Friday, February 27, 2015

Keep It In Your Pants: Great Sexcapades From the Past!


Warning: Contains sexual content and sophomoric humor. You have been warned.

Friends,

Sometimes, politicians have a hard time keeping it in their pants. Consider the myriad of sex scandals that we have had involving politicians who twitter (or tweet?) pictures of their unmentionables, play footsie with undercover officers in bathrooms (wide stance, you know), and use the oval office more for exploring ovaries than running the country. It kind of puts the phrase "stimulus package" in a whole new light. I previously touched on the hidden dangers of dallying with the wrong person here. Most of us know about old Bill Clinton's little issue with Monica and JFK's affair with Marilyn Monroe, so today I will touch on some less well known sex scandals that have come up in our great nation's past involving famous people, not just politicians. Read at your own peril.


1. David Ignatius Walsh

Gay Nazi spies, a brothel and a U.S. Senator. Sounds too spectacular to be true, but it is! Or at least the allegations are true. Oddly enough, Walsh was probably not really involved in this scandal, but once an allegation is made it can destroy a person, even if untrue. In May of 1942, the New York City Police Department raided a gay brothel that was frequented by US Navy personnel. The New York Post reported that a "Senator X" had been a frequent, shall we say, visitor of the establishment. Since any discussion of homosexuality was off limits back then, they referred to the place as a "house of degradation". Allegedly the owner did not know that Walsh was a Senator and knew him only as "Doc". The papers did have a field day with one New York rag calling the place a "swastika swishery"! Eventually the papers named Walsh as the Senator X, thus outing him as a homosexual in a time period in which this was an absolute bar to holding public office. Walsh steadfastly denied the charges. An FBI report found that there was nothing to sustain the rumor that Walsh visited gay brothels and consorted with Nazi spies. Some sources say that FDR believed the report to be true. Walsh was defeated in his bid for reelection in 1946 and died the following year. The owner of the brothel, despite being promised leniency in exchange for his cooperation, was sentenced to 20 years for sodomy and served all of it.


2. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

Of all the things to be charged with, crushing a woman to death while in the process of sexually assaulting her takes the cake. And Arbuckle had taken a lot of cake in his day. He was a well known silent film star back in the day. In 1921, he checked into a hotel room in San Francisco and decided to have a party. During the course of the festivities, a 32 year old aspiring actress named Virginia Rappe was found ill in the room next to the party room. The hotel doctor took a look, said she was drunk, and gave her morphine. (Nothing like an opiate for a person who is suffering from alcohol poisoning....) Our victim suffered from cystitis which flared up when she drank, which was a lot. She had also had multiple abortions (yes, they had abortion back then). Two days after the party she checked into a hospital where a friend told the doctor that Arbuckle had raped her. The doctor found no evidence of rape, but Virginia grew very ill and died of peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder. The police concluded that Arbuckle's girth laying on top of her caused her bladder to rupture, thus causing death. It was also alleged that he used either a Coke bottle, a champagne bottle, or ice in the course of his assault. After two hung juries, the third one acquitted him of any wrongdoing so we will never really know about what happened in that hotel room that night. His career, however, was pretty much over. This is considered by some to be the first major Hollywood Scandal but there were others which happened concurrently, so that may not be accurate. Needless to say, this is the only case that I am aware of where a person was accused with manslaughter after crushing someone while laying on top of them. 

A cigar is never just a cigar!

3. JFK and the Nazi Spy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy could not keep his trousers zipped if his life depended on it. I often marvel at the blatant love affair so many Americans seem to have with Kennedy. If chronic cheating on your wife something to be admired? And last time I checked, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by LBJ. But I digress. Most people are at least partially aware of the rumors about JFK and Marilyn Monroe. (He shared her with his brother Bobby. Sharing is caring after all.) But what about his affair with a suspected Nazi agent? Her name was Inga Arvad. Old J. Edgar Hoover's boys were on her trail before Kennedy met her. She was a known German national who had met Hitler and so Hoover, in between cross dressing and calling himself "Mary", thought she might be a Nazi spy. When JFK met her, he was a young Naval officer working in the Office of Naval Intelligence. Arvad was married at the time, but that did not stop her from carrying on with young Jack. When Hoover's men learned that the young Naval officer she was seeing was, in fact, a Kennedy, they began wiretapping. No actual evidence of her being a spy was ever found, but the allegations were serious enough that the Director of Naval Intelligence recommended kicking Kennedy out of the Navy. Only his father's position as the ambassador to England saved his commission. Instead, JFK was transferred to South Carolina and the brief relationship ended. Inga was never charged with being a spy. Kennedy, however, did not learn his lesson and carried on more affairs as time went by. I wonder if he had not been assassinated if people would still think as highly of him.


4. Warren G. Harding

When asked about which Presidents had the most sexcapades, Warren G. Harding's name rarely comes up unless you are talking to all but the most half a$$ historians. Long before Clinton gave the word "intern" a perverted slant, Harding was using the oval office as his personal pimp palace. It did not start with his election though, and was part of a systematic pattern of behavior. Harding seemed to prefer young women. One of his most long running (15 years) affairs was with Carrie Fulton Phillips. 100 letters between them was discovered in Ohio in the 60s but a court blocked their publication until 2024, so we'll have to wait. He also had an affair with a 22 year old campaign worker named Nan Britton. Harding was 51 at the time. She would later claim that Harding fathered an illegitimate child with her. There is another tale of Harding being caught in bed with an underage girl at a seedy hotel in New York City. One of the Vice Detectives picked up Harding's hat while the two love birds were getting dressed and noticed his initials in the hat band. (Harding was a Senator at the time.) Rather than a trip to jail, the two were bundled down the freight elevator and put into a taxi. Harding handed each officer twenty dollars for their help. Harding might rank as one of the worst Presidents when it comes to doing Presidential things, but he ranks among the very best when it comes to philandering. 


5. Errol Flynn

Lastly, we return to Hollywood, the site of so many scandals. I confess to being an Errol Flynn fan. I love Dawn Patrol and I enjoy a good pirate movie every now and then. Flynn had a reputation as a hard drinking and hard........fornicating actor. Fynn was alleged to have committed acts of statutory rape with 15 year old aspiring actress Beverly Aadland. Oddly enough, the two of them were being considered for the lead roles in Kubrick's Lolita before the allegations surfaced. Naturally they did not get them. At age 17, Beverly was with Errol Flynn when he died of an apparent heart attack. In 1961, he mother published a tell all book called The Big Love in which she accuses Flynn of robbing the cradle, which I guess he did. That said, I like Flynn for another reason besides his acting, he suffered from serious lower back problems, including arthritis and degenerative disc disease, both of which I too suffer from. In fact, when he collapsed he was at a doctor's house where he had gone seeking medication prior to taking a flight. 

So friends, is there a lesson to be learned in all this? Perhaps. But I doubt that future generations of politicians or actors will learn it. Keep your pants zipped. No means no. And leave the underage girls alone. That, Dear Readers, should be enough to keep you out of trouble.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian.






Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Beautiful and Deadly: Or Why I Have a "History Crush" on a Russian Sniper


Friends,

Okay, I admit, I like girls with guns. After all, you can take the boy out of Louisiana but you can't take Louisiana out of the boy. That disclaimer out of the way, I now have to make a confession. I have a "History Crush" on a 19 year old Russian sniper. Well, she wouldn't be 19 today, I guess. But that is beside the point. A history crush is when you think that a person from another historical era, be they male or female, is attractive. My wife, The Redhead, has a major one of Manfred von Richthofen. (But she is German, so that makes sense in a Teutonic sort of way.) I have a few history crushes, but only one will be the subject of today's post. She was as deadly as she was beautiful. Her Mosin Nagant rifle spread terror among enemies and she rightfully earned a place in the pantheon of World War Two heroes. And if I could go back in time and meet her, I'd certainly ask her out. (Assuming I was single, of course, and a bit younger myself!)

What actually got me thinking about this post was something I saw on Facebook. A person had posted a photo of, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who, with 309 kills, is credited as being history's deadliest female sniper. This person said that with the new American interest in snipers because of the movie, they thought that the picture might interest people. Apparently not. Many of the comments were incredible. They called the lady who posted the picture un-American, a communist sympathizer, a terrorist sympathizer, and a liberal. How dare she say that Chris Kyle was not the deadliest sniper in history! (A claim, by the way, that no one has ever made!) An American just has to be the best at everything! Even though we had no female snipers during World War Two, the comments bordered on insanity. I wonder if they would have said such things if it were a male sniper? It reminded me of when I posted an article on this blog about the Soviet contribution to winning World War Two. I received more hate mail and threats than I have received for all other blog posts combined. Seeing all that got me thinking about Russian snipers and, of course, I naturally thought about my girl Roza Shanina! (And since I do speak a little Russian, I think we'd get along!) Sadly, I think that Brian Williams already dated her. (sorry......couldn't resist!)


Now, I first need to mention a historical fact. Communism in theory sought to create a genderless and classless society (something which it kind of failed to do). However, this means that during World War Two, or the Great Patriotic War as they call it in Russia, women had more opportunities to serve than they did in the United States. All female units like the Night Witches flew planes in combat, women drove tanks, they served as medics and doctors, and they served as snipers. The Russians made widespread use of female snipers for a couple of reasons. First, on average women are smaller than men and so they can conceal themselves more easily. Second, Russians felt that women were more patient than men and as a sniper they would wait for a perfect shot rather than take a good shot. Given the number of very successful snipers of the female persuasion that they employed, maybe there is some truth to that. The United States had no women in front line combat units at the time and so it is often hard for Americans to understand the Russian's use of them. All I can say is that theirs was a different society. Also, most Americans know very little of the Russian role in World War Two other than what they learn in Call of Duty World at War. This is why people like Roza Shanina are often unknown in this country.
 
She was born into a relatively large Russian family and was one of six children. Three of her brothers would die during the war. After the German invasion, Roza would petition for permission to enlist in the army after learning of the death of her 19 year old brother. Permission was granted and eventually she was sent to the Central Female Sniper Academy. Yes, friends, the Russians ran a special sniper school just for women like Roza. She recorded her first kill somewhere around April 5, 1944, after which she said that her legs gave way and she collapsed. Her initial hesitancy soon passed and she routinely picked up German troops with no second thoughts or moral hang ups, at least none that she expressed. Roza picked up numerous accolades such as the Order of Glory. She was also featured in a newspaper article. Some of her kills were enemy snipers.
 
 
Roza kept a diary for much of her service and also, as required by the Red Army, she kept a detailed sniper log. A young lady who could kill Germans without a second thought, she also sang to her rifle while she cleaned it. Behind the lines she would organize volleyball tournaments between soldiers from different regiments. In her diary she talks of her fear that there won't be any men left alive for her to marry when the war was over and that the fighting put a damper on her dating life. The thing is, what she talked about throughout her diary isn't very different than what you would expect to find from any 19 year old young lady, other than the sniping that is. Roza was shot in the shoulder by a German sniper in December of 1944, but she was back in action a short time later. Not even an 8mm Mauser round could slow her down! Towards the end of her life, she confided in her diary "The essence of my happiness is fighting for the happiness of others. If it turns necessary to die for the greater happiness, then I'm braced for it." Speaking of happiness in the collective sense is a very Soviet thing to do!
 
In January of 1945, Roza's battalion was in heavy combat in East Prussia, losing all but six individuals in a short amount of time. Roza continued to increase her rate of kills as well. On January 27th, while under artillery fire, a male Russian officer was caught in an exposed area and severely wounded. As soon as the artillery lifted, Roza ran out to him and began to drag him back towards the Russian positions. When the shells started raining down again, without hesitation she used her body to shield his. She was grievously wounded in the chest by a shell fragment that nearly disemboweled her. She was still alive a short time later when two Russian soldiers were able to safely get to her. Despite emergency surgery, she succumbed to her wounds the following day. She died as she had lived, a true Russian hero with 59 confirmed kills to her credit.
 
 
Sadly there is a real lack of English language sources on not just Roza but in Russian female snipers in general. But that doesn't stop me from reading as much as I can from Russian websites. Over 800,000 women like Roza served in the Red Army during World War Two. The were snipers. They drove tanks. They flew combat aircraft. They were doctors. They were medics. But I only have a history crush on one of them, Roza Shanina. It is sad that throughout human history, so many young promising lives have been lost due to the insatiable desire of humans to make war on one another. There were many Rozas before and there will be, sadly, many more to come. So rest easy, Roza, safe in the arms of your comrades. Thank you for doing your part to rid the world of Fascism, even if people in the United States are slow to accept that. And know that if I had met you back then, I'd have totally asked you out.
 
My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian.
 









Saturday, February 21, 2015

Can It Happen Here?


"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."
--Attributed to Sinclair Lewis but probably of unknown origin

Friends,

In the 1920s and 30s as some countries in the world turned to totalitarian regimes as a solution to their problems, real or perceived, Sinclair Lewis, with tongue planted in cheek, declared "It Can't Happen Here". Of course, the question that he was attempting to answer in his novel was really "Can it happen here?" Here in Murica, we have all this freedom and stuff. We don't have to worry about fascism, communism, or any of that crap. Unless of course, we want to use those terms to apply to Presidents that we don't like. Isn't it funny how half of the country said Bush was like Hitler and now half the country says Obama is like Hitler? Though both have their faults, neither of them presided over the murder of over six million people based on their religious beliefs or locked innocent people in camps (rumors about FEMA camps notwithstanding). So perhaps we shouldn't compare them to Hitler. But my friends, I view everything through the lens of history which is, after all, what I spent all that time in school learning how to do. The question of whether or not we could ever have a totalitarian government in our own country is certainly an interesting one. 


Totalitarian regimes often emerge in times of political, social, or economic turmoil. Consider the Great Depression which actually swept through Europe as well. The economic upheaval made the Nazi Party's message appealing to many and thus they were elected. Yes, Dear Readers, we often forget that the Nazi Party was democratically elected. In Russia, centuries of turmoil among the peasant classes led to the growing popularity of the Bolsheviks (communists) and, of course, we all know how that worked out for them. Given our existing economic structure, I would say that we are far more at risk of a creeping fascist government than we are a communist one. But what is fascism? Well, this lovely graphic will sum up its basic tenants quite nicely. See if any of it looks familiar.


But, you say, this is Murica! We have a Constitution and the like. Well, Dear Readers, the Constitution has never stood in the way of our government doing just about whatever it wants. Consider the Alien & Sedition Acts passed in 1798 which saw journalists fined and jailed for criticizing the government or President Adams. And of course we have Lincoln who took extra legal measures (ie: imprisoning people without trial and using military commissions to try civilians) during the Civil War. Moving into the 20th Century, we have the Espionage & Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918 which saw labor leaders like Eugene Debs imprisoned for challenging our involvement in World War One. The Supreme Court is, in theory, there to protect us from such things. However, they upheld the World War One rulings. In the Merryman Case in 1861, the Chief Justice ruled that Lincoln's actions were not Constitutional but he ignored the decision. Many moons ago I read a book by the late Chief Justice Rehnquist about civil liberty in wartime. In it, he left us this gem. "It is neither desirable nor is it remotely likely that civil liberty will occupy as favored a position in wartime as it does in peacetime." Allow me to rephrase. Unconstitutional laws are fine as long as it is during wartime. That is absolutely terrifying as it comes from a person who took an oath to protect our civil liberties. You know, that kind of sounds like when we put US citizens of Japanese ancestry in camps during World War Two now that I think about it. And guess what? The Supreme Court endorsed that too!

Jewish partisans.....who dared fight back. Would you?

The sad fact is, friends, that in all the cases cited above, people defended the laws as necessary to protect us from an enemy real or imagined. How many Americans stood up to FDR and said that locking up Japanese-Americans was wrong? I have yet to hear about any (though I'm sure there had to be some.....or at least I hope there was). Most Americans are perfectly okay with the government engaging in such totalitarian measures so long as they are directed against the other person or the other party. Consider today how hysterical some Republicans get with denouncing President Obama for doing some of the same things that President Bush did. But wait, that was somehow different. When we have another Republican in the White House, the Democrats will do the same thing. You heard it here first. You see, we are all about our Constitutional rights. Truth is, we don't give a damn about our neighbor's rights. This is particularly true if our neighbor does not look, worship, or speak the same language as the rest of us. No less an authority on totalitarian governments than Hermann Goering left us a warning as to how citizens can be duped to go along with the bidding of their governments.



I will give you a personal example of the above reference to people's views on the rights of others. There use to be a guy who came to one of the colleges where I teach peddling religion, evangelical Christianity to be exact. He stood over the in the bookstore and asked all who walked by if they had "heard the good news". The first time I ran across him, I politely replied that I was aware of the good news and I informed him that I was Catholic. From that point on, he took it as a personal mission to try and convert me to evangelical Protestantism every time I went over there to so much as buy a cup of coffee. No matter how many times I told him no, he kept after me. I made a comment about it in the break room one day and wondered aloud why my freedom of religion didn't seem to matter. In a matter of seconds, the entire room turned on me and told me that I should be glad that he was so concerned about my soul and that he had a right to accost me and try to sell me his faith whenever he wanted because of the First Amendment. I pointed out that I too, had a First Amendment but my plea fell on deaf ears. Part of me wonders if it was because of the latent anti-Catholicism that is inherent in many evangelical communities. This guy had a right because he agreed with them but I, who disagreed, did not have the same right. This same group wants to push their brand of Christianity on the country. We need prayer in schools, they say! But when I ask them if that means that I, as a Catholic, should be free to lead my classes in a Hail Mary or two before an exam they backtrack quickly. (Their usual response to that is "No, that's different.")

When? Not if?

Mussolini said that fascism was the perfect merger between the corporate and the state. This is why,as I said above, I think this would be a more likely scenario for us in the United States if we are not careful. I certainly do not think that it is a forgone conclusion that we will go down the path towards a totalitarian state. Quite the opposite. So much about our country's history says the otherwise. After all, we fought a war to rid the world of fascism. (Though we had to ally ourselves with the Soviet Union, a fact that today we find most inconvenient.) We were willing to fight a war to abolish the great evil that was slavery. There is so much that we have done right that it is not a good idea to simply focus on what we did wrong. But to deny that the United States is somehow immune to the forces that create dictatorships is to deny history. There is a simple solution to much of this. Stop believing that politicians have your own personal best interests in mind. They don't. It is funny how many people out there, far, far too many, who actually think that the Republicans or Democrats give a damn about them. All they care about is control. Remember, Psalms 146:3 tells us "Put not your faith in princes."

Actually it is fascism when EITHER of you do it!

Alas, there is a simple answer to the question I asked at the beginning. Can it happen here? You are damn right that it can. Remember, Dear Readers, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Stand up for your neighbors. Defend their rights as zealously as you defend your own. Treat them as you yourself would want to be treated. The United States of America is a great country and will remain so as long as we hold true to the ideals upon which we were founded. (And no, we were NOT founded as a Theocracy!)

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian who firmly believes that ALL politicians, no matter the party, are like diapers. They should be changed often and for the same reason.

  




Friday, February 20, 2015

Wobblies Wobble But They Don't Fall Down: The IWW And the Struggle for Worker's Rights


Friends,

I have to admit, of all the labor unions in the world, being able to call yourself a "Wobbly" has a certain appeal. I don't know why. I guess it sounds better than what others call themselves. I guess I didn't intend to, but it appears that I am in the midst of writing a series of article regarding labor history. You can read about the Haymarket Affair here or the exploitation of adjunct faculty here. I'm not really a labor historian though I am well versed in the struggle between workers and management (aka: "the suits") as I do come from a union family. I am an affiliate of USW and USMWA. I was a member of UFCW back in my grocery store days. So I have always been aware of the cause of workplace safety and better treatment. As an adjunct professor, I am a member of a class of workers that are treated with utter disdain by college administrators and exploited to no end. This is, however, a far cry from what workers suffered in the late 19th and early 20th Century which is where our tale begins.

The Industrial Workers of the World were formed in Chicago in 1905. Among their key founders were the likes of Big Bill Haywood and Mother Jones. Now, what made the Wobblies different from other labor organizations at the time is that they pushed a much more radical agenda. Their rallying cry was "An injury to one is an injury to all." This is not only true, but a noble concept. Their Constitution said "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common." At the time, this was true. Rather than having labor divided into separate unions based on trade or employer, the Wobblies promoted the idea of One Big Union. Their major competitor at the time was the AFL which restricted itself to craft or trade unionism which left out the growing millions of unskilled industrial workers whom the IWW sought to organize.


What set the Wobblies apart was that they courted no political party as they understood that politicians care about getting elected, not the rights of anyone. They used labor to their own ends. The Wobblies also attracted radical socialists and anarchists which caused the US government to look on them with great concern. Remember, the country viewed anyone associated with organized labor as being a socialist or communist even if they weren't. You still see that same rhetoric coming from those on the right today. Standing up for your rights in the workplace does not make you a commie. That said, the tactics used by the Wobblies ranged from general strikes to sabotage (though sabotage was only to be use in response to unsafe working conditions). Their endorsement of more radical methods put them at odds with other labor organizations who preferred diplomacy whenever possible.



During World War One, the AFL endorsed the war and encouraged their workers to take an active role by either serving or working in the factories on the home front. The Wobblies, on the other hand, saw The Great War as a means for the ruling classes of all the countries involved to get their working classes to destroy one another. As such, they did no endorse the war and actively opposed it. Many of their leaders were jailed under the Sedition Act, a law of blatant unconstitutionality which made criticizing the war, the President, or the government illegal. In Oklahoma, for example, a group of Wobblies was seized by a mob and tarred and feathered! Cracking down on dissent and jailing political opponents is something out of Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany, yet it has happened here too. 


The Wobblies began to decline following World War One due to imprisonments and the actions of the government and the members of the public too. They wobbled but they didn't fall down. One thing that the Wobblies did really well was write protest songs which they published in their Little Red Songbook. It is still in print. During the 1960s, the Counterculture discovered these tunes and a new generation of Wobblies was born. Perhaps, in the early 1900s, the IWW was too radical for the country to accept. At the time, with the growing power of the Bolsheviks in Russia, the United States feared a similar revolution here and thus anyone associating with so radical a group as the IWW was seen as a threat to our security. Freedom goes out the window when the government fears internal dissent which is exactly what the Wobblies were warning about in the first place! History has shown that much of what they had to say was true. The existence of the IWW was very important because it gave a radical balance to the more mainline trade unions. This allowed the trade unions to make great gains because the alternative was a group allegedly made up of socialists and anarchists. The truth is, the Wobblies were just working class people who wanted to be treated in a fair manner and paid just wages. Who among you doesn't want that for themselves? You may be a Wobbly at heart!

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian (but not a Wobbly). If you want to be a Wobbly, they are still around. Check them out here. In truth, I think that adjuncts should turn to the IWW or any other union for help. There is power in union! 



Friday, February 13, 2015

Writing History With Lightning: Birth of a Nation and America's Recurring Nightmare


"It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true."
Woodrow Wilson (maybe)

Friends,

Others far more educated and qualified on this subject than I have already discussed the significance of the 100th Anniversary of The Birth of Nation, but I feel that I must also put in my two cents worth. Let me begin by giving a brief disclaimer. I am no expert on film history or cultural history. For the former, I defer to my college roommate (who needs to start a blog!) and for the latter I defer to my esteemed colleague and friend AJP and his co-author Dr. T. (Though soon it will be Dr. AJP.) I am just a guy who watches movies sometimes. I watch for entertainment only and to be frank, I'm not good at picking up hidden symbolism and finding deeper meanings. I hate modern movies and will typically only watch them if there is a redheaded actresses in it. I prefer older films from Hollywood's Golden Era, but not quite as far back as Birth of a Nation (hereafter called BON). My deepest, most guarded secret actually involves a movie. I cry whenever I watch Love Story. Now onward to the subject of today's post!

I have seen BON twice. Once I watched it when I was in college because it had come up in a class and so the next time I was home I picked it up at Blockbuster and settled in for a fun filled three hours! I thought it was terrible. Not because of the blatant racism or anything like that. I just don't care much for silent films. I have seen it one more time as I decided to work it into my 1302 course. (I don't show the entire film as that wouldn't be a good use of time in a survey course. Instead, I show a clip that has the most racist scenes from the movie in it instead.) My students find it so beyond the pale that it is almost laughable. It generates some good discussion too. Normally I shy away from imposing modern values on people from different time periods. I don't call people in the 19th Century racist, generally, because all of white America was racist by our standards. Abraham Lincoln, for example, is racist by our standards. People today often say "Well if I were alive back then I would have....." The answer to that is no, you probably wouldn't have fought the system and you'll never know because you weren't alive back then. With BON, there is no way to describe it but blatant anti-black propaganda. Period. End of story. Pass the popcorn.

Here we come to save the day!

I am not going to belabor this article with describing the movie and its plot in detail. If you want to suffer through it, you can see the whole thing in HD on You Tube here. For those who have not seen it, I can promise you three hours of nonstop moments in which you will be thinking OMG followed by WTF! One thing I will say though is that in the final scene where the Klan rides in to save the day, I am reminded of other movies about another group of people who the United States did not treat too kindly.....the Native Americans. We've all seen the old westerns from the 40s and 50s. In many of them, the besieged settlers, with wagons circled, desperately fight back against savage hordes. Right when things look the worst, the US Cavalry rides in to save them. In BON, the blacks play the Indians. The whites are the settlers. The Klan plays the cavalry. Really, what were the westerns other than a remake of BON? 

One thing that BON also gave "birth" to was the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan. Time, space, and energy prevent me from delving as much in the history of the Kluxers as may be necessary for this post. There have really been the separate Klans in US History, each with different motives. The first (the one portrayed in this movie) is the Reconstruction Klan. Their goal was to prevent freed slaves from exercising any rights of citizenship and to battle against the Reconstruction government. They actually did not wear white robes and hoods as depicted in the movie. That is a Hollywood thing. They actually looked more like the pictures below. Also, I must point out that Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest DID NOT found the Klan! It was formed by a group of men in Pulaski, TN. Though he was involved and was sympathetic to them, he had nothing to do with starting them. That all comes from the Forrest Gump movie. Academic historians who should know better even talk about him starting the Klan which they never did prior to FG. The original Klan dwindled away after Reconstruction because the Compromise of 1877 gave them everything they wanted. There was no need for them to operate in secret as they could go about an openly oppress black people after that!


Boys under the hoods.

BON led to a renewed interest in the Klan and it was "re-founded" shortly thereafter. This Klan was different than the first. Rather than simply hate on black people, those who joined this Second Klan were more interested in oppressing new groups of people. In reaction to the massive influx of immigrants who arrived between 1865 and 1915 (some 25 million), they decided that anyone who was not "Murican" enough was the enemy. Eastern Europeans, immigrants in general, Jews, Catholics, Communists, and blacks were all on their shit list. By adding to their "hate list", they were able to attract more members. This Klan moved out of the South (which did not have lots of immigrants) and is typically associated with the Midwest. States like Indiana and Ohio became bastions of Klanliness. Even New Jersey elected a pro-Klan governor. I say this simply so people will stop associating all racism with the South. Slavery may have been a Southern problem, but racism is an American problem. For many white Americans, worried about the immigrants changing the makeup of our society, the Klan posed the answer to the problem. The heroic depiction of them, sweeping in to save the day, led many to pay their dues and sign up. And for every organization like this, for every member you also had numerous other sympathizers. I'll be frank. The Klan was using violence to achieve a political goal (restricting the rights of immigrants and foreigners). Last time I checked, violence to achieve a political objective is terrorism.

"May I call on you after the cross burning?"

I don't know if it had anything to do with the movie or not, but in Waco, Texas in 1916, a white mob committed an almost unspeakable act of depravity on a black man named Jesse Washington. He was a seventeen year old black youth who was convicted (after four minutes of deliberation) of murdering a white woman who was an English immigrant. After the death sentenced was read, the crowd seized him and dragged him away. Jesse was beaten and tortured, half strangled, had his fingers, toes, and genitals cut off, and only then was he burned to death while a cheering crowd looked on. They even posed for pictures afterwards which you can see below. Lynching was illegal in Texas, but the Sheriff was present for it and, of course, took no action. I do find it interesting that this happened so close in history to the opening of BON. Note in the pictures below that no one is covering their faces as they did not see the need. They were proud of what they were doing.


This is NOT the state I took an oath to protect. Oh wait, it is.

Are there lessons to be learned from BON? Sure there are. Dear Readers, I am a working class kid who grew up in Port Arthur, Texas. My generation in the South, those of us born in the 70s, are really the first to grow up in an integrated society. I attended Robert E. Lee Elementary which, at the time I was there, was mostly made up of black and Vietnamese students. I was one of two white children in the fifth grade. I grew up never really seeing a difference between me and the various students of color that I went to school with. They accepted me and I accepted them. We had two Jehovah's Witnesses in my class. One of them, Shadrich, was my best friend. They did not stand up at the beginning of the day when the school played the National Anthem and we said the pledge (no prayer or moment of silence back then). And guess what? We didn't care! Shadrich and Rachel were our friends. We didn't give two shits about what they believed. We accepted them and they us. Children have to be taught to hate. Adults pass on their prejudices to children and the only way we can break this cycle is to not pass that on to our kids. If you want to hate on minorities, women, gays, Jews, or Catholics, that is your business. Granted, you are an asshole, but that is your business. But for the love of God, don't pass your bigotry on to your children if you have any (and I kind of hope you don't).

Ah yes, "negroes", Jews, and Catholics were all closet Commies according to the Klan.

As a firefighter and then as a police officer I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution and my fellow citizens. I worked with firefighters and police officers of all religious faiths, skin colors, and sexual orientations. They were all family, regardless of our differences. I served all people in my area regardless of who they worshiped, where they lived, what color they were, or what language they spoke. Does that make me some kind of Eracist? Probably not. But in all seriousness, we need to realize as a society that it is okay for people to be different. The same Bible that people use to condemn gay people and deny them basic humanity also mentions how to sell your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7), not charging interest on loans (Exodus 22:25), and which animals we can and cannot eat (Leviticus 11). For those of you who say "but that's the Old Testament!" So too are the verses in Exodus and Leviticus used to condemn gay people. If the New Testament replaced the Old Testament, then I guess we don't have to follow the Ten Commandments? Remember, the Klan of the 1920s which arose as a result of BON billed itself as a patriotic and Christian organization. They terrible acts they did were done in the name of their God and their Country. 

This is not really my idea of what Murica is all about!

For those of you who are Christian, I implore you to remember the words of Jesus as he spoke of not ignoring the plank in your own eye to discuss the speck in your brother's eye. When asked what the greatest commandments were, he did not say it was to discriminate against minorities or to deny gay people the right to marry. Nope. He said the two greatest commandments were to love your God and to love your neighbor. That's it. If we could all do that, then perhaps we could put this terrible legacy left us by BON to rest. I want to live in an America that follows this law given to Moses: "You must not oppress a foreign resident; you yourselves know how it feels to be a foreigner as you were foreigners in Egypt." (Exodus 23:9) That is the Murica I want to live in. I love this country, despite its faults. But many claim that talking about our past misconducts (be it slavery or the genocide of the Native Americans) is unpatriotic. No it isn't. It is part of our history. If anything, our history has shown that though we do have our faults we will (eventually) try to rectify them. This is not, thankfully, the same country that is was when BON debuted. We can all thank whoever we worship for that. Is out country perfect? Not by a long shot. But I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather live. (Other than my ancestral home of Ireland, of course, but that goes without saying.)

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian who begs all of you to accept your neighbors for who they are. Remember, Thomas Jefferson said "It bothers me not if my neighbor worships one god or twenty. It neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket." I think we can include our neighbor's color or sexual preference in that too. Though the Klan of today is nowhere near as dangerous as they were back then (fights on Geraldo and Jerry Springer aside), their ideas still are. Just yesterday, I heard the following gem from a college faculty member who, not knowing my faith, said "I don't have a problem with Catholics, but....." and proceeded to say why they had a problem with Catholics. I nearly went all Jesus driving the money lenders out of the temple on them, but instead I just walked away. That is no small miracle given my Irish temper.

P.S.: I'm sure this post will not sit well with some who will want to email me or leave comments calling me a communist, anti-Christian, etc, etc, etc. I am neither. Though I do lean a little left of center, I am, in fact, Catholic, and though I do think that history is the story of class conflict as did Karl Marx, I am not a fan of communism. It didn't work out that well for the Soviets, did it?     




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Manhattan Death Trap: The Triangle Fire and Its Aftermath


Friends,

Let me start with a disclaimer. This post contains graphic images. These black and white photos taken on a Saturday afternoon 104 years ago captured a tragedy so great that it still has an impact on how we build things today. In my opinion, black and white photos have the ability to show a level of detail that color photographs cannot. It doesn’t make the images less real, I think, but more so. I know that many of my loyal readers, like myself, have seen sudden violent death far more times than they care to remember. If you’d prefer to skip this post, I understand. In fact, I don’t even know why I am writing it but since I’m already dealing with a flare up of my PTSD symptoms I figure it can’t trigger me more than I already am.

Somewhere buried amongst my things, I have a simple file folder full of documents, photos, notes, and assorted other paraphernalia related to a few minutes on a Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911. For far too many people, mostly young ladies, this day was to be their last. Though some may have counted themselves fortunate that morning to have a job, their employer, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, would soon be synonymous with workplace safety hazards, locked fire escapes, greed, and death. I don’t know why I care so much about the victims of this fire as opposed to, say the Iroquois Theater Fire or the Hartford Circus Fire. I don’t know why their faces sometimes haunt my dreams. Maybe it is because as an arson investigator, I had the side assignment of fire code enforcement which meant that it was part of my job to prevent something like this from happening again. Far too often I saw the same issues (locked exit doors, etc) that contributed to the deaths of so many innocents in 1911. I was lucky. I did not have a fatality fire at a commercial structure on my watch. At times I was quick with the citation book or to take a person to jail. Perhaps too quick. But the drama that played out on corner of Washington and Greene Streets that March day must never be allowed to happen again.



The story begins with a strike. Immigrant woman made up the majority of those who worked in the “sweatshops” of the garment industry in New York City. Actually strikes in the plural sense would be the most accurate. Many of the garment workers unionized, forming the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). Women often get written out of HIStory, but these ladies took a stand and made a difference. They fought for better wages, better safety conditions, and better hours. The garment manufacturers and the city of New York fought back. They hired goons to beat up women strikers. Sadly, the NYPD was involved as well, often working women over with their nightsticks both on the street and back at the station. Many were arrested and sentenced to months long jail sentences without benefit of trial. But this is America, you say! It is indeed, but the one thing you don’t do in this country is mess with those in power or with money, usually one and the same.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Company occupied the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the Asch Building on the corner of Washington and Greene in Manhattan. The workday started like any other, with workers lining up to enter the building. It took time since they could only use the two freight elevators to get to their work stations. Immigrant minions were not allowed to use the passenger cars with the regular people, you see. All of them, both those who perished and those who survived had stories to tell. They all came from somewhere. Most of the workers were either Eastern European Jews or Italian Catholics. And most of them, but not all, were women. At the Triangle Company, the emergency exits were kept locked so that there was only one way on and off the company floor. At the end of the day, workers had to line up and submit to searches to make sure that they were not smuggling any fabric home with them to work on (kind of like a side job). This was strictly verboten! So too was smoking on the factory floor. The 8th and 9th floors were crowded with workstations and both scraps of garments and cotton, both highly flammable. No smoking signs were posted in English and Yiddish. Sadly, the cause of the fire is generally believed to be ashes dropping into a scrap bin on the 8th Floor.



Most of the survivors could recall exactly what they were doing when they heard the terrifying cry of “Fire!” It was towards the end of the day and most were preparing to leave. On the 8th floor where the fire began, frantically tried to put it out with buckets of water that were kept near the workstations for this exact reason, but to no avail. The fire was hungry and there was plenty to eat. Soon they abandoned their attempts at suppression and tried to save themselves. Most who worked on the 8th floor did manage to find their way to safety. But one floor above them, 250 workers lined up to go through their exit rituals oblivious to the fact that an inferno raged one floor beneath them.

The fire burst through an air shaft and entered the 9th Floor sending panic into the workers who were lining up to leave. Many made it to the fire escape before the fire cut it off, but the fire escape collapsed, sending them tumbling to their deaths. Others made their way to the door which led to the stairwell only to find it locked. They moved to the windows to await the arrival of the fire department. FDNY responded quickly, with the first engines on scene within two or three minutes (faster than you’d get today). The first company had water on the fire in five minutes or so. But the Fire Department had to fight its way up through the 8th Floor to get to those trapped on the 9th, but that proved very difficult because of the intensity of the fire. Remember, these firemen had leather lungs and wore no SCBA. I’ve been in some brutally hot fires with modern protective clothing. I couldn’t imagine doing it in a rubber coat.



The ladders couldn’t reach the trapped victims. Soon they began to jump. One, after another, after another. Firefighters and police officers looked on helplessly as people jumped to their deaths. Some hit with such force as to break through the pavement. In a rather odd scene, some witnesses described a man who stood in the window sill and one by one offered his hand to ladies, like he was helping them enter a carriage. After each of them jumped, he jumped himself. Some jumped in pairs, holding hands the entire way down. Perhaps they were friends or perhaps they were related. Police officers standing on the street began to weep. The same police officers who, at the bidding of the factory owners of New York, had routinely beaten and mistreated some of these same women during the great strikes.



It was over very quickly. They fire expended its fury and the fire department was able to knock it down. What they found sickened even the most hardened hearts among them. A pile of bodies lay in front of the locked exit. Others filled the elevator shaft where the weight of the bodies piling up on top of the car had kept the very brave elevator operator from continuing his attempts to evacuate people. 146 worker perished. 123 were women and 23 were men. The majority of the victims were young women between the ages of 16 and 23. Maybe that is why I care so much?



The country was shocked. No horrified would be a better way to describe it. Progressives demanded change. The National Fire Protection Associated was formed and we would get our first Life Safety Code, the precursor to the modern International Fire Code which many communities have adopted today. I wish that this was the last major loss of life fire in the United States, but we continue to lead the industrialized world in fire deaths per capita. The Asch Building still stands today, as the fire only gutted three floors. You can visit if you’d like and stand on the corner, gaze upwards, and try to envision what happened that Saturday afternoon in 1911. Or maybe not.


My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Academic Day Labor: The Exploitation of Adjunct Faculty in Higher Education



Imagine this scene:

A group of well dressed, professional looking people of all races and genders are gathered outside a Home Depot store, about two dozen feet from the entrance. Some sip coffee from paper cups. Others clutch briefcases as the glance furtively around them. A hardy few make jokes with others standing near them. Suddenly, a car pulls up in front of them and stop. A surge of anticipation floods through the crowd. Everyone stands up tall. Those with ties straighten them. A few murmur a prayer. The car window lowers and an equally well dressed person sticks their head out the window.

“Any of you teach Government?” the person asks. “Or Math?”

A few hands are raised. The driver of the car motions them over. They gather around the car and talk for a minute. Heads nod. A few smile. Then they hop into the car and drive off. A deflated feeling hits those left behind. Heads drop. Shoulders sag. And they wait for the next car.

Sounds ridiculous, right? It is more accurate than you might think. When you send you child off to college, odds are their professor will not be a tenured or contracted faculty member but a member of the crowd described above. Adjunct faculty are the day laborers of higher education. The “a” word is no longer used as much as it was by the colleges. Today they call these people “contingent” faculty or “part time” faculty, but we still wear the Scarlett A no matter what you call us. The American Association of University Professors reports that over half of all faculty positions are now held by part-time (ie: adjunct) faculty. When you add full time non-tenure track faculty to that, it jumps to 74%.

Over the past twenty years, the number of adjunct faculty has grown steadily. But consider what college tuition has done during that time? Forbes has reported that since 1985, tuition has gone up 115% and it has continued to climb at a higher rate than the inflation rate. So where is this money going if it isn’t to pay for full time faculty? Well, why don’t you check the salaries of the top administrators and also the number of administrators with overlapping or completely unnecessary job titles? What about the money spent sending said administrators to conferences all over the country while class sizes grow and education sufferers. Administrators at our nation’s colleges and universities are fiddling while Rome burns.


Part time faculty work for a fraction of what the full time faculty make and often get no health benefits or retirement. This may vary from college to college. At one institution where I teach, adjuncts do have access to the health insurance plan, but the college does not contribute to the premium. This means that to insure just themselves, the entire paycheck for one class would go to covering the health insurance premium and that is just for the four months you get paid per semester. You’d be on the hook for the rest of it during the remainder of the year. That isn’t really “affordable” health insurance. If a full time faculty member at a community college is contracted to teach five classes per semester and an adjunct can teach three, that is slightly over half of regular teaching load. The college should contribute an equal portion to that adjuncts health insurance, but that won’t happen.

The average per class salary for an adjunct in the United States is $2700 per course. In my area, that is more like $1700 per course which is my gross at the institution that has the best pay. Many adjuncts labor for years trying to make ends meet, all the while holding out hope that if a rare full time position were to open up that they will get it. Sadly, that is not always the case. I have seen colleges hire outside candidates despite having well qualified adjuncts who have already demonstrated loyalty to the institution in the applicant pool. I have to teach 8 or 9 classes each fall and spring (almost double a full load) just to make ends meet. In doing so, I get four paychecks in the fall and four in the spring. I’m on my own the rest of the year unless I can get summer classes which are harder to come by. I am far from being the only one in this boat. Once upon I time, teaching was a side gig for me. After my injury, it is now my sole source of income. How are we expected to stand in front of a classroom and tell students that education will open doors for them when we are barely above food stamp levels ourselves? In 2014, I taught 8 classes in the Spring, 4 in the summer, and 9 in the fall. I grossed $35,000 which is about $10,000 less than a full time faculty member despite the fact that they only have to teach 10 classes. Any that they teach over that will only bring them more money. Of course, I did not get any health insurance. Luckily, in Texas, public institutions will allow you to pay into the state teacher retirement which is one small perk. Keep in mind that I have to have the same qualifications to teach a class as a full time faculty member, so it isn’t a matter of one being more qualified than another.



Over the course of my time as an adjunct, I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been told that I cannot do something because I am “just an adjunct” despite no policies actually existing to prohibit things I sought to do. Asking questions gets you in trouble. With no job security, a school is free to simply not have any classes for you the next semester. Adjuncts are scared to ask questions or challenge the discrepancies that exist. And rightfully so. I’ve seen it happen to people. In fact, because I wrote this article, it will probably happen to me. But in everyone’s life there will come a time when they have to make a decision. Do you stand up and fight back against injustice or do you go along to get along? I’ve made my decision. What’s yours?

To be fair, it is not just the fault of the administration at our nation’s colleges. It is also the fault of our politicians. Texas, for example, is notoriously anti-public education. It goes along with the party that controls the state. They have regularly slashed funding for schools and for colleges as well. Several years back, Governor Rick Perry and the State Legislature deregulated the tuition levels at state schools. He promised that the cost would not be passed on to the students. This is yet another lie. Colleges are not getting enough funding, but they also do not make adequate use of what they do receive. Full time positions are allowed to remain vacant with that faculty spot now going to two or three more adjuncts. Colleges do this to save money on health insurance and other benefits. They are not spending it on providing full time faculty. That’s for sure.



Is there an answer to any of this? Yes. There are things that you can do. Take the time to educate yourselves. Vote for candidates who are pro education. And if you are an adjunct, organize, organize, and organize. There is safety in numbers. We teach the majority of the college students in this country. If we speak with one united voice, they will have to listen. Do you really think that colleges will turn away students (which equal money to them) just to continue to take advantage of adjunct labor? I doubt it. They like their income source too much to do that. We need job security. We need proportional access to health insurance and retirement benefits. We need policies that treat all faculty the same rather than singling out adjunct faculty for “special treatment”. And most of all, we need respect. Together we can get it. Remember, if you are not part of the solution, then I am sorry to say that you are part of the problem.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian. (I apologize for not writing a history post this time around. Next time I will.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

You Can't Scare Me I'm Sticking With the Union!


Friends,

Let me start off by apologizing for the unpardonable delay betwixt posts. This semester is kicking my a$$ physically and mentally. I'll get through it, but it won't be easy. I'm teaching 8 classes (one less than last semester), but one of them is a new prep. I have never taught the second half of Western Civ and so I am sort of working on week ahead of where the students are. I am also taking my graduate Criminal Justice courses, hoping to finish by next spring. We'll see if that plan works or not! And since we are talking about work, I thought it might be a good idea to do a short post on organized labor! People have strong opinions on this topic, one way or the other. Just remember, I'm right and everyone else is wrong! (I jest........partially!)

Specifically I would like to discuss an event that happened in Chicago in 1886. Some call it the Haymarket Riot. Others prefer to call it the Haymarket Affair. Either is correct. The Gilded Age in US History was a period of capitalism in its purest form, meaning no government interference with businesses at all. Any attempt to regulate things such as health and safety, wages, or the length of the workday was considered an attack on the free market principles the country was founded on. Yes, exploiting workers (including children) became a national pastime for the wealthy "Robber Barons". They made a killing, literally, since fatal workplace accidents were commonplace. National labor organizations declared May 1, 1886 to be the day for a national strike over the issue of the length of the workday. Labor wanted to mandate an 8 hour day rather than the customary twelve hour shifts six days in a tow. Shocking, I know!



When May 1st arrived, workers across the country went out strike. "Eight hour day with no cut in pay!" was the rallying cry. No one knows for sure how many people actually went on strike, but it is a few hundred thousand at least. Chicago, however, would be where things took a turn for the worse. On May 3rd, a large group of strikers gathered outside the McCormick Machine Company. Union employees (predominantly Irish-American) had been locked out of the plant by Pinkerton Agents for several months prior to this. The plant was being operated by strikebreakers (or scabs). When the close of the workday arrived, striker workers attempted to confront the scabs. The police fired into the crowd without provocation killing at least two unarmed people though some sources recorded six fatalities. One union organizer said that "this butchering of people was done for the express purpose of defeating the eight hour movement."

In response to this, another rally was planned for the following evening, May 4th, in Haymarket Square. The crowd of perhaps a thousand or more people was very calm. In fact, speakers such as Albert Spies (quoted above) said that the point was to explain their demands, not engage in any acts of violence. Rain dampened the mood of many in the crowd and they began to drift away. However some hardy souls stayed to listen to the last speaker. Near 10:30 pm, the police arrived and ordered the crowd to leave. They insisted that they were a peaceful and thus lawful assembly. The police disagreed. They formed themselves into a wedge formation and began to advance towards the crowd.



Suddenly, someone tossed a homemade grenade (some have referred to it as a bomb or a pipe bomb) in the path of the police. At first it looked like it would not ignite due to the wet conditions, but then an explosion sent shrapnel tearing through the ranks of the police officers. One was killed immediately and six others were mortally wounded. The police then opened fire on the crowd. Some have maintained that the crowd simply fled, leaving their dead and dying behind. Others have said that some were armed and fought back. It took only five minutes before no one was left in the square except the police and the dead or wounded. Casualty figures vary. At least four workers were killed and scores more wounded. In addition to the seven police officers killed by the explosion, some 60 plus were wounded by gunfire. Who shot them? Probably other policemen! One police official was quoted as saying "A very large number of the police were wounded be each other's revolvers. It was every man for himself. While some got two or three squares away, the rest emptied their revolvers, mainly into each other!" At the low end, at least 150 people were injured with more than 10 killed if you combine both the crowd and police casualties. All in the name of the eight hour day!

The police, media, and public latched onto this as an example of foreign anarchist agitation. The WASP establishment attempted to paint everyone in the labor organization as a person who wanted to overthrow the government and thus were a danger to society. My friend AJP might call that establishment the IWSCP! Dozens of people were arrested and several were put on trial for their lives. The person who threw the bomb was never identified (it may have, in fact, been someone who wanted to "frame" the union leaders for committing a violent act). This did not stop the authorities from trying others instead. Of the "Chicago Eight" put on trial for the murder of the policemen, only two had been present at the time of the blast! Simply writing articles in favor of an eight hour day was enough to get a person put on trial for their life. All eight were convicted after a trial that did not approach anything like fair. One received a lengthy prison term and seven were sentenced to death. Two of those sentences were commuted to life in prison and so only five faced execution. One committed suicide by biting down on a blasting cap that had been smuggled into his prison cell. What a way to go!



Despite protests all over the world, the men were hanged on November 11, 1887. As they were marched to the gallows, the men sang the Marseillaise. Mere seconds before the trap was sprung, Albert Spies shouted "The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!" And strangle they did. Through negligence or design, the drop was not long enough to break their necks. Witnesses grew ill at the sight of the four bound men writhing on the end of the ropes for several minutes in the agonies of strangulation. All so that we might work an eight hour day.



Friends, I am the first to admit that today labor unions have frequently moved away from their roots. Many of the issues they argue for are unnecessarily divisive. But I have always been a proud Union Man as my grandfather was before me. When people complain (sometimes with merit) about unions today, ask them if they enjoy their eight hour workday. Their paid sick leave. Their vacation days. Their workers compensation should they be injured. Those benefits did not come without a price. Hundreds of people were willing to die to make that happen. Many thousands of others died before enough people were willing to take notice that we had an issue. The problem has never been with capitalism. It has been with capitalists.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian who is proud to stand with my brothers and sisters in the United Steelworkers Union as they strike on behalf of safe working conditions and a safer shift schedule. I wish you all Godspeed and I hope that "the suits" listen to reason and you are able to return to work quickly. You know, if adjunct faculty across the nation were unionized, we would not be treated like crap like we are now. We'd actually get some benefits and security with our jobs instead of being treated like academic day laborers. But that is a subject for another day.