All posts by JakeABerman

FDR’s 1936 Speech

I can’t imagine anyone who heard this speech to not want to vote for Roosevelt as soon as he finished! I even want to vote for him right now! His way of talking about the troubles of the Depression really instilled confidence not only that the government was there to help people, but that it could and had been doing so for the past 4 years. This is particularly interesting because the New Deal programs hadn’t in fact done much for the economy, from the workers’ perspective.

However, he did make promises of the programs to come: minimum wage, shorter working hours, and many more of his second New Deal programs that ended up being passed into law while touting successes from the first New Deal. Interestingly, I thought, he spent particular time on Social Security, even though this was just a reaction to the Townsend Plan for retirement insurance. He was sure to tout the benefits to workers and how much the plan relied on contributions from employers more than contributions from workers. And he made a very convincing argument that business was conspiring to deceive American workers into voting against FDR’s anti-business policies.

Roosevelt was quick to blame the business influence in politics on the Republicans’ opposition to him and his policies, which according to him reached the level of hatred. This is a concern that is still a very real concern to this day, and I found it interesting to hear how he talked about how essentially newsletters were circulating in opposition of his policies only because they hurt business. This is similar to how businesses and wealthy individuals give to political campaigns and parties (with the same bias towards the GOP that was apparently still existent then) to convince workers and middle-class that liberal and anti-business policies hurt them. The fact that the parties are on the same “side” of this issue, with Republicans and business interests aligning and the Democrats and workers’ interests aligning, speaks to Roosevelt’s role in realigning the party system, which is still prevalent in today’s politics, even though some historians and political scientists believe that we may be in another party system.

Sacco and Vanzetti Trial

Once I started reading Frankfurter’s account of the Sacco and Vanzetti Trail, there was only one thing that came to my mind: My Cousin Vinny. I would find it hard to believe that movie is not based on this trial. Two young Italians who are accused of committing murder and fleeing into a car, arrested later for driving a similar car. A lawyer from out of town who is unfamiliar with the biased judge. If only Sacco and Vanzetti had Vinny to be their lawyer…

On a more serious note, the handling of what should be regular police matters in the context of the Red Scare seems troubling in today’s context. When they were first arrested, they were asked all kinds of questions, like when Vanzetti was asked by Chief Stewart if he was a radical, anarchist, or Communist, and if he “believe[s] in the government of the United States.” For being arrested for a crime that was initially suspected to be mob-related, this line of questioning is potentially troublesome. While the two were known to be radical, nobody ever thought that there was a connection between that and the murders.

It seems, then, that the two are sentenced to death not actually for committing murder that there was overwhelming evidence that they did not commit, but for just being radical during the Red Scare. The legal system is sort of thrown out the window, with the judge leading a Dedham jury of upper-class non-immigrants to convict the foreign duo of Sacco and Vanzetti to view the evidence in a biased manner. In the same way that Bill and Stan are tried for being young New Yorkers, Sacco and Vanzetti and tried for being young foreigners.  Episode 46- The Perfect Crime

What I found to be most interesting about this clip wasn’t the content, though I will get to that in a moment, but the advertising involved in the show. The show, a police detective drama called Calling All Cars, is sponsored by an oil company, Rio Grande Oil, which had fairly lengthy ads before and after the program itself. When the opening ad came on, it sounded like it was going to be the show itself, featuring police officers pulling over a suspected gas station robber who turned out to be someone looking for their brand of oil. The advertisement after the program went even further, featuring an induction into a Rio Grande Oil  youth police force for one of the actors. Yes, it was that ridiculous. I thought it all tied in nicely with today’s lecture regarding advertising.

Onto the content of the show. After the racism in the voices during the conversation between the German doctor/evil scientist and his Mexican companion, the program was interesting in showing the conversation of the crime itself followed by detectives attempting to solve the mystery. It was ultimately solved, though, not by detectives, but by the family who was inadvertently harboring the scientist during his escape. The overarching theme was clear (and stated outright): crime doesn’t pay. It seemed to be marketed towards children, oddly, despite the oil advertisements, but this may just be my perceptions of the program. It didn’t contain anything too intellectually stimulating or even particularly entertaining, I thought. It took conscious efforts to not multitask.

The New Freedom and The New Nationalism: Differing Brands of Progressive Thought – Jake Berman

Woodrow Wilson is clearly very wary of trusts in his “New Freedom” speech. He devotes most of his speech to explaining exactly why trusts are a danger to America. In doing so, he is careful to draw a distinction between natural and unnatural monopolies, or big corporations and trusts. This distinction is important in determining policies; large corporations are immensely beneficial in Wilson’s eyes, as they have the ability to provide their good or service more efficiently, but he sees trusts as being inherently inefficient.

Wilson’s view of the role of government is shaped by this distinction between natural and unnatural monopolies. Government should not interfere with the activities of corporations unless they become inefficient monopolies. Once a trust is created, that is where it starts to become a drain on society; it stops true competition from existing, and collusion between industries starts. Wilson has no will to exert any sort of power over corporations; he only wants to ensure that the economy can operate at maximum efficiency, without encroaching on individuals’ rights to purchase goods at a fair price, or even compete in the market themselves. In this sense, while his ideas can be seen as radical compared to the status quo, they are also conservative in that he wishes to return to a time when corporations did not exert the same type of control over the nation.

While this “brand” of progressivism is similar to that of Roosevelt, there are stark contrasts. Roosevelt, in his “New Nationalism” speech, is much more interested in the military aspect of government control. While this may reflect the venue, where he is addressing Civil War veterans, I think the fact that he is mentioning economic policies at such a speech says a lot about his brand of progressivism. His mentions of freeing the government, ” from the sinister influence or control of special interests,” (p. 4) is very different from Wilson’s ideas of stopping trusts from infringing on American people’s freedoms, even if only in rhetoric and not in practice.

None of this is to say, though, that Wilson’s and Roosevelt’s brands of progressivism are incompatible. In fact, it doesn’t seem like there are any deep-rooted reasons that their respective goals cannot be achieved by similar policies. Roosevelt would likely be satisfied with trusts being broken up in the way Wilson wishes, and Wilson would likely be satisfied with special interests being excluded from the political process. However, their respective focuses of trusts and large corporations, respectively, show more what each finds important: Wilson is far more concerned with the American people’s loss of freedoms at the hands of trusts, whereas Roosevelt’s concerns lie with corporate interests tarnishing the democratic process.

Solitude of Self – Jake Berman

Stanton’s use of religious imagery is much heavier than a modern feminist’s would likely be. Now, many view biblical texts as being against many of the modern ideas of feminism. Being written thousands of years ago, women played a very different role in society than they do today (as well as than they did in 1892), where they were subjected to men’s will. However, it is not as contradictory for Stanton to use religious imagery in her speech. Her view that everyone is essentially on their own in the world, each on our own journey through life (and death) evokes religious ideals throughout, and makes for a very strong argument. One section particularly stood out to me:

“Whatever the theories may be of woman’s dependence on man, in the supreme
moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. Alone she goes to the gates of
death to give life to every man that is born into the world; no one can share her
fears, no one can mitigate her pangs; and if her sorrow is greater than she can bear, alone she passes beyond the gates into the vast unknown.” (6)

This passage’s religious symbology of the “gates of death” are used to really point out not only how solitary everyone’s journey through life, but to show how noble a woman’s role is. Childbirth is not just part of ones role as a woman, but is rather facing death in the face.

She also uses religious imagery in softer, yet just as rhetorically powerful ways, with her anecdote about, “the little girl who helped to dress a Christmas tree for the
children of the family in which she served,” (3) in which she, though she decorated the tree, did not receive any gifts, and was left with the solitary feeling that threads throughout the speech. Her use of religious rhetoric, which goes as far as quoting Jesus himself, makes her arguments very powerful for her audience, at a time when Americans were becoming even more drawn to religion as a way of reaching social change.

The most strikingly powerful part, I must say, is her concluding sentence, which I think warrants repetition: “Who, I ask you, can take, dare take on himself the rights,
the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?” (9)

Garlin and Bellamy – Jake

Garlin in “Under the Lion’s Paw” and Bellamy in Looking Backward each paint pictures of America tailored to their “political” views, clearly influenced by much of the Populist movement of the time. Garlin’s world of Midwest farming, while not having the same overtly politically socialist message as Looking Backward, sets the stage for much of the political sentiments of the time, focused around the idea that the banking system is causing farmers’ poverty in many ways. Even though the banker of the town, Butler, is described as being “one of the ‘easiest’ men in town,” (p. 135), he still ends up screwing over Haskins in the end by doubling the price of the farm because of upgrades Haskins himself made to the property. This idea of bankers too easily having the ability to destroy the lives of farmers is one of the root philosophies behind much of the Populist movement, and is illustrated very deliberately by Garlin to make this point.

Bellamy’s political socialist influence are much more obvious to the reader. After setting up a character relatable to readers, most of the rest of the novel is devoted to what is essentially describing his view of a socialist utopia. Whereas Garlin paints a Populist picture of the state of affairs of contemporary America, Bellamy shows how the Populists’ ideas can be transformed into a utopia from the same world in which Garlin writes. As this utopian future exists over 100 years after the writing of the novel, leaps further than Populists were campaigning on were reached; namely, Bellamy’s world includes complete public ownership, or a perfect communist system nation-wide, even spreading to other countries as well. Both of these readings remind me of Marx’s views. Garlin sees the dangers that capitalism has on the less fortunate, while Bellamy sees the end goal of communism once those dangers are realized by the masses.

Week 2 response

Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” offers an interesting insight into his philanthropic philosophy that defines his legacy. Known for his contributions such as Carnegie Hall, he devotes his earnings to making America a better place for all to live. He is, however, particular in how he believes these contribution ought to be made. He discusses how contributions made after a wealthy man’s death often are unable to benefit society as much as contributions made while living, but is even more wary of unhelpful contributions. “The miser millionaire who hoards his wealth does less injury to society than the careless millionaire who squanders his unwisely, even if he does so under cover of the mantle of sacred charity,” (p. 32) he says. This distinction of good and bad charity sets Carnegie and his contemporaries apart as millionaires who care much more about the results of their charity compared to those who donate to make themselves feel better.

When wealthy individuals do use their excess profits as he recommends later in his paper, the wealthy become the “trustee and agent for his poorer bretheren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves” (p. 25). This is important to Carnegie as someone who does come from a modest background; he doesn’t want to see the inequalities that are created as a result of the industrial revolution to mean a lower quality of life for the poor. He wants to see the whole of society to progress and become better for all, and this really shapes his actions and his recommendations in this paper.

This debate is one that is still carried out among today’s million- and billionaires, and can be seen in the difference between figures such as Bill Gates, who seems to have a similar philosophy to Carnegie’s, and many others who either hoard their profits or “squander” them with contributions to causes such as political campaigns and others which Carnegie would abhor. The fact that this debate is still ongoing makes me question whether Carnegie’s view of the wealthy as “trustees… for his poorer bretheren” (ibid.) will ever hold true or whether wealth inequalities necessarily lead to worse conditions for the poor than is necessary.