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The Goat Schlepper

[ 69 ] August 19, 2016 |


I’m not sure if I should laugh more over the fact that Breitbart brought Mickey Kaus on for a series of “essays” in July or whether it evidently decided he wasn’t worthy of their high, high standards, as it’s now been almost a month since they published something he puked up.


Forest History

[ 22 ] August 19, 2016 |

Full Page (Labor Day Ed.)--Sept. 2, 1942--p.1.1200w

I know that nothing is as sexy in the entire world as forest history. But there has been interest in my book Empire of Timber, now available for the moment at the low, low price of $45. Which is actually pretty cheap given its regular price of $99. But someday it will come out in paperback! Anyway, for those of you who are curious, my article in the Western Historical Quarterly on the International Woodworkers of America’s environmental program of the late 30s and early 40s, adapted from Chapter 3 of the book, won an award from the Forest History Society and thus is now available for free. So any of you can get a little taste of the book and its argument about how timber workers used their unions to press for their own environmental agenda.

Show Down at Aspen

[ 60 ] August 17, 2016 |

Many years ago, a historian friend showed me a copy of the British documentary “Show Down at Aspen,” on Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 campaign for mayor of Aspen. Finally, I have found it online. This is really fantastic and very much worth your time. It’s NSFW, both because of hippie nudity and drug use. The best part is between about minutes 5 and 10, which begins with a young cop descending on a hippie gathering and smoking some joints with them, followed by some old people talking about the evils of drugs while getting loaded on their drug of choice, booze. Throughout the film, there are surprises, with older people supporting Thompson and younger people who one might even call hippies are voting for the incumbent because they recognize Thompson is unstable and that no one is really getting busted for drugs in Aspen under the current sheriff.

This is a really great document of 1970. Enjoy.


[ 35 ] August 17, 2016 |

Rhode Island’s own:

This is a bit misleading, as McLaughlin was already well on his way to becoming a war supporter when he ran for the Senate in 1970. When John Pastore defeated him, McLaughlin used his good friend Pat Buchanan to get a job in the Nixon administration. He left the Jesuits in 1974.

Been a tough year for Providence’s famous citizens, with first Buddy Cianci and now John McLaughlin dying. A.O. Scott had better watch his back in film screenings.

Chicken Minced Meat

[ 31 ] August 16, 2016 |

I am soon returning to East Coast Exile, reality, and regular blogging. Until then, this.

This Day in Labor History: August 16, 1819

[ 35 ] August 16, 2016 |


On August 16, 1819, British cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000-80,000 workers in a field in Manchester, England who had gathered to demand parliamentary representation and the repeal of laws making food more expensive. Approximately 15 people died and between 400 and 700 people were injured. This movement of working class radicalism was deeply intertwined with conditions of British workers during the Industrial Revolution and the early manifestations of political radicalism this created.

In the early 19th century, democratic participation was nearly non-existent in Britain. That nation had resisted the move toward democracy spawned out of the American Revolution and French Revolution, even as those nations were also dealing with the implications of it. Meanwhile, after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Britain fell into an economic depression. Unemployment rose and hordes of the new industrial workers lost their jobs and had nowhere to go. By 1819, industry was deeply affected at the same time that food prices had risen dramatically. The region’s textile mills, the core of the Industrial Revolution, had a brief boom after the war ended, but that quickly collapsed. Free-market industrialists said there was nothing they could do but lay people off and cut wages. At the same time, they publicly opposed any form of public relief for the urban poor. Moreover, the British government instituted the first Corn Law, which imposed tariffs on imported grain, creating food shortages and near-famine conditions for the poor, particularly in the aftermath of the legendary 1816 summer that never happened after Mount Tambora exploded.

Economic-based organizing began in 1817 with a movement called the Blanketeers. They started in Manchester that March, hoping to spawn a march of textile weavers to London to present petitions demanding that the government take steps to improve the cotton trade so they could go back to work. Magistrates responded by reading the marchers the Riot Act and arresting 27 of them. Organizing for both political and economic reforms continued. Henry Hunt became the leader of this new movement. Hunt became the most famous popular radical of his day, a sort of Eugene Debs for the early 19th century, promoting broad-based political and economic reforms. He argued for universal male suffrage and Parliament held every year, without the rotten boroughs that ensured government stayed in the hands of conservatives. He was a big believer in mass rallies, believing that if large enough crowds gathered, it would place pressure on government to transform without having to engage in bloody insurrection.

For the British elite, these combined political and economic protests meant Jacobinism had crossed the Channel. Hunt began leading mass rallies in Manchester. In January 1819, one rally attracted 10,000 people. Manchester’s leaders wrote to London, fearing a general insurrection and complaining of their lack of power to shut down the rallies or repress the press reporting on these conditions and encouraging action. When Hunt decided to lead a mass rally on August 9 in St. Peter’s Fields in Manchester, the police attempted to intervene. Declaring it illegal preemptively, Hunt and the other leaders delayed it for a week, but were determined to hold the meeting. When that rally achieved an unprecedented crowd of 60,000, the police acted. As far as is known, the 60,000 protestors were completely unarmed, as Hunt and others hoped to preempt intervention by banning weapons. They also encouraged workers to wear their Sunday best clothing to present an atmosphere of respectability. Groups carried banners with slogans such as “No Corn Laws” and “Vote by Ballot.”

There was no violence from the marchers reported. The magistrates however ordered the speakers arrested. The yeomanry ordered to arrest the speakers were untrained and they panicked. Moreover, the head of the British army in the area figured that not much would happen at the rally and instead decided to go see his horses race nearby. But instead of arresting the speakers, they unsheathed their swords and charged into the crowd. The magistrates then ordered the 15th Hussars and Cheshire Volunteers to assist and a general bloodbath ensued. The Hussars especially were just seeking to kill as many people as they could. It’s surprising that only 15 or so people were killed, especially given the injury totals of probably over 500. Among the dead were Mary Heys, a pregnant mother of six run down by the charging horses, causing the baby to begin birthing. She died in childbirth. Sarah Jones, a mother of seven, was killed by being beaten in the head. John Ashton was one of the movement’s political leaders who carried a banner reading “Taxation without representation is unjust and tyrannical. NO CORN LAWS.” He was sabred and then trampled. Many of the wounded actually hid their injuries in order to escape arrest and prosecution. Riots then occurred in Manchester and nearby towns for the rest of the day, but all the violence ended a few days later, although one constable was killed by a mob on August 18.

The British government responded by cracking down on the political reform. It expressed its support for the massacre. Conservatives feared uprisings around the country. It passed the Six Acts that clamped down on public meetings, newspaper opposition, and gun ownership. Hunt was not hurt in the protest although his hat was stabbed through. In 1820, Hunt was convicted on a charge of sedition for his radical views and spent two years in prison. While there, he wrote a book exposing the horrible conditions of the prison. Eventually, Hunt’s movement and the sacrifice of the dead at Peterloo led to the parliamentary reforms of 1832. It would take much more than that to fix the poverty of the British working class. The Corn Laws were not eliminated until 1846, when the Irish famine managed to convince enough lawmakers that they should do something to alleviate it that they once again allowed for cheap imported grain. Conservatives were, of course, outraged.

This is the 187th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.


[ 22 ] August 16, 2016 |


I am pleasantly shocked that the NFL Seniors Committee named former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley their finalist for the Hall of Fame. Easley’s career ended at the age of 28 because of a kidney injury but he was as good as his contemporary Ronnie Lott during his shortened career. Easley absolutely deserves to be elected and if he isn’t, I may have to burn down Canton. He was a truly dominant player. This is also a good sign for the future that players whose careers were shortened by injury and who may not get in through the main committee could thanks to the senior committee. The name that of course comes to my mind is Terrell Davis, who also should be in the HOF.

The Seniors Committee has also been so focused on the 60s over the years that this is their first nominee who I actually remember playing. I may just be getting old. But if we are in the semi-modern era, Ken Anderson should be next.

Union Weed

[ 24 ] August 14, 2016 |

union pot

If you are in Washington and you want to buy marijuana with the union label, you can thanks to UFCW Local 367, who represents workers at a processing plant. Union Yes!

I Might Lie to You

[ 90 ] August 14, 2016 |

Trump is telling the truth for once!

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 44

[ 61 ] August 14, 2016 |

This is the tomb of William McKinley.

2016-07-09 13.01.23

Born in 1843 in Niles, Ohio, William McKinley volunteered for the Civil War in 1861. He slowly rose in the war, rising to be a captain and on the staff of General George Crook. The last Civil War veteran to be president, McKinley soon entered politics, working for his friend and mentor Rutherford B. Hayes when he ran for Ohio governor in 1867. In 1869, he ran for Stark County’s prosecuting attorney and won. He made the unusual move for the time of defending a group of strikers who had rioted and defeated a legal team led by Mark Hanna, who would soon become his friend and promoter. McKinley won a seat in Congress in 1876 and became known for his support of the tariff. He soon became a leader of the Ohio Republican Party, despite repeated attempts of Ohio Democrats to gerrymander him out of office, which they succeeded in doing twice. The second time, in 1890, McKinley shifted and ran for governor of Ohio in 1891, which he won. He soon decided he wanted to be president and won the nomination in 1896.

The 1896 election was really the pinnacle of the Gilded Age. Hanna engineered the election, which was seen as a referendum on the economic policies of the Republican Party for the first time since the Civil War. With William Jennings Bryan running on an economically populist platform, a shift from the racial politics of many post-war Democrats and from the DINO politics of Grover Cleveland. Men like Hanna and McKinley found Bryan utterly repulsive and they believed their victory, promoted with an unprecedented infusion of cash into politics Hanna engineered, that November ensured the ultimate victory of the plutocrats.

McKinley’s administration however would be defined by foreign policy, with the rise of imperialism. McKinley was not the strongest imperialist and when the yellow journalism of Hearst and Pulitzer rallied support for intervening in Cuba, hard-core imperialists like Theodore Roosevelt basically accused McKinley of not being a real man for his moderation on the issue. But McKinley came around and led the U.S. in the unjust imperialist conquest of Spanish colonies, including turning Cuba into a colony in all but name.


McKinley also worked on his core issue of protectionism in domestic policy, as well as opposing silver coinage, signing the Gold Standard Act in 1900. McKinley was basically terrible on civil rights policy, disappointing African-Americans. McKinley won reelection in 1900 but needed a new vice-president after Garret Hobart died in 1899. Theodore Roosevelt won the nomination and when Leon Czoglosz assassinated the president in 1901, a very different era began in American history. In the aftermath, McKinley statues rose throughout Republican states and the giant memorial erected in Canton, inside of which is the grave of he and his wife Ida.

2016-07-09 13.03.49

William McKinley is buried at the McKinley Memorial, Canton, Ohio.

This Day in Labor History: August 13, 1887

[ 8 ] August 13, 2016 |


On August 13, 1887, leathermakers in Newark, New Jersey, locked out their employees as a strategy to crush the Knights of Labor. This lockout would demonstrate the lengths to which American employers would go in order to ensure their shops remained union-free, a significant departure from the accommodations made by European employers, a difference that still resonates in the American labor movement today.

Newark has become a major industrial center by the 1880s and unlike many cities, hosted a wide number of industries. One of the largest was the leather industry. This was exceedingly odious labor. As a noxious industry, leather production was banished to the outskirts of cities going back to colonial New England. Two centuries of technological advancement had not significantly decreased the odiousness of this work. By the late nineteenth century, as was happening with laborers around the country, skilled workers were increasingly replaced by unskilled, often immigrant labor, laboring in mass-scale industrial operations. Newark was also a strong union town and a Knights of Labor local began there in 1879, as the Panic of 1873 subsided. The leather workers do not seem to have been involved in its early days. The first specifically leather-based Knights hall opened in 1883. After 1884, the Knights grew rapidly in Newark, as they did throughout the country. Strikes abounded. More than twice as many strikes took place in Newark in 1886 than did between 1881 and 1885. Half of the strikes were over employers backsliding from agreements they had made to stop earlier strikes. Leather worker struck over other issues, including an end to piecework and for higher wages.

As 1886 turned into 1887, the leatherworkers, skilled and unskilled and often in different Knights’ lodges, began to coordinate their strikes more effectively. Solidarity and a more concrete sense of class identity was building. This was important. It took time for the ideology of free labor republicanism to wear off in the face of endless drudgery and exploitation. Workers didn’t see themselves as that different from employers in the first twenty years after the Civil War. Slowly that began to change. The growth of the Knights was far from what Terence Powderly had envisioned and the growing direct action tactics of many lodges demonstrated that this ideological commitment to free labor had started to fade by the mid-1880s. This hardly meant that these Knights were radicals. It took time to give up old conceits. Despite the famous connections between Knights’ actions and the Haymarket Riot in 1886, the Knights had very little tolerance for radicals, and not only at the top. Newark Knights repeatedly stated the conservative nature of their actions. They largely believed in the American Dream and respected the small employers who had risen out of the working class. They saw a big difference between that person and John D. Rockefeller or Jay Gould.

By 1887, the Knights had begun to decline. In part this was about the backlash to Haymarket and in part it was due to divisions both within the Knights and between the Knights and other labor unions. The Knights really weren’t constructed to be a mass movement. But masses of workers around the nation still held to their Knights membership. Sensing weakness, the leather manufacturers banded together and struck back. The initial issue was that in June, they had agreed that workers could only tan a limit of forty hides in a day. They resented giving up any control over the shopfloor, which the agreement had also allowed. The manufacturers began to coordinate with each other. They selected one to violate the agreement, knowing workers would strike. When this happened, the employer imported strikebreakers while the other employers took over his orders and worked them in employer solidarity. The Knights lost.

This set the stage for the August lockout, where the leather owners sought to eliminate the Knights entirely. Given the cutthroat nature of American business competition (a scenario that would continue until the New Deal) it was almost as hard to get employers to cooperate as it was for workers to try and unionize. But the success in freeing one factory from the union convinced many skeptical owners to join the employers association. The bosses announced the lockout for August 1, but waited until August 13 as rhetoric rose between the two sides and the Knights debated on whether they should strike first. But the workers simply didn’t have the resources of the bosses, even pooled together as a union. Knights’ dues were very low and though the union said it could stay out for 3 months, it ran out of money almost immediately. The Knights tried to appeal to the small manufacturers in terms of the working-class and small employer solidarity at the heart of free labor ideology, but not a single one failed to honor the lockout. By the third week, the situation grew desperate. Internal tensions between the more radical German members and more conservative English and Irish members and rapidly dwindling funds destroyed the Knights. A few went back to their old jobs but most were not rehired. Shop stewards were blacklisted and many had to move from Newark to find work. The Knights were dead in the leather industry. Unions in Newark were pushed back significantly. At the start of 1887, there were 48 workers associations in the city. By the end of 1888, there were 12.

Ultimately, the Knights failed in Newark because employers would do anything to crush them. And this has been the primary problem of American unionism. It took remarkable government action during an unprecedented economic crisis to change this scenario in the New Deal and employers have resented it ever since. That is the fundamental problem organized labor has today. It’s not bad union leadership, a lack of union democracy, not enough organizing, or the other reasons union supporters and those who critique unions from the left usually provide. These are small factors, but the fundamental issue is that American employers will stop at nothing to eradicate unions. And that’s a very different circumstance that either Britain and France during the 1880s or, say, Germany today, where employers and unions routinely work together on management decisions, up to the point of encouraging unionization of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This post is based on Kim Voss, The Making of American Exceptionalism: The Knights of Labor and Class Formation in the Nineteenth Century. This is critical reading because it provides the direct comparison to employers in England and France that I didn’t have time to explore in this post.

This is the 186th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.


[ 16 ] August 12, 2016 |


I know we are are focused on the behavior on Donald Trump and no one cares about any other issue. But here’s a post devoted to a life form slightly more evolved than the Republican candidate: snails. Unfortunately, a lot of snail species are going extinct.

Beyond that, there’s actually a lot that we can learn from snails. “From the most practical standpoint, snails have a few pretty interesting characteristics that tell us we should probably pay attention,” says snail researcher Rebecca Rundell, assistant professor at State University of New York. For one thing, their shells—which they carry with them their entire lives (because they’d die without them)—are made of calcium carbonate, which provides a record of their lives. Unlike plant husks or insect exoskeletons, these shells tend to persist after a snail has died, leaving behind a valuable tool for researchers. “We can look in marine sediment and pockets of soil for evidence of past ecological communities, and thus evidence for environmental change in a particular area,” she says.

Living snails can also serve as indicators when something is wrong with the environment, something we’re already seeing with ocean acidification. “If snails in the ocean that make their shells, their protection, exclusively from calcium carbonate are having trouble building them, then that means the ocean is in big trouble,” Rundell says.

They can provide similar clues on land, where land snails often have particularly narrow habitat requirements. “They need certain levels of moisture, shade, and decaying matter,” Rundell says. “When they don’t have this, they start dying off.” That’s just the start: if tiny land snails start to disappear, it’s important to ask what might happen next. “It might give you a chance to change course,” she says, “to detect subtle changes that humans might not otherwise be able to see until it is too late.”

Snails also help us to answer bigger questions. “The fact that many of these land snail species have small geographic ranges and that there are many species, make them fascinating subjects for learning about how life on Earth evolved,” Rundell says, adding that “scientists really rely on groups like Pacific island land snails to tell life’s story.”

That opportunity, however, is at risk. “We are losing snail species at an astronomical rate,” Rundell says, “one that is equivalent to, if not exceeding, the worldwide rate of loss of amphibians.” Most species have extremely limited ranges, making them, as she puts it, “particularly susceptible to human-induced extinction.”

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