Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sanders Will Rock The Convention and Create A Third party

not sure I agree with all this, but certainly an interesting piece...

from the political analyzer:
Sanders has lost the race for the Nomination, and they will be useless future victories in Indiana, Oregon and California.

Bernie has two months to prepare for the assault on the Democratic National Convention and seven months to create a new party, to give a home to millions of American voters, and win the next Presidential Election.

He has to question the nature of the Democratic Party, disassemble the Clintonism and overcome without fear the eight years of Barack Obama.

At this point of the race it should be starting from the mistakes that Sanders has committed to avoid mistakes in the future: 1. He must place a tombstone on the remaining Neoliberalism in its electoral manifesto and in his narration; 2. He must to harshly criticize the bond that the last two Democratic Presidents have had with the unbridled Capitalism; 3. He must return the United States to be a Democracy on the same wavelength of the statements of former President Jimmy Carter; 4. He must begin to speak to the lower classes and abandon the bourgeois narration of the Middle-Class, which led to Clintonism-Blairism; 5. He must carry the Democratic people to the Democratic Party of the origins, to FDR, since the Great Recession that the West has lived since 2008 with the same causes of the Great Depression of 1929: The Deregulation; 6. He must start again from the European Socialism model of sixties without the fear of being accused of populism considered that socialism is healthy populism for excellence; 7. He must work on the language of the Media, the Republicans and the current Democratic Party; 8. He doesn’t propose any cultural revolution but to give the right meaning to the words; 9. He must ‘frighten’ the American people about the seriousness of global warming and the risk of an epochal disaster; 10. He must ‘terrorize’ voters about the prospects of the American economy that increasingly into debt and lost tax revenue because of the large multinationals; 11. He must, in short, sensitize and inform Americans about the seriousness of the historical period we are living; 12. He must make a winning impose of the idea of pacifism reminding the electorate the number of victims caused by the wars which were attended by the United States since the Second World War; 13. He should remind Americans that the United States can not afford 230 years of wars; 14. He must impose the vision that military spending can not be equal to the 90% of World Military Spending; 15. He must urge the Americans to change the modus vivendi and to allocate part of Military Spending in Welfare, Redistribution of Wealth, the Fight against Poverty, the Right to Education; 16. He must start from the last financial deregulation; 17. He should demolish the positivity of the concept of Trickle-Down Economy and Reaganomics; 18. He must rebuild the USA Brand in order to allow the Rest of the World to look at the Country with kindness and admiration rather than fear and hate; 19. He must make the United States the most prosperous Country in the World and not just the richest; 20. He must succeed where Obama has failed in countering the spread of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, the further impoverishment of the most vulnerable groups, the continued thinning of the Middle-Class, continued economic growth of 1% population, the real unemployment.

From this criticisms:
1. He must found a new party that includes all the Progressive Forces;
2. He must rebuild the Global Progressivism from dialogue with the anti -Neoliberalism Socialist Parties of Western;
3. He must deepen the dialogue with Pope Francis;
4. He must reduce the number of American troops abroad;
5. He must unmask Donald Trump and present it to the American people as an integral part of the establishment;
6. He must be argued that Trump is actually the new version of the Good Old Party;
7. He must pass the frame that the Good Old Party is trying to put a stop to its decline by presenting at the Presidential Elections in a similar way to the European Social-Right Parties;
8. He must explain to the Americans that the Social-Right is an oxymoron and therefore doesn’t exist;
9. He must, rather, speak convincingly to all those Republicans who still remember the former Candidate to the Presidency John McCain, which is doing so much at the Congress with Elizabeth Warren to restore the Glass-Steagall Bill;
10. He – once abandoned the Democratic Party – should avoid confrontation with Clinton considered that his electorate is either monolithic both minority and try to steal votes from her would mean to lose votes from within;
11. He must ignore Clinton and talk to the 43% of Independents who are just waiting for answers;
12. He must establish a new relationship with the African American Community not exclusively based on sporadic endorsments by some famous people;
13; He must make an alliance with the Hispanic Community about their safety and the possibility of entering the United States;
14. He must imagine a Country increasingly multiethnic that can do the cultural synthesis the trump card at the global level;
15. He must make one of the two American continents, starting from friendship close at Vatican City with Evo Morales;
16. He must re-introduce the goodness of the concept of State and cite, for example, Bill Gates regarding ineptitude of private in dealing with the key issues;
17. He must return to give luster to the Unions and push American workers to unite themeselves and to have more and more say in the matter;
18. He must persuade Americans that monetary policy is not a solution to the economic problems but a great opportunity to further enrichment by the American Banking System that in this way impoverish global finance and the rest of World;
19. He should load of responsibility the Americans claimings a better America creates a better World;
20. He must restore hope, dream, memory, beauty, and a good dose of intake awareness to the American people, and promise a second New Deal without the Third World War.

Monday, April 25, 2016

School of Life Monday:
Franz Kafka


from The School of Life

Franz Kafka is a guide to some very dark feelings most of us know well concerned with powerlessness, self-disgust and anxiety. This literary genius turned the stuff of nightmares into redemptive, consoling art.



Friday, April 22, 2016

Undeniable Music Business Revolutionary


Everyone's gotta say something, they should say something.

He was a revolutionary in so many ways working within and without the major record business, his output was prolific in both style and hits. Undeniable.


"Albums. Remember those? Albums still matter.
Like books and black lives, albums still matter."

- Prince, 2015 Grammys

Back in the early 80s during hardcore punks golden age, an ex-girlfriend asked me if I'd accompany her to see Prince and the Revolution at the Forum in Los Angeles on the "Purple Rain" tour. One would hope that a punk would have an open mind to other music, but at the time when it was all still kinda new, we all were pretty loyal to our "punk thing" and didn't listen to much else for a period of a few years there. Honestly. But by this time I had re-instated AC/DC and Zeppelin back into my car stereo on occasion and was listening to some of the early Hip Hop tapes that floated to me from Brooklyn. At this point Prince was some pop shit, could I even allow myself to go? To be seen at a Prince concert in a huge venue? Well I was being a nice guy at least and accompanied my friend, so what the fuck, might as well. To my surprise it turned out to quite an impressive event, and not only was I not embarrassed, I wore it like a badge of honor: I went into the belly of the pop beast and was able to be blown away and respect it! It was pretty incredible.

Some years later living back in New York City, we heard that Prince was gonna do a little after party thing at NELL's, the "velvet rope" hot spot of the mid 80s in NYC, Hip Hop was blowing up, Def Jam was ruling, so of course my friends and I had entrée to all the best spots, so we were there all the time, closing the place down half the nights of the week. We were "locals" and we were sitting in the "restaurant area" where they would sometimes have a small jazz type band play, no raised stage, just an area by the wall in the middle of the tabled area. This one night we happened to get a small table near the front, just hanging out eating french fries, not even sure if the shit was gonna go down, then all of a sudden the band walked in the front door and went directly to the instruments, a very modest "night club lounge" set-up is how I'd describe it... with Prince himself sitting at a small electric piano so close I remember he could have reached over and plucked some fries from my plate, in fact he may have, but you can't hold me to that and I'm not gonna say for sure that I remember if he did or not, but something made me remember all these years later that he for sure could have... needless to say he and his band killed it! And this was after playing Madison Square Garden just a few hours earlier. That motherfucker was real. Much Respect.

Later on in the club I saw Prince cruising around with his bodyguards in tow, dwarfing the man with six inch heels and canary-colored jumpsuit. I stepped to him and thanked him for the incredible performance and he batted his eyelashes and nodded thanks back.

Another huge creative loss.



Not the typical favorite of most, but one of mine.





Wednesday, April 20, 2016

post New York Primary vote message




no doubt the fix was in.

from the lack of fair coverage to the outright lies and propaganda,
Bernie got Burned by the corporate power structure, fucking lame.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spike Lee's "Wake Up" short film
In New York vote today for Bernie Sanders


I whole heatedly support this great short film and candidate now.



VOTE TODAY.

VOTE FOR A BETTER FUTURE.

WE MUST TRY & NOT GIVE IN OR GIVE UP.



BONUS:
Bernie Sanders Interviewed by Spike Lee for THR New York Issue:

Monday, April 18, 2016

School of Life Monday:
on PHILOSOPHY - Nietzsche

from The School of Life:



Nietzsche believed that the central task of philosophy was to teach us to 'become who we are'

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Robert De Niro on anti-vaccine film controversy:
'Let's find out the truth'




The Tribeca Film Festival now is celebrating its 15th year and founders, actor Robert De Niro and producer Jane Rosenthal mark the occasion with an interview on TODAY. De Niro, who has an autistic child, comments on the decision to pull the anti-vaccination film "Vaxxed" from this year's lineup, even though he says, "I think the movie is something that people should see," and he questions statistics on vaccine-preventable diseases.

I sympathize with Bob, and I've read the CDC's own precaution and warning one-sheets. it's remarkable how people marginalize people who want to think more before they take vaccines. It's horrible and it's not only about autism. next time you have the opportunity, read the one sheet on your vaccine and the risks involved and the lack or responsibilities the pharmaceutical industry takes. It's not such a simple story.



Thanks, Tristan

Saturday, April 16, 2016

WE ARE DEVO!
Muzak to get Mutated to: E-Z Listening with DEVO

Yes two days in a row, Devo days. this post also from Dangerous Minds


Booji Boy, crooner?

There are fewer musical sub-genres considered so across the board lame as muzak. Even other questionable genres and sub-genres, like Christian rock or vanity albums (IE. a record made by Bruce Willis or Solo Cup heiress Dora Hall), have a fan base. Muzak, or as it was more quaintly known “elevator music”, were the instrumental nuggets associated with portals of American consumerist Hell. Elevators, waiting rooms, the dentist’s office, assorted department stores your parents or grandparents would shop at and being put on hold were just a few of the key places that one would be assaulted by the tepid, non-threatening notes of muzak. Whether it was something originally created to be as inoffensive as possible or golden hits and oldies watered down to a level of being barely recognizable pre-chewed, pre-digested musical pablum, it was a format that was inescapable by the mid to late 1970s. So who better to subvert arguably the most hated form of music in America and make it not only great, but mind-blowingly brilliant than the pioneers who got scalped themselves, than DEVO?

In 1981, the band behind the energy domes released two cassette tapes via their official fan club, the still-thriving and operating Club DEVO, featuring “muzak” versions of some of their better (and lesser) known songs. Whether you were a member or smart enough to purchase their then current New Traditionalists album which included an order form. The original description read as “Muzak versions of your favorite DEVO tunes performed by DEVO at a rare casual moment. Mutated versions of DEVO classics, “Whip It,” “Mongoloid,” and many others round out this limited edition collectors item.”

 

Original Cover Art for the Cassette release of E-Z Listening

 

These tracks were enough of a hot commodity among both DEVO fans and the curious alike to warrant bootlegs available both via vinyl (some of which are still warranting figures up to $200 online) and even apparently an 8-track tape. It was released to the general public in 1987 via a CD from Rykodisc, which combined both tapes. For a band that has built a legacy of coloring outside the lines and mixing commentary on the fallacies and foibles of American culture with sounds and images that are often surreal, this album is a strange artifact, even for the most hardcore spud.

 

DEVO circa New Traditionalists era

 

Each song is a contained sonic world that ranges from schmaltz to eerie to just downright whimsical. Some tracks are easily identifiable, like the versions of “Space Junk” and “Gates of Steel.” The vast majority have been beautifully mutated into something almost wholly new. A few have the resonation of Lawrence Welk after taking four hits of strong Orange Sunshine acid and going on an exotic animal wrestling exhibition (“Come Back Jonee,” “Girl U Want”). The E-Z Listening version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” actually sounds akin to a live rehearsal of The Residents brilliant cover of the hoary old Rolling Stones chestnut. A lot of the tracks have a cinematic flair, whether it is the eeriness of “Mongoloid” (the E-Z version of it would be amazing in a horror film), the “made-for-TV detective film from Mars” feel of “S.I.B.” or the wistful end credits vibe of “Pity You.” (Seriously, any of you filmmakers out there please feel free to take notes and utilize these songs. You will be better off for it.)

 



 

The Rykodisc release of E-Z Listening has been out-of-print for several years, but thanks to those resurrectors of worthy past culture, Futurismo, it’s back in a beautifully formatted, ultra-swanky two disc or LP box set. There’s even a special edition that comes with a DEVO smoking jacket and cocktail drink stir.

 



 

It’s a fitting edition of what was a novelty to some, but a beautiful release of sonic Dada that brings whimsy, lightness, shadowy sinister and all of those elements that have seen DEVO counted among the greatest American artists—musically or conceptually—to have emerged out of the post-baby boom era.

The absolute stand-out here is undoubtedly the muzaky version of “Whip It.” Everything that is right in this world is included in this piece of music, actually leveling it above the great (though sadly overplayed-to-Hell) original. It’ll make you want to start flipping off of walls Spazz Attack-style, though you might want to wear a helmet and gird your loins first before doing so.

 


 

A live “Girl U Want” over EZ on the 1982 tour:


 

Take an EZ listen to what Mark Mothersaugh claims is his favorite DEVO album:



Friday, April 15, 2016

IT’S ALL DEVO! New video from one of devolution’s mutant masterminds Gerald Casale

from Dangerous Minds, a premiere:


Gerald Casale famously began conceiving the “Theory of Devolution” after surviving the infamous May 4, 1970 Kent State shootings. Basically a misanthropic philosophy leavened with deadpan absurdist humor, the theory held that despite or because of (it probably doesn’t matter) the march of civilization and advances in technology, humanity was not evolving per the Darwin model, but was in fact collectively getting dumber, more primitive, and ultimately less fit for long-term survival, and that principle (and some very strange books) laid the foundation for Casale’s and his KSU partner-in-crime Mark Mothersbaugh’s band DEVO, who by the late ‘70s became emblematic of the New Wave.

Though DEVO have been only very intermittently active as a touring and releasing entity since 1990, Casale remains a steadfast believer in and promoter of the reality of devolution—and what sentient being possessing a modicum of attentiveness could look at this world and possibly disagree with him? While Mothersbaugh has enjoyed a long career scoring films, Casale has directed dozens of music videos and remained an off-the-map provocateur, spinning social commentary with brilliant conceits like DEVO 2.0 (and, sometimes, bafflingly tone-deaf outfits like Jihad Jerry and the Evildoers).



At last year’s annual “DEVOtional” fan convention, Casale expressed a wish for DEVO to reactivate—though the band has never officially broken up, it hasn’t done anything since a brief ten-date tour two years ago. He seems to have taken the reins on his own, though, as he’ll be releasing the single “It’s All DEVO” on April 16th. The physical release is a Record Store Day Exclusive, but the digital release will be available on the same day, without throngs of eBay flippers crowding you out of the bins. The song seems to be Casale’s way of underscoring his sustained belief in and critique of our infuriating march toward our own ruin via our embrace of idiot demagogues (guess who makes an appearance?) and our all-consuming consumerism.

The song and video are both collaborations with Italian artists—a musical assist was provided by the prolific Neapolitan duo The Phunk Investigation, and the video is credited to the wonderfully bonkers collage artist Max Papeschi (think Winston Smith with a brighter palette) and director Maurizio Temporin. Asked for comment, Casale offered this:

The video for “Its All DEVO” distills the current state of the world as we know it to be down to 3 plus minutes of a cartoon, technicolor nightmare. The transgressive juxtaposition of G-rated Americana, corporate malfeasance and totalitarian horror is as sweet as Kool Aid - thus easy on the Millennial mind and body. Working with the infamous Italian artist Max Papeschi was an exciting collaboration as satisfying as my early DEVO days.

The video is indeed a vivid brainfuck of DEVO references, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sight gags, and slams on consumer culture’s sacred cows, and it’s Dangerous Minds’ pleasure to debut that video for you today.

 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Capturing a Culture,
A photographic history of countercultures, Pt. 3
"Conscious rap VS Gangsta rap captured by Glen E Friedman"


from Arté TV

Last week i began posting links of the original French and German versions on various social media, and on Sunday attempted to post the entire series here on the blog, not sure if that worked for everyone, so now that i have the english versions I can embed, here we go with my three parts over the next few days. This is the last, 3rd episode on my work. Let us know what you think.


In the late 1980s, driven on by the Def Jam label, the Hip Hop tsunami washes over America. Public Enemy, Run DMC, the Beastie Boys... all of Rap's future heavyweights will file in front of Glen's camera. His mythic photographs and cult album cover shots help craft the movement's unique esthetic.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Capturing a Culture,
A photographic history of countercultures, Pt. 2
"Punk rock attitude captured by Glen E Friedman"


from Arté TV

Last week i began posting links in the original French and German versions and on Sunday attempted to post the entire series in English here on the blog, not sure if that worked for everyone, so now that i have the english versions I can embed, here we go with my three parts over the next few days. This is the second of three of my episodes. Let us know what you think.


In the early 1980s, from Los Angeles to New York, in sweat-soaked concert halls, in wild mosh pits amid ear-shattering decibels, Glen E. Friedman captures the new music that perflectly reflects his own life. Aggressive yet keenly aware, hardcore punk becomes the new soundtrack of young people in open revolt.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Capturing a Culture,
A photographic history of countercultures, Pt. 1
"Radical skateboarding captured by Glen E Friedman"


from Arté TV

Last week i began posting links in the original French and German versions and on Sunday attempted to post the entire series here on the blog, not sure if that worked for everyone, so now that i have the english versions I can embed, here we go with my three parts over the next few days. This is the first episode. Let us know what you think.


In 1975, 14-year-old Glen E. Friedman spends his days crisscrossing the streets of Los Angeles on his skateboard, his Kodak Instamatic dangling from his wrist. From the schoolyards in Dogtown to the empty swimming pools in Beverly Hills, with his band of buddies known as the Z-Boys, he unwittingly photographs the birth and development of the modern skating movement.


Monday, April 11, 2016

School of Life Monday:
POLITICAL THEORY - John Locke


from The School of Life:
John Locke's greatness as a philosopher is based on his theories on childhood, his work on religious toleration and his concept of the rights of citizens. He helped to make us who we are.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday viewing pleasure:
Capturing a Culture,
a photographic history of countercultures


from ARTÉ TV :
(if the videos don't show on your device please click ARTÉ TV link above)
Capturing a Culture looks back at groundbreaking countercultures through the eyes of  the photographers who captured their essence and showcased their rebellious spirit. A 13-part series of 6-minute films – with Glen E. Friedman, Danny Lyon, Janette Beckman, Henry Chalfant and Gavin Watson.
Radical skateboarding captured by Glen E Friedman

In 1975, 14-year-old Glen E. Friedman spends his days crisscrossing the streets of Los Angeles on his skateboard, his Kodak Instamatic dangling from his wrist. From the schoolyards in Dogtown to the empty swimming pools in Beverly Hills, with his band of buddies known as the Z-Boys, he unwittingly photographs the birth and development of the modern skating movement.
Punk rock attitude captured by Glen E Friedman

In the early 1980s, from Los Angeles to New York, in sweat-soaked concert halls, in wild mosh pits amid ear-shattering decibels, Glen E. Friedman captures the new music that perflectly reflects his own life. Aggressive yet keenly aware, hardcore punk becomes the new soundtrack of young people in open revolt. 
Conscious rap VS Gangsta rap captured by Glen E Friedman

In the late 1980s, driven on by the Def Jam label, the Hip Hop tsunami washes over America. Public Enemy, Run DMC, the Beastie Boys... all of Rap's future heavyweights will file in front of Glen's camera. His mythic photographs and cult album cover shots help craft the movement's unique esthetic. 
The African American Revolution captured by Danny Lyon

In 1962, at 20 years old, Danny Lyon is one of the first people to document the birth of the civil rights movement from the inside. He captures sit-ins and freedom rides, and even does jail time with Martin Luther King. His work is featured in the press and used as propaganda by the movement, helping push forward the emancipation movement that will give rise, 30 years later, to the first Black U.S. president. 
Outlaw bikers captured by Danny Lyon

Starting in 1964, a 22-year-old New Yorker named Danny Lyon immerses himself in biker culture, cozying up to America's first motorcycle gangs. Five years before Easy Rider and three years before Hunter S.Thompson's Hell’s Angels, Danny Lyon describes the daily life of biker crews who chose to live by their own rules, becoming the antiheroes of the hippie generation. 
British rock tribes captured by Janette Beckman

Janette Beckman has built a career out of her encounters with musicians over the course of a lifelong journey through countercultures. This rock loving photographer captured the tumultuous early days of punk rock in England, the Mod revival, the skinhead upheaval, and the Two Tone explosion. She was close with rock groups like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, who wrote the soundtrack of her youth. But Janette Beckman also photographed their fans: hanging out, slam dancing, brawling, expressing their rage and rejecting the Crown's values and the British social hierarchy of the day.
Hip Hop & Gang Culture captured by Janette Beckman

In the early 1980s, the pioneers of Hip Hop land in England on the first stage of a European tour. Janette Beckman immortalizes their U.K. visit. The following year she is in New York, hanging out with up-and-coming Rap groups like Run DMC and NWA. From the ghettos of the Bronx to the ganglands of Los Angeles, she documents daily life in this new American counterculture. 
Subway Art captured by Henry Chalfant

In the early 1970s, New York City is fast becoming one big graffiti canvas. Henry Chalfant rifles through subway cars looking for the best graffiti works, from simple tags to wildly shaped and vividly colored letterings. At the time, he's the only one who recognizes the artistic value of graffiti, which is being erased as quickly as possible. The history of a new art form is being written and immortalized in his photos. 
Graffiti writers captured by Henry Chalfant

After spending months on New York's subway lines hunting for graffiti paintings that pop up there, Henry Chalfant tracks down the artists behind the images and becomes part of their crew. Being photographed by Henry becomes a badge of honor for graffiti writers, who wake him in the wee hours to say exactly where their newest works have sprung up.
Graffiti Art captured by Henry Chalfant

Graffiti makes its way into art galleries, and once again Henry Chalfant is along for the ride. At the height of the postmodern era, he shares his view of artists who are shifting directions and transforming their art. 
Skinhead Identity captured by Gavin Watson

Gavin Watson joined the local skinhead gang in his hometown of Berkhamsted at the tender age of 14. For the next ten years his camera was always in his pocket, as he photographed skinhead culture from the inside, going well beyond the stereotypes. His photographs get behind the shaved heads, the swastikas and the steel-toed boots, unveiling a complex culture with its very own codes, style and attitude that will leave a deep mark on Britain. 
Skinhead division captured by Gavin Watson

In the early 1980s, the skinhead movement is upended by a political radicalization that finds its voice in Oi music. The punk movement splits into two camps: one a posturing that grows out of punk provocation, and the other a true political revolt. The split turns skinheads into full-fledged urban monsters. 
Ravers captured by Gavin Watson

In the mid 1980s, house music floods over Great Britain and seeps its way into every culture. For Gavin Watson, caught up in the ultra-violent life of the skinhead movement, raves become a way out, a ticket to another way of life.
Capturing a Culture with Glen E. Friedman, Danny Lyon, Janette Beckman, Henry Chalfant and Gavin Watson
A documentary series by Marc-Aurèle Vecchione. 
A Resistance Films production - Sara Brucke

Friday, April 8, 2016

Skateboarding Hall of Fame
2016 Inductees Just Announced






Huge congrats to the 2016 ‪#‎SHOF‬ inductees!

1960's - Skip Frye
1970's Era One - TY PAGE
1970's Era Two - Steve Alba
1980's Era One - Eddie Elguera
1980's Era Two - Tommy Guerrero
1990's - Ed Templeton
1970's Female - Ellen Berryman
1980's Female - Cindy Whitehead
1990's Female - Jen O'Brien

This year's ceremony on May 13 at the Grove of Anaheim. Sponsored by Vans.
Tickets available now www.2016-shof.eventbrite.com

A few of the greats being inducted this year, I've made photos of:

Steve Alba


Eddie "El Gato" Elguera


Ed Templeton



Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Man Restaging an Evel Knievel Jump
to Vindicate His Father

from The New Yorker:


Forty-two years ago, Evel Knievel attempted—and failed—to ride a rocket, built by Scott Truax’s father, across the Snake River Canyon, in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Scott Truax wants to “cure history.” His prescription: a Hollywood stuntman riding a steam-powered rocket built from surplus parts across the canyon that yawns above the Snake River, in Twin Falls, Idaho. The malady in question is a haunting image of a similar rocket, the daredevil Evel Knievel’s Skycycle X-2, drifting nose-first into that canyon forty-two years ago.

Knievel’s failure, which followed a year of massive hype, was an epic burst soufflĂ© of grandiose American nonsense and, it seemed, an emblem of the times: a disgraced president had resigned, the Vietnam War was grinding to its inglorious conclusion, and the economy was gasping. America circa 1974 was fat Elvis, sweatily trying to maintain the spectacle, buttons ready to pop.

And, for Truax, the rocket failure was a family matter. His father, Robert Truax, a former Navy engineer, designed the rocket and ultimately took the blame. After a lifetime of impressive rocketry, he became best known for his involvement with the canyon jump. Knievel eventually turned on him. “I was so mad at that engineer,” he said in a 2005 documentary, “Absolute Evel.” “That guy was an idiot.”

Scott Truax, who is forty-eight, spent his early childhood watching his father build Knievel’s rocket in their family garage, in Saratoga, California. He was six years old on the day of the jump, which he watched from atop a motor home that his family rented and drove to Idaho. Later, he worked alongside his father on various other rocket projects, often with an eye toward his father’s lifetime goal of making space travel affordable. The elder Truax died in 2010, his goal unreached. (Knievel himself died in 2007.)

Four years ago, Scott Truax moved to Twin Falls and began building rockets for a redo of the canyon jump using his father’s original plans. He hoped that the new jump would take place on September 8, 2014, the fortieth anniversary of the Knievel fiasco, but those plans fell apart. Now he says he’s going to do it this summer. He says about $1.5 million has been spent on the project so far, with the funds mostly coming from his partner, the stuntman Eddie Braun, and that he’s determined to make it happen, one way or another.

“The whole point,” he told me recently, “is to prove the rocket my dad designed would have worked.”


Scott Truax, far right, attended the 1974 jump with his father, Robert, third from right, the rocket’s engineer.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SCOTT TRUAX


In 1974, I was eight years old, living on a dairy farm with my family in Gooding, Idaho, about thirty miles from Twin Falls. Knievel, a blustery, drunken ne’er-do-well who boasted of his youthful criminal exploits, bounced checks and broke promises, and inanely risked his life, was a hero to a lot of kids, and I was no exception. He showed up on TV on Saturday afternoons in his red-white-and-blue Elvis suits, giving earnest stay-in-school speeches. The ever-tan actor George Hamilton played him in a movie. Once, according to his biographer, Leigh Montville, Muhammad Ali told him, “You’re the white Muhammad Ali,” and Knievel replied, “Then you’re the black Evel Knievel.”

Like many children, I had the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. It was the best-selling toy for boys in the Christmas season of 1973. Lots of us tried to imitate Knievel, building ramps and riding off them on our Huffys and Schwinns. In 1976, a trio of Boston University physicians studied the nationwide rash of E.R. visits prompted by kids imitating the daredevil and published a paper in the journal Pediatrics with the title “The Consequences of Imitative Behavior in Children: The ‘Evel Knievel Syndrome.’ ” They urged doctors to be aware of it. “Any parent of children ranging in ages from 2 to 16 will recognize the foregoing cases as typical examples of everyday behavior in almost every neighborhood in the United States,” they wrote, adding, “While there is little question that thrill-seeking daredevils have been a part of our society since its earliest times, never in the history of man have the activities of these ‘heroes’ been so promptly and realistically reported for viewing by the children of the nation.”

In 1974, leading up to his date with the canyon, Knievel successfully landed eight straight jumps. Each step of the way he talked about the canyon jump, and I was paying careful attention. That jump would take place in my back yard, practically. My grandparents lived at the bottom of the Snake River Canyon, where my grandfather was the superintendent of the city sewer system. Surely I had to go to this. Obviously so. But my parents said no. The jump was on a Sunday, and we were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which meant we kept the Sabbath day holy. (I’ve joked that this planted the seeds for my departure from the Mormon Church. Maybe I wasn’t joking.)

That was in the first stage of my lifelong fascination with Knievel, one that would expand and change as I grew up and learned of the many unsavory aspects of Knievel’s character. And it probably explains why, when I began writing a novel set in the town where I grew up, one of the first chapters I wrote involved a young man defying his parents to go and watch the canyon jump.

Not curing history, exactly. But rewriting it.

Knievel contained multitudes. Talking about his childhood in Butte, Montana, he said he was both “a good safecracker” and “a good kid.” He ran a protection racket as a young man, and once apparently burgled the county courthouse. Though he eventually came to be described by some as “The Greatest Daredevil Who Ever Lived,” his unique quality was not his courage. Many others have done things more dangerous and foolhardy. He was, though, from the start, a grandmaster of charismatic bluster. (This is the trait that Ali recognized immediately.) He persuaded the owner of Caesar’s Palace, in Las Vegas, to let him jump his fountains—a jump that ended in a stunning, spectacular crash—by calling him up repeatedly, pretending to be different reporters, and inquiring about a rumor that Evel Knievel was going to jump the fountains at Caesar’s Palace.

By 1974, he had made about seventy big jumps, from his leap over a box of rattlesnakes in Moses Lake, Washington, in 1965, to his vault over ten cars in Philadelphia, in 1973. He was famous for crashing, but he usually landed. He had become a regular on the Saturday-afternoon television staple “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” He also drank hard and boasted of womanizing—but spoke of his wife in the most worshipful manner. He admired Liberace. He urged kids to believe in God and stay away from drugs, though whispers of drug abuse dogged him. He was notorious for not paying bills, and, as he became rich, he spent money with breathtaking excess. “There’s nothing in this world—I don’t care whether it’s furs, diamonds, automobiles, houses, anything you can name that is the best—that I’m not going to have two of,” he said in the documentary.

Robert Truax was not an obvious partner for Knievel. His work on liquid-propelled rockets was considered a major contribution to the American space program, and he was a leader in developing major missile programs. The New York Times called him “one of the premier rocket scientists of the 20th century.” By the nineteen-seventies, he had left the Navy and launched Project Private Enterprise, his effort to use cheap surplus parts to build rockets that would put civilians into space. “He hated the concept of the space shuttle,” Scott Truax said. “His whole idea was to promote low-cost access to space.”

Truax first became acquainted with Knievel through an engineer the daredevil had hired to build a rocket to cross the Grand Canyon. After the two met, they hit it off quickly. Knievel had hoped to jump the canyon on a motorcycle; Truax helped persuade him to ride a rocket instead. “Evel didn’t like the idea of being kind of a passenger, but my dad sold it to him by saying he was going to be like an astronaut,” Scott Truax said. True to form for the low-cost rocket man, the elder Truax built the fourteen-foot, one-thousand-three-hundred-and-fifty-pound Skycycle X-2 from surplus parts. The fuselage was an external fuel tank for a Grumman HU-16 Albatross seaplane. The steam engine was a repurposed oxygen tank from a B-50 bomber. Scott Truax told me that his earliest memories involve his dad working on that rocket in the garage. “He called those wondrous years. It was the most fun I think he ever had on a rocket project.”

During this time, the friendship between the daredevil and the engineer deepened. When, much later, Knievel had such harsh words for his father, it took Scott Truax by surprise—in part because Knievel and his father had remained friends after the Snake River Canyon jump. They even worked on a couple of other plans together. “They got along famously,” Truax said. “Because of my dad’s age and status, he was one of the rare people Evel listened to.”

One consequence of the frugal approach to building the rocket was that Robert Truax was not able to conduct a test of the parachute system. They had only one parachute, Scott Truax told me, and Knievel’s team was afraid a test effort would damage the chute.

Twin Falls in 1974 was a town of twenty thousand people. It sits on the high desert of southern Idaho, on the southern side of the Snake River Canyon. Knievel’s circus came to town the same week as the county fair and rodeo, and it was like nothing most people in the agricultural area had ever seen. Knievel promoted the occasion as a week-long festival that would feature fifty thousand spectators, high-wire acts, golf tournaments, food and drink, and fun. “Celebrities names were whispered,” the local Times-News reported, “fewer than 48 hours” before the jump, “but the only ‘stars’ sighted so far were Dustin Hoffman, Steve McQueen, and Ali McGraw, all reported to be ‘camping’ somewhere else than the big motels.”

By then, people had been arriving for days, camping in the canyon parks, skinny-dipping in the pools and lakes, partying. The crowds were smaller than predicted but rougher than many locals liked. One woman who lived near the jump site told the newspaper, “It seems there should be something we could do to make these people control themselves, like take their bikes away or something. I suppose we will just have to move out and give our property to the hippies.” Knievel’s team constructed a ramp on the north side of the canyon—a hill of dirt that, to this day, remains visible on the canyon rim as you drive into town.

Before the jump, Knievel wavered between self-aggrandizing hyperbole (“I’ve never been afraid in my life of dying under any circumstances. I think that a man was put here on Earth to live, not just to exist, and today is the proudest day of my life”), self-pitying determination (“I wish I didn’t have to be here and that I didn’t have to do this”), and bullying obstinacy (he punched a cameraman). He posed in the canyon for the cover of Sports Illustrated. “You know,” he told the magazine, “I’ve always been concerned about kids—not just my own three but all kids—what kind of an image I’m providing for them, what kind of inspiration. I don’t know now. Maybe I’m leading them down the path to self-destruction.”

The parties turned rowdier; there was some minor-league rioting the night before the jump. Knievel and his entourage burned about every bridge possible with locals, and left a trail of unpaid bills. Each reality fell short of the hype, from ticket sales to celebrity attendees. Madison Square Garden showed the jump on closed-circuit television, and sold tickets for the event. “The Garden looked to be about one-fifth full,” a writer for The New Yorker reported. “The most exciting thing that happened was when a fellow in front of us got mad at a fellow sitting next to him.” The day of the jump, Jack Perkins, of NBC News, said, “It’s Evel Knievel versus the Snake River Canyon, with the Snake River Canyon the sentimental favorite.”

By the time Knievel’s rocket left the ramp that afternoon, its untested parachute cover had already failed, and the parachute popped out; within seconds it was fully deployed, dragging Knievel down into the canyon, where he landed in the river. Scott Truax remembers hopping down from the top of the family motor home and rushing to the canyon rim with the rest of the crowd. For about twenty minutes, no one knew whether Knievel had lived or died.

After he graduated from high school, Scott Truax worked side by side with his dad on a rocket intended to take Knievel to space. The Navy ended up buying it from them for another purpose. In 2000, Scott got into custom home-building. The economic crash, in 2008, put an end to that business, and that’s when he decided to pursue the canyon jump. He moved to Utah for a few years, and then to Twin Falls. “I had wanted to recreate the Skycycle jump since I was a little kid, and just started hammering hard,” he said. “I’m sort of like a pit bull. I never let it go.”

He figured that moving to Twin Falls would help garner support for the jump, but it turns out that a lot of people still have a bad taste in their mouths from the original event. Still, he started building the first rocket, without an idea of who might pilot it or whether he could make the jump happen, and he started a Facebook page called “Return to Snake River.” Within a couple of days, the Hollywood stuntman Eddie Braun got in touch with him, and the two became partners in the endeavor.

Truax believes—and the initial trajectory of the Skycycle indeed suggests—that his father’s rocket would have cleared the canyon if it weren’t for the parachute failure. While he and his partners have mostly followed Robert Truax’s original plans, they departed in one key area. “We completely reĂ«ngineered the whole parachute system, and we did a test,” he said. “And the chute stayed put.”

He now has three rockets and a ramp, along with his replica of the “Supervan” that carried the rocket to the jump site. He has secured the rights to use private land on both sides of the canyon east of town. To avoid the entanglements of a full-time job, he has worked as a temp and in construction during the past year. He said he’s still fine-tuning the details of the jump but is set on proceeding this summer. “We’re going,” he said. “No matter what.”



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bernie Sanders Will Make the Economy Great Again

from The Nation


Liberal critics like Paul Krugman argue that Sanders’s economic platform is unrealistic. They are dead wrong.
By Robert Pollin
Does Bernie Sanders’s economic program amount to pie-in- the-sky nonsense? The short answer is no. All of his major proposals are grounded in solid economic reasoning and evidence.

But that hasn’t stopped a major swath of leading liberal economists and commentators to insist otherwise. Paul Krugman has led these attacks from his New York Times perch, charging repeatedly that Sanders makes “outlandish economic claims,” embraces “deep voodoo” economics, is “not ready for prime time,” and so forth. A recent Washington Post article by columnist Steven Pearlstein cites several other liberal economists criticizing Sanders’s support for Scandinavian-style social democratic policies, concluding that his program “promises all the good parts of the Scandinavian model without any of the bad parts.”

Sanders’s economic agenda certainly represents a dramatic departure from what has come out of mainstream Democratic Party circles for a generation, to say nothing, of course, of the Republicans. The key elements of Sanders’s program include a “Medicare-for-all” single-payer healthcare system; an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour; free tuition at public colleges and universities, to be financed by taxing Wall Street transactions; opposition to trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that have weakened the wage-bargaining power of US workers; large-scale public investments to build a clean-energy economy and rebuild the crumbling US infrastructure; and strong Wall Street regulations to promote productive investments and job creation over casino capitalism.

By contrast, the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton embraced an only moderately less aggressive pro-business agenda than the Republicans. Clintonomics featured Wall Street deregulation, NAFTA, and only tepid support for policies benefitting working people and the poor. This is how, over the full eight years of the Clinton presidency, average wages ended up being 2 percent lower than the average under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and nearly 10 percent less than under Jimmy Carter’s “years of malaise.”

Barack Obama’s presidency has certainly delivered important economic policy accomplishments, despite relentless Republican opposition. These include preventing a 1930s-level Depression after the 2008–09 Wall Street crash, steadily bringing unemployment down in the aftermath of the Great Recession, greatly expanding healthcare insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and promoting clean energy investments. Nevertheless, inequality has continued to rise under Obama; 33 million people still did not have health insurance at the end of 2014; greenhouse-gas emissions causing climate change have not significantly fallen; and average wages for non-supervisory workers remain below their 1973 level, despite average productivity having more than doubled over the past 40 years. Overall economic growth since Obama took office has also been weaker than any comparable period since the Great Depression.

Given these results under the last two Democratic administrations, it should not be surprising that the Sanders program—aiming to break emphatically with the neoliberal framework that has dominated economic policy since Reagan— has caught fire among large segments of Democratic and independent voters. Nevertheless, might it still be true, as the critics insist, that the Sanders program is based on flimsy foundations and wishful thinking?

To address these charges seriously, we first need to draw a clear distinction between what might be realistic in political terms versus economic terms. These are separate matters, though the critics consistently confuse them in one big jumble. Presumably,if, as a longshot, Sanders moves into a position to advance his economic program through having won the presidency, that alone will have dramatically recast the country’s political dynamic. Yet the more basic question would still remain as to whether the Sanders program is economically feasible even under such highly favorable political circumstances. Let’s see how some of his key proposals stand up to this test.

MEDICARE FOR ALL

Sanders’s critics regularly ridicule his proposal for universal healthcare coverage under a single-payer Medicare-for-all system. For example, two leading liberal healthcare analysts, Paul Starr at Princeton and Kenneth Thorpe at Emory University, have harshly criticized the specific proposal developed by my University of Massachusetts Amherst colleague Gerald Friedman on which the Sanders campaign has drawn. Starr, Thorpe, and other critics may well have some legitimate concerns with respect to the specific proposal drafted by Friedman. This is normal whenever specialists debate the specifics of large, complex policy measures.

But the critics are missing the big picture, which is simple: The United States economy currently spends 17.1 percent of GDP on healthcare, while the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and France spend between 9.1 and 11.7 percent, respectively. All of these countries perform better than the United States, according to standard public-health measures such as average life expectancy. Within the context of the current US economy, the difference between spending 10 versus 17 percent of GDP on healthcare amounts to $1.3 trillion. That $1.3 trillion mark-up in US healthcare spending flows mainly into the coffers of big insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Do Sanders’s critics truly believe that it is impossible to devise a system whose administrative features roughly approximate those in Germany, Japan, the UK, France, Australia, or Canada? They have not advanced any serious arguments to support such a claim. Indeed, many of Sanders’s critics themselves have been proponents of single-payer prior to Sanders’s having incorporated it into his platform.

$15 MINIMUM WAGE

The Sanders proposal to more than double the current federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020 comes directly out of the grassroots Fight for $15 movement that has spread throughout the country in recent years, especially among fast- food workers. These workers know first hand that depending on jobs that pay $7.25 an hour or anything close to that means a life of hardship. My co-worker at the Political Economy Research Institute, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, recently estimated that raising the federal minimum to $15 an hour would deliver raises for about 65 million workers, roughly 44 percent of the US workforce. The largest beneficiaries would include African Americans, Latinos, and workers from lower-income families.

But opponents claim that this proposal would produce major negative unintended consequences. Most significantly, the critics argue that a $15 minimum wage would mean fewer employment opportunities for low-wage workers, because businesses will be less willing to hire workers at the increased wage level. But the weight of evidence from the extensive professional literature has, for decades, consistently found that no significant effects on employment opportunities result when the minimum wage rises in reasonable increments. This is because the increases in overall business costs resulting from minimum wage hikes are, for the most part, modest.

It is true that raising the federal minimum to $15 an hour by 2020 would entail an increase that is substantially higher than the typical pattern. Nevertheless, businesses will be able to absorb most of the cost increases through modestly raising their prices as well as through cost savings, since worker turnover and absenteeism will fall when job conditions improve. A recent study by Wicks-Lim and myself found that, even fast-food restaurants, which employ a disproportionate share of minimum wage workers, are likely to see their overall business costs rise by only about 3.4 percent per year during a four-year phase-in for a $15 minimum wage. This means, for example, that McDonalds could cover fully half of the cost increase by raising the price of a Big Mac, on average, by about 15 cents per year for four years— from $4.90 to $5.50.

The economy overall will also benefit from the gains in equality tied to the minimum-wage increase. Greater equality means working people have more spending power, which in turn supports greater overall demand in the economy. Greater equality also means less money is available to flow into the types of hyper-speculative financial practices that led to the 2008–09 Wall Street crash.

TAXING WALL STREET TRADING

The Sanders program includes the Inclusive Prosperity Act, a bill that was originally introduced into Congress in 2012 by Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a leading figure in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (disclosure: I worked with Ellison’s staff in drafting this bill). This bill is, effectively, a sales tax on all financial market trades in the United States—that is, all stock, bond, and derivative (including options, futures, and swap) trades. It would be the equivalent of sales taxes that Americans have long paid every time they buy an automobile, shirt, baseball glove, airline ticket, or pack of chewing gum, eat at a restaurant, or have their hair cut.

The tax rates supported by Sanders includes 0.5 percent on all stock trades, 0.1 percent on all bond trades, and 0.005 percent on the underlying values of derivative trades, such as the value of a stock in a stock-option asset. These tax rates amount to $5 on the trading of a $1,000 stock; $1 on the trading of a $1,000 bond; and 5 cents through trading, for example, a stock option in which the value of the underlying stock itself is worth $1,000. By contrast, the average US consumer currently pays an average of 8.4 percent in overall sales taxes.

This Wall Street tax can be used to address two distinct but equally important concerns. First, it discourages financial market speculation because it raises the costs—and thus reduces the profit opportunities—for speculators. But assuming the tax rate is not set high enough to shut down trading altogether, the tax can also be a large new source of government revenues.

In a recent study that I co-authored with James Heintz and Thomas Herndon, we estimated that the Inclusive Prosperity Act could generate around $300 billion per year in new federal tax revenues (amounting to 1.7 percent of US GDP). This is after allowing that Wall Street trading would decline by an implausibly large 50 percent due to the tax. The Sanders campaign has estimated the cost of his free-college-tuition program at $75 billion per year. The $300 billion per year from the Wall Street tax could therefore cover this college-tuition program in full four times over. The Wall Street tax revenues could then provide something like another $225 billion to finance, for example, public investments in clean energy and infrastructure. Channeling this amount of money out of Wall Street and into education, clean energy, and infrastructure investments would, in turn, generate millions of middle-class jobs for educators as well as manufacturing and construction workers, as well as related support industries, rather than a relatively small number of high-paying Wall Street jobs.

Contrary to our findings, a recent study by Leonard Burman and co-authors at the Tax Policy Center (a collaboration between the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute) asserts that a Sanders-type financial transaction tax could provide, as a maximum, no more than about $60 billion in annual revenues as of 2017. But their conclusion depends on the assumption that financial market trading would fall by between 80 to 90 percent after the tax is enacted, a claim which is not supported by the weight of evidence, including the evidence they themselves cite. Rather, as my co-authors and I show, our revenue estimate at $300 billion per year corresponds with the experiences of other countries that currently operate with this type of tax, including the UK, France, Italy, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

OVERALL ECONOMIC GROWTH

Liberal critics of Sanders, led by Krugman as well as four former Chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers under both Clinton and Obama, became especially incensed over a paper by my colleague Gerald Friedman that estimated the impact of Sanders’s overall program on jobs and economic growth. Friedman concluded that it could raise the average annual US growth rate to 5.3 percent over a 10-year period after Sanders assumed office. This contrasts dramatically with the average growth rate of 3.3 percent between 1950 and 2015, and the much weaker recent average growth performances of 1.4 percent under Obama and 2.1 percent under George W. Bush. In fact, these critics were correct that Friedman’s specific growth estimate was overly optimistic. But here again, the critics have missed the forest for the trees.

Overall, the Sanders program is capable of raising living standards and reducing insecurity for working people and the poor, expanding higher educational opportunities, and reversing the decades-long trend toward rising inequality. It could bring Wall Street’s dominance under control and help prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. It will also strongly support investments in education, clean energy, and public infrastructure, generating millions of good jobs in the process.

None of Sanders’s liberal critics have shown how, overall, these developments would be harmful to economic growth. In fact, there are several channels through which they support growth. A single-payer healthcare system would relieve businesses of having to cover health insurance costs for their employees. Higher average wages and greater overall equality will put more money in the pockets of most US consumers, enabling them to buy more from US businesses. Investments in education and infrastructure will raise US productivity and global competitiveness over the long term, as well as expand job opportunities in the short term. Large-scale investments to build a clean-energy economy, finally, is the only way in which any level of economic growth can be made compatible with stabilizing the climate.

It is true that the overall share of GDP going to corporate profits and the rich will decline, and this will likely counteract to some degree the positive factors encouraging private investment and growth under Sanders. But even The Economist recently concluded that corporate profits in the United States are excessive, so much as to be damaging the economy’s overall performance. The entirely feasible challenge today is therefore to produce higher growth rates through creating more jobs, getting more money in people’s pockets, widening educational opportunities, and raising productivity rather than allowing the country to slip further into economic oligarchy.

In short, if something like a Sanders program is enacted in the United States, the critical point will not be whether GDP grows, on average, at 3 percent, 4 percent or 5.3 percent. A Sanders economy will be fully capable of growing at healthy rates. But more than just growing, a Sanders economy will also deliver standards of well-being for the overwhelming majority of Americans, as well as the environment, in ways that we have not experienced for generations. •