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Chicken Plays Baseball

[ 14 ] April 23, 2014 |

Tonight’s Pathe film shows a psychological experiment from 1960 revolving around teaching a chicken to play baseball. Sound is lost.

Really, this chicken would be in the upper half of the players who have graced a Cubs uniform in the last century.

In Your Heart You Know He’s Right

[ 170 ] April 23, 2014 |

A reminder of the loveliness of

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the Goldwater campaign.


From Ludlow to Upper Big Branch

[ 16 ] April 23, 2014 |

I have a piece up at Bill Moyers’ site connecting the exploitation that led to the Ludlow Massacre of 1914 with coal companies exploitation of labor and degradation of nature today:

In recent years, American mining companies have undermined the effectiveness of many of these reforms. West Virginia mandates that the state legislature must approve all environmental regulations, making meaningful regulation all but impossible. The companies managed to influence the scientific testing of black lung claims. Miners suffering from black lung need to have their cases confirmed by doctors, but a single pro-coal scientist at Johns Hopkins University denied all 1,500 cases he saw between 2000 and 2013. After the Center for Public Integrity exposed this travesty — winning a Pulitzer Prize in the process — Johns Hopkins suspended its black lung testing program.

Today, mountaintop removal mining reshapes West Virginia and Kentucky, dumping millions of tons of contaminated soil into valleys, poisoning waterways and sickening residents. Coal companies claim it is the most cost-effective process, but it forces the long-term costs of mining onto local communities. It poisons waterways with mercury, lead, arsenic and selenium. Improper storage of coal waste also leads to polluted waterways. A Duke Energy coal ash leak in North Carolina earlier this year turned at least 27 million gallons of water in the Dan River into a toxic soup, polluting the water source for Danville, Va.

In 2010, 29 miners died at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, the nation’s deadliest mine explosion since 1970. Don Blakenship, CEO of the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, had long fought against safety and environmental regulations. The mine’s operation was officially and notoriously unsafe, having racked up over 500 safety violations in the year before the explosion. After the disaster, Massey denied time off for miners to go to their friends’ funerals. Blankenship called the explosion an “act of God” and denied all responsibility.

Upper Big Branch was a non-union mine. The coal companies have managed to reduce the UMWA to a shell of its former strength by closing union mines while investing in new non-union mines in the West, and automating jobs that allow them to lay off union members. And when workers lack a voice to fight for their own safety, the results can be disastrous. The UMWA only has 75,000 members today, down from 500,000 in 1946 and 240,000 in 1998. In 2006, an explosion at the non-union Sago Mine in West Virginia killed 13 miners, but the mine was only fined $71,800 for safety violations. Robert Murray, owner of the non-union Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah blew off the safety violations his operation received in 2006 as trivialities. The next year a mine collapse killed six miners and, later, three rescue workers searching for their bodies. When the UMWA criticized Murray’s safety record, he told family members of the dead, “the union is your enemy.” The coal industry is now fighting to reduce the already limited inspections

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of its mines.

The UMWA struggles to keep up its fight against black lung disease. The number of miners afflicted with the illness has risen in recent years, especially among younger miners. Fifty-two percent of the 113,000 mine dust samples turned into government regulators by coal companies since 1987 exceeded federal standards. Seventy-one percent of the miners who died at Upper Big Branch had already developed the lung lesions that are typical of black lung.

Like John D. Rockefeller Jr., a century ago, Blankenship, Murray and other coal mining CEOs destroy lives and ecosystems without consequences.

Coolidge and the Confederates

[ 46 ] April 22, 2014 |

Tonight’s Pathe film is a bit of unused or perhaps scrap footage, only half put together and lacking sound. It is also Calvin Coolidge honoring the Confederate dead.

Start Over

[ 56 ] April 22, 2014 |

I basically wrote this column last month, but to reiterate the point, Alex Pareene is right and he writes a better column than I do. Fire everyone on the New York Times editorial page except Krugman and start over.

Logging in Idaho–U.S.A. (1926)

[ 35 ] April 21, 2014 |

Too busy to blog today (in fact, with a book due in 6 weeks, that may be a not infrequent occurrence for a bit). But not too busy to put up another British Pathe film, this time on another topic close to my heart: logging. Watching this footage, especially of the guys working on the log drive in the river, should remind us all what a horrifyingly dangerous profession logging was during these years.

Basketball in New York

[ 36 ] April 20, 2014 |

Tonight’s British Pathé film features footage of

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your 1939 NCAA Basketball National Champion Oregon Ducks. Of course.

Rubin Carter, RIP

[ 44 ] April 20, 2014 |

Rubin Carter, the boxer wrongly convicted on murder charges thanks to racist police, a racist jury, and the testimony of two thieves who later recanted, leading him to serving 20 years in prison, has died.

On Giving Up

[ 138 ] April 20, 2014 |

English environmentalist Paul Kingsnorth is infuriating. He’s fought for environmental causes for 20 years and now he is totally giving up and saying that fighting against climate change is pointless so let’s just accept the earth’s impending destruction. To me, this is a prime example of the problem with an environmentalism that isn’t fundamentally about protecting people and integrating everyday people into your concerns. It’s not that Kingsnorth is wrong about the way we are going as a planet. But thinking of climate change as a tipping point is less useful than a sliding scale. What he does not seem to care much about (at least from this article) is environmental justice. Let’s take one issue. The hotter things get, the more cockroaches will develop in substandard urban housing and the higher asthma rates for the people of color who are forced to live in such places. Part of environmentalism should also be seeking justice for these people, pushing for policies that might not be enacted in time to save most frog species but that might save human lives (and possibly some frog species too). Things can get better or they can just continue getting worse and even if the Earth loses half of its species in the next century, it could lose 90% of species if people quit fighting and just go into mourning instead of seeking to work toward change.

Giving up is just self-centered nihilism.

Harding Greets Indian Chiefs

[ 31 ] April 19, 2014 |

The great British newsreel company Pathé has placed a mere 85,000 of their films on YouTube. I am going to highlight some over the next

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week. Such as Warren Harding greeting various tribal chiefs in 1921.

I Believe the Children are the Future

[ 286 ] April 19, 2014 |

On the decline of golf among young people, a sport I dislike not only on aesthetic grounds, but on class, racial, urban planning, and environmental grounds.

Will the Supreme Court Protect Polluters from Lawsuits

[ 55 ] April 18, 2014 |

The answer is probably yes.

There should be no statute of limitations on health claims. Just because a cancer might not develop for a twenty years doesn’t mean it’s not related to toxic exposure.

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