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I was looking up the Great Depression a couple evenings ago, to refresh myself on some of the facts. The Faux network in the US is floating the latest revisionist historical talking point that FDR's new deal prolonged and deepened the depression...."all historians agree....." David Sirota wrote a diary about it, one of those hilarious yet frightening Faux newz fabrications that they hope will take hold.

During my subsequent web tangent, (That's where you start in one place, and then end up in a totally different place just by following link to link to link.....) I found I was following individual stories more than the actual data and statistics, people are so much more interesting aren't they?.....I bumped into this famous photo

migrant mother photo

Public Domain, from Wiki.

That photo resides in the US Library of Congress.Many people will recognize it instantly, it is iconic and representative of the dirty 30's.

But who is that woman? The photo is labeled, Migrant Mother- "Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California ."

The identity of this woman was not made public until many years later, when Florence Owens Thompson penned a letter to her local paper....

It was in the late 1970s that Thompson’s identity was first made public, when the Associated Press sent a story over the wires entitled, "Woman Fighting Mad Over Famous Depression Photo." Thompson had written a letter to the editor of her local newspaper expressing her disdain for the image.
In the AP story, Thompson declared that she felt "exploited" by Lange’s portrait. "I wish she hadn’t taken my picture," she declared. "I can’t get a penny out of it. [Lange] didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures. She said she’d send me a copy. She never did." The photo had become yet another cross for Thompson to bear in a lifetime of hardships.

Florence Owens Thompson was born on a Cherokee Indian reservation, her parents both were full blooded native Americans. She was raised near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and married in 1921 at the age of 17. Within a few years time, with three children in tow and another on the way, the family left for California. In 1931, her husband passed away from tuberculosis. They had 6 children by then. Florence worked picking in the fields during the day, and waitressing at night. She had a relationship with an influential man, and a child by him who she took to her parents in Oklahoma because she feared he and his family would take the baby, Charlie, away from her.  

The whole family including Florence's parents ended up going back to California the next year, following the work. She met another man, kind of a nice ne'er do well, and had three more children, one of whom passed away before her second birthday.
That brings us to 1936, and the fateful day of the photo.....When Dorothea Lange found this rag tag family...The car had broken down, and they were waiting for a repair so they could go work picking lettuce in the Pajaro Valley.

In the field notes that she filed with her Nipomo photographs, Lange included the following description: "Seven hungry children. Father is native Californian. Destitute in pea pickers’ camp ... because of failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tires to buy food."
Owens [Florence's son] scoffed at the description. "There’s no way we sold our tires, because we didn’t have any to sell," he told this writer. "The only ones we had were on the Hudson and we drove off in them. I don’t believe Dorothea Lange was lying, I just think she had one story mixed up with another. Or she was borrowing to fill in what she didn’t have."

The photo appeared in the paper soon after that, and prompted (guilted?) the Feds to send 20,000 pounds of food to the pea picker camp in Nipomo. The family had already moved on by then.
Hard times continued for this family, until after WWII. And the photo haunted them.
One of Florence's daughters said:

"Mother was a woman who loved to enjoy life, who loved her children," said Rydlewski. "She loved music and she loved to dance. When I look at that photo of mother, it saddens me. That’s not how I like to remember her."

It doesn't end there though, a bittersweet, ironic ending to this story of the woman who has become the face that represented all those who suffered through the great depression.
When Florence became incapacitated after a stroke and needed full time care, the family was unable to pay the $1400+ per week. So one of her sons talked to a local newspaper, and a fund was set up.

Owens turned to Jack Foley of the San Jose Mercury News, who understood immediately the historic implications of Florence Thompson’s plight.
The story Foley filed for the Mercury generated national attention. More than $35,000 poured into a special Migrant Mother Fund administered by Hospice Caring Project of Santa Cruz County, much of it coming in the form of rumpled dollar bills.

Some of the letters that came in with the donations....Florence Owens Thompson was not a subject of pity to anyone. She was a symbol of strength and survival. She was a mother who managed to keep the family together, fed and whole. And that is how people think of her. She was a mother first in every way.  

"The famous picture of your mother for years gave me great strength, pride and dignity–only because she exuded those qualities so," wrote a woman from Santa Clara.
"Enclosed is a check for $10 to assist the woman whose face gave and still gives eloquent expression to the need our country still has not met," expressed an anonymous note from New York.

So much more than a photo. She represents all mothers who struggle daily to scratch the ground in what is still a man's world. Poverty always hits women and their children the hardest. When you look through the millennia the mens get all the credit, but it has always been the women and the mothers who have ensured our survival.
Source: Photographic license. Definitely worth a read in it's entirety.

Originally posted to pale's Purgatory on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 09:55 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

      •  Meh. (7+ / 0-)

        On the flip side, people of the '00s have a technological adeptness and worldly adaptibility that people in the 30's didn't have

        "'Shit' is the tofu of cursing" --David Sedaris

        by LiberalVirginian on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 11:44:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  "survival skills" like what? (20+ / 0-)

        I guarantee you the people in the breadlines weren't eagle scouts trained in making snares to catch squirrels for dinner.  And even in the Great Depression, the majority of people scraped by -- it wasn't all scenes from a Steinbeck novel.

        Not that we'll have such massive visible lines again, since our distribution system is and will remain a lot more rapid and extensive.  So it'll just be lots of people buying groceries at walmart with their government issued cards and staying home the rest of the time watching TV and absorbing a steady opiate drip of TV news pundits.  One reason I certainly can't write off Fox News yet -- a widespread depression would likely result in their best ratings ever.

      •  If everything goes belly up (14+ / 0-)

        and cheap fossil fuel energy dissapears before we have alternatives in place survival will be hard for those of us have lost the ability to work with our hands.

        If the costs of energy go back up to where people can't afford to commute to work in the midst of this depression that could happen.

        In the thirties most people could work with beasts of burden, milk a cow, harness a mule, snare small game, hunt with a bow, gather, forage, domesticate animals, farm, build shelter, make clothes, make tools, live off the land.

        Now we have covered the land with houses, strip malls, highways, parking lots, large industrial farms so there is no land to live off, and if there were there are too many people to do it sucessfully.

        We have lost our ability to function when the power goes out. Most of us no longer know how to work with hand tools, how to preserve food without a refridgerator, have no idea where the nearest spring with frash water is if the water stops flowing out of the tap, or how to light and heat our homes.

        Without TV, the internet and music our children would go mad. For those who live in cities if the elevators don't work, if their buildings power goes out, if public transportation ceases to function and the stores cease to be stocked with food, then within a week you have NOLA after Katrina.

        If rescue doesn't come because its like that everywhere else then the cities die.

        So long as that doesn't happen and the economy recovers people will remain in denial of the fact they are living on the edge of the precipice.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Impeach, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 01:38:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We will relearn these things (12+ / 0-)

          if we have to. We will invent new ways of coping.

          Children always find ways to amuse themselves. In fact, they'll have more fun by being creative instead of simply absorbing prepackaged entertainment. My Dad says that during the (other) Depression, kids made their own toys out of junk and had a great time.

          I'm kinda looking forward to the challenge.

          May your entire existence be one sensuous, frolic-filled experience lived in defiance of care!

          by Fonsia on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 02:18:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  If the grocery stores run out of food I intend (13+ / 0-)

          to have a plan to purchase live chickens.

          They are not terribly hard to raise.  They require much less space than other animals.  They produce eggs and they make a pretty good fertilizer.

          I have two wells on my property.  One has an electric pump and the other has a hand pump that needs to be repaired.  I'm not certain the water would be safe for consumption but I'm sure it could be used for various purposes.

          I have a son with friends who hunt.  Each year they trek into the woods and come back with wild pigs or deer.  They know how to prepare the meat.  

          I live near the ocean and several bodies of water that I assume would remain a source of various forms of fish and seafood.  I have fishing poles and various tackle in my garage.  

          These are all resources that I don't use today.  I'm spoiled.  The well water is a bit sandy at times so I don't even use it to wash my car.  Fishing takes a lot of time so I don't do it.  I don't hunt or own animals because I'm an animal lover who likes the convenience of not watching my dinner die.  That doesn't mean that I wouldn't be willing to use all of those resources if necessary.

          I hope most people would be willing to find ways to adapt.  I can't help but feel that the most important thing for all of us would be learning to work together and support each other.  

          I might not currently know how to pluck a chicken but I don't think it would take me very long to learn if it became necessary.  I also have a nice sharp ax in the garage and I know where to get a good petrified tree stump.

          I'm not saying any of this would be easy but I do think we could survive for the most part.

          Maybe the kids would learn how to play with each other without having a controller in one hand.

          •  2008 - seed sales jumped 40% (14+ / 0-)

            Seed companies were stunned and blind-sided - didnt see this coming - mind you it takes several years to ramp up seed production (and I am sure the seed companies are having a hard time deciding what model to use re: production numbers)

            Those chickens you want to buy - what if every other suburbanite and urbanite has the same idea around the same time?

            There has been a groundswell of millions of people picking up gardening and animal husbandry  here in the US but thats a mere drop in the bucket - even so - the supply systems are experiencing some strains.

            Not sure if you have had chickens before but you do have to wait a bit before they are big enough to be worth the effort of killing, plucking, and butchering them ...

            The Great Reskilling can not come soon enough and my warning to everyone is to not assume that you will just some how pick this up easily.

            Killing chickens is tiring even for me - done it several times and, as a scientist, I have killed many animals and the act of killing animals never passes un-noticed by your psyche (I promise you).

            We have our layer flock and also our 10 dairy goats - things like this take TIME to learn and get right and also to enjoy because the animals do deserve a humane environment.

            See a bit of our lives at Humble Garden

            We LOVE reskilling - it, for us, is deeply satisfying.

            •  Just stay away from GMO seeds (6+ / 0-)

              Go organic.  

              Garden and farm services in the Atlanta area:

              by pkbarbiedoll on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 05:17:56 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  better yet (10+ / 0-)

                go open pollinated - not hybrid.. then save your best seeds from the summer for the next year

                Monsanto JUST bought the larges garden seed producer in the world so now Monsanto has cornered the home gardening seed business..

                You need to find open pollinated and heritage/heirloom seed producers who say, explicitly in their materials, that they have checked that their seeds are not sourced from Monsanto's supplies.

                I love Victory Seeds

                See this article (Are We Seeing the Early Signs of a Seed Availability Crisis?) for a start on this monsanto issue

                •  Largest garden seed producer? (4+ / 0-)

                  Which one, please?

                  <div style="color: green">"The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture" -- Thomas Jefferson</div>

                  by tommurphy on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 05:51:56 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Not these (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    tommurphy, nika7k, pale cold, Wendy Slammo

                    Garden and farm services in the Atlanta area:

                    by pkbarbiedoll on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 05:56:48 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  info - Seminis (9+ / 0-)


                    Monsanto buys Seminis
                    The biggest player in biotech is now the largest seed company in the world following a purchase worth a cool billion.

                    It is estimated that Seminis controls 40 percent of the U.S. vegetable seed market and 20 percent of the world market—supplying the genetics for 55 percent of the lettuce on U.S. supermarket shelves, 75 percent of the tomatoes, and 85 percent of the peppers, with strong holdings in beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and peas. The company’s biggest revenue source comes from tomato and peppers seeds, followed by cucumbers and beans.

                    In large part, these numbers reflect usage of Seminis varieties within large industrial production geared towards supermarkets, but Seminis seeds are also widely used by regional conventional and organic farmers as well as market and home gardeners. Johnny’s, Territorial, Fedco, Nichol’s, Rupp, Osborne, Snow, and Stokes are among the dozens of commercial and garden seed catalogs that carry the more than 3,500 varieties that comprise Seminis’ offerings. This includes dozens of All-American Selections and an increasing number of varieties licensed to third parties for certified organic seed production.

                    The brand-name companies under Seminis (such as Petoseed) have developed, released, produced and distributed varieties common to the market farmer and even home gardener. These include Big Beef, Sweet Baby Girl and Early Girl Tomatoes; Simpsons Elite and Red Sails Lettuces; Red Knight and King Arthur Peppers; Gold Rush and Blackjack Zucchinis; Stars & Stripes Melon; and Bush Delicata and Early Butternut squashes (see sidebar for other popular varieties).

                    Many of the Seminis varieties are derived from their in-house breeding programs, as well as industry alliances with DuPont, and university partnerships with the likes of Cornell, Texas A & M and the University of California. The company’s F1 hybrid genetics are considered excellent in many areas, including overwintering brassicas, disease resistance in cucurbits, packing qualities in green beans, and flavor in tomatoes. "Organic farmers love our product," Koppenjan told me, "We have the disease resistance, and this is more important in organics than conventional, where farmers have more disease-control options."

                    The implications of Monsanto – often associated with the antithesis of the organic movement – purchasing a company that serves the organic community are complex. This has certainly been the catalyst for the emails that some catalog companies are receiving. Both Johnny’s and Territorial have received strikingly similar missives with nearly the same wording, demanding that the firms reveal their Seminis’ varieties "so I can avoid them at all costs. Otherwise I’ll toss your catalog." Seed catalogs may see more of this, as Monsanto is a large target amongst those concerned with globalization.

                    While voting with ones dollars can be an effective tool of change, it is also important to recognize that these are also seed catalogs that have recognized the needs of smaller organic producers, offering strong lists of regional varieties and expanding their certified organic selections. None of these companies was overjoyed with news of the acquisition, and they all seemed to be in different phases of analyzing its impact. It’s not an easy task. Seminis’ varieties account for 11 percent of Fedco Seed’s gross sales, and the numbers are much higher in categories like melons and squash. While Fedco founder C.R. Lawn expressed his personal inclination to have nothing to do with Monsanto, the volume of sales demands careful consideration. Fedco is surveying its staff to decide how to respond, with options ranging from phasing out all Monsanto-Seminis varieties to putting a "tax" on these varieties and using this money to fund regional grassroots seed development.

                    For some growers and seed catalogs, this may seem a non-issue; what matters to them is the quality of the variety, not the politics of who owns that variety. And even if one does care and would like to take one’s business elsewhere, there may not be immediate replacements for many of the Seminis varieties. The economic impact of abandoning a variety that keeps the cash flowing cannot be easily overlooked. For others, the Monsanto connection may be a line that can’t be crossed. Regardless of one’s stance, the acquisition offers a history worth tracing in the continuing trend of food industry consolidation, a lesson that should give everyone pause to consider the future of seeds.

                    In the early 1990s, billionaire Alfonso Romo, descendent of a Mexican president, Olympian athlete in horse jumping, bakery and beverage mogul, and owner of Ciagarrera La Modena – Mexico’s largest cigarette company – set out to become the global king of vegetable seeds. Romo had watched agrochemical companies gobble up seed businesses in the larger agronomic crops like corn, and he noticed that there was little attention being paid to the ‘minor crops’ of the vegetable seed industry. By 1994, he had succeeded in building Seminis, purchasing longstanding seed companies such as Asgrow, Petoseed (which had recently purchased the Dutch firm Royal Sluis) and dozens of Asian seed companies. Seminis grew quickly, thrived and went public (trading as Empresas La Moderna or ELM, the former parent company of his cigarette firm—which Romo sold in 1997 for $1.5 billion).

                    According to seed industry insiders, one of the company’s strengths was also its weakness. Early on, it benefited from internal competition, retaining the brands such as Petoseed and Asgrow and allowing Seminis breeders to vie for product development and placement. This may have led to excessive inventory – the company’s list swelled to near 6,000 varieties at one point before cutting a whopping 2,500 varieties in 1998 (and leaving more than a few farmers looking for new varieties).

                    In 2003, Seminis was in a financial slump; shares slipped to around 50 cents each from previous highs of more than $7 a share. Fox Paine and Co. – a firm specializing not in agriculture but in buyouts – stepped in to purchase majority control of the company and stabilized the slide. Financial analysts and the seed trade were waiting to see the fate of the gene giant in the hands of this holding firm. With the Monsanto announcement, the wait is over. The purchase catapulted Monsanto past rival DuPont (Pioneer Seed), making them the world’s largest seed company – first in vegetables and fruits, second in agronomic crops, and the world’s third largest agrochemical company.

                    This is not the first time Seminis and Monsanto have done business. In 1997, Monsanto began to insert its Roundup resistant gene into one of Seminis’ lettuces, with an agreement to split the premium fifty-fifty. A 1999 Wall Street Journal article also noted that Seminis had received U.S. regulatory approval for selling disease-resistant genetically engineered squash and tomatoes with longer shelf lives and that the firm was working on using biotechnology to create sweeter peas and worm-proof cucumbers. In the same Journal article, Romo envisioned a Seminis future with biotech crops such as non-browning lettuce, broccoli with enhanced cancer-fighting properties, and spoil-free produce. "Seeds are software," he was quoted as saying, "and we have the seeds." Romo will stay on as Chairman and CEO of Seminis under Monsanto, according to the company’s press release announcing the deal.

                    Conjecture and Concern

                    While news of Monsanto’s acquisition of Seminis was less than a blip on the general public’s radar, small groups of farmers, activists and seed trade professionals immediately began to connect to discuss the ramifications on a variety of list serves and web sites over the Internet. The professionals I spoke with for this article – Mark Hutton (former plant breeder for Peto now at University of Maine Extension), C.R. Lawn, Rob Johnston (founder, owner and plant breeder of Johnny’s Selected Seed), Frank Morton (Plant breeder and owner, Wild Garden Seed), and Michael Sligh (Policy Director, RAFI) – were in concurrence with the concerns expressed in the online group discussions, first, with regard to the potential decrease in varietal selection for farmers, and second, in the potential acceleration of biotech applications in the vegetable sector.

                    One can only speculate on Monsanto’s motives for purchasing Seminis.

                    We can make educated projections, just as Wall Street financiers have done on news of the acquisition. Financial and agricultural professionals interviewed in the mainstream press, such as Don Basse of the commodity advisory group Agresources, have surmised that the acquisition can be profitable for Monsanto only with the application of biotechnology – as Seminis conventional seed business was nearly half a million dollars in debt and continuing to lose money.

                    Basse says that it would be logical for Monsanto to use biotech to increase the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables as opposed to focusing on shelf life or devising pest-resistant strains. Monsanto’s press release noted that "Biotechnology applications could be an option, and will be evaluated in the context of Monsanto's research-and-development priorities and potential commercial business opportunities." However the main tone of the announcement focused on the trend of nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Monsanto’s CEO put it this way, "The addition of Seminis will be an excellent fit for our company as global production of vegetables and fruits, and the trend toward healthier diets, has been growing steadily over the past several years."

                    "You have to ask yourself why they (Monsanto) would decide to buy this seed company," was the thought first shared by Rob Johnston of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, "Their Roundup herbicide patent is expiring, so their future profits are in the biotech traits...I think they’re going to push and see if consumers will accept it." C.R. Lawn of Fedco was less certain, feeling that Monsanto would not be bold enough to try and sell such technology to consumers and farmers, particularly after GMO wheat was recently shelved because of the lack of perceived public acceptance. There is also speculation that if Monsanto can slowly start building the GMO vegetable-fruit market, then the debate over GMOs will become a moot point, as they will have made their way onto the plate and thus gained acceptance (or at least acquiescence).

                    Even if one does not believe that GMO vegetables will be in the Wendy’s salad bar in short order, there is more pressing concern that Seminis will drop many of the hybrid and open-pollinated varieties that regional farmers currently depend upon. Prior to the buyout, the company’s main product focus had continued to move towards supplying genetic for the larger centers of production. "It’s not like they’re still breeding tomatoes for the Northeast" Rob Johnston noted. Still, Johnston conceded that it would be difficult for Johnny’s to replace some of the Seminis varieties that their customers turn to year after year, such as Gold Rush Zucchini or King Arthur Pepper. Yet he feels certain that cuts are coming. Johnston was disappointed with the news, in part he said because he likes not only the quality of product but the Seminis breeders themselves, "I worry about the future of their breeding programs, that they (Monsanto) will curtail creative directions and focus them on a Monsanto agenda."

                    Organic Seed Alliance — where I serve as executive director — has received over a dozen emails and phone calls from concerned farmers. Minnesota farmer Jim Fruth contacted us for assistance in "dehybridizing" a Seminis hybrid pepper that has recently been dropped. Like many farmers, Fruth has integrated particular varieties into his production and marketing plans and he says he is now without a variety that is "a vital part of my livelihood." Nash Huber of Sequim, Washington, said that, after vast trialing, he had found that Seminis cabbage varieties have excellent post-harvest holding capacity, extending his marketing season and farm profitability. He did not have high hopes of finding replacements.

                    Mark Hutton worked as a squash and eggplant breeder for Petoseed before it was purchased by Seminis. From his perspective, farmers like Fruth and Huber should start trialing new varieties soon. "Monsanto is going to look at this from a bean-counter perspective. Low margin varieties get dropped, and this means anything that’s not for large commercial production."

                    One seed catalog owner I spoke with believes that farmers should not react to the news by seeking non-Monsanto/Seminis seed sources. He said there is no indication Monsanto will drop these varieties and that rushing to find replacements isn’t an answer. "Where are you going to go? Some of these varieties are irreplaceable. Are we really going to drop or boycott some of the best material out there because we don’t like Monsanto?" He warned that doing so might only accelerate the downsizing of the Monsanto product list, leaving farmers in a real lurch. "The process of breeding alternatives to these (varieties) is a long, longterm project. And what are you going to plant in the meantime?"

                    Most of the people I spoke with agreed that there are few options; this is what is making them react to the news so passionately. In a healthy competitive market, a producer has more than one cog to choose from, giving the producer freedom to switch suppliers if they have an issue with their traditional supply chain. In a highly consolidated system, this choice is not easily apparent and may simply not exist.

                    Consolidations in the seed world are nothing new. The impact is predictable: A few breeders lose their jobs, farmers scramble to find another variety to fit their production system but something eventually comes along, stockholders either make or lose money, and, in the end, food still winds up on the plate of most American households at 7a.m., noon and 6 p.m. We’ve been here before in recent times, and we’ve seen even bigger control of seed ownership and distribution (although not in any of our lifetimes).

                    A-century-and-a-half ago there was only one mega-distributor of seeds in this country. Lobbying and activism brought about its demise. That distributor was the United States government, and the rabble rousers who broke that monopoly were none other than the American Seed Trade Association – whose largest modern financial benefactor is none other than Monsanto.

                •  Seminis (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  pale cold

                  Is all into transgenic seeds, too.

                  There are a pile of good catalogs available from small companies.  Some don't even sell hybrids.

                  Then there's always growing your own.

                •  Wonderful tip on VIctory seeds. Thanks. n/t (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  nika7k, Floja Roja, pale cold
                •  Sorry - wasnt JUST bought (0+ / 0-)

                  This buy happened in 2005

          •  Wouldn't all that adaptation (0+ / 0-)

            be a little disruptive.

            Its hard to find the leisure time to make things like toys and musical instruments from scratch when you are in survival mode.

            In terms of keeping things stable and well organized I wonder if people would find time to read and write let alone deliver messages to one another or engage in commerce.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Impeach, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 07:33:05 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  You might want to start soon (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pale cold

            with a few hens.  You can collect the eggs, and learn about how to care for poultry.  It's not hard, but there is a learning curve.

            I've got ten hens now, and when I muse about society breaking down, I think well, I'll need to get a rooster. . .

            Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

            by DrFood on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 12:13:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Hahahaha (11+ / 0-)

          Without TV, the internet and music our children would go mad.

          No, they'd become sane.

          Who was Bush_Horror2004, anyway?

          by Dartagnan on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 05:20:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  A comment for diarists tip jar is (5+ / 0-)
      •  Too true, alas. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Floja Roja, 4Freedom, pale cold, redtex

        All of my great-grand parents farmed for some or all of their livelihood. One of my great grandfathers was a college administrator (!) and farmed part-time to help feed his wife and seven children. My family isn't so unusual, I think. The ancestors of most contemporary people, whatever their country of origin or ethnic background, farmed.

        Today, in relative terms, almost nobody farms. When I want some lettuce or milk, I go to the grocery store. I'm sort of helpless in those basic survival competencies you mention, and so are most people today.

    •  the depression to end all depressions n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bensdad, Pris from LA
    •  Greater Depression or THE GREATEST Depression? nt (8+ / 0-)

      American overseas? Request your ballot at

      by YoyogiBear on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 10:48:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  But we do have a safety net now (8+ / 0-)

      thanks to FDR and LBJ, we have SocSec, Medicare, and other pieces of a safety net which should be much more comprehensive. But people won't suffer as much in the coming depression as they did in the first one.

    •  The European Economists have Been Calling it.... (6+ / 0-)

      ..."The United States Very Great Depression" since they first saw it coming in early 2006.

    •  After WWI, they called it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pale cold, AmericanRiverCanyon

      "The Great War".  With WW2 they wised up and started numbering 'em. Can you say World Depression II?

    •  greater or greatest? (0+ / 0-)

      Oh, NOW the press, Pelosi and Reid grow a spine...

      by The Dead Man on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 07:03:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And we'll deserve it ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      4Freedom, Dretutz

      Because we always, always, always, let the bastards who caused it -- the sharpsters in suits who invent "instruments" that cannot be comprehended, allowing incredibly risky investments to sneak by under the radar -- get away with it.

      If the Death Penalty were applied to the people who deliberately, knowingly, intentionally set up these Ponzi schemes or their equivalents, our economy would be bulletproof. It would be radioactive bullet fired from a gun made of rabid poodles proof.

      Remember Milken, back in the 1980s? They fined him something like a billion dollars. You know what he did? Took out his checkbook and wrote a check. He still had a billion left.


      As someone who is currently unemployed and about two months from having to leave his apartment, which will also mean declaring bankruptcy, which means I can kiss good-bye ever owning a house, ever, I hope the economy goes into total freefall. I want to see thousands and thousands on the streets.

      And I want them all to get furious. I would love to see them all start hunting down these bastards and harass the hell out of them. Picket the exclusive schools their children go to. Wander through the summer vacation towns these people all have private beaches in, stinking up the place with poverty and dirty clothes. Stand in front of the posh restaurants and scream for food while they're inside.

      But none of that's gonna happen. Just watch. Milken did something like 2 years in prison. A guy selling loose joints in Washington Square in New York City, if he's caught three times, thanks to the Rockefeller laws, can count on LIFE in prison with NO possibility of parole. Some douchebag who knowingly bought bad investments and wiped out the life savings of thousands of people in a single transaction? He should be strapped to a gurney and have his life extinguished. He has shown pathological indifference to his fellow human beings, why on earth should something that feral be allowed to roam unchecked?

  •  I read a lot of letters and stories (118+ / 0-)

    the other night. Incredible people to make it through so much.

  •  Have you checked Intrade lately? (25+ / 0-)

    One of their front page contracts is "US economy will go into a depression in 2009".  This is the photo used for it.  I'm young and had no idea where the picture was from until this diary, so thank you.

    The contract is currently trading at 32 (32% chance of a depression next year by people betting on it).  Scary times.

    Yes, there are progressives in the rural South. 50 States.

    by Racht on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 09:59:08 PM PST

    •  Very weird nation (22+ / 0-)

      There are people betting on a depression happening. Could you just imagine someone screaming, "Yessss, we're is a depression, that's so great, I win my bet."

      "We had a decisive win... and so I don't think there is any question we have a mandate to move the country in a new direction." Barack Obama

      by pollbuster on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 10:04:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I wonder how they'd quantify it . . . (4+ / 0-)

      at what point does a recession turn into a depression?

      Is there any accepted definition?  (e.g. 15 percent unemployment or more and 32 months of declining economic activity?)

      If the Intrade contracts are betting on a return to 1929-32 economic performance, I'd probably take that wager (e.g. I don't think we'll have anything close to 25 percent unemployment).

      •  Contract rules state (6+ / 0-)

        This contract will settle (expire) at 100 ($10.00) if quarterly GDP figures show the US economy has gone into a depression in 2009.

        The contract will settle (expire) at 0 ($0.00) if quarterly GDP figures DO NOT show the US economy has gone into a depression in 2009.

        For expiry purposes a depression is defined as a cumulative decline in GDP of more than 10.0% over four consecutive quarters. This is calculated by adding together the published GDP figures (as detailed below). If they add up to more than -10.0% over four consecutive quarters then the contract will expire at 100.

        Expiry will be based on official quarterly GDP figures reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Bureau of Economic Analysis, Table 1.1.1, "Percent Change From Preceding Period in Real Gross Domestic Product") as reported by the BEA.

        The final quarterly GDP figures will be used for expiry - not the advance or preliminary numbers. Any revision of the final figures will not not affect the original expiry.

        Negative quarters in the preceding year will count towards the total GDP decline for expiration purposes. For example, if the total decline in GDP from Q3 2008 to Q2 2009 exceeds 10.0% then the contract will expire at 100.

        Due to the nature of this contract please also see Contract Rule 1.7 Unforeseen Circumstances.

        The Exchange reserves the right to invoke Contract Rule 1.8 (Time Protection) if deemed appropriate.

        Any changes to the result after the contract has expired will not be taken into account - Exchange Rule 1.4

        Please contact the exchange by emailing if you have any questions regarding this contract before you place a trade.

        I don't know which way I'd bet. -10% is a bit much, considering Q4 of 2008 isn't shaping up to be that bad; I'd be more likely to take the bet if the time period were more generous ('09-'10).

        •  Theoretically, Q1 2009... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...could count as the first quarter through Q4 2009, right?

          The problem with this wager is the measure of the GDP as depression.

          I could be bankrupt, with no job and huge debt (7 times my yearly earnings, just like the US) in Q1 2009. But if the Chinese would loan me $500,000 to help me stimulate myself -- I'd have my best year ever.

          Too many wildcards.

        •  I think Q4 08 could come in at -5 to -5.5%... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NotGeorgeWill, kyril

          The brakes went on VERY hard in Q4, IMHO. It doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to think that we could see an additional cumulative 4.5-5% decline over the first three quarters of 09...

          That said, I have no conception of what a 10% drop in GDP would look and feel like on an everyday basis for most Americans. I imagine it would cause significant changes in many peoples' lives and lifestyles - but remember, even in the depths of the depression the dustbowl/itinerant laborer way of life was not the norm.

          Even if 25% unemployment was a significant understatement, you've got to figure 60-65% of people were working. Plenty of people are already living in a modern version of the 1930's dustbowl, and plenty never will.

    •  So what happened with the intrade bet on (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lurker123, Pris from LA, blueocean

      recesssion in 2008?  It's off the intrade front page -- bet won? we lost?

      Healthy Minds in Healthy Bodies, now discussing fitness Mondays at 6 PM PST

      by indigoblueskies on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 10:46:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Even scarier (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bensdad, 4Freedom, Dretutz

      Consider the country in the last Depression. Even the cities back in the 1920s and 1930s weren't cities. Not like today. You're going to see hysteria. Landlords will end up not being able to find tenants. If you have 20 percent unemployment and a 100-unit apartment, suddenly, you've only got 80 tenants. Those 20 empty apartments? Your rent'll be going up. The landlord has to cover the gap, or else the whole apartment building will go to hell.

      Grocery stores? Hope you're ready to make the trip as part of an armed convoy.

      Drug stores? Do you think the CVS is going to be able to fill your prescriptions still? Ha ha.

      And the cigarette smokers. I suspect there will be lots and lots of stories of smokers going crazy and leaping counters.

  •  She looks startlingly like my mother (13+ / 0-)

    so that picture has always stung a bit more than it otherwise might.  My mother and her mother didn't endure the same challenges, but I'm certain that they were hopeless more than once in their lives.  So I'm thankful to them (and to all mothers - and fathers too) for struggling through.

    baseless outrage : Republicans :: tuna : my cat

    by socratic on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 10:06:32 PM PST

  •  great diary (9+ / 0-)

    thanks for sharing the story behind the picture.

  •  It makes me think of the "Christmas Carol" (31+ / 0-)

    So many people watch these holiday classics, but never think about it beyond Christmas or understand the real meaning.

    "At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

    "Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

    "Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

    "And the Union workhouses?"  demanded Scrooge.  "Are they still in operation?"

    "They are.  Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

    "The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?"  said Scrooge.

    "Both very busy, sir."

    "Oh!  I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge.  "I'm very glad to hear it."

    "Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth.  We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.  What shall I put you down for?"

    "Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

    "You wish to be anonymous?"

    "I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge.  "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.  I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry.  I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

    "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

    "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.  Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that."

    "But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

    "It's not my business," Scrooge returned.  "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's.  Mine occupies me constantly.  Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

    I continue to be surprised by the lack of empathy that people have for those who are suffering or struggling.

    In our current economic environment, I hear both concern, but also the pitiful angry comments about how it's the stupidity of people who took loans without any down payment, etc.

    "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" - Thomas Paine

    by pinkbunny on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 10:27:42 PM PST

  •  Hard Times, (21+ / 0-)

    Studs Terkel's oral history of the Depression, is a pretty compelling read. Bought it in a used bookstore in Barrington, Ma, during a Berkshire trip in September.    Both the store clerk and a customer who saw me take the book off the shelf assumed I was buying the book in preparation for the impending Depression. The quantum of economic anxiety in the air during that trip was off the charts.  Even though the Berkshires were splendid, I'll probably always remember it as the trip where everyone was sacared shitless of total economic collapse.    

  •  if it makes you feel any better (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, Simian, nathguy

    lots of mens will suffer horribly in this Depression. Real bad.

  •  I once saw a photo (13+ / 0-)

    This was taken not too far from where I grew up, in Western Kansas - a family posed in front of a sod house.  Father, mother, eight children.  The haunting thing was that the mother looked to be at least sixty years old, although whe was only 30 years of age.  

    By the time I was a child, sod houses were a memory (one was preserved in Colby, KS as a monument), but outhouses were still common.

    Reading Florence's story causes a pang.  

    Our descent into financial panic will not equal that of the Depression era, nor indeed that of the misery of Kansan sod-busters.  

    Still, it is very sad that so many may suffer for the excesses of an an idolized, scum-sucking elite.

    As for Lange's photo:  was it not government-subsidized by WPA?  I doubt whether Lange herself ever derived much monetary benefit from her haunting work.

  •  A fabulous and poignant diary. (11+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure any of us are prepared for the financial hardships ahead, and I'm not at all confident that the social safety net we have in place will be strong enough to sustain the weight of the problem.

    The Republicans have shown us through their ideological opposition to the bailout of Detroit's "Big Three" that they'll fight any funding aimed toward assisting the working class and poor. I can imagine a similar effort to block Obama's proposed infrastructure program unless individual Republicans can somehow secure significant "pork" for pet projects in their districts and/or states.

    Add to the GOP the "Blue Dog" Democrats who will fight any effort to expand the federal deficit, unless, of course, the money is directed to the military/industrial complex.

    We have our work cut out for us, there's no question.

    "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." JFK - January 20, 1961

    by rontun on Sat Dec 27, 2008 at 11:26:46 PM PST

  •  This is the story of my family (21+ / 0-)

    My grandparents, both of them, left OK during the dustbowl to come to CA where my uncle had a farm. They lived here picking fruit until WWII when they got jobs in different places - she in an aircraft factory and he in the Pacific NW logging. They met after the war, married and had kids.

    The Grapes of Wrath? That is basically the story of my family.

  •  The difference between the Great Depression of (13+ / 0-)

    the 1930's and the Great Depression of the 2000's? In the 1930's there was no floor in the house. In the 2000's there was no ceiling.

  •  my depression era photo (21+ / 0-)

    Grandma and grandpa, 1935, outside their clapboard sided log cabin. My father was six, the middle of nine children, and grandpa would be dead of lung cancer in a decade. The house stood on the banks of the West Fork of the Des Moines River. The house was swept away in the floods of 1953, but they'd long since moved.

    •  What a wonderful picture. (9+ / 0-)

      I have some negatives I should scan in. My granny and grandpa were married in 1930, there are some interesting photos.

      I am from a hard working family who had many troubles during the dirty thirties here in Canada.
      The depression hit very hard here, and I still make grannies recipes that she learned during that time.

      •  I feel so lucky (6+ / 0-)

        Both of my parents were depression babies, I grew up on a working farm, and my father was disabled when I was in junior high. We weren't under the gun like folks in the depression but I had all of those experiences - the garden, the animals, doing all of the carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work required, hauling home and rebuilding a New Holland motor baler so our little tractor wouldn't have to work so hard bringing in the hay.

        I'm divorced and I worry about my kids. Mommy is a trust fund baby and she has never seen a credit line she couldn't max out. I don't get the feeling my children are getting that same foundation I have, despite the fact that I've got the skills and temperament to pass along ...

        •  Kids.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Stranded Wind

          Today. LOL. I was divorced and remarried, my ex is not so good at anything that isn't electrical.

          My oldest, at 17 is Mr technology, and although he can tell you all the facts and numbers to do with the markets and the economy? He really doesn't grasp the enormity. (he reads market info as a hobby. I call it his WikiPorn.)
          My second child is like a flower child, and she is thinking on what we shall plant this spring. She has an amazing memory for plant and bug information.
          She actually asks what life may be like with no internet? (trying to calm the talk down in the house, 14 is a bad time to get too dark)

          The younguns? (2 and 3) Too little. They only know that we don't eat out, and that their favourite toys do not need batteries.

  •  Neat Story (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, kovie, pale cold, CanyonWren

    I can't resist the tangential note, from someone who lived on the edge of the Shoshone-Bannock reservation for some years as a child.

    I don't think that that is a picture of a "full-blooded" Native American.  That's not to say that people who are of mixed ancestry cannot consider themselves to be fully part of a Native American culture.  Probably better to say that she was born to Cherokee parents on the reservation.

    The message front that Mr. Sirota noted in his diary is indeed a disturbing one.  No respectable economist in the country believes that what we need now is more right-wing claptrap about "fiscal conservatism" and austerity programs.

    I'm not sure how we ended up with the idea that such things were always a virtue, but certainly the Bush Administration was never held to the standard of keeping spending in line with tax revenues -- especially by our media, who never seemed to understand that the GOP turned out to be far more profligate spenders than the Democrats could ever have imagined.

    I think we had a very close call.  The migrant mother in the photo could have been many of us, had John McCain become president.

    You can call me "Lord Bink Forester de Rothschild."

    by bink on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 01:05:42 AM PST

    •  Native Americans are as different in appearance (7+ / 0-)

      between tribes as Europeans are between nations (think Greeks vs. Russians vs. Irish). She looks like most of the "full blood" Cherokees I've known--fairly light skin and dark hair, strong features. (I'm about 1/16th & have family on the res in Oklahoma.) Early accounts of the Cherokee noted that some children had light hair that usually darkened as they got older, an occasional individual had hair with a reddish tinge, and blue eyes were occasionally seen--as with the Mandan in Minnesota and some other tribes.

      Political Compass says: -8.88, -8.67
      "We never sold out cos no one would buy."--J Neo Marvin

      by expatyank on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 02:16:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  One of the challenges of our time (14+ / 0-)

      is debunking the still prevalent RW meme about how "freedom" trumps all. Not only have they distorted what freedom actually means, but they've also misappropriated it to sell and justify greed, exploitation and outright theft. They're quite good at this, in a Greek Sophist sort of way, and it has so deeply penetrated the American consiousness that it will take a lot of effort to extract and destroy it.

      The key is to make people realize that much of today's wealth was obtained unfairly, irresponsibly, and with little to nothing of value produced in return, and thus is not deserved. No one is morally "free" to essentially steal from their fellow citizens, even if laws have been passed to essentially make it legally ok. Not only must these laws be changed, but the ideology that tries to justify them must be debunked.

      I have nothing against someone being well-compensated for providing something of real or perceived value to the world. I do have a problem with someone being paid gazillions for, oh, playing with peoples' money under false pretenses, or colluding with cronies to fix energy prices and lie about their products' environmental impact.

      Enough with the bullshit and lies about "freedom" and "wealth". Greed is NOT good, and theft is theft, whatever you call it. Republicans are thieves.

      The liberal soul shall be made fat. He who waters shall be watered also himself. (Proverbs 11:25)

      by kovie on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 02:29:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Bink--we are not out of the woods yet.... (7+ / 0-)

      I think we had a very close call.

      The next six months will test all of us!

    •  The Cherokees were known..... (0+ / 0-)

      ...for mixing, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Mine did. Early and often. She has the eyes and the skin tone, but not the nose. It is possible there was a white guy in the woodpile -- a variation on a pretty common Southern phrase.

      Tonight I'm going to party like it's 1929.

      by Bensdad on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 10:00:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary (9+ / 0-)

    Thanks for writing a reminder of just how tough times have been for many of our parents and grandparents.  My mom grew up during the Great Depression.  I remember her stories about trading gasoline stamps (because they didn't own a car) for sugar stamps because of Rationing.
    My grandfather raised a garden even though they lived in the city in order for them to have enough to eat (Mom had 10 sisters and 2 brothers total).  My grandfather was out of work a lot and needless to say they ate a lot of vegatables.  The story that sticks out in my mind was what my grandfather would say when they asked why all they ever had to eat was pinto beans.  Well, during that time there was a millionaire named John D. Rockefeller who, of course, was not suffering the plight of most Americans.
    My grandfather's answer to them was: "I'll bet old man Rockefeller would love to be able to eat a good bowl of beans".  While I have no idea that was true it was a way of telling them to appreciate the simple things in life.
    I don't know if times will get that tough again however we all know there a those among us who are suffering today, our fellow Americans.  I'm sure some of them would also love to have a good bowl of beans as it beats the hell out of what they are getting now, nothing.
    IMO this diary is also a reminder to those of us who are fortunate enough to have homes to live in and food to put on the table, albeit simple, that we need to focus on simple things in life and on our fellow Americans.  And maybe some of those rich republican senators and congressmen need to "have a bowl of beans themselves" and live among us common folks for a while.  Maybe some of them would realize that government programs such as the New Deal back then, and what Obama is proposing now isn't such a bad thing after all, maybe that is.

  •  I knew she was from Oklahoma (8+ / 0-)

    I'm from Norman. I could see that as something coming straight out of "Grapes of Wrath." I also have pictures of family members who stuck it out in the Sooner state and didn't have to go to California. Though they stayed, they didn't smile, either. No one smiled back then.
    Mrs. Thompson should have been recompensed for her photo. Why should someone else profit from her misery? Exploitation still has found no boundaries.

    She is only HALF a mother who does not see HER child in EVERY child - Anonymous

    by forever blue on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 01:34:48 AM PST

  •  People forget that FDR also used public programs (13+ / 0-)

    to encourage the arts and sciences. Many of the photographs of the era come from photographers working as part of the public works program to produce a permanent snapshot of America.

    Almost forgotten was the attempt to create a comprehensive linguistic atlas.  This took many forms with some researchers recording folk songs and other community based music and others producing written copies. Linguists interviewed individuals across the country carefully recording the linguistic variations.
    The last account I had of the linguistic atlas records was that the originals were archived at the University of South Carolina.  These original records, many which have not been analyzed, reflect important linguistic and social data on a time where we have lost most of the actual participants.

    I guess the neocons would argue spending public monies for stuff like linguistics was the reason FDR caused the Depression.

    •  Recordings of former slaves were also (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aaa T Tudeattack, pale cold, entlord1

      made as part of the arts project.  I attended a wonderful conference at the Smithsonian, "Slavery:  History and Memory."  As you can imagine, there weren't a lot of former slaves left at that point so it was critical to record them.

      •  pity is much of the data gathered languishes in (0+ / 0-)

        archives and has never really been evaluated.

        •  It is rolled out from time to time (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pale cold

          like for this conference.  Although there were scholars present, it was a free event and open to the public.  Of course, the key is to actually know that the event is going on, which is how I used to stumble across many things at the Smithsonian.  For this conference I took a couple days off work, it was that important.  Here's a link to the greater work from which I heard sections.  Ira Berlin is fascinating on the subject.

  •  Yet another example (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bensdad, Cheyenne Mike, MizC, CanyonWren

    of why you can't, and shouldn't, take images at apparent "face" value, especially when they're obviously being presented as saying or proving something, which in reality they may or may not, and even if they do, that reality is almost certainly vastly more complicated than the image appears to indicate. Images should be the start of thought, discussion and further exploration of the subject which they purport to be about, not the end of them. When one sees a powerful image such as this, one should always ask oneself "What's really going on here?", and not reach any conclusions until one has made an honest effort to answer it. To do otherwise is to be lazy and dishonest.

    Images are two dimensional snapshots in time. Reality is vastly more complex.

    The liberal soul shall be made fat. He who waters shall be watered also himself. (Proverbs 11:25)

    by kovie on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 02:15:22 AM PST

    •  Every picture tells a story (0+ / 0-)

      but you have to dig a little to discover the real story. The 2002 New Times story that's the main reference for pale cold's diary is a great example.

      Let's remember this as our photogs and bloggers and writers spread out across the U.S. to document the "new" Great Depression. Have some empathy. Discard stereotypes. Get the story. And kick some ass when necessary.

  •  WOW! Thank you for the truth ! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil S 33, pale cold, MizC, CanyonWren

    I didn't know the real story until I read this diary and had believed the lie all these years. This face was in my school books. I wonder what other Historical LIES were fed the children of America in our History Class.

    This is a shame.

    " And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I will be your President too. " ~Obama 11/4/8

    by WeBetterWinThisTime on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 03:29:50 AM PST

  •  Saddened by the exploitation of the woman (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom, Cheyenne Mike, CanyonWren

    by the photographer.

    That part of the story I did not know.

  •  Sad, yet wonderful diary!! Tipped & rec'd. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pale cold, MizC, CanyonWren

    Should be read by everyone.

  •  Why do poor people have so many children? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Seven children, and dirt poor. Brilliant planning.

  •  Birth control technology (11+ / 0-)

    is one thing that we have going for us now that we did not have in the 1930s.  There is no need to have 6-14 children as was typical in those days.  That will help, this time around.

    To say my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

    by Dar Nirron on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 04:44:26 AM PST

  •  In Lange's defense, (3+ / 0-)

    promise to provide a print of the shot is usually used as payment for the rights to use the subject's image for publication and profit. If Lange offered to do that, it was probably in that context, which Thompson either forgot about or misinterpreted at the time.

    That said, photographers are notorious for not following through on sending a print. Alec Soth, one of the biggest names in art photography these days has admitted he's only recently gotten better at fulfilling that part of that bargain.  

    •  How would someone be able to locate a (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bensdad, Aaa T Tudeattack, pale cold

      migrant farm worker?  No doubt nearly impossible. And Thompson herself said she did not like the image. Lange never made money off of that image other than being paid to take it (as far as I know).
      The only way Lange would owe Thompson anything is if she profited. Otherwise I can take your photo and use it in any manner I choose if it does not cause you harm (not worded entirely well).
      Lange was essentially no more than a newspaper photographer on a larger scale and the copyrights are the same.
      Would agree I have a 75/25 record for sending people images.
      (on the plus side)

      chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

      by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 07:59:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know the actual law well enough (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pale cold, CaCowGal

        to know what qualifies as profit. Doesn't completing an assignment and thereby collecting a paycheck/commission qualify as profit? Or how does one measure the value of increased prestige/reputation from bringing home that killer portrait -- even if it wasn't used to sell soap or whatever?

        It would take extraordinary organization and commitment to send out all the prints one ever promises. My track record is sadly worse than yours.

        •  So the deal is that it really comes down to a (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          model release. If you have taken an image and promised a photo in return for being able to use it (sell it) then you have to complete your part of that contract. It is an image in lieu of money. If you benefit from the image as far as increased reputation that is fair game either way. SHe didn't steal Thompson's image.
          I have many images I love and would love to sell but they were taken without the person knowing I took it. So I can't. But they are in my portfolio and I have had shows they were included in. But not for sale.
          Personally I am not inclined to take a photo that would compromise another person. However, I think that is a drawback as an artist. It is against my feelings as a person.But I wish I were able to take the photo that is intrusive. ALthough I don't admire the trait. Weird conflict.

          chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

          by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 08:40:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've come to the conclusion that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            almost any portrait, candid or posed, is somehow exploitative of the subject. The worst (in the sense of amounting to the worst betrayal) is when the subject thinks you're taking one kind of shot while, through framing or positioning, you're actually taking something with an entirely different message. I make my peace with it by nailing at least one shot  that tries to meet the subject's expectations before moving to other things to serve my own purposes.

            Of course, sometimes you end up with stuff on film (digital, whatever...) that's so unfair, you have to bury it.    

            On a related note, I shoot and scan 4x5 and you have NO idea what intimacy is until you dust-bust the face of someone shot with a large format neg scanned at 2400dpi. If people only knew, they'd never get in front of my camera.

            •  Well I guess I wouldn't call it exploitive. It is (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              definitely interpretive. And different photographers interpret differently.
              So I suppose it's a good idea to get an idea of your photographer's style if you are the subject and you care about the outcome. But all's fair once you consent to sit for the photographer.
              I don't think anyone is comfortable with their image. I have compassion for my portrait subjects and make every attempt to please them. It's their money. But I have a style that is always there. And I agree that there are some images that should never see the light of day (again).
              But that was my fault to begin with. I took the photo.
              It is an odd thing to freeze a person for a moment. When the whole of them is the movement from moment to moment. The challenge is to find that moment for them and yourself that is a melding of many. (not for every image obviously)
              I  shudder to think of my face on 4x5. I have a rule that the only picture I will let be taken of me is if it is leaving the country (kidding).

              chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

              by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 10:20:41 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  We're likely talking two different kinds of (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                pale cold, CaCowGal

                photography. I don't shoot paid portrait sittings.

                About a year ago I started a project that had me photographing in a local crack house, doing environmental portraits of pimps, whores, crackheads, who'd never been the subject of serious photography and liked the idea.

                Amongst these was a lesbian couple that dropped in one night and wanted me to photograph them in bed. I said, "fine," but suggested that one of them keep their clothes on since I thought it would make for a more interesting photo and would keep the entire shoot from heading down a path that didn't really interest me*.

                They agreed and I'd already taken a couple shots when the one that had shed her clothes said she always wanted a pic of her shot from behind, with her looking back over her shoulder with a "come hither" look. Basically she was looking for some center-fold type shot, but I knew the second she rolled over to reveal the huge welt on her ass that we were in trouble.  

                So what did I do? I took in the tawdry scene: the unmade bed, the cheap porn taped to the walls, the half eaten dish of spaghetti-o's sitting on the table, the bored partner examining her finger nails off to the side ...all surrounding a sad failed attempt at sultriness posed in the middle of it. I slapped my widest lens on the camera and took it all in -- welted ass and everything.

                It wasn't fair, but it resulted in the best shot of the entire session for me. And I'll use it, if I ever get a show for that particular body of work. In this case, I really did provide a print (of a different shot) to the subjects and they were very happy with it.

                It's all a matter of judgment and what you can live with.      

                * Thereby creating photographic history -- the first time a photog has told young women to keep clothes on.

                •  I love your description of the whole scene. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mveit, pale cold

                  I still don't think you exploited them. That was the only shot they asked for and you did it. They were game for every other shot that you took before that.
                  I think - chance favored the prepared mind. Which is exactly why I love that quote.
                  Sounds like a really interesting show if you have it!

                  chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

                  by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 11:12:01 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks Pale (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pale cold, CanyonWren

    Sometimes a photo is so much more than the image of a person.

    I can understand why Florence wouldn't want to be the face of the Great Depression. You're right about her becoming the symbol of survival, as the mother who represents mothers everywhere.

  •  The Photo (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pale cold, MizC, CanyonWren

    I was also recently looking up photos from the Depression and ran across this one.  I recognized it immediately as one of those iconic Depression era photos but I hadn't known anything about the subject before.  I was amazed to read that she was only 32 at the time the picture was taken.  In some ways that was the most moving thing about the picture.  Look at how desperate circumstances had robbed this young woman's face of youth.  Poverty and fear can steal so much from a person that they can never get back.

    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Ghandi

    by Triscula on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 06:04:02 AM PST

  •  Very moving diary, thanks. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom, pale cold

    "The object of life is not be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." Marcus Aurelius

    by CanyonWren on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 06:44:51 AM PST

  •  Photos, Poverty, and Dignity (4+ / 0-)

    Although I acknowledge that Dorothea Lange's Depression photographic work is superb and that "Migrant Mother" represents the epitome of the photographic art, it is important to understand the context of the photo.  Lange was looking for an "iconic" image.  She was looking for something out of the ordinary.  She was also invading the last, small remaining space of personal dignity that this woman possessed.

    That is the conundrum facing the artist, the historian, and the government.  Dorothea Lange and Florence Owens Thompson inhabited completely different worlds.  

    I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. - Lange

    "Mother always said that Lange never asked her name or any questions, so what she [Lange] wrote she must have got from the older kids or other people in the camp," - Thompson's Daughter

    Actually, most people in camps didn't look like the woman in the "Migrant Mother" photo.  One reason that their shelter was so meagre was that they weren't even the pea-pickers Lange though they were.  They were heading towards Watsonville when their car broke down and the mother was waiting for hers sons to come back with parts needed to fix the car.

    Most migrant farm workers chose to present themselves differently for the camera.  The ethical question is, "What rights does the photographer have and what rights does the subject have?"  At a time when many people are losing job, home, and health coverage - shouldn't we be concerned with basic human rights?

    In any situation, particularly one in which others face desperate circumstances it is essential that we think of them as our sisters and brothers - first and foremost.

    •  In an age of spontaneous video recordings (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tryptamine, johnnygunn, Albatross

      that can be posted for the world to see, we should all take time to ponder and share with our children your comment:

      The ethical question is, "What rights does the photographer have and what rights does the subject have?"

    •  The woman standing in the field smiling (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tryptamine, pale cold

      does not represent the despair and hardships that were happening at the time. Our memories fade but the photo remains for a while longer. Lange took the image as representative of how she was experiencing the Depression as a photographer. An example that might be more descriptive is that Ansel Adams was commissioned to photograph the Japanese internment camps but he refused to try to make the Japanese look happy to be there (which was the Govt.'s intent)
      The Lange image does tell a story which was her job. If you can't get the story from the photo you failed.

      chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

      by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 08:10:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If You "Get the Story" - (0+ / 0-)

        By "mining" other people and using them -
        Then you are exploiting them.

        Florence Owens Thompson had no say in how her image was to be used.  Informed consent is essential in any current academic research.

        The "Migrant Mother" photo shows not only the "condition" of migrant workers - far more, it shows the social distance between Lange and Thompson.

        •  I "Get the Story" but I view the artist as (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pale cold

          more than a "miner".  I do not  think she was using Thompson. She was doing a job.
          We can cherry pick what makes us more comfortable to look at but do you really think that the other two photos are indicative of life as a migrant worker during the depression?
          And how you want to present yourself is hardly where truth resides.
          I do understand your argument I don't wholly agree with it though.
          So the question I would ask is if you had the uncomfortable job of documenting a tragedy on the scale of the Great Depression how would you choose to describe that in a photo?  And what about the Holocaust, what must it have taken for a photographer to have pressed the shutter on any one of the horrific images that exist. And what if they had not?

          chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

          by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 09:08:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  There Are Plenty of Ways - (0+ / 0-)

            Without taking advantage of another's dire circumstances.

            The first is to request permission.
            It seems pretty clear from Lange's comment and the memory of Thompson's children than the photographer didn't even think to bother to ask permission.

            Do you believe that such behavior is acceptable?
            Is it acceptable for a medical team to video my surgery without my permission even if it will be an educational tool?  Is it my prerogative to say, "No, thank you." and to have my wishes respected?

            What I address is the social distance represented in the famous photograph.  Thompson was not a person, but an object in Lange's world view - an object to be recorded.  Whether or not Lange was thinking this would be her "money" shot will never be known - but it is clear that Lange did not view Thompson as an equal.

            •  I understand what you are saying.... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              But we were not there, and we cannot say the exact circumstances.
              Lange was hired to capture images of people who were living in those very hard times.
              The world was not so litigious, people could disappear still simply by changing their name. Unlike now where governments are almost asking to place chips in our heads so we can be scanned. :) It was an aberration they say that she didn't get the name. A tired oversight?
              And there is also the chance, and its a good one, that Lange wanted to help people with her photos.From the article I quoted from....

              Lange, indeed, sent the photos to the Resettlement Administration in Washington, where the photos had an immediate impact on federal bureaucrats, who quickly rushed 20,000 pounds of food supplies to pea-picker camp in Nipomo.

              Did that do any amount of good? I think it probably helped some struggling people for some time to feed their children.

            •  Well I don't what those other ways are with a (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              pale cold

              It does appear from Thompson's account that she spoke with Lange and knew her photo was being taken. Lange was truthful with her but did not get an image to Thompson.

              But your surgery analogy did not work for me. So I want to go back to the Holocaust. There was another photo issue at work there that makes a relevant point. Hitler had photographers photograph a certain camp where he dressed everyone up and made it look like they were enjoying a wonderful life. I imagine those people resented NOT being photographed in truth. So if our Government only published lovely images of life as a migrant worker we would cry foul.
              Like photographing Japanese people in internment camps to make them look like their life was wonderful - Ansel Adams was employed to do that.

              And I think it is  the viewer who sees the image as  "your comment here". I did not experience the image as you did.
              It is rare that a photographer takes a photo and thinks "that's the money shot"  I have only heard non-photographers use that term.

              As far as photographing as an equal well that is an odd approach that I don't think exists in the photographers mind. That is a moot point - to a photographer. But the lack of it does not imply something negative. It just means you probably do something else for a living.

              chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

              by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 09:50:37 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I Was Pretty Sure - (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                CaCowGal, Dretutz

                That you are a photographer.
                I am a historian.

                I know the FSA-OWI Collection well.
                And few of the photographers identified persons they photographed.
                Are you aware how the Hopi view photography?
                What amazes me is how some non-Hopi are offended that their "right" to photograph is somehow hindered.


                The "certain camp" that you are talking about was Teresienstadt.

                What is a "true" photograph?

                Is Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" just as untrue as those that seek to whitewash conditions?
                The federal government and the state of California were often at odds concerning migrant farm workers.  California set up inspection stations on the state's borders and used many different reasons to keep people out - primarily vagrancy laws.  However, state and chamber of commerce officials complained bitterly that federal farm worker camps - that had running water, first aid facilities, central kitchens, and bath houses served to attract destitute families.

                Now, I am not about to say that life in federal farm worker camps in the Great Depression was a cup of tea; however, Dorothea Lange was aligned with one side of the argument.  (I hope you realize that photographers do not work in a void of unbiased bliss.)  The Resettlement Administration for which Lange worked believed had some clear ideologies under Rexford Tugwell.  Lange's husband at Berkeley was also an advocate of greater civil and economic rights for farm workers - hard to disagree with - however it may have colored the framing of Lange's photographs.

                To repeat, I consider "Migrant Mother" a fine work of art.  But I do not consider it as uniquely representative of the Great Depression.  In addition, the process under which it was taken represented a lack of agency on the part of the subject and the social distancing still evident when affluent professionals interact with people in poverty.

                •  Ahhhh I was trying to guess at your (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  johnnygunn, pale cold

                  occupation too.
                  I appreciate the information you included. There were some facts I did not know.
                  For the record I think every image taken has the photographer's bias in it.
                  I think the image has come to represent more than it's original intent. It is the image that describes to us now the pain and despair that existed during that time. For that alone it has done it's job. I love that image for many many reasons.

                  The term I used before was that the image needed to tell a story not "get the story" the two are different.

                  I have a sincere question in response to your statement that "Migrant Mother" is not uniquely representative of the Great Depression: Is there an image that is representative to you? And if so, what is it?

                  chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

                  by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 10:32:53 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Not One - (0+ / 0-)

                    Here are a few I posted in a recced diary -

                    Notice that I started with another Lange image from the series she took of Thompson - but I wanted to go further. Obviously there is the philosophical question of whether or not one image can do something as large as represent the Great Depression.  As I show in later images, for people of means - the Great Depression was quite the bargain.

                    How can one image show the destitution faced by some and the ability to travel coast-to-coast by air for others?  In fact, one of the greatest myths of the Great Depression was that "everybody pulled together" - when, too often, those who were destitute were viewed as causing their own misfortune - either thru poor work ethics, bad decisions, or licentious lifestyle.  Those who managed to maintain a middle-class lifestyle, in contrast, often credited it to their own hard work, discipline, and character.  How can one image convey all of that?

                    •  Well I understand what you are getting at but (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      when we talk about the Great Depression and we then take images of the affected parts of the country or the people then we would not be taking images of the affluent or even the middle class. Because as you have stated they were not affected in that same way. We would focus on the people who are bearing the brunt of the situation.
                      As far as color well that is a distraction as far as I am concerned.  But...
                      I loved some of the images you had on your diary. The car by the GGB is wonderful.

                      chance favors the prepared mind - pasteur

                      by CaCowGal on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 03:17:57 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

  •  I've been thinking about ... (5+ / 0-)

    ... that very photograph lately.  In a slightly different context.  The photographer worked for the Farm Security Administration, one of many New Deal programs that put people to work, including artists.

    That's WHY the picture is public domain.  It was taken by a government employee, sent out to document what was going on throughout the country, in part to provide support for New Deal programs.

    There were a variety of muralists, writers, and other artists (including even the wonderful carved stair posts at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon) who were part of that big "infrastructure" project in the 1930s.  There's a wonderful diary (or three) to be done on those topics.

    Thanks for posting this, pale cold.  There's a lot we can learn from looking back at that time.  I recently came across something similar, where someone tracked down one of the child workers that Lewis Hine photographed earlier in the 20th century.  History by examining the photographic record can be very informative.

    "The river always wins" - Mark Twain

    by Land of Enchantment on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 07:58:42 AM PST

  •  I read a biography of Dorethea Lang (0+ / 0-)

    who was the photographer that took the picture. She was a very interesting person in her own right.

    There has been controversy about the picture among photographic historians. The tradition in documentary photography was that it was supposed to be exactly as found in the real world. Any attempt to stage or pose documentary photographs has been considered an unacceptable compromise.

    Lang started out her career as a portrait photographer where she was expected to pose her subjects to their best advantage. While their is no dispute that she came upon this woman and her children in a migrant labor camp, there have been claims that she posed the picture with the children clinging to the mother.

  •  Just finished reading "The Defining Moment" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pale cold, Calamity Jean

    Jonathan Alter's book about FDR's first 100 days.  The real question for Faux News is: what would America look like if we had let "free markets" save capitalism then.

    No Social Security
    No public works projects
    No Tennessee Valley Authority
    No soil conservation
    No planting of a billion trees by the CCC
    No end to racial discrimination in federal contracts
    No solvent banks
    No monetary system
    No transparency in stock transactions
    No dams, roads, sewage systems, rural electrification.

    It is time to make the point to the GOP, what kind of backwater feudal system would that have us be?  They vote against any candidate who hints of a tax increase but rush like drunkards after a beer wagon for MY tax money when their foolish untenable monetary system collapses under the weight of its own arrogance and greed.

    The Chinese have one thing right: execution for dereliction of public duty.  Once you have the threat of execution for the Bernard Madoffs of the world, then you will not only gain some sway over this system but will have the most powerful lobby in the world to end the death penalty.

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