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The First Ever Baseball Strike

[ 65 ] May 23, 2014 |

Some of you might be familiar with the first ever baseball strike, but this is the first I’ve ever heard of it, started when Ty Cobb went into the stands to beat a heckler. When Cobb was suspended, the Tigers went on strike.

But as he ducked into the dugout before batting in the fourth, Cobb hurled an insult at the man, according to Cobb’s biographer Charles Alexander. The man, a Tammany Hall page named Claude Lucker (or Lueker, in some accounts), who had lost all but two of his fingers while operating a printing press, continued taunting Cobb.

The Tigers’ Sam Crawford asked Cobb what he intended to do. And with that, Cobb suddenly vaulted into the stands toward Lucker, seated about 12 rows up in the grandstand. Knocking Lucker down, Cobb began kicking and stamping him.

“Cobb,” someone cried, “that man has no hands!”

“I don’t care if he has no feet!” he yelled, continuing the attack with his cleats. Some fans tried to intervene, but several teammates who had followed Cobb into the grandstand held them off with bats. An umpire and a police officer finally pulled Cobb away.

He was ejected from the game, which the Tigers eventually won, 8-4. Johnson, in the midst of touring A.L. parks, witnessed the incident and suspended Cobb indefinitely. Cobb’s teammates rallied to his defense two days later in Philadelphia, sending Johnson a message that they would strike in protest.

“If the players cannot have protection, we must protect ourselves,” the Tigers wrote.

That put Detroit Manager Hughie Jennings in a quandary. The Tigers would incur a $5,000 fine if they forfeited their May 18 game against the Athletics, so the team owner, Frank Navin, ordered Jennings to field a team. With the help of Joe Nolan, a sportswriter for The Philadelphia Bulletin, Jennings quickly cobbled together a roster of semipros and amateurs.

The scab Tigers lost 24-2 and the strike ended the next day. Cobb was suspended 10 games.

The Last Civil War Debt

[ 21 ] May 23, 2014 |

In 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early invaded Maryland. He threatened to burn the city of Frederick to the ground unless they paid him $200,000. Frederick city leaders agreed. They took out loans to make the payment.

Frederick paid off those loans in 1951
.

The End of History Education

[ 237 ] May 23, 2014 |

The Boston public school system is eliminating history and social science departments, merging them with other departments that don’t matter because they aren’t on the standardized tests.

No doubt this is paving the way for the same thing to happen on the university level to the non-STEM departments.

Burrito Thursday

[ 42 ] May 22, 2014 |

I know there is such a thing as Taco Tuesday, but how about we celebrate a late night Burrito Thursday by considering the 10 most important burritos in history.

Happy 100th to Sun Ra

[ 52 ] May 22, 2014 |

The Ra arrived on Earth 100 years ago today. One of the most inventive and amazing people in the history of American music, Sun Ra managed to balance experimental noise with a band that still swung. In a sense he was on his own trajectory, not only in his own mind, with his religious writings and space talk, but in the history of music, as he avoided the rock fusion of post-Bitches Brew Miles Davis while also not following Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders into their version of noise free jazz. Noise the

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Ra made, but it was always very much his noise.

Also:

The VA

[ 52 ] May 22, 2014 |

I for one look forward to the imminent Republican proposal to triple funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs in response to the stories of poor care for veterans. We all know the very great commitment Republicans have for our veterans. All you have to do is ask them. Don’t look at funding levels passed by a Republican Congress or what happened during the Bush Administration though. It’s a lot easier if you just notice their American flag lapel pins.

I believe the bill is to be introduced just after Rand Paul brings his bill to the floor banning drones.

No Incentive for Safety

[ 85 ] May 22, 2014 |

One big victory for corporations in recent years is keeping OSHA fines so low that their trivial cost makes fixing safety problems not worth the effort. Of course this has a predictable cost:

Twenty-eight-year-old Daniel Collazo was nearly done with his shift cleaning machines at the Tribe hummus plant in Taunton, Mass. when other workers heard his screams.

Collazo had become caught in the rotating screws that blend the hummus and struggled to free himself as slowly-winding 9-inch blades kept turning, crushing his arms and part of his head, according to public records. His co-workers dashed to cut the power and desperately tried to untangle Collazo from the machine.

Despite their efforts, Collazo died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. But the horrific Dec. 16, 2011, accident could have been prevented had the plant followed a standard safety practice known as “lock out/tag out.” It requires employees to be trained to cut power to industrial machinery before cleaning activities begin.

OSHA had visited this factory and found the working conditions outrageous:

Two years before Collazo was killed, federal officials fined the owner of the Tribe plant for failing to follow the safety procedure at another of its New England food processing plants. Tribe’s own consultant had warned that failing to train cleaning workers in lock out/tag out created “an extreme safety risk,” records show, and said “the probability that a fatality could occur is likely certain within a year’s timeframe.”

OSHA fined Tribe $9500 for those violations.

Tribe thought at that price there was no reason to fix the problems. Now they were fined $450,000 upon Collazo’s death, but you can see why they would take that risk since the managers no doubt didn’t think someone would actually die. What is $9500 for a subsidiary of Nestle? Pocket change.

I did like this:

Since Collazo’s death, Tribe has hired a new chief executive, Adam Carr, who has sought to increase the company’s visibility. Tribe finished paying its OSHA fines in April and has embarked on a new marketing campaign: “Hummus made with love and chickpeas.”

The secret ingredient is the blood of dead workers.

Histories of the Gilded Age, Written by Hacks of the New Gilded Age

[ 175 ] May 22, 2014 |

National Review troll Amity Shlaes, who you may remember from such arguments as “true freedom is a worker choosing to labor 70 hours a week,” in lamely attempting to write the “humanitarian case” for repealing the minimum wage writes her own history of the Gilded Age:

It was not always thus. In the 19th century and well into the 20th, many employers and employees believed that their relationship, the two-party one, was key. Outsiders — regulators, unions, lawmakers — were intruders. That privacy of employer and employee often yielded negative results. The employer might exploit the employee. But the two-party dynamic often succeeded. Because the employee-employer pair set their terms together, they trusted each other. From time to time, they also helped each other.

Example: It’s hard to find employers more vilified in the annals of American history than Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick. These gentlemen hired the Pinkerton men who shot at the workers during the steel strike over, yes, wages at Homestead, Pa., in 1892. What is mostly forgotten is that the workers also shot at the detectives. What is entirely forgotten is that Carnegie and Frick did much for workers, precisely because they felt responsible to their counterparty. The exploiting Robber Baron Carnegie endowed more than 1,500 public libraries up and down the Atlantic seaboard and out west, and many more around the world. Carnegie’s aim was to dare workers like those who tackled the Pinkertons to improve their skills, so that they might rise as Carnegie himself had. “He that dare not reason is a slave,” reads the motto at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh. Many immigrants after Carnegie did reason, and did rise.

In 1905, the Supreme Court supported this old view when it held that New York State might not regulate the hours worked at a bakery because doing so interfered with the sanctity of the contract between worker and employer. The case, Lochner, has long been ridiculed by progressives and conservatives alike as an example of absurd federal interventionism: After all, the issue was a state law, not a law passed in Washington, D.C. Several decades later, in the 1923 case Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected the minimum wage, with Justice Sutherland explaining of the minimum wage: “It exacts from the employer an arbitrary payment for a purpose and upon a basis having no causal connection with his business, or the contract or the work the employee engages to do.” It was only another decade-plus later, in West Coast Hotel, that the enervated justices finally succumbed and opened the door to a third party, the labor regulator. Well into the second term of a progressive administration, justices do tend to get intimidated, and the Supreme Court certainly demonstrated that in West Coast Hotel.

Defending Henry Clay Frick and the Lochner decision is special but not too surprising I guess. Bringing back the old idea of the equality of contract between the billionaire employer and unemployed worker, now that’s bringing the first Gilded Age into the second Gilded Age!

It’s also amazing how workers’ desires for a minimum wage are never taken into consideration in these arguments. But of course the equality between employer and employee for these people exists only so far as it allows the exploitation of labor.

But Carnegie built some libraries, so it’s all good. Every defender of plutocrats brings up the Carnegie libraries. Two notes. First, that was a century ago. Maybe you should find some modern plutocrats giving away all their money. Second, a person should be judged by how they made their money, not what they did after they were multimillionaires. The former is far more telling. And all the libraries Carnegie could build could not assuage the guilt for his behavior, both at Homestead and throughout his career.

H/T

QOTD

[ 96 ] May 21, 2014 |

income-inequality-usa-06

What? Why does the United States only have the 4th highest level of income inequality in the (rather broadly defined) developed world? This nation did not steal half of Mexico in 1848 in order to see it best us in this crucial category of plutocracy. I know a Christian version of Erdogan is the kind of leader Republicans would like to see in the U.S. so I can see them providing grudging respect to Turkey. As for Chile, thank Milton Friedman. Might as well give that one to us.

Fearing the Poor

[ 112 ] May 21, 2014 |

For controlling the world, today’s plutocrats sure do scare easily:

American-Spectator-cover

Whether it’s this cover or comparing mild criticism of income inequality to Krystallnacht, the elites in this New Gilded Age freak out at the slightest challenge. Perhaps it’s guilt over their crimes, perhaps it’s their superior understanding over just how much they are taking away from everyday people through capital mobility, supply chain capitalism, temporary work, subcontracting, regulatory capture, Supreme Court decisions, gerrymandering to develop extremist state legislatures, etc., etc.

Gavin Mueller with more.

Legitimizing BENGHAZI!!!!!!

[ 102 ] May 21, 2014 |

I have no idea why Nancy Pelosi is legitimizing Republicans’ Benghazi committee by naming Democratic representatives to it.

Wussy and Adorno

[ 290 ] May 21, 2014 |

Scott and I have been pushing the new Wussy album hard. And really, you haven’t purchased it yet? How about solving that problem now.

If you don’t take our word for it, check out this very long Charles Taylor discussion of the band in the new LA Review of Books. Evidently and deservedly, Wussy is becoming the cause celebre of cultural critics in 2014. An excerpt about what the band represents to Taylor:

The gulf I’m taking about is the alienation felt by those of us who watch our contemporaries give themselves over to conformity and deadness in their political and cultural responses. It’s seeing friends with whom you once enjoyed sharing movies or books or music become parents and abdicate any emotional or aesthetic response beyond assuming the role of cultural watchdog. It’s listening to Lolita praised as a useful book because it reminds us to be on the lookout for pedophiles, who seldom look like monsters. It’s spending evenings in which entire conversations are given to home repair or property values. It’s the underlying edge of condescension used to address anyone who hasn’t bought a house or had kids, as if we couldn’t possibly know what being an adult really meant.

Life past 50, maybe past 40, sometimes feels like a continual affirmation of Adorno’s claim that, in the modern age, the subjective and the objective have switched places. Received wisdom passes itself off as an unflinching acceptance of the way things are, while questioning the precepts of work, sex, marriage, art, and politics is dismissed as an expression of adolescent discontent. For me, nothing embodies that dead, unquestioning response as much as NPR, the great progressive soporific, its reporting and commentary all delivered in the calm, Xanax tones that reassure us no problem is too big that it can’t be grasped, and likely solved, simply by assuming the proper civilized and reasoned attitude.

To be fair, no argument for cultural engagement can fail to take into account an economic reality so predatory that most people often have only enough energy to get through their day. You can’t blame folks who are knocking themselves out just to pay the rent for not having time to explore new things. And if the glut that the digital age has fostered — in everything from the availability of political opinion and news sources to the ease of accessing music, books, movies — doesn’t make people abandon all hope of staying up to date, it too often turns keeping up into a sucker’s game of hopping from thing to thing without absorbing anything, or even finding something worth paying attention to. Even without that glut, it’s inevitable that as we get older, whether we’re living mainstream lives or not, we may feel out of tune with the culture, may choose to delve more deeply into what’s given us pleasure in the past, to decide what it is that sustains us. It might be Raymond Chandler or Norman Mailer or Marianne Moore over David Foster Wallace; Howard Hawks or Godard over Wes Anderson; the Beatles or the Velvet Underground or Big Star or Glenn Gould over Arcade Fire or Drake. The trouble comes when people reject the culture without doing the work of engaging with it. Most often, that happens with music.

Music continues to be the prime cultural vehicle each generation uses to identify itself. It’s also the means each generation uses, no matter how hypocritically, to proclaim its superiority over succeeding generations. Nothing has ever summed up that attitude like the installment of Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury that ran in Sunday papers on August 26, 1979, in which Mark, the radical DJ, is ordered by his station manager to play more disco. “Let’s start out with the Village People’s ‘YMCA’ and Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls,’” he says, “two exciting testaments to the social sensibilities of disco. One of them is about meeting adolescent homosexuals in a public gymnasium, and the other is a celebration of prostitution.” A strip to make William Bennett or Donald Wildmon smile. Trudeau is telling us that the drugs and sex he and his contemporaries engaged in was about changing the world. This new stuff? It’s just hookers and queers cruising the showers.

What does Taylor suggest to overcome this gulf, this rejection of modern sounds to the cheap lazy nostalgia of our 20s? This: