Family stories from StoryCorp

StoryCorp is an audio-history project that’s been around for a decade in which people talk about their lives and the lives of others. Here are three stories of American diversity.

A working black family:

A working Hispanic family:

A working white family:

You can see these on YouTube, or order a DVD from PBS here.

 

Time Machine: ‘An American in the Making’ (1913)

Let’s enter the time machine and go back 100 years to see what things were like in America:

We get to see New York City, then go into the steel belt: Lorain, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana. How about that!

Immigration didn’t seem to be a problem when folks were coming from Eastern Europe (I’m not sure what the language was in the letter, but the scene in the classroom has at least one phrase translated from German to English: Ich bin hier geboren.)

And this is an amazing study of Industrial America at the beginning of the 20th century. Look at all of those safety procedures at the factories. It probably wasn’t that much earlier when men (because you wouldn’t have found women in these jobs) were being horribly mutilated at work, prompting the need for these safeguards. The steps look pretty elaborate, though I didn’t really understand why you would derail a train.

Notice the contrast between the barren existence in the native land and the economic rise to middle class American existence: from plow to steel mill. This is the aftermath of the industrial revolution. It’s a good ad for the American Dream.

And since this is produced by U.S. Steel, think about who ran the company back then: J.P. Morgan. There’s a remote possibility he was consulted on this. Morgan died the year the film was made.

 

A week’s worth of food: A life and death matter

Photographer Peter Menzel went around the world and visited households to see what a week’s worth of food looked like for the average family. Let’s start here in America.

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Now, using that as a baseline, here’s a week in Italy.

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I don’t think its going out on a limb to say the American diet really sucks. Tons of packaged and processed food. I feel my cholesterol levels rising and my blood pressure rocketing just looking at a U.S. table that’s accentuated by Burger King, Dominos and McDonalds. When I came back to the states after seven years in Europe, the overwhelming portions of fat and grease at the average restaurant literally made me sick. As in throwing up in the toilet sick. The only thing I can handle at a McDonalds these days is the Happy Meal: a cheeseburger, a half portion of fries, a small drink and a small package of apple slices. Can’t forget the toy.

And I’m not surprised when I look up the life expectancy for the two countries. Turns out Italy ranks 10th in the world at 81.95 years, according to the Web site geoba.se.

The United States comes in at No. 53, with an expectancy of 78.62.

Before we go, let’s take a look at a week’s worth of food in one more country: Chad.

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I figure the life expectancy here is going to be pretty bad, and geoba.se confirms that. Life expectancy in Chad is 49.07 years. Dead last at No. 228 on the planet. If I lived in Chad, I would have been dead for the past nine years.

The contrast between the three countries, and what we put in our mouths, should give Americans pause. The U.S. is the richest country in the world, and we’re dying because we eat crap. Chad is the poorest country in the world, and its citizens are dying because they’re starving. This is shameful.

For more photos from around the world, go to this link at Nutrition News. For the life expectancy figures, check out this link at geoba.se.

 

Nurses Explain the Healthcare Law in 90 Seconds

(via HealthLawBenefits.org, a joint campaign of SEIU, the Nurse Alliance of SEIU and 1199SEIU)

 

The GOP has a senior moment

Guess what. Republicans are pissing off another segment of the voting population (from the Carville-Greenberg Memo):

There’s something going on with seniors: It is now strikingly clear that they have turned sharply against the GOP. This is apparent in seniors’ party affiliation and vote intention, in their views on the Republican Party and its leaders, and in their surprising positions on jobs, health care, retirement security, investment economics, and the other big issues that will likely define the 2014 midterm elections. …

—In 2010, seniors voted for Republicans by a 21 point margin (38 percent to 59 percent). Among seniors likely to vote in 2014, the Republican candidate leads by just 5 points (41 percent to 46 percent.)

—When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives at the beginning of 2011, 43 percent of seniors gave the Republican Party a favorable rating.  Last month, just 28 percent of seniors rated the GOP favorably. This is not an equal-opportunity rejection of parties or government — over the same period, the Democratic Party’s favorable rating among seniors has increased 3 points, from 37 percent favorable to 40 percent favorable.

—When the Republican congress took office in early 2011, 45 percent of seniors approved of their job performance. That number has dropped to just 22 percent — with 71 percent disapproving.

—Seniors are now much less likely to identify with the Republican Party. On Election Day in 2010, the Republican Party enjoyed a net 10 point party identification advantage among seniors (29 percent identified as Democrats, 39 percent as Republicans). As of last month, Democrats now had a net 6 point advantage in party identification among seniors (39 percent to 33 percent).

—More than half (55 percent) of seniors say the Republican Party is too extreme, half (52 percent) say it is out of touch, and half (52 percent) say the GOP is dividing the country. Just 10 percent of seniors believe that the Republican Party does not put special interests ahead of ordinary voters.

—On almost every issue we tested — including gay rights, aid to the poor, immigration, and gun control — more than half of seniors believe that the Republican Party is too extreme.

If the GOP has lost the elderly, I don’t see how it can continue to survive.

And we’re at the verge of a government shutdown, where the blame is going to fall squarely on Republicans. Going into the 2014 elections, we could see the total collapse of a major American political party.