstatement, Washington, DC... Police were as numerous as the marchers today when over 2000 dismissed W.P.A. workers, assembled here by the Workers Alliance of America, staged a march to the White House, Capitol, and Harry Hopkins' office in their fight for reinstatement to their old jobs." This photo is in front of the Walker-Johnson Building (compare the arched window on the building to the right, to the first photo of this blog post). The reason for the dismissal of these workers is not given, however, this was during the so-called "Roosevelt Recession," where FDR gave in to his budget hawk advisers (and also to his own concerns about deficits) and supported a scaling-down of work-relief. The results were not good. About a year later, work-relief was returned back to its former level, and the recession dissipated. Lesson: Businesses need consumers, and consumers need paychecks (duh!). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Hopkins talking with reporters on November 1, 1935. The description for this photograph doesn't specify the location, but given Hopkins' relaxed posture at the desk, and the room itself, this would seem to be his office at the Walker-Johnson Building. Chronicling the beginnings of the WPA's Federal Theatre Project (FTP), author Susan Quinn writes: "[Soon-to-be Director of the FTP] Hallie Flanagan traveled to Washington, entered the great unadorned Walker-Johnson Building, and took the rickety elevator to Harry Hopkin's tenth-floor office, with its whitewashed walls and exposed pipes [notice both features in the photo above]. 'All the lines in the room,' [Flanagan] wrote later, 'focused on the clean-swept desk, and on the man behind the desk, whose head and shoulders stood out sharply against the city gleaming from the uncurtained windows back of him. His lean, brown face flashed into a sudden somewhat satiric smile. 'This is a tough job we're asking you to do.'" (Flanagan took the job and ran the FTP until Congress shut it down in 1939) (story from, Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times, 2008, p. 47). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: New York Governor Herbert Lehman meets with Harry Hopkins, in the latter's probable office in the Walker-Johnson Building. Note again the whitewashed walls, exposed pipes, and also the window behind Hopkins' desk that Flanagan noted (see previous caption). One of Hopkins' staff, Elizabeth Wickenden, recalled that Hopkins "had the shabbiest-looking office in the whole place, and he did that on purpose. He had an old wooden desk, this sort of ragged rug on the floor, wooden chairs, the really worst looking place. And he used to explain it, he said, 'I don't want any senator coming in here, when I'm asking for millions of dollars for the unemployed, and see me in a luxurious setting'" (from the documentary Harry Hopkins: Lord Root of the Matter, produced by the Education Film Center, narrated by Walter Cronkite, 1989). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Harry Hopkins, again in his probable office at the Walker-Johnson Building, December 1934. For those, like myself, who like to nerdily examine & compare photos, note that the windows in these last three photos don't match the windows on the top floor of the Walker-Johnson Building. And the top floor would seem to be the 10th floor (counting the bottom level--below the main entrance--that appears to be partially under ground). Recall that Susan Quinn (see two captions above) notes that Hopkins' office was on the 10th floor. But it seems more likely that his office was below the 10th floor, perhaps just below it. Of course, it's hard to know for sure, unless one could see the interior set-up of the building, especially the first few levels. But perhaps Hallie Flanagan did not correctly recall the floor where Hopkins worked, and Quinn is merely relying on that mis-recollection. Ultimately this is unimportant of course... but still interesting to nerdy photo sleuths! Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: East Potomac Park

(Also see my blog post on West Potomac Park here.)

Above: An entry sign to East Potomac Park, Washington, DC. Check out the Living New Deal's web page, "East Potomac Park - Washington, DC." Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: Just inside East Potomac Park is the headquarters of the National Park Service's National Mall and Memorial Parks office. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: According to the National Park Service, the Civilian Conservation Corps built most of the tennis courts inside East Potomac Park, between 1938 and 1942 - specifically, the two large court areas by the main parking lot ("Civilian Conservation Corps Activities in the National Capital Region of the National Park," Historic American Buildings Survey DC-858, National Capital Parks - Central, Washington, District of Columbia, pp. 95-96). Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: One of the CCC-built courts today (probably after numerous maintenance operations, like resurfacing). Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: According to the HABS report (see two photo captions above), some of the fence surrounding the tennis courts--"Ones bearing decorative finals"--might be original to the CCC work. This might refer to the ornamentation on top of some of the fence posts, seen here. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: Could these pebblestone concrete benches by the tennis courts also date to the 1930s CCC work? It seems to me that this type of concrete was more popular in the ol' days than it is today, but I could be wrong. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: The golf course at East Potomac Park. According to the HABS survey, the CCC "upgraded" this golf course, including, "Four thousand feet of tile lines for surface drainage" (see pp. 86 and 95). Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: A miniature golf course in East Potomac Park, built just prior to the New Deal. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: According to Washington, DC's Inventory of Historic Sites (2009), the swimming pool in East Potomac Park was built by WPA workers in 1936. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: Unfortunately, the WPA pool was demolished this year. In talking to some people at the golf club & refreshments area, it seems that a new pool is going to be built in time for next summer (2019). It's sad to see a historic pool demolished, but it's also important for infrastructure to be repaired or replaced when necessary. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: Floating "Sunset Symphonies" on the Potomac

Above: An audience enjoys a "Sunset Symphony" on the Potomac River, behind the Lincoln Memorial, on July 12, 1939. The band shell on the barge was built by WPA workers (see, "Potomac River Barge and Band Shell - Washington, DC," The Living New Deal; "Sunset Symphonies Planned in Washington," The Baltimore Sun, June 5, 1938, noting $25,000 in federal funds for a new acoustical shell; and "The World of Music," The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana), July 17, 1938, reporting: "The orchestra's acoustic shell, anchored 30 feet out, has been built by the WPA on a steel barge lent by the U.S. Navy." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Another "Sunset Symphony" concert scene, ca. 1938-1942. Note that the audience is facing west, and thus would literally enjoy a sunset when the concerts got underway. Photo by Underwood and Underwood, from The WPA Guide to Washington, DC, George Washington University, 1942, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: The scene today. The Arlington Memorial Bridge, and the steps where much of the audience sat, still exist; but the "Sunset Symphonies" are long gone. According to the Histories of the National Mall, the concerts lasted into the 1960s ("First Watergate Barge Concert"). A fellow who runs "The DC Bike Blogger" and appears to have done some competent research, has an interesting blog post on "The Watergate Steps" and the symphonies, and found that "the concerts were discontinued in 1965 when jets started flying into Washington National Airport, and the noise was just too loud and would drown out the concerts." However, a person commenting on the blog post writes: "Well, not entirely discontinued in 1965. I recall going to see the Ramsey Lewis Trio perform at the Watergate shell in the early 1970s with my family when I was a kid. I believe we saw other concerts there, although none with such a large audience." (See more information I found on this issue, in the next caption). Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: Looking up the steps towards the Lincoln Memorial (which is currently undergoing roof repairs). In 1965, a newspaper article reported that the Watergate Barge was to be demolished, due to its being "beyond economic repair," and that alternatives for the concerts were being investigated ("U.S. To Scuttle Concert Barge," The Baltimore Sun, June 9, 1965). However, a newspaper article the following year was advertising various concerts on the Watergate Barge, for example, the United States Marine Band ("Recreation Calendar," The Baltimore Sun, July 24, 1966). And an April 6th, 1969 article in the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) recommended "An inexpensive way to have fun is to catch a free, outdoor concert, at the Watergate Concert barge, moored in the Potomac below the Lincoln Memorial ("Taking a trip to Washington? Here are tips on how to see it"). So, it seems the Watergate Barge was repaired, replaced, or just had its demolition postponed. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: The description for this photograph, taken on July 12, 1939, reads: "The president and Mrs. Edwin M. Watson, wife of [FDR's] aide, sitting in the presidential car listening to the Washington Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Hans Kindler as the orchestra played from its barge on the Potomac River near the Lincoln Memorial. The open-air concerts, which began tonight, will be conducted twice a week during the Summer season, and Washingtonians turn out to sit on the steps or in nearby boats to listen." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: The description for this photograph reads: "Music hath charms to draw canoeists - Even the canoeists in Washington paddled around, to hear the season's first sunset concert by the national symphony with Hans Kindler conducting. Orchestra plays on barge anchored in Potomac." This photograph is from the July 17, 1940 edition of The Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland), and is used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: Hans Kindler (1892-1949), date and location unknown, but probably around 1920. Kindler was the "driving force" behind the creation of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) in 1930-1931 (see "Hans Kindler," The Kennedy Center). Born in the Netherlands, Kindler recalled his formation of the NSO: "Just I get mad at the American capital has no summer symphony. So when I get mad I do something. I get some committee members--I think Alice Roosevelt Longsworth was along--and we ride and we look. I see those [Watergate] steps and I say 'That's it.' And it is" ("Capital Maestro Builds Orchestra on Words," The Tampa Tribune, October 3, 1939). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: I didn't run across any information that the WPA's Federal Music Project ever played on the Watergate Barge during those early years, but certainly the National Symphony Orchestra was not the only performer on its deck. For example, the August 10th, 1941 edition of the Baltimore Sun reported that Japanese singer Hizi Koyke, among others, would be on the Watergate Barge, in a production of "Madame Butterfly." How many tens of thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Americans were entertained by shows and concerts on the Watergate Barge, made possible, in part, by WPA workers? Photo of Hizi Koyke, 1947, from the J. Willis Sayre Collection of Theatrical Photographs, University of Washington Libraries, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

"Since WPA set up [the Federal Music Project] to retrain and rehabilitate unemployed professional musicians, aggregate audiences exceeding 93,000,000 persons have heard these musicians in more than 133,000 programs and performances…There is abundant reason to believe there is now a desire for music commanding a greater audience than the nation had ever known before, and this brings us to a proposition of whether music in the United States shall be a luxury available only to persons of the higher income levels or whether music will take its place in the cultured program and pattern of this country side by side with the free public library, the public museum and the educational system."

--Nikolai Sokoloff, director of the WPA's Federal Music Project, quoted in "6,000 On WPA Join Music Week Fetes,” New York Times, April 24, 1938.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: The Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building

"The government must be looked upon as a compensatory agency in this economy to do just the opposite of what private business and individuals do. The latter are necessarily motivated by the desire for profit. The former must be motivated by social obligation."

--Marriner Eccles, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, 1936 (Chris Rigby Arrington, "Legacy: Marriner Eccles, Economic Innovator After The Great Depression," Huntsman Alumni Magazine, Utah State University, Fall 2012)

Above: The Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building, constructed in 1936-1937, and named after Eccles in 1982. It does not appear that New Deal funds (i.e., PWA or WPA) were used in its construction, however, Elizabeth Grossman of the Rhode Island School of Design writes about the influences behind the creation of the building and concludes: "The result of these multiple influences yielded a building in the style known familiarly as 'WPA Modern' and the history of the design suggests the complexity of political and aesthetic issues that shaped the development of this New Deal style" ("Paul Cret and The Federal Reserve Board Building: A Case Study in Architectural Politics During the New Deal," in Revue Française D’études Américaines, 2004, 4, No. 102, pp. 6-19). Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: Marriner Eccles (1890-1977) was a successful banker from Utah, and was chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1934-1948. Professor Grossman notes that Eccles "was one of those who believed that the Depression had been caused by the capturing of the Federal Reserve System by private interests. He accepted the [chairmanship] position he claimed on the condition that 'fundamental changes were made in the Federal Reserve System'" (see reference in previous caption). Eccles also believed that the Great Depression had been caused by extreme economic inequality that had sapped lower income groups of purchasing power: "As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth... to provide men with buying power... Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth... The other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped" (Wikipedia, citing Eccles, Marriner S. Hyman, Sydney, ed. Beckoning Frontiers: Public and Personal Recollections, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1951, p. 76). Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the new Federal Reserve Building on October 20, 1937. Professor Grossman writes that FDR gave the dedication from the "great stair hall" (above), and that he declared that the Federal Reserve's "purpose is to gain for all of our people the greatest attainable measure of economic well-being, the largest degree of economic security and stability" (see reference in first photo caption above, and also see FDR's full dedication speech on the website of the University of California Santa Barbara's American Presidency Project here). Photo above courtesy of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: An eagle statue on the Eccles Building. Professor Grossman (see above captions) notes that "Jonathan Harris has argued more broadly that New Deal art and architecture 'attempted to recruit people to the discourses of patriotism and nationalism that Roosevelt and the New Deal Democrats had mobilized...'" (citing Harris, Jonathan. Federal Art and National Culture: The Politics of Identity in New Deal America. New York: Cambridge UP, 1995). The Federal Reserve has a web page about the history of the Eccles Building here. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: Marriner Eccles (right), in a conversation with U.S. Senator Pat Harrison (D-MS), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, January 7, 1937. In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, Eccles had told Congress: "It is a national disgrace that such suffering should be permitted in this, the wealthiest country in the world. The present condition is not the fault of the unemployed, but that of our business, financial, and political leadership. It is incomprehensible that the people of this country should very much longer stupidly continue to suffer the wastes, the breadlines, the suicides, and the despair, and be forced to die, steal, or accept a miserable pittance in the form of charity which they resent, and properly resent." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trump's "Economic Miracle": The latest Real Earnings Summary shows continued stagnant or dropping paychecks for most American workers

Above: "Worker with Mallet," a lithograph by Moses Oley (1896-1978), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

I was watching CNN on September 5, 2018, at about 8:30am, and I heard Chris Ruddy, a Trump "confidant," talking about the great economy under Trump - a supposed "economic miracle." CNN anchor John Berman seemed to agree. And this was just one of the thousands of instances on mainstream media, and across the Internet, where Trump supporters, the Trump administration, neoliberal journalists, and Corporate Democrats are nodding their heads in approval, and spreading myths about the great state of the American economy.

Here is the sad reality: For most Americans, the economy is in shambles. Their paychecks are stagnant (see below), they are in record debt, they are ill-prepared for retirement, they can barely afford the basics of life, they are evicted in very large numbers, and they are increasingly depressed and suicidal. But the rich and the near-rich are primarily, if not exclusively, concerned with the stock market. As long as the stock market is fine, they are fine. As long as the stock market is booming, the economy is booming. The stagnation, the weak paychecks, and the troubles of lower-income Americans are meaningless - it doesn't factor into their evaluation of the state of the economy.

The latest Real Earnings Summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (released today, and summarizing August 2018) shows that our paychecks are not better--and in many cases, worse--than they were a year ago. For example, "From August 2017 to August 2018, real average hourly earnings [earnings compared to the costs of goods and services] decreased 0.1 percent [for 'Production and non-supervisory employees']." (Also see, "For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades," Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018).

How do stagnant paychecks, record debt, doubtful retirements, and all the other indicators of financial stress make for a great economy, or an "economic miracle"? 

We are living in the age of Economic Horsesh&t, where the financial elite and the Silicon Valley tech lords think, "What's good for me is good for you... no matter how awful you're doing!" 

See my recent blog post, "The New Deal Worked: Rising Wages"

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: The Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial

Above: A memorial to Mary McLeod Bethune (1873-1955) stands at Lincoln Park in Washington, DC. Bethune was an important New Deal policymaker during the 1930s and 40s - as a member of FDR's "Black Cabinet" and as director of the National Youth Administration's Office of Negro Affairs. See her biography, as well as a summary of the National Youth Administration, on the website of the Living New Deal. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: Bethune was an influential civil rights and education advocate, and one of the founders of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: A plaque on the Bethune Memorial. The National Council of Negro Women "was founded in 1935 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune..." Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: According to the National Park Service, the monument depicts Bethune "supporting herself by a cane given to her by President [Franklin] Roosevelt." Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: FDR and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Above: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC, as it appears across from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

"In 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a great admirer of Jefferson, contacted the Commission of Fine Arts about the possibility of erecting a statue of Jefferson..." ("Thomas Jefferson Memorial," Historic American Buildings Survey, 1994 (image download link, from the Library of Congress)).

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial got under way in 1934 with the creation of the congressionally-approved Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission. Though not specifically a New Deal project, President Franklin Roosevelt played a key role throughout the entire construction process, as highlighted in a 2003 National Park Service (NPS) report. Indeed, the NPS notes that FDR approved the final design.

President Roosevelt spoke at the Memorial groundbreaking on December 15, 1938;  he laid down the cornerstone on November 15, 1939; and he spoke at the memorial dedication on April 13, 1943, saying: "Today, in the midst of a great war for freedom, we dedicate a shrine to freedom. To Thomas Jefferson, Apostle of Freedom, we are paying a debt long overdue."

The great irony of Thomas Jefferson, of course, is that he fought for freedom while owning slaves. Perhaps the best that can be said (the issue will be debated forever) is that Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers set in motion a society that would, eventually, give more freedom to more people.

Even today freedom is a problem in America (and so... let us not think that we're far superior to Jefferson), with those born into wealth enjoying a vastly greater degree of freedom than other Americans - for example: greater freedom from debt; greater freedom to travel; greater freedom to hold meaningful jobs (thanks to connections, nepotism, cronyism, and the ability to work in unpaid, but prestigious internships); greater freedom to not work at all; greater freedom from the criminal justice system (e.g., the cash bail system, softer treatment for white collar criminals, better legal defense); greater freedom & choice in healthcare, education, and housing; and so on and so on.

FDR once said, quoting "an old English judge": "Necessitous men are not free men." And in America today, of course, we excel at creating necessitous (impoverished) men, women, and children.

Perhaps, someday, the American caste system will be replaced by true freedom for all. And perhaps Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt will be remembered as early, albeit imperfect promoters of that true freedom.

Above: President Franklin Roosevelt laying down the cornerstone of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, November 15, 1939. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Above: The entrance to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC. See the National Park Service's website on the memorial here. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: One of the central features of the FDR Memorial are quotes, such as, "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a New Deal for the American people," spoken by Roosevelt when he accepted the Democratic nomination for president in Chicago on July 2, 1932. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: These words were spoken by President Franklin Roosevelt during the dedication of a new chemistry building at the historically black Howard University, October 26, 1936. The building was constructed with funds from the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA). Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: The FDR Memorial has many statues, like this one depicting Fireside Chats (a series of radio addresses that FDR made to the American public, to keep them informed of government actions and policy). Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: Yet another feature of the FDR Memorial are its many waterfalls - tantalizing on a hot Summer day. The FDR Memorial was designed by Lawrence Halprin: "The Roosevelt memorial was Mr. Halprin's favorite project, his wife said. Partly because he had loving memories of Roosevelt, and partly because of the sheer difficulty of the task... He went to a quarry and personally picked some of the 4,000 stones in the walls. He made a drawing of each of the 4,000 so he could put each one exactly where he wanted it" ("Lawrence Halprin, Landscape Architect, Dies at 93," New York Times, October 28, 2009). Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: Sculptures of FDR and his Scottish Terrier "Fala." Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: These stones are located in the World War II section of the Memorial, and probably represent bombing rubble. However, one might also think of them as the crumbling remains of the New Deal. Constant right-wing attacks on infrastructure funding, unions, Social Security, commonsense financial regulations, progressive taxation, healthcare, food assistance, as well as right-wing hatred of the poor and unemployed, have whittled away at the spirit and accomplishments of the New Deal. Is it any wonder then, that Americans are so depressed and increasingly suicidal? Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: A statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, arguably the greatest woman in American history - a woman who pushed and prodded the New Deal to include more and more people. See the National Park Service website, "Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site," as well as the Living New Deal's biography, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.

Above: A view of the Washington Monument, from the FDR Memorial grounds. Photo by Brent McKee, August 2018.