Tuesday, November 28, 2017

America has become a wealth-protection racket, enabled by millions of easy marks

Easy mark - "A person easily victimized or cheated; patsy, sucker."

Above: "Hail, Caesar!" a linocut by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The beginning of the end for the CFPB - the rich want to defraud us again

A power struggle is occurring at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency created to protect American consumers from financial predators. CFPB Director Richard Cordray has stepped down and has named his chief of staff, Leandra English, to take his place. However, President Trump, feeling that he has the authority to name the interim director, has put his lying budget guru, Mick Mulvaney, in charge of the CFPB. Mulvaney has already started to dismantle the CFPB, and a court case is now underway.

Mick Mulvaney is a Tea Partier from South Carolina who worships the rich and hates the CFPB, calling it a "joke," "sick," and "sad." His boss, Mr. Trump, is a very wealthy man - a member of the financial predator class. The CFPB court case is being presided over by a Trump-appointed judge, Timothy Kelly. Kelly is a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative / libertarian organization funded, in part, by the anti-government Koch brothers. The whole thing is a dark comedy, and has all the ingredients for a kangaroo court outcome. Roland Freisler, eat your heart out.  

What all these knaves have in common is that they believe that millionaires & billionaires should manage and supervise our lives. Democracy is a nuisance to them. And none of this bodes well, of course, for the CFPB. A lot of rich Americans believe that they should have the freedom to charge whatever interest rates they want (usury), gamble with other people's money, harass debtors, defraud the public, and manipulate our laws and courts to ensure that they'll never be held accountable for their wrongdoing. To them, the concept of personal responsibility (which has become a right-wing fetish) only applies to the little people. Thus, they want the CFPB eliminated.

The super-rich are super-predators, enabled by millions of easy marks

The CFPB debacle is just the latest act of bullying by the rich. They've sent our jobs overseas, and blamed American workers. They've filled our lungs with cigarette and fossil fuel poisons, and framed it as patriotism and freedom. They've scaled back debt-relief for the middle-class & poor, while keeping it in place for themselves. They've told us that we can't afford to modernize our infrastructure, but then buy stock in perpetual war and mass incarceration. And, of course, they're peddling trickle-down economics again, like it's something new and wonderful, as if it hasn't been tried and failed before.

But little or none of this would be possible, were it not for the tens of millions of easy marks in this country - people who continue kneeling before the rich and voting for people who don't give a rat's ass about them; and other people who don't vote at all, don't want to get involved in politics & current events, and thereby let our nation's super-wealthy ghouls fill the vacuum; and still other people who are too lazy to learn American history, and thus are duped into trickle-down economics... again, and again, and again, and again, ad infinitum.

Easy marks believe that if we just work hard everything will be fine and, if anything does goes wrong, it's always the individual's fault. Simple as that. And the super-wealthy take this infantile philosophy and run with it. They know they're free to defraud, overcharge, monopolize, export jobs, buy politicians (and thus, policy), hoard, bully, and even gloat about it - because the easy marks will be there for them, like loyal lapdogs, to provide cover for them, to obfuscate all their misdeeds and greed, to convince the rest of us that private sector crime is just "big government" run amok. 

The rich--through their "think tanks," political puppets, and propaganda outlets--need only say "God" or "Capitalism" or "Freedom" and the easy marks will nod their heads in stupidity... and then scold anyone who dares question the holiness of patriotic fraud.

Thank the easy marks for the current wealth-protection racket, and the coming caste system

The American Dream is in "tatters." People are now much less likely to earn more than their parents. Wages have been stagnant for decades. Most Americans can't afford a $500 surprise expense. Student loan debt has now surpassed $1.5 trillion. Retirements have rarely been more precarious, with more and more older Americans driving around in RVs, traveling from one sweatshop to the next in order to make ends meet. Suicides and other deaths of despair have been rising for years. Pharmaceutical companies owned by the super-wealthy price gouge us and then lobby the government to make sure we can't obtain more affordable medicines from other places. Millions and millions of Americans are routinely evicted because they can't afford to live.

All of these injustices have been implemented under trickle-down economics. And all of these injustices have occurred alongside a massive hoarding of wealth, with the Forbes 400 now worth $2.7 trillion. But that isn't enough for the super-wealthy. They want more tax cuts. They want more cash. They want the complete elimination of the estate tax, so that never again will their families have to work - work will be done by the others, the little people, the troglodytes, the people they think are genetically inferior and more suited for that type of thing. Make no mistake about it, they want a caste system. And you know what? They'll get it. Because the easy marks will help them create it.

You see, as long as the easy marks remain easy marks, we're in for a world of hurt.

Monday, November 27, 2017

WPA hemp, fennel, catnip, and horehound

Above: This photo was taken in Concord, New Hampshire, October 1936. The description reads: "Medicinal Plant Project... Fred W. Baker, Supervisor - started December 1935 by WPA to study the possibilities of New Hampshire farmers raising medicinal plants for commercial sale and adding to his income. Thirty-two varieties of herbs have been grown such as digitalis, peppermint, sage, horehound, basil, capnip [also called catnip or catmint], sweet marjoram, hemp, fennel, lavender, etc. The project has already sold all of the digitalis grown to the United Drug Co. and other firms have bought all the other plants produced. Many of these plants can be grown by the farmer with success on at present sub-marginal land." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Another photo from the WPA medicinal plant project in New Hampshire. According to various Internet sources, the plants that were grown on this project have many proven or suspected benefits - either naturally or after some type of processing. For example, digitalis is used for heart medicine, peppermint for muscle pain, sage for digestive problems, horehound for sore throats, basil for kidney problems, catnip to calm anxiety (or, conversely, to make your cat act funny), sweet marjoram for sprains and bruises, hemp for lowering cholesterol, fennel for bloating and constipation, and lavender for improved healing of wounds. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Another photo from the WPA medicinal plant project, this one reads: "A farmer who has become sufficiently interested in this project to start raising herbs himself on his own land for market, is shown asking advice from the Project Director, Frederick W. Baker, left. He is showing Mr. Baker the result from his digitalis crop." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (10/10): Tamiris

Above: No discussion on the history and art of dance, New Deal or otherwise, would be complete without the inclusion of Helen Tamiris. A pioneer of modern dance, the energy behind the New Deal's Federal Dance Project, and a Broadway success, Tamiris was more than a dancer, she was a force for social justice, as the New York Times pointed out when she passed away: "As the nineteen-thirties unfolded, Miss Tamiris's dancing and choreography showed a strong social and political involvement. The despair of the unemployed, the plight of the Southern negro and the horrors of war all found in expression in her work." Tamiris herself said, "The validity of modern dance is rooted in its ability to express modern problems and, further, to make modern audiences want to do something about them" ("Helen Tamiris, Dancer, Is Dead," New York Times, August 5, 1966). Photo courtesy of the Daniel Nagrin Theatre, Film & Dance Foundation, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: A WPA poster, promoting Adelante, a dance play based on the Spanish Civil War. Adelante was authored and choreographed by Helen Tamiris, and ran in New York City from April 20 to May 6, 1939. Image courtesy of George Mason University, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: A WPA poster, promoting, Salut Au Monde, another dance production by Helen Tamiris. It ran in New York City from July 23 to August 5, 1936. Based on the wide-ranging poem by Walt Whitman, WPA Theatre Director Hallie Flanagan described it as appropriate "as the first offering of Tamiris and her fiery cohorts" (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 76). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: A WPA poster, promoting Tamiris's most successful WPA production, How Long Brethren. How Long Brethren ran in New York City for eight months, from May 6, 1937 to January 15, 1938. One newspaper critic wrote, "In How Long Brethren Tamiris has accomplished the finest composition of her career... the most thrilling episode, 'Let's Go to De Buryin',' with its frenzied emotional climax heightened by Tamiris' superb dancing, aroused the audience to a state of high excitement" (Flanagan, Arena, p. 199). During one performance, "the reaction was so whole-hearted and spontaneous that the show was interrupted many times by applause and shouts so loud the dancers could not hear the orchestra or the chorus in the pit" (Christena L. Schlundt, Tamiris: A Chronical of Her Dance Career, 1927-1955, 1972, see pp. 46 and 52). Image courtesy of George Mason University, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Helen Tamiris performing in How Long Brethren, ca. 1937. I've read Tamiris's dancing described as beautiful, powerful, wild, and even frightening. Next to Harry Hopkins, she's the New Dealer I'd like to meet the most. Her style, very action-oriented, and her philosophy, the very embodiment of the New Deal, are fascinating. A biographer once wrote of Tamiris, "She alone of all the major dancers working in the Thirties gave up her career, her [dance] group, almost her very self for the sense of purpose she felt in the [WPA's Dance] Project" (Schlundt, Tamiris, p. 40). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Friday, November 24, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (9/10): "Burlesque Characters"

Above: "Burlesque Characters," a lithograph by Lloyd William Wulf (1913-1965), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. According to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Wulf was known "for his late 1930's work on the California Federal Art Project in the San Francisco area" and specialized in "paintings, drawings, and prints on human characters in spatial settings... burlesque clowns, and carnival settings." According to Wikipedia, Burlesque shows "were popular from the 1860s to the 1940s, [performed] in cabarets and clubs, as well as theatres, and featured bawdy comedy and female striptease." Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (8/10): "The President's Birthday Ball"

Above: A WPA poster, promoting a charity dance, ca. 1936-1939. The description for the poster reads, "Poster for The President Hotel's birthday ball 'so we may dance again' to raise funds in support of the fight to cure infantile paralysis." The poster was created in New York, and the "President Hotel" probably refers to the President Hotel that was in Atlantic City from 1926-1979 (note the words "on the boardwalk"). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Monday, November 20, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (7/10): "Little Corn Dancer"

Above: "Little Corn Dancer," an artwork by Herman Ilfeld Bacharach (1899-1976), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration, Julie Redwine, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

According to his obituary in the Las Vegas Optic (August 13, 1976), Bacharach was born in 1899, into a family of "pioneer merchants" in Las Vegas. He graduated from art school at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), and became "an artist of note." He was "especially interested in Indian ceremonials, dances and their depiction by Indian artists." Bacharach also illustrated children's books and designed costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies. During World War II, he served in the Air Force. 

A 2002 article on New Mexico State University's website offers a somewhat different biography of Bacharach, for example, reporting that he graduated from New Mexico Normal University and attended UPenn, "where he apparently left after about a year. His parents believed he was in dental school, while Bacharach was pursuing a career in art... As an artist he achieved no fame... Upon the death of his father, Herman returned to Las Vegas to help with the family business, Bacharach Bros., and never returned to the East and his artistic career again." However, the Las Vegas Optic published at least two other articles about Bacharach that would seem to dispute parts of this account: an article about a first place art award he won while attending UPenn (April 16, 1921) and another article announcing his return to UPenn's "fine arts department" after a visit home to Las Vegas (September 10, 1921). It seems unlikely that his parents were unaware of his art studies and ambitions - at least, not for very long.

Considering the various sources, it seems Bacharach was probably a fairly accomplished and successful artist but, for one reason or another (more stable income? the desire to preserve a legacy?), chose to focus on the family business after World War II.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (6/10): "Cambodian Dancer"

Above: "Cambodian Dancer," a lithograph by Alexander King (1900-1965), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1937. It's unclear whether this is the same Alexander King who was described by TIME magazine as "an ex-illustrator, ex-cartoonist, ex-adman, ex-editor, ex-playwright, ex-dope addict... ex-painter," or a "Little known printmaker who worked on the NYC-WPA" (Paramour Fine Arts). A document on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia states "Alexander King lived a bizarre life made up of multiple marriages, morphine addiction, art theft and forgery. Apparently, he experienced some lucid moments in the late 1930s that allowed him to participate in the Federal Art Project printmaking program in New York City." A biography on askART states that Alexander King (1900-1965) was "Described as a... morphine addict, failing playwright and painter... a man of iconoclastic observations and caustic humor... he became an art thief, stealing fifty prints from the Metropolitan Museum. He was jailed twice, and married four times. He wrote a book, 'Rich Man, Poor Man, Freud and Fruit,' and died one day after appearing on 'The Today Show' to publicize it." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (5/10): "Russian Sailor Dance"

Above: "Russian Sailor Dance," a color woodcut print by Antonina Mancuso, created while she was in the WPA, ca. 1939-1940. Hardly any definitive information on Mancuso exists on the Internet or in newspaper archives (but see below). I did comes across a Find A Grave entry for an "Antonina Mancuso" (1909-1994), but it's not clear whether this is the same person. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University.

Above: This image is on the website of the Internet Archive here. It is a 1940 entry form to display artwork at the Cleveland Museum of Art., and lists "Russian Sailor Dance." It is written in Mancuso's own writing - note how the prominent "T" in "Antonina" is the same as we see at the bottom of the artwork above. Note also that, for price, she lists "N.F.S.", presumably "Not For Sale," which was probably due to a WPA restriction on artists selling their publicly-funded artworks. Nevertheless, showing the art in an exhibition could obviously help an artist get noticed; and, indeed, there were exhibitions specifically for WPA artists to show off their work, as well as exhibitions for children who created art in WPA art classes (see examples below).

Above: A WPA poster, promoting an exhibit of art created in the WPA's Federal Art Project. This type of exhibit could help artists, like Mancuso, get noticed and perhaps even get offers of paid art work outside the WPA. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: A WPA poster, promoting an exhibit of artwork created by children in WPA art classes. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Friday, November 17, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (4/10): "The Ballet School" and "Ballet Fedre"

Above: "The Ballet School," a painting by Gwyneth King (1908-1985), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Above: A WPA poster, promoting the WPA production, Ballet Fedre. Ballet Fedre was performed in Chicago from January 27 to February 19, 1938 (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 386). Perhaps its popularity allowed it to run beyond the date you see on the poster above. One of the authors of the play, Berta Ochsner, wrote another ballet, Fugitive From Rhythm, "in which a young farmer who applied for work on [a] W.P.A. agricultural project was assigned by mistake to a percussion ballet" (Arena, p. 139). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (3/10): Swing Dancing

Above: "Swingtime," an aquatint and etching by Charles L. Sallee, Jr. (1911-2006) created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Sallee was an African American artist and, according to the blog of the Sandusky Library (Ohio), he served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II (as a draftsman and cartographer, designing "roads and escape routes"), and then went on to enjoy "a long career as an interior designer." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University.

Above: "Jitterbug Swing," a color woodcut print by David Burke, created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. I wasn't able to find much information on David Burke on the Internet or in newspaper archives but, interestingly, it seems that one of his woodcuts from the 1930s, quite possibly a New Deal artwork, is listed as stolen on the FBI's National Stolen Art File ("Fishing Port Landscape with View of Back Bay"). Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: "Evolution of Swing," a lithograph by Raymond Steth (1917-1997), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1939. This artwork highlights the origins of (or major influence on) swing dance: Africa and slavery. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A WPA poster, advertising the WPA dance production Swing Parade. Swing Parade was performed in San Francisco from April 15 through June 30, 1937 (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 391). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: A WPA poster, advertising the WPA dance production Swing Mikado. Swing Mikado was a very popular federal theatre production and played in several venues across the nation. In New York, it became so popular that some private sector Broadway producers became jealous and upset (see, Susan Quinn, Furious Improvisation, 2008, pp. 270-271). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (2/10): "Cowboy Dance"

Above: "Cowboy Dance," a mural study by Jenne Magafan (1916-1952), created for the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1941. On October 20, 1952, at only 35 years of age, Magafan died of a cerebral hemorrhage in New York. She had been an accomplished artist, for example, painting a mural for the Beverly Hills Hotel, and painting another mural that was displayed in the White House. Her twin sister, Ethel (1916-1993), was also an artist, and also participated in New Deal artwork projects. Like their physical appearance, their artwork was very similar, with one newspaper noting that "the works of the Magafan twins were so much alike that it took a practiced eye to detect the difference" (see "Jenne Magafan, Noted Artist, Dies At Albany," The Times Record (Troy, New York), October 21, 1952, and "Jenne Magafan Dies In New York State," Los Angeles Times, November 30, 1952). Just two months before she passed away, Jenne was with her sister Ethel in Europe, both of them studying and traveling on Fulbright Awards ("Village Notes," The Kingston Daily Freemen (Kingston, New York), August 15, 1952). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, November 13, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (1/10): "Eagle Dance"

Above: "Eagle Dance," a painting by R.W.R. Taylor, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Mike Ramos.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

WPA Bocci

Above: A game of Bocci in Northern California, ca. 1935-1943, part of the WPA's recreation program. Bocci (or Bocce) is sort of cross between bowling and horseshoes. During the New Deal, the WPA offered many opportunities for people to get off their sofas and get into games, sports, dances, art classes, and more. It was great for physical fitness and great for socializing. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Bocci," a lithograph by Harold Anchel (1912-1980), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Case of Roy Moore: Are we abandoning the concept of "innocent until proven guilty," for the sake of political preference and political correctness?

Above: "The Accused," a woodcut print by Harry Rein (1908-1969), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1938. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

In a new Raw Story article, titled in a way that completely abandons the concept of "innocent until proven guilty"--"Morning Joe panel destroys 'depravity' of GOP justifying 'slimebag' Roy Moore's child molestation"--we read that conservative commentator Nicolle Wallace, a frequent critic of the hard right, scolded the Republicans who have not rushed to judgment against the GOP senate candidate Roy Moore, saying on Morning Joe: "I think every Republican there went out to do the right thing. They intended to say and do the right thing. But by saying 'if the allegations are true,' when women, many, many, years later, have put their names in the paper - no woman wants to be dragged into a sexual assault, a sexual harassment story. So I really think it's ignorance, not malice... Four women put their name in a story with absolutely nothing to gain."

I am certainly no fan of Republicans, or the loony tune Roy Moore, and it may very well be that Moore did what he is accused of. Also, sexual assault and harassment is obviously a nationwide problem. Who in their right mind wants their mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, daughter, or any woman, man, or child assaulted or harassed? But Nicolle Wallace's assertion, essentially, that no woman would lie about sexual assault and harassment is both naive and demonstrably false.    

Most of us are familiar with some high profile stories of false accusations, for example, the Duke Lacrosse rape accusation scandal, the Rolling Stone rape article debacle, and the amazing case of Brian Banks, the football player who secretly taped his accuser admitting she fabricated her rape story - after he served 5 years in prison, was forced to register as a sex offender, and probably had his opportunity to have a pro football career ruined (see, e.g., "Blindsided: The Exoneration of Brian Banks," CBS, March 24, 2013). But there are other, less famous cases too. For example, a summary of wrongful convictions from the University of Michigan Law School highlights the case of Nathaniel Lewis:

"Nathaniel Lewis was convicted in 1996 of raping a fellow student at the University of Akron in Ohio. He was exonerated in 2002 based on a portion of the supposed victim's diary in which she wrote that the sex was consensual and that she had accused Lewis of rape because she was tired of being considered promiscuous" ("Exonerations in the United States, 1989 – 2012: Report by the National Registry of Exonerations," pp. 74-75).

Above: "The Line-Up," another artwork by Harry Rein, this one a lithograph, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

More generally (i.e., in all cases, not just cases related to sexual assault) false allegations, false arrests, wrongful prosecutions, and erroneous convictions are much more prevalent than most people know, or are willing to admit. In Massachusetts, chemist Annie Dookhan falsified lab results which caused an untold number of wrongful convictions ("Epic Drug Lab Scandal Results in More Than 20,000 Convictions Dropped," NBC, April 18, 2017). In Washington, D.C., inaccurate breathalyzers likely caused hundreds of wrongful convictions for alcohol-related offenses ("D.C. paid out nearly $400K for flawed breath testing system," WTOP - Washington's Top News, January 9, 2013). And, according to a project run by the Universities of California and Michigan, as of today, there have been at least 2,120 exonerations (most or all for serious crimes - where the scarce resources for this type of legal work are put) and these people have lost a combined 18,450 years of freedom (The National Registry of Exonerations).   

If you think women can't lie, or men can't lie, or children can't lie, you're not paying attention, you're not doing your research, and you're ignoring history. With respect to children, remember the Salem Witch Trials or the more recent and ridiculous satanic ritual abuse hysteria of the 1980s and 90s, where some children were coached and stirred into such a frenzy that they claimed their abusers took them "to outer space in hot air balloons." (Also see, Cathy Young, "Crying Rape: False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem," Slate, September 18, 2014.) 

Above: In this video clip, we see people banging pots outside the residence of one of the Duke lacrosse players accused of strangling, raping, and robbing Crystal Mangum in 2006. One protester shouts through a megaphone, "We're standing in solidarity with the women who've gone through this horrible atrocity." Another protester says she's "enraged and disgusted... that something like this has happened" (emphasis added). Signs we see in the video say things like, "Real men tell the truth" and "Sunday Morning: Time to Confess." The story was eventually shown to be a false accusation, the prosecutor on the case was disbarred, and Crystal Mangum is currently serving time for stabbing her boyfriend to death (only a few years after she was arrested for the attempted murder of another boyfriend).

I find that progressives (and I consider myself a progressive) are often the ones rushing to judgment. For example, liberal columnist and education expert Diane Ravitch castigated Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her staff for listening to those accused of crimes, scoffing: "DeVos' world gets stranger by the day. After hearing from rape victims, DeVos and her top civil rights official have decided to champion the rights of those accused of raping the women... The alleged perpetrators of rape, it seems... are the real victims. What a strange new mission for the Office for Civil Rights" ("DeVos's New Cause: The Rights of Those Accused of Raping Women on Campus," Common Dreams, July 13, 2017).

I am no fan of the goofy, silver-spooned, right-wing extremist Betsy DeVos but, I'm sorry Ms. Ravitch, what is wrong with protecting the rights of the accused, and listening to their side of the story too, especially when this nation has such a rich history of wrongful conviction, lynching, and mass incarceration?

Here is what justice demands: A person who alleges sexual assault should be listened to. A person who says "I didn't do it" should also be listened to. We should look at such instances, and examine the allegations and evidence with unbiased eyes and judgment. We should not sacrifice the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" on the alter of political correctness, or blind chivalry, or misogyny, or misandry, or any other knee-jerk Neanderthal impulses. We should not assume that a particular group, gender, or age group is utterly incapable of lying. Because, to do so, encourages lying. For example, if society were to declare that people over the age of 70 are completely incapable of stealing, some small percentage of people over the age of 70 might consider stealing, on the confidence that society is biased towards finding them innocent.

There are few things more horrible than sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape (and you'll know this if it ever happens to you or someone you love). But I can think of at least one thing that is more horrible: Living in a world where finger-pointing is all it takes to imprison or lynch someone. That's why centuries of injustice, horror, and hangings spurred the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." We must uphold this tenet of justice, no matter how angrily we're browbeaten by those who want to be the judge, jury, and executioner... and no matter how much we may dislike the accused.  

Above: "Prisoner," a lithograph by Julius Bloch (1888-1966), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. In 1931, nine African American males, the Scottsboro Boys, were falsely accused of raping two white women. One of the two eventually admitted she lied, but the defendants' lives were forever damaged. Most served time, and one was even shot in the head trying to escape (see, Jay Bellamy, "The Scottsboro Boys: Injustice in Alabama," National Archives, Spring 2014). Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

"[I]t is just as important for a state's attorney to use the great powers of his office to protect the innocent as it is to convict the guilty."

--Homer Cummings, 1924 (FDR's attorney general from 1933-1939), "The Suspect, the Prosecutor, and the Unlikely Bond They Forged: New evidence shows that Homer Cummings, who would later be FDR's attorney general, rescued an innocent man accused of murder," Smithsonian Magazine, January 2017. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The political right continues to peddle trickle-down economics. The question is: Will we continue to be their fools?

Above: "Drip, Drip," an etching by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. I'm not sure what Hagedorn's intentions were, but this is a great representation of trickle-down economics. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Trickle-Down Lies 

Over the past several decades we've cut and kept taxes low on the rich. Not satisfied with that, many rich Americans are engaging in various methods of tax evasion and avoidance. As a result, the super-wealthy have become even more super-wealthy.

This coddling of the rich - cutting their taxes, not going after their tax evasion too aggressively (even encouraging it at times), and pampering them in various other ways - was marketed as a way of creating a better life for all Americans. Their wondrous investments, we we're told, would create a magical tsunami of great jobs. Trickle-down economics, we we're told, would be our salvation.

But multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer recently explained the reality: "For decades, rich guys like me have been selling you tax cuts on the merits of pure economic stimulus. The rich are 'job creators,' we've told you. The more money and incentives we wealthy few have to invest in creating jobs, the better the economy is for everybody - especially you. That's a lie."

Even right-wing superstar Ann Coulter has had enough, recently tweeting, "Bush cut taxes! Did it create millions of jobs? Nope. The rich pocketed their tax cut & sent jobs abroad, hired guest workers. F-- them." 

Trickle-Down Warnings

The trickle-down economics scam is not a new scam. Indeed, President Franklin Roosevelt warned us about trickle-down economics many times. For example, in a radio address to businessmen in 1936, Roosevelt said: "We must hold constantly to the resolve never again to become committed to the philosophy... that Government should be ever ready to purr against the legs of high finance; that the benefits of the free competitive system should trickle down by gravity from the top to the bottom; and above all, that Government had no right, in any way, to interfere with those who were using the system of private profit to the damage of the rest of the American citizens."

With regard to that last bit, it's interesting to note what billionaire Tom Steyer recently said: "There is an absolute, unspoken war between corporate interests and the American people... We're seeing a deliberate attempt to take away [working families'] future by really rich people." 

Trickle-Down Failures, Trickle-Down Tenacity

Since the New Deal, we've collectively dismissed Roosevelt's warnings and, instead, fell under the spell of the trickle-down tricksters of the political right. And the results have been devastating, as FDR would have foreseen. Wages have been stagnant for decades, job benefits are more stingy, retirements are more precarious, we've been killing ourselves more frequently, we're angry, we're sick, we're fat & unhappy, we're suffocating in debt, our children are drinking lead from crumbling infrastructure, and we're being evicted by the millions.

Trickle-down economics has not only failed, but its failure has been so obvious, and so spectacular, that you'd have to be comatose (or extremely wealthy) not to see it.

And still, still, the political right is pushing for more trickle-down economics - telling us that another round of gargantuan tax-cuts-for-the-rich is just what the middle-class needs. This morning, Trump's top economic adviser, Gary "the Goldman Sachs" Cohn, declared that tax-cuts-for-the-rich "means the workers get paid more; the workers have more disposable income, the workers spend more. And we see the whole trickle-down through the economy, and that's good for the economy" ("Gary Cohn: Trickle-down is good for the economy," CNBC, November 9, 2017).

Trickle-Down Fools Forever?

It's not surprising, of course, that Gary "the Goldman Sachs" Cohn and his ilk are pushing for more tax cuts; after all, they will benefit tremendously. And it's not surprising they want to eliminate the estate tax altogether, so that their children & grandchildren will be even more superbly-placed in America's fortified caste system. Their silver-spooned progeny will be able to enjoy idle & luxurious lives, while our children will have to work in crappier and crappier jobs to support their vanity and greed - just like today, but even worse.

No, none of this surprising. The only real question is: Will we continue to be their fools? Every American needs to look in the mirror and ask: "Am I going to be an idiot for the rich?" The answer to that question will have enormous consequences for the quality of our lives - now and in the future.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (5/5): "Dunes Near Lighthouse"

Above: "Dunes Near Lighthouse," an oil painting by Mary DeNeale Morgan (1868-1948), created while she was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1942. Morgan was a prolific California artist and her work is held at several prestigious institutions. Her paintings and sketches have been exhibited for over a hundred years (see, e.g., "Berkeley Art Exhibit To Open," Oakland Tribune, November 15, 1908, and "In Brief," The Californian, February 13, 2009 (announcing an exhibit of Morgan's art at the Pacific Grove Library). Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Neil Greentree Photography.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (4/5): "Low Tide"

Above: "Low Tide," a watercolor painting by Avery F. Johnson (1906-1990), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, ca. 1938-1939. Johnson specialized in watercolors and was a member of the American Watercolor Society. According to his obituary, he supervised "the Treasury Department art projects in Key West and the Virgin Islands" and then served in "the Office of War Information in North Africa and Italy during World War II." After the war, "He taught at the North New Jersey School of Industrial Art and the Montclair Museum for many years" ("Avery Fischer Johnson, artist," Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey), July 13, 1990. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, November 6, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (3/5): "The Beach"

Above: "The Beach," a lithograph by Aline Fruhauf (1907-1978), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Above: Fruhauf specialized in caricature work and, according to an article on the Georgetown University Library's website, "joined the graphics division of the Federally funded Works Progress Administration (WPA), which further honed her lithographic skills. More importantly, the WPA experience enabled her to meet and mingle with many of the emerging New York artists whom she caricatured in a new series of lithographs entitled Artists at Work, exhibited at the ACA [American Contemporary Art] Gallery in 1938. Her subjects included Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Max Weber, and Raphael Soyer, among others." The lithograph above is titled "Mural Painter at Work" (also created while she was in the WPA) and the woman in the lithograph is probably a self-caricature of Fruhauf. Compare the long neck, glasses, and prominent eye brows to Fruhauf's self-portrait on the Georgetown University website here. Image above courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Arizona Museum of Art & Archive of Visual Arts.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (2/5): "Beach Scene" by Wilford Huntington

Above: "Beach Scene," a watercolor painting by Wilford Huntington, created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1940. During the New Deal, there were many projects to protect and improve beaches. For example, in the November 9, 1935 edition of the Orlando Sentinel, it was reported that WPA workers were repairing and fortifying an area of Daytona Beach that had been eroded away by a storm in 1932. The project included building a bulkhead, moving sand, and planting grasses and shrubs ("New Bulkhead Protects Beach: WPA Improves Strip At Daytona," p. 9). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (1/5): A beach scene by Saul Kovner

Above: A lithograph of a beach scene, created in 1941 by WPA artist Saul Kovner (1904-1981). According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Kovner was born in Russia and "After his training at the National Academy of Design [in New York City], Kovner maintained a studio near Central Park, creating paintings and drawings of the city and its people. He later moved to California and exhibited widely on the West Coast." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Tom Steyer's money would be better spent on a New Deal museum & research center, an educational outreach program, and public policy forums in red states

Above: A WPA poster, advertising an upcoming forum, ca. 1936-1941. A forum is "a public meeting or lecture involving audience discussion." Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Billionaire Tom Steyer is currently running a $10 million television ad campaign to have Trump impeached. But that money (and more) would be better spent funding a New Deal museum & research center, an educational outreach program, and public policy forums in red states.

A television ad campaign by a liberal donor is not going to convince a Republican House of Representatives to impeach a Republican president. And even if it did, who would fill Trump's shoes? Answer: Vice President Mike Pence, a man who would pulverize the social safety net with even more glee than Trump.

And impeaching Trump would do little or nothing to address one of the major problems that put Trump in the White House in the first place - a seriously misinformed public (another major problem was the Democratic Party's choice to run an establishment candidate during an anti-establishment year). 

Too many millions of Americans are unaware of their own country's history and, specifically, unaware of how the New Deal, i.e., left & center-left policies, modernized the nation and set the foundation for a strong middle-class... a middle-class that has deteriorated in modern times, thanks to trickle-down economics and trade deals that benefit wealthy investors at the expense of workers. A misinformed public will keep clinging to the extreme political right and, eventually, put another Donald Trump-type character in the White House.

It would be better for Tom Steyer and other wealthy liberals to fund a New Deal museum & research center, which would highlight the history that led to America's strong infrastructure and strong middle-class; and to fund an educational outreach program (emanating from the museum); and to fund public policy forums in red states, to engage with Republican and Independent voters, and show them how the extreme political right has chipped away at their quality of life for decades. Not every mind would be changed, of course, but considering the inroads Bernie Sanders has made in many red state areas, it would be a worthwhile and fruitful endeavor (see, e.g., "Top Trump Pollster: 'No Question' Bernie Sanders Would Have Won," Common Dreams, October 31, 2017). 

Public policy forums could discuss, for example, how the 1956 Republican Party Platform promoted Social Security, unions, unemployment insurance, etc., and compare that to today's relentless Republican assault on the social safety net. (See, "Viral meme says 1956 Republican platform was pretty liberal," Politifact (rated "Mostly True"), October 28, 2014.) The idea isn't to get people to switch parties or vote for specific politicians, but to show them how the Republican Party (and the Democratic Party too, by the way) has betrayed its past principles to serve the wealthy few, and how that betrayal is tearing the country apart (see, "Two-Thirds of Americans Say This Is Lowest Point in US History They Can Remember," Common Dreams, November 1, 2017). 

So, Mr. Steyer, and other wealthy folks, get in touch with the Living New Deal, whose mission is to preserve New Deal history & inform the public of the vast and still-beneficial investments that were made in American infrastructure, American art, American education, American healthcare, American parks & recreation, etc.