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Blueprint America is a massive new PBS undertaking to document the past, present, and future of America’s infrastructure.

Blueprint America is a precedent-setting multi-platform initiative — developed and produced by Thirteen/WNET, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation — that will harness the power of public broadcasting’s most prestigious programs, primetime documentaries, community and educational outreach, and the web to shine an unyielding spotlight on one of the most critical issues facing our country, yet one that has been under-reported by the traditional news media: America’s decaying and neglected infrastructure. We hear about infrastructure only when it results in a catastrophic bridge collapse or levee failure, but in fact, it is placing our quality of life and our ability to compete in a global economy at risk.

Please don’t think the less of it because parts feature, uh, me.

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Check your local listings, as they say.


I like Mary Beard’s TLS blog. But this time I fear she has Gone Too Far. Or, perhaps more likely, she’s pulling our collective leg — though I don’t remember her pulling it in quite this manner before. Even out here at the veriest Edge, the cityscape is clotted with victors’ memories of the War of Eastern Aggression. Just yesterday I was out picknicking with fellow parents of future yuppies at the Black Point Battery; and of course the map is full of streets named for Vicksburg, Grant, Lincoln and the Union. (Not to speak of the Confederate general from Big Sur.)

Need we quote Faulkner again?

Image by Flickr user maduarte used under a Creative Commons license.

That’s the program title. If you’re really, really interested in listening to me talk about the New Deal at some length, with France Kassing on our local one and only KDVS, it’s here.

For those of you who really, really enjoy this sort of thing, here’s a whole hour of me on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal talking about the New Deal. But certainly the highlight is the part when they show our blog!

EotAW’s own Kathy Olmsted does an excellent job discussing her new book Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy from World War I to 9/11 on Capital Public Radio’s program Insight for today (start listening at about 19:55). (And everyone knows why you don’t discuss the moon landing conspiracy.1)

So, please listen to Kathy. And buy her book. (Again. Because you bought it once already, right?)


Some notes on the first hundred days, in the San Francisco Chronicle and on NPR.

On Friday, when I was in New York for the AHA, I also got to go around to the NPR studios and talk with some of my favorite radio hosts.

Doing a radio interview by phone is weird; there’s none of the normal intimacy you get in a telephone conversation. Doing a radio interview in studio is more natural, because you can see the hosts and get all the normal cues you get in conversation—but it’s still weird; you’re being timed, and monitored, and there’s a big microphone in your face.

Still, after we’d been talking for some time, it got to seem more natural. Which was probably about when I stopped making sense—if you’re jet-lagged from the redeye, and also sitting comfortably in pleasant company, you start to lose coherence I fear.

Anyway, here it is: what if there’d been no New Deal?

Below (or by download here) you can hear me on Virginia’s Only Statewide Public Radio Program, “With Good Reason”, discussing—what else?—the Great Depression and the New Deal. This time by studio ISDN line rather than telephone, so I just have to live with the notion that that’s what I sound like.

Also, if you missed it, I criticize the New Deal here. I discover belatedly I was slightly scooped by Samuel Brittan, who made a similar argument here.

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Jonathan Dresner kindly puts us in his “History Carnival.” Then, for “the other side,” he links to this post about the “fascist NRA” and how the Roosevelt “Administration targeted Jewish merchants/middlemen for the dual sins of being good capitalists and observant Jews”.

We had the privilege of the excellent Andrew Cohen post on this a while back.

In Shlaes’ portrayal, the Schechter brothers were small immigrant businessmen crushed by a tyrannical federal government exceeding its traditional jurisdiction.

The real story is much more interesting. A.L.A. Schechter & Co. was actually the largest firm in Brooklyn’s $60 million kosher poultry market, grossing over $1 million per year. The corporation had grown by undercutting their five hundred or so rival slaughterhouses, represented by three groups: the Greater New York Live Poultry Chamber of Commerce, the Official Orthodox Slaughterers of America, and Teamsters’ Union Local #167.

The tough guys who ran these organizations tried to bully the Schechters into submission, on one occasion putting emery powder in the crankcase of their trucks. In response, the US government pursued the leading figures in the industry, especially Arthur “Tootsie” Herbert, the business agent of the poultry drivers. Between 1928 and 1932, Herbert and his colleagues endured federal indictments, injunctions, and contempt citations, interventions all upheld in the Supreme Court case Local #167 v. United States (1934).

With the passage of the NIRA in 1933, however, the worm turned. Even as the leaders of the poultry associations were fighting to stay out of prison, they were given the authority to construct a legally enforceable code for their industry. Soon the Schechters found themselves prosecuted for sixty violations of the code. The criminals had become lawmen, and the victims, delinquents.

Interestingly, Andrew reminds us by email that the Schechters voted for Roosevelt in 1936.

Joe [Schechter] told reporters that he was enthusiastic for the re-election of Roosevelt and that all eligible members of his family, including the four brothers involved in the NRA action, had cast their ballots in his favor. “I wonder if it would be possible,” he asked reporters, “to congratulate President Roosevelt through the newspapers and tell him that sixteen votes in our family were cast in his favor.”

Oh, and if you’ve really infinite patience for listening to me talk about the Great Depression and New Deal, you can hear me on EconTalk, with the very polite and kind Russ Roberts, who seems nevertheless a deal closer to Shlaes than to me on this subject. FWIW I don’t think I come off so well as I ought.

I’d already decided on “teledon” as a replacement for “doofus” for this kind of thing, and then lo and behold, I am opening act for a real-live teledon, my erstwhile colleague Niall. Those who like this sort of thing will enjoy listening here as I crack wise based on Keynes’s wit.

Also, jftr, the thing that sticks out to me about Geithner is his Bretton Woods/international economics experience.

Partway through I get asked about Amity Shlaes. No, I do not know when. You don’t think I’m going to listen to me, do you?

I guess I need another category. Like, Je suis un doofus.

UPDATED to add, people know that the doofus in question is me, right?

Can’t get enough New Deal? Here’s me on WILL, UIUC’s public radio. I like how the podcast begins in the middle of a report on the BNP: “a bunch of skinhead morons.” Sweet.

Oh, and if you missed the Sacramento public radio program, it’s here.

You’d think they’d get tired of this sort of thing.

Dave was very kind to mention my book.1

Previously on doofus tv.

1I’m sure he would have mentioned the index if there were more time.

KCRA, our local NBC affiliate, had a pretty well researched and thoughtful report on the history of (mainly) GOP complaints about the press hating on (mainly) Republicans. Too bad they ruined it by interviewing some random goofball live at the end.

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