I am disappointed in Marv

Marv hadn’t heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire until now.

There is something deeply wrong with American education when one of the most important labor tragedies in our history isn’t taught any more. Should we also let him know about the Haymarket riot, the Colorado labor wars, the Imperial Valley lettuce strike? That it was routine to call out the national guard to beat workers into submission? I suppose we’re going to have to roll back the tape to Peterloo, or earlier.

Do listen to the video, though. Elizabeth Warren does explain it all…and also explains how corporate interests have spent a lot of money to bury their shameful history. That’s one thing the bad guys have always had, more money than the people they’re exploiting.

But that’s all in the past, right? It’s not as if millionaires and billionaires are buying our government today, right?

To influence the court’s composition, Whitehouse said, a combined $34 million in “dark money” went toward both blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and confirming President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court picks, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

In a follow-up to the legal brief, Whitehouse in a Sept. 6 Washington Post op-ed described the money as follows:

“One unnamed donor gave $17 million to the (Leonard) Leo-affiliated Judicial Crisis Network to block the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland and to support Gorsuch; then a donor — perhaps the same one — gave another $17 million to prop up Kavanaugh.”

It sure would be nice to elect a president and congress who opposed corruption, rather than welcoming it, as Moscow Mitch and Trump have done.


  1. Nemo says

    Don’t assume that it wasn’t taught, just because he didn’t learn it. I’m regularly astounded by the things, even much more fundamental than this, that so many adults don’t know, that I know for a fact they were taught in school. It goes in one ear, and comes out the other. Retained only long enough to pass the next test (maybe).

  2. Jeremy Shaffer says

    We covered a fair bit about the history of the labor movement in the United States in my junior year. I remember learning about events such as the Haymaker riots and Colorado labor wars. However, it was the song “My Little Shirtwaist Fire” by Rasputina (Thanks for the Ether; 1996) where I learned about this particular event.

  3. dianneleonard says

    I was lucky enough to grow up in a union household, and I remember my mom telling us kids about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. My maternal grandmother had been a garment worker before she married in 1913. My mom told us stories she’d learned from her mom and her dad. We kids also heard stories from my paternal grandparents, as well as from my dad. There were some really hairy stories, on both sides of the family! My parents brought all of us up with two important “don’ts”–Don’t lie, and Don’t cross picket lines. I clearly remember that, when we were driving somewhere (as long as we weren’t in a tearing hurry) mom and dad would stop and join picket lines and talk to the workers who were striking, find out about what the strike was about, and write letters to the company urging the company to grant the workers’ demands. My upbringing was a little odd for that reason, but it made a deep impression on me. To this day, I go out of my way to join picket lines and unions. On the other hand, my parents’ catholicism made zero impact on any of us kids. We were all asking questions by the age of 8 or 10, and now all of us are now some stripe or another of atheist/agnostic/humanist/whatever.

  4. PaulBC says


    Heh, that sounds like my family. A little more theoretical on the union side of things, but leftwing “McGovernists” very focused on social justice (my father, WWII generation liked to play Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit and explained what that was about when I was quite young). My oldest brothers got more into unions specifically. My parents’ strong Catholicism may have rubbed off more than for you. I mean none of us are regular churchgoers. We were all raised with a questioning attitude, and I think was the idea that faith would be strong enough to withstand it. I am not sure how many are self-identified atheists or agnostics like myself. Definitely some believers. Not a conservative or Republican among us though.

  5. says

    Just in the state where I grew up and limiting the timespan to the 21st century, we had Rod Blagojevich, the Daleys, and Rahm Emmanuel, to say nothing of the unproved allegations about the Madigans, so I’m not even slightly inclined to believe that the problem will be solved by simply kicking the Republicans out of office, as implied by PZ. Not only is there a great deal of active corruption in the Democratic Party as well (why, hello there, Senator Manchin), including in their electoral process (if you don’t believe Sanders was cheated, go look up Ned Lamont), but they have been passively permitting corruption to continue for decades. Personally, I think the motivation is the same as for why Bush was not charged for war crimes — Obama wanted to commit some of his own — but whatever the motivation is: Republicans have been noticeably embracing corruption in public since at least 1980, and it has taken forty years for the Democrats to mention it out loud during the primaries, and even then it’s by a candidate who is considered by many within the party to be dangerously out of line with the mainstream.

    (A pity she didn’t both decide on this earlier and follow it to its logical conclusion, because she would presumably then have voted against renewing the PATRIOT Act and then making it permanent, instead of voting for both of those things, to give corrupt people in government as much authority to spy and prosecute as possible.)

    Although they are completely mistaken about the nature and sources of it, this was also an issue that a lot of Trump’s supporters got fired up about. They may have selected an alligator to “drain the swamp” but they at least were willing to recognize that there was corruption going on. As with the mortgage crisis, this is an issue that a large chunk of the entire voting public is concerned about. And given the history there, I’m worried that, as with the mortgage crisis, the Democrats will end up deliberately dropping the ball and letting the Republicans take over.

  6. PaulBC says

    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)@7

    They may have selected an alligator to “drain the swamp” but they at least were willing to recognize that there was corruption going on.

    I don’t believe Trump’s supporters (anyway the knowledgable ones) ever considered the “swamp” to consist of corruption. They equated it with a regulatory bureaucracy dominated by liberal government employees. Trump has in fact done whatever he can to destroy regulatory frameworks, often hiring hatchetmen to lead departments whose mission they oppose (Scott Pruitt and his successor, and Mick Mulvaney in his stint with CFPB among others).

    It’s entirely clear that Trumpies are more than happy to allow nepotism and bribery to accelerate on Trump’s watch as long as it serves their political purpose.

  7. woozy says

    I’m with Crip Dyke on this. If Marv is just some average guy who was failed by his education system but who none-the-less finds the Shirtwaist Fire “holy shit”able I’m inclined to be a bit forgiving and a bit sorry for the poor schlub.

  8. psanity says

    OK, no. You should give a fuck about Marv, because he’s learning. Being appalled by the Triangle fire can lead him to learning a lot of important history, and it is not his fault he didn’t know it before. People in other countries learn more in school about our labor history than we do.

    When I was in school, in the fifties and sixties, classroom history touched slightly on labor history as self-congratulation (WE abolished child labor!) and never got into the nitty-gritty at all. Hey, Jeremy@3, you know why you learned a bit about Haymarket and the Colorado Labor Wars? Because those are events that are used to demonize labor.

    Like dianneleonard, my parents taught us all this stuff, because they knew we wouldn’t get it in school. My mom was a shop steward and a union officer; my dad was a historian with a particular interest in the exploitation and demonization of immigrant workers in the early 20th century. I was very aware, in school, of what was being skipped over. Our kids do not get the stories, unless they get them from their families and community.

    So, I’m all for Marv. His eyes have been opened about something important. That is a good thing. That is how we fucking organize.

    A lot of people have died so that some folks have a comfortable enough life that they can criticize a young man on the internet for starting to learn about his history. Everybody has to start somewhere.

  9. psanity says

    By the way, for folks who are interested in brushing up on US labor history, I ran across this graphic history of the Wobblies while poking around looking for the graphic biography of Emma Goldman I saw somewhere a while back. It covers a lot of ground, and the art is great.

    There’s actually a lot of neat stuff in the graphic history department — I don’t want to put too many links here, but the John Lewis autobiography “March!” in 3 volumes is really great, as is George Takei’s extremely moving “They Called Us Enemy”.

  10. Ed Seedhouse says

    @7:”o I’m not even slightly inclined to believe that the problem will be solved by simply kicking the Republicans out of office, as implied by PZ”

    I don’t think PZ implied anything like that at all. No one says that kicking all the republicans out will solve all the problems. It’s just a necessary first start. Your country absolutely needs to destroy, demolish, and obliterate the “Republican” party at the ballot box. As a foreigner I nevertheless still say that this is the duty of every patriotic American. If it isn’t done than either iron-fisted dictatorship or actual civil war will come to you.

    But solve all your problems? Don’t be silly

  11. methuseus says

    I learned about the Haymarket riots because of reading The Jungle in high school and having grown up near Chicago. I looked it up myself or of interest. My social studies teacher didn’t want to talk about it when i brought it up in class. I don’t know if she didn’t know about it or what.

    As for these other union things, I read about a few here or there, but was never taught about any of them. My grandfather was a proud union machinist, but after he died, my father told me to be careful of unions and that they can be good or bad, and err on the side of not joining one with the option. In hindsight, that was shitty advice, but he was educated in the same area as i was, and was a manager, so had been told that unions are bad.

  12. wzrd1 says

    Don’t forget the sheriff in West Virginia, who along with labor organizers, was gunned down on the courthouse steps, all to stop unionization.

    On Warren’s speech thread, one gentleman decided to mention that the majority of industrial accidents that killed workers, killed men.
    I’m sure that the families of Kate Leone and Rosaria “Sara” Maltese thought that very thing. Dead at age 14, at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. All because the management locked all of the exits, to prevent unauthorized breaks and the theft of small scraps of cloth.

  13. William George says

    Should I give a fuck about Marv at all?

    Because if you don’t the people who hate you and want to see you erased from the world will.

  14. microraptor says

    I’d never heard about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire until this year. I grew up in an area that’s conservative and outright hostile to labor unions- my “education” on them when I was growing up was mostly about how they’re all run by organized crime and used to extort money from honest, hardworking businesses.

  15. PaulBC says

    Discussion of Triangle does bring back memories. In the mid to late 70s, my father had a satirical calendar for whatever year it was that had a month for the Rosenberg’s execution (depicted morbidly with a double electric chair), some big food poisoning incident involving canned vichyssoise soup, and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire among other events. I keep thinking it was published by National Lampoon, but it seems awfully political for them. My father explained all these events to me as the months came up. He knew all about them. I was under 14 and quite likely under 12. Anyone out there remember such a calendar?

    I can’t really imagine growing up in a family where the unions are the bad guys, but I do understand it’s common in the US. I see it purely in negotiating terms. If you have a commodity skill, your only strength is in collective bargaining. Otherwise, the answer is “You don’t like it, we’ll find somebody else.” This is not rocket science. It is in fact very simple and straightforward game theory. Yet, as somebody said, every poor American is just a millionaire temporarily down on their luck. I have no idea what it would take to bring back unions. Maybe just to lose all the gains they brought and start over again.

  16. PaulBC says

    OK, it must have been the National Lampoon Bicentennial Calendar. This mentions the Rosenberg picture.


    Official National Lampoon Bicenten¬
    nial Calendar, $3.95. This one is our

    hands-down favorite among 1976 calen¬
    dars. It’s naturally the-ultimate in bad
    taste, as only the National Lampoon
    could do it. The cover is a Michael Gross
    illustation of Mt. Rushmore, with a gap¬
    ing bullet hole in the center of Abraham
    Lincoln’s forehead. Each month has a
    full-color illustration patterned after a
    great work of American art, such as “Cal¬
    ifornia Ducks,” after John James Audu¬
    bon (they’re covered with thick, black
    oil), “Utah Sheep Kill,” after Grandma
    Moses (a pastoral winter hillside dotted
    with fluffy white sheep on their backs
    with feet in the air , compliments of the
    US Army nerve gas experiments) and
    “Ethel and Julius,” after Norman Rock¬
    well (the Rosenbergs strapped back to
    back in a double-seater electric chair).

    Each day outlines two or three great
    moments in American history. Examples:
    The city of Detroit is destroyed by
    fire (June 11,1805). Christopher Colum¬
    bus, accused of mistreating the natives of
    Haiti, is arrested and sent back to Spain
    in chains (Aug. 23,1500). Congressman
    Preston Brooks of South Carolina visits
    the floor of the US Senate and beats Sen¬
    ator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts
    unconscious with a gutta-percha cane, as
    two Georgia senators stand idly by. Sum¬
    ner is incapacitated for 3!£ years (May 22,

    It absolutely must have had the Vichyssoise picture because I would not know about it otherwise. I am not entirely sure about Triangle, but I think so.

  17. Kip Williams says

    The Triangle image was “A Hasty Departure,” in the manner of Charles Dana Gibson’s “Gibson Girls.” I held onto that calendar, but due to its size it’s not in the box with the rest of the National Lampoons.

    The Lampoon was political as hell, though that was starting to change by about ’76, with the ascent of O’Rourke and the decision to feature nudity and cheap laffs instead of culture and politics-based humor. They may well have been one of the decisive factors in starting to push me away from conservative libertarianism. Their best years were ’71-3.

  18. PaulBC says

    Kip Williams@23

    Thanks, yes that phrase rings a bell. It’s amazing what the brain holds onto.

    I am not sure when I really learned about the fire, like maybe in a college US history class. I have heard about it off and on during my life, and I believe it plays a role in Kevin Baker’s novel Dreamland, which may be the last time I gave it much thought. It’s also unsurprising that some people aren’t aware (like whoever Marv is). I doubt my kids, now in high school, have learned about it. My son is taking AP US history. I ought to ask him.

  19. littlejohn says

    They also don’t teach the West Virginia Coal Wars, which occurred about a decade later. The killings were in the hundreds and they were deliberate. Miners who wanted to unionize were simply shot to death by private “detective agents” hired by mine-owners. They’re the reason you’ve heard of Mother Jones. She’s wasn’t just a magazine.

  20. microraptor says

    Yeah, the Pinkerton Detective Agency and its legion of imitators. Busting up unions and fighting communism- the US history course I took in high school gave them a positive slant.