when we were fab: takin’ the a train

Don Hunstein was the staff photographer for Columbia in the early to mid 1960′s and worked with well known art directors at the label like John Berg and Bob Cato. In the LP era the album cover was a complementary narrative to the music, an art lost in the download age. At the time, New York really was the creative center of the universe. But they were tormented times, modern but hardly post modern; progressive and optimistic but the waters were burbling, and as Dylan sang, “the times they were a changin’.”

At Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech, he said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” There were opposing forces of domestic politics and foreign intervention which meant war. Hunstein’s photos seem to capture the pause between the mythology of Kennedy and the leap into Vietnam.

---Johnson's views on how to solve racial problems were those of a man whose whole world was politics. He began telling friends shortly after the Second World War that he believed that blacks, having fought and died to protect the world from a racist dictator, were not going to, as he put it once in 1948, "take the shit we're dishing out" much longer. The best peaceable route to equality for blacks, he thought, was "vote power." When he heard about the Supreme Court's decision in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, he told a friend, "They should have done voting rights first and then education." He believed that politicians are largely prisoners of their constituencies and that black enfranchisement would quickly change the supposedly intransigent southerners in Congress. "If they give the blacks the vote, ol' Strom Thurmond will be kissing every black ass in South Carolina," he told a friend once. ---Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/lemunf2.htm image:http://www.snapgalleries.com/shop/product.asp?P_ID=238&CAT_ID=20006

Lyndon Johnson was at the helm when Dylan was recording much of his seminal 60′s material.  Johnson’s Great Society plan, involved a great deal of new social programs, a platform which needed a large amount of funding that would only come from higher taxes. Another factor in this was the conflict in Vietnam, which quickly became costly for the Americans. The context for much of the tension was Johnson’s refusal to move the needle on the taxation issue which contributed to his  social programs largely failing, and his choice to emphasize Vietnam was  detrimental for his approval ratings. We were entering an era where problems were becoming more complex, and the President and his advisers inability to understand them comprehensively, and translate them into a dialogue with the electorate became an enduring legacy continuing to this day.

The Watts riots, in the summer of 1965, made it apparent that the big-city black ghettos were in dire straits, and almost immediately the ghettos became the central domestic issue. Rather than being caught unprepared, the government already had at least part of the supposed solution in place–the War on Povertypart of the Great Society, which  Johnson had declared in January of 1964, when there was basically no political pressure on the government to act on ghettos or poverty.

---Johnson removed the original executive director of the committee, a Kennedy appointee, and set up a program called Plans for Progress, which tried to get government contractors to hire more blacks voluntarily, nudged along by Johnson-style persuasion. Robert Kennedy, who was worried about how the administration's hiring record would look in the 1964 campaign, favored a tougher system, and considered Johnson's vice chairman, a black man, to be an Uncle Tom.---Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/lemunf2.htm


At this time there were also smart if somewhat populist and pessimistic economists such as Lester Thurow and John Kenneth Galbraith put forth  argument advocating more government control of the economy. Part of the premise was a bleak perspective on the future and more regulation would be the only way to corral corporations into serving the public interest in a meaningful way. This was the beginning of the counter movement, the neo-cons and Reaganites which eventually had their finest hour.

The “godfather” of these neoconservatives was  Irving Kristol, who like many had been some variant of socialist. He defined a neoconservative as “a liberal who was mugged by reality.”; the same spirit that began to permeate Johnson politics when ideals, even though commonsense and of a practical tilt tried to establish themselves on an unwilling electorate.Something like the Robert Heinlein quote, ”Never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and besides it annoys the pig.” Lesther Thurow responded to Kristol by defining a neo-liberal as, “A liberal who was mugged by reality, but who has declined to press charges.”

---In the spring of 1966, during the formulation of Johnson's Model Cities program, which was designed to spend billions on the rehabilitation of the ghettos, Kennedy arrived late at a small dinner attended by several administration officials and delivered a tirade against Model Cities. "He said, 'It's too little, it's nothing, we have to do twenty times as much,'" says one person who was there.---Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/lemunf2.htm image:http://www.egodesign.ca/en/article.php?article_id=558&page=5

The kind of document that represents, or articulates Johnson’s concerns was the report by Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” published by the Department of Labor in 1965. Moynihan asserted that the restoration of the dissolving family structure of blacks was more important than any government policies to remediate poverty. These were folowed by other attacks on the “war on poverty”, or rather its inability to deal with the core problems, which implied an issue with welfare payments.

Hunstein. ---It is commonly said that Vietnam drew Johnson's attention away from the War on Poverty and weakened his fi


ial commitment to it. That may be, but if the war in Vietnam had suddenly ended, Johnson would still have disliked the War on Poverty for having turned out to be, to his mind, a stronghold of his enemies.--- Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/lemunf2.htm image:http://www.wnyc.org/articles/slideshows/2008/jul/21/morrisonhotel/

ADDENDUM:

In 1964, armed with a brand-new Ph.D. in economics and having just gone to work for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, I was given the task, at what I was told were the direct personal orders of President Johnson, of going through the Economic Report of the President and making sure that the words “welfare’ and “income transfer payments’ never appeared and never were associated with Johnson’s Great Society programs. In Johnson’s view, the Great Society programs (more education, more manpower training, less discrimination, more jobs) were to help people earn their own incomes. They were not income transfer payments designed to give anyone an income without work. At the time I remember thinking that I had been given a rather silly task. I no longer believe it was.

---In the final stages of his presidency the idea of large-scale government programs for the ghettos had become so bound up in his mind with liberal opposition to him that Johnson became positively hostile toward them. He was deeply suspicious of the Kerner Commission, which he had appointed after the terrible Newark and Detroit riots of 1967 to determine how future riots could be avoided. Johnson was convinced that there was a conspiracy behind the riots--in fact, Shriver had to reassure him that OEO employees were not instigating some of the riots. ---Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/lemunf2.htm image:http://dogduckpugpedd.blogspot.com/2011/02/don-hunstein.html

Looking back at Roosevelt and the New Deal, the same beliefs were firmly held. It was all right to provide relief for those who could not work (the elderly, the handicapped, the sick), and it was all right to give temporary relief to those who had previously been working and who had been thrown out of work (unemployment insurance), but permanent general welfare programs were never part of the New Deal ideology. Instead, jobs were provided. In 1938, 4.3 million people were employed in agencies such as the Works Projects Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the National Youth Administration. To employ the same fraction of the labor force today, more than 9 million jobs would have to be provided.

---In 1964, when the enabling legislation for it was passed, community action was not a widely agreed-upon cure for poverty. It stood in relation to mainstream liberalism as supply-side economics would to conservatism in 1981: it was an untested idea championed by a small group of thinkers who seized an opportunity to make it government policy. Just as supply-side tax cuts have never been clearly shown to do what they're supposed to--increase government revenues--community action never demonstrably reduced poverty in a neighborhood.---Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/lemunf2.htm image:http://www.i-italy.org/bloggers/6062/village-people-and-bronx-tales

If one asks why the Democratic Party shifted from being a party with an emphasis on jobs and an opening up of opportunities for higher earnings to being seen as a party identified with higher welfare payments, there is an interesting story to be told. While one would think that there would be less political resistance to job programs than there would be to welfare programs (and that is true for the general amorphous public), precisely the reverse is true when it comes to special-interest groups. Most of these special-interest groups are producer groups, and they are much more willing to see general tax revenue go for expanded welfare programs than they are to see government actively working to create jobs or working to alter the distribution of earnings. Producer groups pay only part of the higher taxes necessary to finance more welfare payments, but any restructuring of the economy to produce more jobs or a more equal distribution of earnings directly threatens their current position. Read More:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1316/is_v17/ai_4003679/
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Lyndon Johnson: “He is trying to put himself into a position of leadership among liberal Senators, newspapermen, foundation executives, and the like. Most of these people mistrusted him in the past, believing him (rightly) to be a man of narrow sensibilities and totalitarian instincts….as we know the intellectuals are as easy a lay as can be found. I can imagine them believing that, although Bobby is an absolutist with little sense of the subtle shadings of an argument, and little tolerance for those who cross him, they can still use him to get across radical ideas….The Kennedys are handsome and dashing, they support fashionable artists, and they can pay for almost anything. They support a great many good causes. And to some people even their rudeness and ruthlessness is exciting.” Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/lemunf2.htma

---This Don Hunstein photograph from the Duke Ellington "Jazz Party" sessions finds the bandleader taking five with Dizzy Gillespie and his longtime collaborator, Billy Strayhorn, pianist, arranger and composer of "Take The 'A' Train" and "Lush Life," among other jazz classics. Other guests at the "Jazz Party" included saxophonist Johnny Hodges, vocalist Jimmy Rushing, pianist Jimmy Jones and Ellington's band, one of the most formidable ensembles in jazz history. --- Read More:http://www.jazz.com/media/272

Read More:http://www.donhunstein.com/gallery.php?gal=3

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