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The Harding Presidency

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As the richest administration in living memory is being assembled in Washington D.C., we look back at how an earlier version of that had fared. 

ford_edison_harding_and_firestone_new_york_times_1921

For twenty-nine months in early 1920s, the United States was effectively governed not from the White House but from a small house four blocks away. The residence at 1625 K Street was the epicenter of the Harding presidency — and all the shambolic chaos that surrounded it.

Warren G. Harding was propelled into the White House by a deadlocked national convention and machine politics; in many ways, America elected him as a snub to his predecessor Woodrow Wilson, and Wilson’s internationalist views.  A genial man whose friends included George Eastman, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford,  Harding surrounded himself with cronies and sycophants and assembled a federal government which was less than qualified — to put it charitably.

To head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (and later the Federal Reserve), Harding chose D.R. Crissinger, a former neighbor whose prior work experience was as a director of rural shovel and stockyards companies. Harding gave his sister and brother-in-law, previously missionaries in Burma, senior jobs in the government. His chief military adviser was a man named Ora Baldinger — someone so obscure and inconsequential that he doesn’t even have a wikipedia page — who had been Harding’s newspaper delivery boy.

To head the newly formed Veterans Affairs bureau, Harding chose Charles Forbes, who he befriended by chance during a Hawaiian holiday. Forbes was put in charge of a department with $500 million budget (around $6 billion in today’s money), of which he managed to lose, steal, or misappropriate as much as $200 million in mere two years. Another distinguished appointee was Albert Fall, a senator trailed by a dark cloud of possible homicide of a rival. Fall was chosen to lead the Department of Interior where he blundered into a bribery scheme that would soon be remembered as the Teapot Dome scandal, and became .

Meanwhile, at the Treasury, shrewd Andrew Mellon oversaw a huge tax cut, which while kickstarting the economy, greatly benefited the rich. As a political rival noted at the time, under the new tax, “Mr. Mellon himself gets a larger personal reduction than the aggregate of practically all the taxpayers in the state of Nebraska”. Mellon also used the IRS to prepare his tax returns (to minimize his tax bill), and the State Department to get his companies get contracts in China, according to David Cannadine in magisterial Mellon: An American Life. During his long years at Treasury, Mellon’s personal wealth doubled to over $150 million, and his family fortune grew to over $2 billion.

Harding didn’t manage to see most of the havoc caused by his appointees — not Mellon’s tax trial, not Fall’s prison sentence (who holds the dubious distinction as the first cabinet member to go to prison), not Crissinger’s indictment for mail fraud in a crooked real estate financing scheme. Twenty-nine months into his presidency, he died from heart failure — in the hands of Charles Sawyer, an unqualified doctor who relied on archaic medical practices, and who was only appointed official White House physician because he had been Harding’s parents’ family doctor.


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acdha
3 days ago
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Something tells me we're going to look back at this wistfully…
Washington, DC
stefanetal
3 days ago
My wife tells me one of her great uncles quit his Federal Reserve job in 1922 to protest how the place was run under Harding's administration. But in general these stories seem to be getting lost...I've found references to him quitting, but none say it was a protest. And googling I see at least some fighting with Fed Gov Strong, probably not the best move for having a happy life in the 1920s. So maybe the family lore is (intentionally) misleading. .
jad
3 days ago
Harding attended my church when he lived in DC. He sat in the left side of the sanctuary, 3 or 4 pews from the front. He apparently used to wink & wave at his mistress, who sat on the right-hand balcony, throughout service--while he was sitting next to his wife. There has been some speculation (with admittedly no evidence, other than "who could blame her?") that Florence Harding poisoned her husband.
jad
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rpmalouin
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amazingly familiar

By Frowner in "Our first Magic 8-Ball president." on MeFi

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I'm still trying to understand why Trump and his cronies want to do away with established programs and institutions like...

To continue: upon reading that piece about reddit, it strikes me that...huh, what you might call mefite-type people (regardless of our actual politics) don't get that much of a charge out of hurting others or triumphing over others. Not that we never feel those things, but we don't tend to feel them strongly enough to go out of our way, never mind strongly enough to have it be a big part of our personalities. Like, it might be gratifying to see someone we dislike get shamed or lose money or whatever, but we wouldn't go out of our way to have that happen, or actually want something really terrible to happen to someone we dislike, or organize our lives around the pleasure we get from seeing others suffer and lose. Whatever our other failings and stupidities, watching people lose, flail, be shamed, be hurt, etc isn't particularly attractive to us.

And that's where we get the fascist right wrong. (It's worth distinguishing the fascist right from, say, McMullin.) The fascist right actively gets its satisfaction from hurting other people. That's why we keep losing - we're all like "I am doing this political stuff, but really I would rather be home making dinner or on a date or playing with my kids or reading a book"; they're all "I'm out here heckling LGBTQ people and it's great". Racism, violence in general, sexual violence in particular, making people cry or hurt - that's stuff that they actually do because it's fun.

A lot of people who are not part of the fascist right don't understand this and that's why we're just bowled over when we see people doing stuff that's horrible. We can't get our heads around how they could enjoy it and actively want to do it, so we keep thinking that it's some kind of mistake or sign of some personal suffering on their part.

The people who tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib did it because torturing prisoners was fun and no one bothered to stop them. There were other reasons wrapped up in it - chains of command, group culture, etc - but the social ground for what happened was that people tortured because it was fun.

We need to get our heads around this and be ready - policy discussion and economic problems are not really of concern to the fascist right and they will not stop just because something is a bad idea or produces obvious social harm. It's easy to be confused or hypnotized by this kind of...well, let's call it evil, because it fills the social function of evil. It's easy to look into the void, right? That's how they get you. We have to give up on the idea that there's some kind of policy or humanitarian angle which will reach these guys (and they're mostly guys), because they are actively motivated by the opportunity to do harm.
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geekerypeekery: notquitelostnotquitefound: sgeoffa: The Impact...

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geekerypeekery:

notquitelostnotquitefound:

sgeoffa:

The Impact of Aids on the Artistic Community

September 13, 1987

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Keep reading

No offense to Gertrude Stein, but this is the real Lost Generation. And given those about to come into power: it could happen again. (Looking at you, Mike Pence, and your mini-epidemic of preventable HIV+ cases in Indiana.)

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bibliogrrl
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THIS. I wept.
Chicago!
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After Election, Diversity Trainers Face A New Version Of 'Us Versus Them'

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After the election, professional peacemakers may feel they have to work harder to tamp down heightened feelings of "us versus them" in the workplace.

Marcus Butt/Ikon Images/Getty Images

On election night, as it became clear that Donald Trump would be the country's next president, Dorcas Lind was feeling unsettled. With her children tucked in bed, Lind watched as the results trickled in and battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina turned red on the TV map. She thought about work.

Maybe, she thought, this would be good for business. Or, maybe, it was time for a career change.

Lind is a diversity consultant in the health care industry. It's her job to go into companies and help them create inclusive environments for their employees.

For consultants like Lind, the election's polarizing nature, which especially divided the nation on issues of race, is two-fold. While it means some of their business will almost certainly boom, a new set of challenges emerges for the professional peacemakers. Now, they say, they have to work harder to tamp down heightened feelings of us versus them; they have to hear the concerns of people usually thought of as privileged; and they have to navigate a language minefield where the wrong word can ignite conflict.

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Studying the maps of how people voted, Lind was disturbed by the stretch of red in her district, a New Jersey suburb, which she said had once been celebrated for its diversity. Like many others in the business, Lind equated a vote for Trump with a vote for intolerance.

"I thought that my whole career had blown up in front of me," said Lind, who has worked in the field for more than two decades and is founder and president of Diversity Health Communications. "I felt so absolutely overwhelmed with the depth of how much work had to be done. And on the other hand, I felt like I didn't even want to do the work. ... Given the results and how the map looked, I felt my work would be futile."

It might feel futile, but many consultants said they expect to see an uptick in calls in the months ahead. That makes sense: The corporate world is a microcosm of the larger world. People who voted for Trump work at the same companies as those who voted for Hillary Clinton or other candidates. And with a contentious postelection environment, employees will inevitably clash over matters of race. Reports will be filed with human resources. Management will be notified. And company leaders will have to figure out how to deal with it all.

"There's a whole toolkit of language we need to create [in order] to talk about this polarization," Lind said. "It's those who voted for Trump or support Trump — and everyone else. And that's a really difficult dichotomy to address."

Luby Ismail is the head of Connecting Cultures, a diversity consulting business in the Washington, D.C., area. She said one of her biggest tasks is to break down any feelings that people are on warring sides. Ismail, who's an Egyptian-American Muslim, has worked with companies including The Walt Disney Co., Nike Inc. and Sodexo to lead sessions that help employees better understand Arab-Americans and American Muslims.

"The workplace is very tricky," Ismail said, "because what do we say if you want to remain friends with people? 'Then don't talk about politics and religion.' And yet, people are needing to talk about it. So if only we had some way to bring civility with caution, and for people to feel that instead of doing an us versus them, a right versus wrong, it's, you know, 'Help me understand why you believe something.' "

The Department of Justice uses one of Ismail's training videos on identifying anti-Muslim bias as part of its cultural competence curriculum. She's updating the DOJ training now, but she said she's not sure what will come of it after Inauguration Day.

That "us-versus-them" sentiment Ismail mentioned is particularly tough to manage now. Doug Harris heads The Kaleidoscope Group, a diversity company in Chicago. He said that he has to help people of color deal with "historical garbage" — he means racism — while also helping white people who, he learned during this campaign, feel strongly that they're "out of the power base."

"I think right now there's a temperament within society of exclusion on both sides of the table," Harris said. "And those who may have been seen to have been historically included are feeling just as excluded as everyone else. It's always a fight today in some ways [over] who's most excluded. Historically, it might have been about women, people of color, gay and lesbian. There's another group that's more powerful called — uh, I don't know the right name of it, but white males — who feel they haven't been given their fair shake. And so how do we make sure their viewpoint is heard?"

Usually, Harris uses an exercise he calls "insiders and outsiders" to get people to self-reflect. In this exercise, employees list who might feel like outsiders in the company. Maybe it's new workers or people at lower levels or people who have English as a second language or introverts, Harris said. Inevitably, the list turns to women and people of color.

"So we look at the list. If you're not part of the list, that means you're probably one of the ones causing the exclusion," Harris said.

White people as a group, and particularly men, don't typically make that list. But the presidential campaign, Harris said, unearthed the strong sentiment among white people that "they don't feel like the lead group that's been privileged, and if you look at their lives, they're not."

Those who do diversity, he said, have a responsibility to address everyone's concerns. "It's not about a special effort toward white men," he said. "That's not the effort I'm talking about. It's more-so that ... if you honor everybody's challenges, they're more likely to own their privileges."

Lind adds an amendment to that thought, one that underscores the tension diversity consultants, like the rest of the country, are tasked with resolving. Longstanding racial discord, fueled by the "historical garbage" Harris mentioned, collides with the idea of honoring everybody's challenges when some of those challenges spring from racial ignorance and racism. Thinking of all challenges as equal, she said, is a problem.

"I think the backlash we're seeing is people who work in the diversity space — and also civil rights folks in general — are saying, 'We are not going to be inclusive of ideas and values that are explicitly detrimental and harmful,' " Lind said. "Because the rhetoric is, 'One side has lost, one side has won, and everybody needs to get together and move forward for all Americans in the country.' "

Walking that line of competing interests is made even tougher by the language of diversity, including the word diversity itself. Leah P. Hollis, president of Patricia Berkly LLC in Philadelphia, said she actively avoids language that might be polarizing so she can keep everyone in the conversation. After all, in a swing state like Pennsylvania, where nearly 6 million people voted and Trump won by fewer than 70,000 votes, she has to assume that half of the employees she'll be working with voted for Trump, half for Clinton. So figuring out what tone to strike is important.

Even the phrase "diversity consultant" can be divisive to some. Hollis said she has to frame her focus as "workplace bullying," because many folks seem unable to admit there's a diversity problem. Her workaround, she said, is this: "Everyone is caught in a power differential, so a lot of my training has a lot to do with workplace bullying and how it disproportionately affects those from different backgrounds."

Hollis said the minute she uses words like "diversity," she loses the room. People who believe that others are too "politically correct" won't continue to play ball, she said. "If I glom onto or attach those trigger phrases, it's over," she said.

"My training is about who you are. I don't know where you're from. You may be from Middle America. You may root for the Jacksonville Jaguars. You might love barbecue. I'm a black woman from Western Pennsylvania. I grew up eating pierogies. I grew up on the Rust Belt. ... In the trainings I have, it's not about whether I'm PC or not. It's about how people feel different. I try to peel back the layers of the labels."

Looking ahead, the consultants said that now, more than ever, they'll have to take a harder look at their own practices, both in terms of how they'll frame training and how they'll choose clients.

Ismail said it's not enough to be an ally to groups that are feeling attacked. Be an accomplice, she said: Defend and speak up.

"You're at lunch or dinner or on a break and someone makes a disparaging joke about anyone, let's say Muslims or Jews or being gay; don't let it pass," she said. "I need you to pause that statement ... Maybe you have to say, 'That's unacceptable here, I don't appreciate that here.' ... That's one way to be an accomplice."

Postelection, Lind is thinking about the best way to be effective, and it has something to do with where she'll do the work. She said she doesn't want to consult with a company that normalizes intolerance or discrimination or tries to brush them under the rug. She said she wants to work for a company where leadership has already made a demonstrable commitment to diversity.

She pointed to the number of CEOs who have doubled down on their corporate mission statements since the election. Leaders of PepsiCo, General Electric, Apple, Medtronic and others have reiterated their support for diversity and inclusion. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak, in an email to the medical device-maker's employees, took a stand that would surely be heartening to those who do the work of diversity. He called the company's principles around inclusion "an irrevocable priority."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.
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jad
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RedSonja
10 days ago
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" "So we look at the list. If you're not part of the list, that means you're probably one of the ones causing the exclusion," Harris said.

White people as a group, and particularly men, don't typically make that list. But the presidential campaign, Harris said, unearthed the strong sentiment among white people that "they don't feel like the lead group that's been privileged, and if you look at their lives, they're not." "

*facepalm*

one last adventure

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20161122_indy5

“let me get my whip, kid”

“oh, dr. jones, there’s nothing to whip this time. you have to learn about pepe the frog”

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jad
16 days ago
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fxer
16 days ago
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how can I fight it if I can't whip it
Bend, Oregon
skittone
14 days ago
You've got to whip it. (Whip it good.)

Who Should Do The Hard Work Of Being The Race Ambassador?

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Who Should Do The Hard Work Of Being The Race Ambassador?

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A suggestion on the podcast that people of color should win over the hearts and minds of white folks prompted pushback from listeners and a question: who, if anyone, might even be willing to do this?

Bjorn Rune Lie/Getty Images/Ikon Images

On our post-election episode of the Code Switch podcast, Shereen Marisol Meraji and I interviewed Negin Farsad, a comedian and filmmaker, and Gustavo Arellano, the editor of the OC Weekly and the author of the satirical ¡Ask A Mexican! column.

Our guests suggested that, in the wake of Donald Trump's election-night victory, racial animus in America — or at least, Americans' boundless capacity to countenance it — could be combated if people of color more actively engaged white people, assuaging their anxieties.

Farsad and Arellano presented that idea humorously, but the ask was a serious one. Farsad pointed to her film, The Muslims are Coming!, in which she traveled across the country on a comedy tour with other Muslim-American comedians, as an example of outreach.

"The goal was to meet people where they were, and I feel like if they do that, they will come around," she said. In other words, people of color need to be "ambassadors" to the larger, skeptical, anxious white world. If respectability politics is predicated on the performance of public uprightness — or at least agreeability— being an ambassador is the strain that concerns itself with the hand-to-hand, interpersonal engagement. Say, explaining why black people can say nigger and white people should not. (It's a little trickier than that.) Or calmly explaining to a person on Twitter who asks if "nappy" is an offensive word. (Short answer: it depends, but she probably shouldn't say it.) My inbox has been full of questions like this from strangers since the election.

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If you'll allow me to indulge in a bit of understatement here: listeners had opinions about this idea. To crudely characterize the many responses we got, there was an obvious, vocal split between black folks and other people of color. Many black listeners suggested that having to make the argument for your humanity was itself an indignity.

A letter from one black listener captures a sentiment we heard over and over:

"When Negin Farsad says that we need to get out to the other side and show a different image of ourselves, what does she mean? Black people for better or worse have been in American media since that media began. We have shown many many sides of ourselves through media, what else were we supposed to show? Just images palatable to people who are not convinced of our humanity? When Gustavo Arellano says it's our responsibility to move to swing states, what are we being asked to sacrifice for that, job and education opportunities, our happiness, our safety?"

Another was more pointed:

"[I] think it's misguided of [Farsad] to a) assume that's enough for people who benefit from white supremacy to see a POCs humanity and b) to even think that she should have to prove her humanity in the first place. It's going to hurt so much more when she realizes that no amount of shucking and jiving on behalf of white people will ever prove to them the fullness of her humanity. [...] But then again, Negin might be right. Maybe if enough brown people infiltrate mostly-white communities, white people will fight against the forces of xenophobia and racism to protect them when the time comes. Because even then, when they consider the fullness of Muslim and Asian and Mexican-American citizens' lives, we'll still have Black people around as a scapegoat. We are here for those groups who are allowed assimilation into whiteness to look down upon."

My first response to our guests was not terribly dissimilar: Um, nah. "Ambassadorship" struck me as a strain of respectability politics, the idea that people in marginalized groups can sway people who have negative opinions of them by being beyond moral reproach, or at least, actively endeavoring to make the people with those opinions less uncomfortable. It's a polarizing notion, even as it has long been a critical, controversial component of rights movements for people of color and for queer people.

But on Twitter, Shereen added some important nuance to this conversation: this might not be a crazy idea to the many, many first-generation immigrants of color have been thrust into this role of ambassadors in their lives for practical reasons. "This idea ... is one that comes very natural to many [first-generation people of color] who are often interpreters/ambassadors," she wrote. "I'm not saying it's right and I'm not saying it's not exhausting, but it is how we've learned to navigate life in the U.S."

There are also some big questions about whether the ambassador approach might work. On Tuesday, Vox's German Lopez surveyed some of the research about how white people respond to difficult conversations about race, and concluded, as did Farsad and Arellano, that there are plenty of people whose prejudices can be undone with nonjudgmental engagement on their feelings. "The key to these conversations, though, is empathy," Lopez wrote. "And it will take a lot of empathy — not just for one conversation but many, many conversations in several settings over possibly many years."

And therein lies the rub: even the folks who favor ambassadorship have to concede that it's labor-intensive and requires tremendous patience from the people doing it. While many of us have certainly served as ambassadors in informal, impromptu ways — maybe a friend gingerly asks you a question about some issue that affects a community you belong to, and you can discuss it candidly with them because you've established some trust and goodwill — that seems qualitatively different from serving that role for strangers in whom you might not be particularly invested.

"I think that no one should be asked to do this kind of work because it's exhausting and because [people of color] have enough problems," one person wrote on Twitter. "On the other hand, if segregation is the central obstacle (and I think it is), then it also seems necessary for someone to do it."

He went on: "Another thing that occurs to me is that ambassadorship can't just be from people of color toward white people. Because different people or groups are often also blind to each other's experiences. I know I've often been guilty of this."

Shereen, Gustavo and Negin probably have a point. And it's very likely that ambassadorship, as a strategy, might be more effective for some people of color. We're pulling on different histories and understandings, and pushing up against often similar but often very distinct skepticisms. Shereen says it's just what we do — in some ways, this is part of our actual jobs at Code Switch. But I'd really rather not.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this at @nprcodeswitch and at codeswitch@npr.org.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.
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