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  • feedwordpress 10:01:20 on 2018/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: Civil Works Administration, , , Financial crash, Great Depression, , , , Works Progress Administration   

    “A turning point at which modern history failed to turn”*… 

     

    William Powhida: Griftopia, 2011; a ten-foot-wide ‘visual translation’ of the 2008 financial crisis based on Matt Taibbi’s 2010 book of the same title

    William Powhida: Griftopia, 2011; a ten-foot-wide ‘visual translation’ of the 2008 financial crisis based on Matt Taibbi’s 2010 book of the same title

     

    The historian G.M. Trevelyan said that the democratic revolutions of 1848, all of which were quickly crushed, represented “a turning point at which modern history failed to turn.” The same can be said of the financial collapse of 2008. The crash demonstrated the emptiness of the claim that markets could regulate themselves. It should have led to the disgrace of neoliberalism—the belief that unregulated markets produce and distribute goods and services more efficiently than regulated ones. Instead, the old order reasserted itself, and with calamitous consequences. Gross economic imbalances of power and wealth persisted. We are still experiencing the reverberations…

    Read Robert Kuttner‘s review of Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World by Adam Tooze: “The Crash That Failed.”

    * G.M. Trevelyan

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    As we struggle to avoid repeating past mistakes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the Civil Works Administration.  Intended as a short-term agency charged quickly to create jobs for millions of unemployed Americans through the hard winter of 1933–34, it was closed in March of 1934– having provided work for 4 million workers who laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or improved 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports.

    CWA was effectively replaced by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which operated on a much larger scale.  Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge or school constructed by the agency.

    220px-Civil_Works_Administration_(CWA)_workmen_cleaning_and_painting_the_gold_dome_of_the_Denver_Capitol,_1934_-_NARA_-_541904

    Civil Works Administration workers cleaning and painting the gold dome of the Colorado State Capitol (1934)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:24 on 2018/05/17 Permalink
    Tags: Chuck E. Cheese, Dorothea Lange, Farm Security Administration, Gordon Parks, Great Depression, , Nolan Bushnell, , , ,   

    “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”*… 

     

    From his office at the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C., Roy Stryker saw, time and again, the reality of the Great Depression, and the poverty and desperation gripping America’s rural communities. As head of the Information Division and manager of the FSA’s photo-documentary project, his job was to hire and brief photographers, and then select images they captured for distribution and publication. His eye helped shape the way we view the Great Depression, even today.

    Professionally, Stryker was known for two things: preserving thousands of photographs from being destroyed for political reasons, and for “killing” lots of photos himself. Negatives he liked were selected to be printed. Those he didn’t—ones that didn’t fit the narrative and perspective of the FSA at the time, perhaps—were met with the business end of hole punch, which left gaping black voids in place of hog’s bellysindustrial landscapes, and the faces of farmworkers.

    In 1935, the Resettlement Administration (RA) was established as part of the New Deal to provide relief, recovery, and reform to rural areas. The FSA, created in 1937, was its spiritual successor. The FSA’s duties included, but were not limited to, operating camps for victims of the Dust Bowl, setting up homestead communities, and providing education to more than 400,000 migrant families. Communicating about its efforts was also part of its mandate…

    Stryker sought out photographers, among them Dorothea LangeGordon Parks, and Arthur Rothstein, and made their images readily available to the press. Given the lack of new photography and art being produced during the Great Depression, the photos regularly appeared in magazines such as LIFE and Look. He also had them displayed at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, the 1936 World’s Fair, the Museum of Modern Art, and other prominent venues. The publication of a series of early photographs, including Lange’s Migrant Mother, proved instrumental in pushing the federal government to provide emergency aid to migrant workers in California.

    In the effort to represent the FSA and Roosevelt’s signature domestic achievement in a positive light, the chosen photos captured how the idealistic views of farm life were being tainted by poverty, and how the FSA programs were helping farmers reclaim their dignity. Common elements were decrepit housing conditions, the lack of food and clean water, and harsh work environments.

    It was government propaganda, and there were certainly some within the government (both supporters and detractors) who saw it that way, and more who considered both the FSA and its photography project as communist and un-American. In a 1972 Interview, Stryker admits to having felt political pressure from the Department of Agriculture to portray the effectiveness of the New Deal. “Go to hell,” was his response. His photographers “were warned repeatedly not to manipulate their subjects in order to get more dramatic images, and their pictures were almost always printed without cropping or retouching.”

    But there is a way to manipulate the story being told without altering the images themselves—the process of photo editing, of choosing which images to highlight and which to discard…

    The fascinating story of one man’s (materially successful) effort to galvanize social and political opinion: “How a Hole Punch Shaped Public Perception of the Great Depression.”

    And for an equally-fascinating consideration of how emerging new visual technologies might similarly be used to sway sentiment, read Fred Turner‘s “The Politics of Virtual Reality.”

    * Richard Avedon

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    As we celebrate skepticism, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of video game pioneer Atari) opened the first Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, ultimately a chain of family destinations that served pizza and other menu items, complemented by arcade games, amusement rides, and animatronic displays as a focus of entertainment (and often, birthday party celebration).  It took its name from its main animatronic character Chuck E. Cheese, a mouse who sang and interacted with guests.  Over 600 outlets are operating today in the U.S. and 17 other countries.

    Chuck E. Cheese and Nolan Bushnell (Bushnell on right)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:23 on 2017/06/12 Permalink
    Tags: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, , , forensics, Great Depression, , Mutilated Currency Division, New York Stock Exchange, , volume   

    “Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it”*… 

     

    (Roughly) Daily has taken a look at the obscure corner of the U.S. Treasury once devoted (literally) to laundering money (“Cleanliness is Next to Godliness“); today we visit that operation’s forensic cousin…

    The colorfully named Mutilated Currency Division at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is a small office of crack forensics that spend their days poring over all manner of defaced dollars. Provided for free as a public service, the Mutilated Currency employees labor to identify bits and fragments of identifiable denominations that can be redeemed at face value.

    Established by Congress in 1866—less than five years after the government started issuing paper money—the Mutilated Currency Division handles about 30,000 cases a year, returning currency valued at over $30 million. As long as more than half of the note remains, or the Treasury can be satisfied that the missing portions have been destroyed, the Mutilated Currency Division will redeem the amount of money that has been damaged by fire, water, chemicals, and acts of god…

    Cash in your burnt, moldy, or soiled greenbacks at “The Mutilated Currency Division.”

    * Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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    As we take it to the bank, we might recall that it was on this date in 1928, after more than 130 years of trading, that the New York Stock Exchange finally had its first day on which more than 5 million shares trade hands, as total daily volume hit 5,252,425 shares.  Just over a year later, on Black Tuesday, volume spiked to over 16 million shares…  as traders dumped their holdings and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 began (presaging the Great Depression).

    Average daily volume (over the last three months) on the NYSE today is 880,564,865 shares.

    Trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, 1929

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:06 on 2015/11/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , Great Depression, , , , , The Landlord's Game,   

    “Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won’t all be poor”*… 

     

    For a singular image of the Great Depression and the roughness of those years, it’s hard to do much better than Dorothea Lange’s 1936 photograph of Florence Owens Thompson, two of her children tucking their faces over her shoulders, a baby in her lap.

    Where that image comes from, there are many, many more: around 175,000 surviving portraits of America between 1935 and 1945 taken by the photographers of the government’s Farm Security Administration. The Library of Congress, which houses the collection, has, remarkably, digitized all the negatives and tagged the records with loads of data, such as who took the picture and where it was taken.

    Now, thanks to a new project known as Photogrammar from Yale University, viewers will have a much easier time exploring the photographs. There’s a map that displays the images by county and another that shows where each picture was taken and by which photographer. There’s also an interactive that allows viewers to sort the photos by theme (e.g. “war” or “religion”) and then browse from there. Other tools are still in the works

    Agricultural workers bound for upstate New York in time for the harvest

    More at “Seeing the Great Depression.”

    * John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

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    As we go West, we might recall that it was on this date in 1935 that Parker Brothers purchased the patent for “The Landlord’s Game” from Elizabeth Magie, a Quaker political activist who had used the theories of the economist Henry George to create the game to illustrate the way in which monopolies impoverish (“bankrupt”) the many while concentrating extraordinary wealth in one or few.  Parker Brothers had released a copy– Charles Darrow’s “Monopoly”– which  was (to put it politely) closely modeled on “The Landlord’s Game”; when Darrow’s version became a hit in 1933, Parker Brothers bought “The Landlord’s Game” as insurance against a intellectual property suit– and subsequently paid Ms. Magie $500 for her patent to avoid a (completely justified) claim from her that “Monopoly” was, in effect, stolen.  It is estimated that over a billion people have played “Monopoly” over the years.

    “The Landlord’s Game” board, from Magie’s original patent application

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:33 on 2015/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: August Comte, Bay Area, , , , Great Depression, , , Roger Babson, ,   

    “This world’s a bubble”*… 

     

    From “The Bay Area to Standard English Translator.”

    [A similarly silly-but-serious bonus: “An Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar.”]

    * alternately attributed to St. Augustine and to Francis Bacon

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    As we send birthday greetings to the father of the field of sociology and the discipline of Positivism, August Comte, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that bearish economist Roger Babson gave a speech in which he warned, “sooner or later, a crash is coming, and it may be terrific.” He had been delivering this message for two years, but for the first time, investors listened. The stock market took a severe dip (now known in economic history as “the Babson Break”).  The next day, prices stabilized, but the equity collapse that we know as a trigger event for the Great Depression had begun.

    Roger Babson

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