Saturday, June 25, 2016

Procrastination Lamentation

While my focus is raised and my senses are roused,
when I act on the stage, become one of the crowd;
pernicious small corners at edges of vision
ignored by my grins are completing their mission.

Then finally, down comes the curtain and I
take my bows and move gratefully back toward my sky,
where memories and smiles are my chief occupation.
I newly have time for a deep rumination.

I look at my corners - Oh Mother in heaven!
The piles have grown monstrous, stacked sixes and sevens.
Towering, threatening into the space
where I grow my true soul and make up my face.

Mailings and catalogs, photos and filings;
life's frantic details, piers without pilings.
All must be sorted; signed sealed delivered
to trash can or cabinet, sliced diced or slivered.

Clean out those corners! and don't be too slow -
it soon will be time for another new show;
again raise the curtain to focus elsewhere,
abandon all hope, and forget what was there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Labor's Loves Lost

One of the really fine things about being older is the length and scope of our memories. Of course, real history has seldom been taught in our public schools, but living around teaches you things you don't forget; connects you to histories that amaze and compel; leads you to insights you may rather not have. One of these for me, in the wake of all the media coverage of the Orlando shootings, is that Orlando is hardly an anomoly. This is a violent country, and the list of state and vigilante transgressions is long. Without even getting into race riots, gender politics, or gun control, I reproduce here for non-believers an edited table from Wikipedia of state- and industry-sponsored terrorism against laborers and labor organizations in US history (edited by removing all death tolls less than 10, over 50 listings).

Type of dispute
Workers violently killed by authorities
July 20, 1877
Baltimore, MD
During the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, first national strike in United States, National Guard regiments were ordered to Cumberland, Maryland, to face strikers. As they marched toward their train in Baltimore, violent street battles between the striking workers and the guardsmen erupted. Troops fired on the crowd, killing 10 and wounding 25.[7]
July 21–22, 1877
Pittsburgh, PA
Great Railroad Strike of 1877: As militiamen approached and sought to protect the roundhouse, they bayoneted and fired on rock-throwing strikers, killing 20 people and wounding 29.[8] The next day, the militia mounted an assault on the strikers, shooting their way out of the roundhouse and killing 20 more people.
July 21–28, 1877
East St. Louis, IL and St. Louis, MO
railroad, then general
as many as 18 or more
1877 St. Louis general strike part of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877: The first general strike in the United States was ended when 3000 federal troops and 5000 deputized police had killed at least 18 people in skirmishes around the city.
July 23, 1877
Reading, PA
In the Reading Railroad massacre, part of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, a unit of the Pennsylvania State Police ventured into the Seventh Street Cut (a man-made railway ravine) to address a train disabled by rioters. They were bombarded from above with bricks and stones, harassed, and finally they fired a rifle volley into the crowd at the far end, killing ten.[9][10]
July 25–26, 1877
Chicago, IL
Battle of the Viaduct, part of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877: Violence erupted between a crowd and police, federal troops, and state militia at the Halsted Street Viaduct. When it ended, 30 were dead.[11]
Philadelphia, PA
Great Railroad Strike of 1877: 30–70 injured in addition to those killed[14][unreliable source?]
May 5, 1886
Milwaukee, WI
building trades
Bay View Massacre: As protesters chanted for an 8-hour workday, 250 state militia were ordered to shoot into the crowd as it approached the iron rolling mill at Bay View, leaving 7 dead at the scene, including a 13-year-old boy. The Milwaukee Journal reported that eight more died within 24 hours.
November 5, 1887
Pattersonville, LA
as many as 20
10,000 sugar workers (90% of whom were black), organized by the Knights of Labor, went on strike. A battalion of national guardsmen supporting a sheriff's posse massacred as many as 20 people in the black village of Pattersonville, St. Mary Parish, Louisiana.[17]
November 23, 1887
Thibodaux, LA
37 or more estimated
Thibodaux Massacre: Louisiana Militia, aided by bands of prominent citizens, shot at least 35 unarmed black sugar workers striking to gain a dollar-per-day wage and lynched two strike leaders. "No credible official count of the victims was ever made; bodies continued to turn up in shallow graves outside of town for weeks to come."[18]
July 7, 1894
Chicago, IL
30 or more estimated
Pullman Strike: An attempt by Eugene V. Debs to unionize the Pullman railroad car company in suburban Chicago developed into a strike on May 10, 1894. Other unions were drawn in. On June 26 a national rail strike of 125,000 workers paralyzed traffic in 27 states for weeks. By July 3 a mob peaking at perhaps 10,000 had gathered near the shoreline in south Chicago embarking on several straight days of vandalism and violence, burning switchyards and hundreds of railroad cars. Thousands of federal troops and deputy marshals were inserted over the governor's protests and clashed with rioters. The strike dissolved by August 2. Debs biographer Ray Ginger calculated thirty people killed in Chicago alone.[24] Historian David Ray Papke, building on the work of Almont Lindsey published in 1942, estimated another 40 killed in other states.[25] Property damage exceeded $80 million.[26]
Leadville, CO
silver mining
as many as 11
Leadville Miners' strike: The union asked for a wage increase of 50 cents-per-day for those making less than $3-per-day, to restore a 50-cent cut imposed in 1893. The county sheriff and his deputies supported the strikers. Leadville city police took the side of the mine owners, recruited new officers from Denver, and "apparently kept up a near-constant campaign of harassment and violence against union members throughout the strike." As many as six union men were killed during the strike, by strikebreakers, police, or under mysterious circumstances. Four more union men died when they joined about 50 strikers in a nighttime rifle and dynamite attack on the Coronado and Emmett mines; the attackers burned the Coronado shafthouse and killed a firefighter trying to extinguish the blaze.[27]
September 10, 1897
Lattimer, PA
coal mining
Lattimer Massacre: 19 unarmed striking Polish, Lithuanian and Slovak coal miners were killed and 36 wounded by the Luzerne County sheriff’s posse for refusing to disperse during a peaceful march. Most were shot in the back.
April 7–July, 1905
Chicago, IL
garment mfg., teamsters
as many as 21
1905 Chicago Teamsters' strike: Riots erupted on April 7 and continued almost daily until mid-July. Sometimes thousands of striking workers would clash with strikebreakers and armed police each day. By late July, when the strike ended, 21 people had been killed and a total of 416 injured.[40][41][42]
April 18, 1912–July 1913
Kanawha County, WV
coal mining
up to 50 violent deaths (estimated)
Paint Creek Mine War: a confrontation between striking coal miners and coal operators in Kanawha County, West Virginia, centered on the area between two streams, Paint Creek and Cabin Creek.[58] 12 miners were killed on July 26, 1912 at Mucklow. On February 7, 1913, the county sheriff’s posse attacked the Holly Grove miners’ camp with machine guns, killing striker Cesco Estep. Many more than 50 deaths among miners and their families were indirectly caused, as a result of starvation and malnutrition.[59]
Area from Trinidad to Walsenburg, southern CO
coal mining
up to 47 estimated (in addition to Ludlow)
Amid escalating violence in the coalfields and pressure from mine operators, the governor called out the National Guard, which arrived at the mining towns in October 1913. After the Ludlow Massacre in April 1914, for ten days striking miners at the other tent colonies went to war. They attacked and destroyed mines, fighting pitched battles with mine guards and militia along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. The strike ended in defeat for the UMWA in December 1914.
April 20, 1914
Ludlow, CO
5 (plus 2 women, 12 children)
Ludlow Massacre: On Greek Easter morning, 177 company guards engaged by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and other mine operators, and sworn into the State Militia just for the occasion, attacked a union tent camp with machine guns, then set it afire. Luka Vahernik, 50, was shot in the head. Louis Tikas and two other miners were captured, shot and killed by the militia. 5 miners, 2 women and 12 children in total died in the attack.
Steel Strike of 1919: 18 strikers were killed, hundreds seriously injured, and thousands jailed over the course of the strike.[68]p. 247
Walker County, Alabama
coal mining
at least 16
1920 Alabama coal strike: The Alabama miners' strike was a statewide strike of the UMWA against coal mine operators. On December 23, 1920, local union official Adrian Northcutt of Nauvo was summoned out of his home by soldiers of Company M of the Alabama Guard, who fired 7 shots, killing him.[64]p. 9
August 25–Sept. 2, 1921
Logan County, WV
coal mining
strike, organizing
Battle of Blair Mountain: the largest labor uprising in United States history and the largest organized armed uprising since the American Civil War. During an attempt by the miners to unionize, and following the murder of Sid Hatfield, 10,000 armed coal miners confronted 3000 lawmen and Baldwin-Felts strikebreakers, who were backed by coal mine operators. In the summer of 1921 in Mingo County, hundreds of miners were arrested without habeas corpus and other basic legal rights. Talk spread of a march to free those confined miners, end martial law, and organize the county. In Kanawha County, up to 13,000 miners gathered and began marching toward Logan County on August 24. The reviled anti-union sheriff of Logan County, Don Chafin[79] set up defenses on Blair Mountain, with the nation's largest private armed force of 2000. By August 29, battle was fully joined. Chafin's men, though outnumbered, had the advantage of higher positions and better weaponry. Private hired planes dropped homemade bombs on the miners near the towns of Jeffery, Sharples and Blair. Army bombers were used for aerial surveillance. Sporadic gun battles continued for a week. Up to 30 deaths were reported by Chafin's side and 50–100 on the union miners' side, with hundreds more injured. On September 2, federal troops arrived by presidential order, and the miners started heading home the next day. About one million rounds were fired in the battle.[80]
June 22, 1922
Herrin, IL
coal mining
Herrin Massacre: Several hundred armed UMWA strikers laid siege to a nonunion mine. After an afternoon of gunfire by both sides, three of the besieging strikers were dead or mortally wounded. The next morning, the approximately 50 strikebreakers agreed to surrender their arms in exchange for a guarantee of safe passage out of the county. After the disarmed strikebreakers left the mine, 19 were killed by the strikers in various ways; some were killed in the town cemetery, in front of a crowd of about 1,000 cheering townspeople. Some were tied up and repeatedly shot at close range; some had their throats slit.[81][82][83]
September 9, 1924
Hanapēpē, Kauaʻi, HI
Hanapēpē massacre: Sixteen striking Filipino sugar workers on the Hawaiʻi island of Kauaʻi were killed by police; four police also died. Many of the surviving strikers were jailed, then deported.[85]
Harlan County, KY
coal mining
The Harlan County War was a violent, nearly decade-long conflict between miners and mine operators who adamantly resisted unionization. It consisted of skirmishes, executions, bombings, and strikes. The incidents involved coal miners and union organizers on one side and coal firms and law enforcement officials on the other.[88] Before its conclusion, state and federal troops would occupy the county more than half a dozen times.[89]
May 30, 1937
Chicago, IL
Little Steel strike at Republic Steel: Police opened fire, killing 10 protestors in the Memorial Day massacre of 1937.


Type of dispute
Workers executed by the State
June 21, 1877 – October 9, 1879[109]
Pennsylvania (Pottsville, Mauch Chunk, Bloomsburg, Sunbury)
coal mining strike
A 20% pay cut in December, 1874, led to a long strike that began on January 1, 1875,[110]p. 51 and quickly turned violent. Several company bosses were killed. Bodies of militant miners were sometimes found in deserted mine shafts.[110]p. 53 20 workers (suspected Molly Maguires)[111]pp. 5,10 were tried for murder and convicted largely on testimony of a Pinkerton spy.[111]pp. 234–35[112] Three of the defendants confessed: Manus Cull, Francis McHugh, and Patrick Butler, as did Molly Maguire member “Powder Keg” Kerrigan. Their confessions and testimony corroborated that of Pinkerton agent McParlan. Historians have written that the murder charge against John Keyhoe, the subject of a later trial, remains dubious.[113] Franklin B. Gowen, owner of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad and the person who hired Pinkerton, had himself appointed special prosecutor.[110]p. 54[114] The 20 men were hanged by the State of Pennsylvania.
"The Molly Maguire trials were a surrender of state sovereignty. A private corporation initiated the investigation through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested the alleged defenders, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. The state provided only the courtroom and the gallows. ... Any objective study of the tenor of the times and the entire record must conclude that (the Mollies) ... did not have fair and impartial juries. They were, therefore, denied one of the fundamental rights that William Penn guaranteed to all of Pennsylvania’s citizens."[115]
Following an investigation 100 years after his death, John Kehoe was posthumously pardoned by the governor, who wrote, "[I]t is impossible for us to imagine the plight of the 19th Century miners in Pennsylvania's anthracite region. ... We can be proud of the men known as the Molly Maguires",[112] whom he praised as "these martyred men of labor".[111]p. 284


Type of dispute
Workers* killed by vigilante/mob
September 2, 1885
Rock Springs, WY
coal mining
wage dispute, race
28 or more
Rock Springs massacre: A riot between Chinese immigrant miners and white immigrant miners resulted from a labor dispute over the Union Pacific Coal Department's policy of preferentially hiring Chinese miners and paying them lower wages than white miners. Racial tensions were a factor in the massacre. When the rioting ended, at least 28 Chinese miners were dead and 15 were injured.
September 25, 1891
Lee County, AR
African-American cotton pickers organized and went on strike in Lee County, Arkansas for higher wages. Strikers killed two nonstriking cotton pickers on September 25, and killed a plantation manager three days later. In retaliation, a white mob killed 15 strikers, most of them by lynching.[123][124]
Hazleton, PA
coal mining
14 strikers killed, 42 badly injured, at anthracite strike near Hazleton, PA[127]
December 24, 1913
Red Jacket, MI
copper mining
11 (plus 62 children)
Italian Hall disaster: As the Copper Country strike of 1913–1914 dragged on into the cold of December, the hatred on both sides grew.[64]p. 326 Anna Klobuchar Clemenc and the Women's Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners organized a Christmas-Eve party for strikers and their families. The hall was packed with 400 to 500 people when someone shouted "fire". There was no fire, but 73 people, 62 of them children, were crushed to death trying to escape.
September 30, 1919
Elaine, AR
up to 100 or more
African-American farmers met to establish the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America to fight for better pay and higher cotton prices. They were shot at by a group of whites and returned the fire. News of the confrontation spread and the Elaine race riot ensued, leaving at least 100 blacks dead.[137]

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wasn't That A Time?

Where’s Dick Nixon when you need him? It seems now a halcyon time, a time when lying, cheating, criminal government officials could actually be sent to jail.

In 1972, I sat drinking morning coffee in the student union at Ohio State University and noticed a 4-column-inch buried news item in the school newspaper: Watergate Burglers May Have Connections to Administration.

Five men had been arrested inside the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Building, tapping phones and such. They were Virgilio González, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martínez, and Frank Sturgis, who were charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications. Baker’s and Martinez’s address books both listed E. Howard Hunt, an ex CIA officer working for the Nixon Administration in a later-revealed clandestine group called the Plumbers along with ex CIA officer McCord, the Security Coordinator for the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP). 

OMG! I can’t remember ever being so excited about a news story. Caught the MoFos redhanded! Nixon and his band of merry thieves were outed over the next two years for multiple abuses of power, resulting in articles of impeachment and the resignation of Nixon as President of the United States on August 9, 1974, and the indictment of 69 people, with 25 being found guilty and incarcerated, many of whom were Nixon's top administration officials. In addition to the burglers themselves:

John N. Mitchell,Attorney General of the United States who resigned to become Director of Committee to Re-elect the President, convicted of perjury about his involvement in the Watergate break-in. Served 19 months of a one- to four-year sentence.

Jeb Stuart Magruder, Deputy Director of Committee to Re-elect the President, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to the burglary, and was sentenced to 10 months to four years in prison, of which he served 7 months before being paroled.

H. R. Haldeman, Chief of Staff for Nixon, convicted of conspiracy to the burglary, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Served 18 months in prison.

John Ehrlichman, Counsel to Nixon, convicted of conspiracy to the burglary, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Served 18 months in prison.

John W. Dean III, Counsel to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice, later reduced to felony offenses and sentenced to time already served, which totaled 4 months. (He was the main squeal.)

Charles W. Colson, Special Counsel to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice. Served 7 months in Federal Maxwell Prison.

G. Gordon Liddy, Special Investigations Group, convicted of masterminding the burglary, original sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Served 4½ years in federal prison.

E. Howard Hunt, Security Consultant, convicted of masterminding and overseeing the burglary, original sentence of up to 35 years in prison. Served 33 months in prison.

(Thank you Wikipedia)

In further fond memories, of the myriad conspiracy theories that have populated the last 40 years, I am particularly fond of the one put forward, after a hundred hours of interviews with the incarcerated Mitchell, by Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin in their book Silent Coup. It alleges that Dean masterminded the Watergate burglary, using Nixon's dirty-tricks squad the Plumbers, to get the call-girl address book that listed his then girlfriend Maureen (gorgeous wife Mo, seen sitting faithfully behind him through all his testimony to the investigative committee); that Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, one of the reporters instrumental in exposing the Watergate conspiracy, was a CIA plant; and that former White House chief of staff Alexander Haig orchestrated the “silent coup” that removed Richard Nixon from office. Perhaps Nixon and his aides didn't know a thing about this particular "dirty trick" and were, ironically, deep-sixed themselves. 

Has a nice ring to it. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Do You, Mr. Jones?

Standing on the bus stop this morning I watched an old guy walking toward me who reminded me of my dad - short with a fedora, baggy pants and a cloth jacket. He was carrying a department store bag with a saunter and he looked to be about my age. As he passed me, my eyes took in the faded but still lovely curly tattoo running up the back of his neck and into his short grey hair, and I thought Yes! We are old in this together!

The old joke is that if you remember the 60s, then you weren't really there. But that is just something we tell the others so they won't feel bad and get a laugh at the same time.  I do remember, and I am delighted to have been in the right place at the right time, to have been part of a culture that took full advantage of the freedoms for which our parents paid a Great War. I am proud that we spent our youth expanding our minds, experimenting with institutions, questioning authority, and expecting truth. I am grateful we decorated our youthful bodies while we still had them, as most certainly did my tatooed friend. And I am tickled pink with the opportunities we have as seniors to raise other grey eyebrows in recognition and smile. Wear your colors, folks. We are still here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Zen and the Art of Account Maintenance

I stopped at my bank on the way home from work yesterday and again the line was long. But as I had ducked it a couple of times already, and I needed my check cashed, I sucked it up this time and hustled to a spot behind a rumpled old guy with a cane, about 10 people out from the teller. He was blustering about the two tellers who were "otherwise engaged" and not waiting on people. Obviously the manager didn't know how to run the place. I sympathized, but most of us know that banks make us pay for using tellers instead of computers, that they are being managed just fine, thank you.

Standing in line with a cane for even 20 minutes is something of a hardship, however, and it made me look ahead and behind at the rest of us. Of eleven people at my count, probably only two were under 50. One grey haired woman stooped, another looked frail. One man had a very bad limp, and my feet hurt if they aren't moving for very long. There were no chairs and no leaning walls, and we snaked along as well as we could, leaning against cubicles if we could get near one. 

Not only are seniors more likely to not do online banking, we sometimes take more time than younger people at the window, counting money twice, sorting identification, sometimes just chatting. The line crept slowly forward. I felt very bad for the man with the cane, because he was wobbly and obviously uncomfortable. He apologized for bitching so much, said it just must be his day for it.

When I finally got to the window and the smiling young thing who cashed my check, I asked if they had thought about how many older people they see and if, perhaps, they could devise a system where seats or a leaning place might be available during the wait. She said it was a good idea and she would pass it along, but I am not going to hold my breath. I can't hold it very long any more.