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Category: General

This Day in Labor History: August 23, 1927

[ 27 ] August 23, 2012 |

On August 23, 1927, the state of Massachusetts executed two Italian immigrant anarchists by the names of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for the murder of two men in a 1920 armed robbery in South Braintree. Although the two men may or may not have been involved in the crime, as Italian anarchists, they were on trial for their beliefs as much as the murder. Despite the lack of concrete evidence and international outrage over the miscarriage of justice, the state of Massachusetts railroaded them into the electric chair.

Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists, men deeply affected by the terrible labor and social conditions of the early 20th century. Both immigrated from Italy in 1908, though they didn’t meet for nearly a decade. The seeming inability for the capitalist system to treat working people with dignity and respect drove many to desperation. By the 1890s, anarchism was a growing threat in the United States, perhaps most personified by Leon Czoglosz’s assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Although that and other incidents convinced enough upper and middle-class Anglo-Saxons to enact limited reforms during the Progressive Era, the fundamental conditions of working-class urban life had changed little by 1920.

Sacco and Vanzetti both followed the teachings of Luigi Galleani, an anarchist theorist who advocated violence to overthrow the state. The Galleanists did in fact use violence in the United States. They were believed to be the group behind the bombing of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s home in 1919. Palmer, already cracking down on radicalism with the help of his young eager assistant by the name of J. Edgar Hoover, built upon this incident to intensify the Red Scare, that nation-wide crackdown on radicalism in all forms during and after American entry into World War I.

It was in this atmosphere that men like Sacco and Vanzetti were suspects in murders like that which took place on April 15, 1920, when armed robbers attacked a company payroll, killing two men. Although the evidence was indirect, the police suspected the greater Boston anarchist community, which was suspected in a series of other robberies to fund their activities. The police also discovered that one anarchist, Mario Buda had worked in two shops subjected to similar robberies. Upon questioning, Buda let slip that the local anarchist community had an automobile under repair, leading police to stake out the repair shop. The police convinced the garage owner to notify them when the anarchists arrived to pick up the car. When 4 men did, including Buda, Sacco, and Vanzetti, they sensed a trap and fled, but Sacco and Vanzetti were soon picked up. Both had guns at their homes; Sacco having a loaded .32 Colt similar to that used in the killings.

I’m not going to get into the details of the case, they are easy enough to read about if you want. Suffice it to say that the evidence was dicey that these two men committed the crime. It is at least possible that Sacco was directly involved, but Vanzetti was an intellectual and not a man of action; as John Dos Passos wrote in his defense of the men, “nobody in his right mind who was planning such a crime would take a man like that along.” Given the firearm evidence, the case against Vanzetti was far weaker than that against Sacco.

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti

The trial was a farce. The judge, Webster Thayer, was a conservative who had openly called for a crackdown against Bolsheviks and anarchists and held deep prejudice against immigrants. Taylor asked for the assignment so he could make an example of Sacco and Vanzetti. After denying an appeal motion, Thayer famously told a lawyer, “Did you see what I did with those anarchistic bastards the other day?” He told reporters that “No long-haired anarchist from California can run this court!” Despite his bias, Thayer controlled the trial proceedings until the executions.

What can’t be denied is that Sacco and Vanzetti called for violent revenge due to their arrest, trial, and conviction. And their friends delivered. Mario Buda set off a bomb on Wall Street after their indictment, killing 38 people. He then fled the country, returning to Italy. Neither Sacco or Vanzetti ever renounced the sort of violence that they were accused of committing. Vanzetti called for the murder of Thayer. In 1932, a bomb blew up Thayer’s home in Worcester, Massachusetts, injuring his wife and housekeeper.

Aftermath of the Wall Street bombing

Sacco and Vanzetti’s case became the cause celebre of the 1920s. Not everyone claimed their innocence, but the behavior of Thayer and the unfair trial led to worldwide calls for a retrial. Although anarchists and other radicals dominated the defense committee itself, the case caught the attention of many around the world who thought justice poorly served. People ranging from Albert Einstein to Edna St. Vincent Millay to H.G. Wells thought it a miscarriage of justice. Even Benito Mussolini was ready to request clemency from the governor of Massachusetts if he thought it might do some good. Among others, future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter called for a new trial. Thayer refused all these requests and Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on August 23, 1927.

Protest in favor of Sacco and Vanzetti

Wrote John Dos Passos in New Masses after the execution:

This isn’t a poem

This is two men in grey prison clothes.

One man sits looking at the sick flesh of his hands—hands that haven’t worked for seven years.

Do you know how long a year is?

Do you know how many hours there are in a day

when a day is twenty-three hours on a cot in a cell,

in a cell in a row of cells in a tier of rows of cells

all empty with the choked emptiness of dreams?

Do you know the dreams of men in jail?

They are dead now

The black automatons have won.

They are burned up utterly

their flesh has passed into the air of Massachusetts their dreams have passed into the wind.

“They are dead now,” the Governor’s secretary nudges the Governor,

“They are dead now,” the Superior Court Judge nudges

the Supreme Court Judge,

“They are dead now” the College President nudges

the College President

A dry chuckling comes up from all the dead:

The white collar dead; the silkhatted dead;

the frockcoated dead

They hop in and out of automobiles

breathe deep in relief

as they walk up and down the Boston streets.

they are free of dreams now

free of greasy prison denim

their voices blow back in a thousand lingoes

singing one song

to burst the eardrums of Massachusetts

Make a poem of that if you dare!

Woody Guthrie also contributed to the memory of Sacco and Vanzetti:

This is the 39th post in this series. The series is archived here.


A Tough Competition

[ 25 ] August 22, 2012 |

Who writes the world’s worst slash fiction?

Kevin Williamson


Ann Althouse

Death, of course, being the best option.

He is Boss

[ 84 ] August 22, 2012 |

What do the ladies want? Men want wide-hipped young sluts, while ladies want old men like me—that’s why the ladies love men my age even though I can’t stand the sight of them. That celebrity couple disgusts me—it disgusts me like it would another man my age seeing a woman our age wet and naked. Old women look old, and it’s cruel to make me look at them. There’s this one rich old bird who looks hot, but at her age she sags in all the wrong the places as any drunken frat boy knows and they wouldn’t bone her for all her money.

It’s a good thing Mitt Romney’s not a drunken frat boy.

You know why Mitt Romney’s awesome? Check out his stats: he has so much money he gives it away and when he touches things he rules them. He has kids. They’re boys. All of them. Science says that means he’s awesome. So does money. Rich people are mostly men. See that picture? No daughters. Barely any granddaughters either. When he goes to church he goes to church. He gets all up in that house.

Obama? All daughters. Mister Rogers was a pussy.

Science says Romney should have all the lady-votes. Even Obama’s bitch should vote for him. I’m not saying he’s a polygamist, but he could be if he wanted to. Like this rich guy who had 61 children and they were all boys. He can’t have a harem, but if he could bitches would be lining up to join it. He’s in charge. Because now that we don’t hunt it’s all about the money and Mitt has more. He’s more President than the last eight Presidents. If he paid taxes, he’d pay more a year than Obama’s worth. If he didn’t tap ass so expertly he’d have more money than the only wealthy black guy I can think of who’s a rapper.

It’s time for Romney to drop trou’ and show us his moneybags.

Some hippies think calling him “R-MONEY” is funny. The only wealthy black guy I can think of uses lowercase letters but R-MONEY’s capitalized. He drops can do what black rappers do only bigger. Rappers have money, but R-MONEY’s money has money and it lives in money. He has so much money it’s heavy.

Romney’s always saying that he loves money, and that we should love money, but the haters will hate. He celebrates people with money and how they got it. He even loves the little money so much he once didn’t give in a fight to protect it. He could’ve sued that guy and took his money but the point is he was on an airplane he didn’t own because he cares about the little money. He could buy his own airplanes and still have more money than an actress and a Senator. And the Senator can’t even remember how many houses he owns.

I suppose he’s frontin’ and good on him. Humility is next to godliness which is next to money. But he needs to stop frontin’ and start ballin’ like the player he is. He should show us his money. He should show us how awesome it is having his money. People will be like “I don’t hate you or your money! I love your money!” They sit on there couches without nearly the amount of his money and watch someone who only acts like he has money curb-stomping poor people. They don’t hate that guy with the 17 Italian cars because he has 39 other ones and they’re green. Lots of children of men like Romney don’t turn into R-MONEY. That Senator has more houses than he can remember but is his daughter going to turn into R-MONEY?

Romney should find out what happened to some other rich guy but not tell anyone about it because he voted for Obama. But he spent his money so hard nobody can even find him anymore. When someone asked that rich guy about his money he said he’d had it since the Puritans. Romney should follow his lead and talk about the rich history of his money all the time.

He’s always had money—his Dad was CEO and America—but he gave it Dad’s money away and started a school so people remembered Dad’s money. Why? Because he already had his money by the time Dad kicked. His Dad was a boss. So is Romney. Men want to be under him. He will curb-stomp poor people. His sons will curb-stomp poor people. Obama was never a boss until the democratic process made him one and only because when Americans travel to Europe they act like assholes. Obama made his little money in politics and by writing about himself. He’d be nothing without a foul-mouthed Jew.

Elections aren’t about issues. They’re not about our money. They’re about his money and what it took to get it: leadership. Romney rules and we don’t. Some former someone once had some uppity bitch try to teach him to be like Romney and she failed:

“Show us your big dick” she said. “A man is top dog” she said. Then she said “Everyone thinks you’re a pussy so prove you can man-up.” But she also said the opposite about another guy when she didn’t like him.

But she was right the first time—only a man with a dick that makes sons and grandsons who rape people is a man. Some lady told us that we need a lot of people and Romney made a lot of people and they’re men. A magazine called Romney a pussy, but look at the size of his money. Look at what his dick made. Look at his wife back when she was attractive and look at him smirking about the ass she lost to time. Why should he worry about people knowing about his money? I bet he doesn’t. He’s done everything right and should own it. And by own it I mean flash mad plastic and put it on a jet or something.

[This is a concept-for-concept translation of Kevin Williamson’s glorious cover story in the new National Review. All leaps in logic and offensive ideas are the sole property of Kevin Williamson or the National Review or whatever I don’t know their arrangement. Point is don’t blame me. I’m just a lowly translator.]


[ 55 ] August 22, 2012 |

I guess I always assumed that most economists were political hacks hiding behind academic credentials. I don’t have a problem with academics looking to influence public policy. But it is a fine line between supporting a political candidate and sacrificing professional credibility in service of that end. That’s true whether we are talking about economists going whole hog for Romney and falsely accusing Obama of destroying the economy or whether we are talking about Sean Wilentz embarrassing himself in service of his desire to be the Clintons’ Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Of course, one person’s hack is another’s principled academic.

Obama’s “Dan Quayle moment”

[ 70 ] August 22, 2012 |

Surprise! It never happened. But I’m not opposed to conservatives claiming it did, if only because it makes my life even easier than it already was. Here’s the allegedly damning image:

Conservatives look at this and salivate: “The President misspelled ‘Ohio’! That’s worse than misspelling ‘potato’ because ‘potato’ ain’t a state!” At the second link above—which I can’t recommend clicking on, because that’s what you have me for—the comments are largely anticipatory about how the mainstream media will spin this. One person heads off the excuse that the image has been reversed because in an image taken moments later, Obama’s watch is still on his left arm. Another cracks wise about how Arabic is written from right-to-left and what we all know about Obama’s real religious affiliation. But not a single one of them points out the blindingly obvious fact that the people in the picture are facing the camera. Which means that their left is the photographer’s right. So from their perspective they’re spelling “O-H-I-O,” which as many of you know is the proper spelling of “Ohio.”

Not that there isn’t a legitimate complaint to be made: I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with a Leader of the Free World not knowing how to spell out words via a human chain. What if that 3 a.m. phone call is from the Village People in 1978?

An entire generation might be left wandering dark streets and darker alleys in a vain search for the ACMY.

I wish I believed in a quantity theory of stupidity.

[ 23 ] August 22, 2012 |

Because if I did there’s a chance that it’d eventually run out. But no. Colonel Mustard’s newest endeavor‘s gone live, and it’s about damn time? Because the Internet’s really been lacking for a place where college students can settle grudges against their professors behind the veil of anonymity?

No and no.

As a preview of the thoroughly unpredictable content to come, the person (or persons) named “College Insurrection” has (or have) already pre-posted about how universities discriminate against rapists and conservatives and how kids these days really love Paul Ryan despite the fact that he wants to steal their Pell Grants. How long before the walruses arrive?

The Dumbest NRO Article Ever Until the Next Time NRO Publishes Something

[ 112 ] August 22, 2012 |

Shorter Kevin Williamson: “Forget the right-of-Saudi-Arabia platform Republicans would like to impose on American women; women like rich pricks, so Romney should get 100% of their vote. And Obama is the kind of pussy that has daughters! In conclusion, Obama, and not the guy whose net worth is greater than the last 8 presidents put together, represents the real elite.”

This is a case where I’m reluctant to do a “shorter” because it makes the argument seem more coherent than it is. And does he recycle the “Al Gore earth tones” crap? I think you know the answer!

Oklahoma Über Alles

[ 52 ] August 22, 2012 |

This is incredibly stupid, even for Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA CITY (WXYZ) – Last week the principal at Wilson Elementary in Oklahoma City elementary school made 5-year-old Cooper Barton turn his University of Michigan shirt inside-out.

News 9 in Oklahoma city reports the boy’s mother is now demanding the school change their dress code. She says the school told Cooper he could only wear gear from Oklahoma or Oklahoma State or an other in-state school.

In fact, it’s the dress code for the entire Oklahoma City Public School System.

If any kid of mine can’t wear an Oregon shirt to school (not that anyone in New England cares about college football), it’s going to be war.

Unscalable Options Have Little Value

[ 65 ] August 22, 2012 |

I like Tom Philpott’s work at Mother Jones, but this piece connecting Americans’ disposable society and clothing with malnutrition around the world had one point that bothered me. I think in principle the article’s idea is a good one. Our clothing purchases have skyrocketed in the last 50 years, far faster than income growth. We throw away a lot of clothes (well actually I never throw away clothes, much to the chagrin of my wife) and don’t think twice about it. What is the environmental impact? A good question. Cotton grown in India and Africa for American clothing markets has a big impact. Philpott tries to connect that to malnutrition. It’s possible; certainly the world produces enough food to feed all people, especially given the gigantic amount of food that goes to waste. People who idealize globalization have a vision of a smooth running mechanism moving products from place to place so that you don’t have to grow your own food, but that doesn’t really work in the real world. Does growing cotton in Africa directly lead to malnutrition there? I don’t know. It likely plays a role but it’s probably not the whole story. This doesn’t even get into the other environmental negatives of clothing production for the western market such as the desertification of Mongolia to produce cheap cashmere.

Anyway, that’s all fine and good. Philpott goes on to suggest some options:

So what are your options for a guilt-free closet? Vintage and secondhand, of course, are good options, and some major retailers (Patagonia, Eileen Fisher) encourage customers to send back used clothes—then repurpose them or offer them for sale at a steep discount. If thrift stores aren’t your thing, many manufacturers (including H&M) now offer some products made from organic cotton, which requires fewer chemicals and a little less water. But most of it is grown in the same regions as conventional cotton—meaning the farmers still get a raw deal. By far, the most effective strategy is to give up the supermarket sweep approach to clothes shopping and instead buy a few durable pieces. As for me, I’ll be thinking twice next time I’m tempted to grab a cheapo item off the rack at a chain store. Come to think of it, I just might splurge on a spendy wool sweater I’ve been coveting. Considering how long it will last, it might not be so extravagant after all.

Again, the overall point here is good–the real answer is that we should buy less and keep what we have. But I have to say that the thrift store market argument drives me crazy. Not that there’s anything wrong with it in principle. But it’s completely unrealistic and unserious as a real option for most people because there’s just not enough clothes in them to feed the market and because to rush en masse to thrift stores would raise the prices beyond what people who actually rely on these clothes to survive could afford. Yet people who try to reject sweatshops, capitalism, unsustainable practices, and other problems in the modern world run this argument out as an example of how to do things differently time and time again. And it drives me crazy because it is so obviously not scalable.

Now I know that I am not fashionable in my leftism. I despise anarchism. I don’t think corporate campaigns are worth much. I am skeptical of online activism (though the tools obviously have value). I think consensus decision-making is a joke. I think the emphasis on individualism that drives our economic and social lives is great in some ways but also prioritizes individual action within social movements like Occupy over getting things done. I also think these kind of individual decisions to opt out of a system (in this case clothing capitalism) by making some kind of fashion statement (I buy used clothes! Look how fashionable and anti-capitalist I am!) are essentially meaningless. If solutions aren’t available to the masses, probably driven by grassroots campaigns but, importantly, implemented by governments, they probably aren’t really solutions.

To be fair, it’s not like I’m really accusing Philpott of being this way. That sentence of his was just a good launching point.

Bare Assertion is not Refutation

[ 6 ] August 22, 2012 |

LGM’s crack investigative staff has obtained exclusive footage from the Graham Spanier press conference:

The Origins of the Student Loan Crisis

[ 103 ] August 22, 2012 |

As a companion piece to some of Paul’s recent work, Maureen Tkacik has a terrific piece about a few random anecdotes being parlayed into student loan debts being made uniquely non-dischargeable:

But then, in 1978, the bill went to conference committee with the Senate, and the clause came back. Like the loans themselves, it could not be gotten rid of.

At first this provision applied only during the first five years of the life of the loan; then it was seven, then eternity. Until 2005 it only applied to federally guaranteed loans; now, thanks to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, it applies to all.

And as the loans became more steadily impervious to the usual laws of credit and debt, they became bigger and more profitable. In the years since the Bankruptcy Reform Act passed in 1978, the nominal price of college tuition has risen more than 900 percent. Over the same period the median male income – again, nominally – has risen 165 percent. And since the percentage of the workforce boasting a bachelor’s degree has expanded from less than 20 percent to nearly a third, I don’t have to convince you that the median de facto return on investment on those diplomas has diminished greatly over the same years. Which brings us to the second way in which the student debt bubble differs from all the others you’ve seen: It is legally impossible to pop. By law it can only grow very fast. The profits in this racket are downright hallucinogenic: A military veteran sharing his story with Occupy Student Debt has paid $18,000 on a $2,500 loan, and Sallie Mae claims he still owes $5,000; the husband of a social worker bankrupt and bedridden after a botched surgery tells Student Loan Justice of a $13,000 college loan balance from the 1980s that ballooned to $70,000. A grandmother subsisting on Social Security has her payments garnished to pay off a $20,000 loan balance resulting from a $3,500 loan she took out 10 years ago, before she underwent brain surgery.

As a side point, note the date of when this policy started. It’s very common to read that the Democratic Party has been “drifting right” for 30 years, and that the Democrats we had back then were so much better than Obama, Reid, and Pelosi. My reaction is always to wonder what the hell people are talking about. During this alleged Golden Age of the Democratic Party, it controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for four years. Can someone point out the legislative achievement that rivals the repeal of DADT, let alone the ACA?

Food Waste

[ 25 ] August 22, 2012 |

The Natural Resources Defense Council has released a paper detailing the grotesque waste of food in the United States and suggesting common-sense plans to reduce this waste.

Food is simply too good to waste. Even the most sustainably farmed food does us no good if the food is never eaten. Getting food to our tables eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land. Moreover, almost all of that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions.

What’s particularly outrageous is that 50% of the seafood in the United States goes to waste. 50%!!!!! These are wild animals, the last wild animals we harvest commercially for food. Some of these species are in severe decline and are becoming endangered. Yet we treat this food so casually as to dump 1/2 of it in landfills. This is outrageous.

Of course, the national appetite for government-led environmental initiatives is now close to zero so I suppose nothing will get done.

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