Brain Dropping #95
Brain Dropping #94
Brain Dropping #93
Brain Dropping #92
Roosevelt’s Baby. I was born on October 13, 1933 – a Roosevelt baby. At the same time I was a depression baby, born four years into the most severe economic collapse in the history of American capitalism: One in four workers were unemployed. Millions of families went without food and shelter. The unprecedented drought in the Mid-West and the Plains States created the catastrophic dust-bowl conditions dramatically chronicled by John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes Of Wrath.” My father, a furrier by trade, sold potatoes in the streets of Brooklyn from a horse drawn wagon. Roosevelt was inaugurated in March 1933, I was born six months later at Beth-El hospital in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
To many it was Armageddon for capitalism – the “end of days!” But in four years Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned things around. And just in case you weren’t paying attention in your American history class, or have forgotten, allow me to refresh your memory.
What did Roosevelt do? – He created the Social Security system. – He established the Unemployment Compensation system. – Between 1934 and 1941 he created twelve and a half million jobs through programs like the Works Project Administration, the Civil Conservation Corps, and the Federal Art Project among others. (If you’ve ever driven north from N.Y.C. along the picturesque Taconic Parkway with its beautiful stone overpasses, thank the C.C.C.)
With the start of WWII, the federal government pouring money into the war effort to defeat the Axis – Japan, Germany and Italy- decisively ended the depression. Almost literally half the unemployed went into the armed services, and the other half went into the war production plants.
To begin with, in 1933, how did Roosevelt find the money to do all this? Just as now, everybody in the establishment was crying poverty. But there was money and Roosevelt knew how to get it. (There’s far more money now but Obama doesn’t have the same courage to get it.) Roosevelt gathered the wealthiest people in the nation and the heads of corporations and demanded that they contribute generously to these programs. Why would these fat-cats and the Congress agree to such demands? Roosevelt pointed out that millions in the populace had mobilized into militant trade unions like the AFLCIO, Socialist and Communist parties and were on the march to feed their families. If the capitalist system was to survive the monied class had to ante up – and at least half of them did so. Roosevelt also brazenly proposed a $25,000 dollar cap on income (about 350,000 in today’s dollars.) What he did get was a 94% marginal rate income tax. For every dollar above $200,000 in income the government got ninety-four cents the taxpayer six cents. Now perhaps you’ll understand why Roosevelt was considered to be “a traitor to his class!”
To prevent risky speculation from the banks, Roosevelt rammed the Banking Reform Act through Congress. It placed a firewall between depository or commercial banks and riskier investment bank activity. It was also known as Glass/Steagall. It became very well known in its demise, when the Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act, signed by Bill Clinton in 1999, killed it. Eight years later we had the bank failures.
In the years after Roosevelt’s death in April, 1945, I’ve seen played out the betrayal of the New Deal by the political elite succumbing to corruption and bribery by the monied class, and the paranoia of the Cold War.
What now then? How about another Roosevelt, Baby !? Seriously, we need the help of the World’s most capable turnaround artist. Will we find their name on the ballot in 2016?
I never was a great fan of science fiction and read little ( except for Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” ) but I knew of Ursula Le Guin’s reputation as a great writer in that genre. Now I’m going to remedy that by reading a few of her prodigious number of science fiction novels. Why? Well, listen to this speech she gave upon receiving a prestigious book award and see if you want to do the same. http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/science_fiction_writer_ursula_k_le_guin_warns_against_capitalism_20141122
Brain Dropping #90 – Orpheus Ascending
Orpheus was the mythic minstrel taught the Lyre by Apollo, and who played so exquisitely that wild animals were charmed and trees uprooted themselves to follow him. His mesmerizing music got him into the underworld where, if he hadn’t disobeyed instructions not to turn back to look at her as he was leading her back to life, his great love Eurydice would have been saved. The jealous wild women of Thrace tore Orpheus limb from limb and threw his head in a river where it kept on singing all the way to the sea. Hey! The show must go on!
There’s that old time-worn saying: “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.” I always thought it was Shakespeare, but it turns out it is properly attributed to William Congreve in his play “The Mourning Bride” of the Restoration Period in England, 1660 – 1710, when Charles II was king.
As I approach my dotage, music has become a vital part of my daily life soothing the quotidian hills and valleys and often elevating my spirit to a higher plane. Some days, driving along in northern Vermont on Chester Arthur Road (Named after the undistinguished President.), I have my car radio tuned to Vermont Public Radio’s classical music service. On my way to put labels on sauerkraut jars for my pal Doug Flack , I would be – well – transported by, say, Frederick Delius’ “In A Summer Garden” or Jan Sibelius’ Second Symphony building to a towering climax as Mt. Mansfield comes into view across the rolling foot hills of the Green mountains.
Duke Ellington, in talking about pop music versus ‘serious music’ said that there was only two kinds of music – good and bad! Without meaning to be snobbish I’ve got to say that its so-called Classical Music that does the job for my psyche. The thematic construction, multi-layered tonalities, and the polyphony with ingenious modulations, grips my attention like a good short story. Frequently,in my head, the music seems to have been composed with my drive along the meandering road in mind. Bach’s “Double Violin Concerto played by Pinchas Zuckerman and Itzhak Perlman rolls along with the hum of my tires on the dirt road. and then, in the adagio movement, allows for closer attention to be paid to the bordering landscape.
For me, it isn’t enough to sit and listen. Since I was in High School I have made my own music, banging away on my guitar with the old folk tunes and more current singer-songwriter songs. Bob Dylan, Eric Bogle, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, even Tom Waits and a host of others occupy my time trying to overcome my somewhat tin-ear in learning a new tune. I’m currently learning Paxton’s “Looking For The Moon.”
Like Orpheus’ detached head I want to keep on singing, and listening, ’til the river of time carries me out to sea.
Brain Dropping #89
Alles Ist Frei In Deutschland! It’s all free in Germany. Wow! There’s a great traditional German song: “Die Gedanken Sind Frei! – My thoughts are free / Should tyrants take me / and throw me in prison / my thoughts will break free / like blossoms in season. / No scholar can map them / no hunter can trap them. / Es bleibt dabei / Die Gedanken sind frei!” As an aside: It seems to me that song should be sung on every street corner in the U.S.A. But I’m not talking about the stifling of American protest – I’m talking about freeing and growing your thoughts with a tuition-free university education in Germany for everybody – and, get this, for foreigners too.
Last week Lower Saxony made itself the final State in Germany to do away with tuition in public universities like the fabled Universities of Heidelberg and Munchen. So, pack your bags American students – you who can’t afford the outrageous tuition at our Colleges (Going up as much as 28% in California.) Or those of you who don’t want to be working at McDonalds upon graduation, entangled in life-long debt. As the ‘American Dream’ sinks slowly in the West – as we waste yet another generation of talented, intelligent potential students, enervating the very core of our society for short term profit, Germany recognizes that the life’s blood of the future is its young people.
But, there’s always a BUT! Don’t expect the kind of Country Club, Summer Camp atmosphere you find on many U.S. campuses. In German universities there are few amenities like huge field houses with Olympic swimming pools, or luxurious Student Union buildings (like the architecturally horrendous Davis Center at the University of Vermont.) You, as a foreign student, will not find multi-million dollar sports stadia with body building facilities, or tens of millions spent on narcissistic football coaches and corrupt jocks. There aren’t many dorms available, and those are spartan. Most students share living space in town. Apparently the German system doesn’t provide the degree of “in loco parentis” guidance services that have proliferated on American campuses – it is expected that a student on the university level is mature and motivated enough to know his own mind. In the European model many classes are lectures with the expectation that the student will take the initiative to study on his own. A major hurdle to all this largess from Deutschland is the need to learn German more than superficially, so as to avoid the embarrassment suffered by JFK when he declaimed before a huge crowd at the Berlin Wall: “Ich bin ein Berliner!” – meaning,”I am a donut !”
Another Woman shows that she has more balls than Obama, Holder and the rest of the governmental chickenshits. Her name is Alayne Fleischmann a former securities lawyer for JP MorganChase whose testimony may reopen the case against Blankfein, Dimon and the rest of the goniffs who picked our pockets. She joins Elizabeth Warren, Brooksley Born, Sheila Bair in my personal Pantheon of Heroes who blew the whistle on the sticky-fingered Wall Street eunuchs who destroyed our economy, and will continue to destroy our way of life thanks to the fear ridden President and the Attorney General. To hear Ms. Fleischmann tell it click here: :http://www.democracynow.org/2014/11/7/matt_taibbi_and_bank_whistleblower_on
Brain Dropping #87
Brain Dropping #86