This date in 1911, March 25, is one of those special dark days that should be taught in public schools but isn’t, and wasn’t when I was kid either. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory in New York City burned down, killing 146 workers in little more than 30 minutes. Owned by Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the factory was located in the top three floors of the 10-story building in downtown Manhattan, and was truly a sweatshop literally and figuratively. Poor, lower class workers, mostly immigrants, were stuffed into a hot, suffocatingly cramped space. The majority were teenage women who spoke no English. There were four elevators, but only one was worked properly and it held only 12 people at a time. There were two stairways down to the street, but one was locked from the outside; the other opened inward only. The fire escape was crumbling, and couldn’t support the weight of more than a few women at a time.
Blanck and Harris had a nasty habit of deliberately torching their workplaces before business hours to collect on the large fire-insurance policies they had purchased. Because of this proclivity, the owners refused to install sprinkler systems and take other anti-fire measures in case they needed another arson job. The 1911 fire wasn’t intentional, but it might as well have been.
The endangered employees were worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and received just 15 dollars for such a week. there were 600 of them on the job when a fire broke out in a rag bin on the eighth floor. The manager tried to turned a fire hose on it, but the hose was rotted and its valve was rusted shut. There was a factory-wide panic. The only functioning elevator broke down after four trips; frenzied employees, trapped, began jumping down the shaft. Some picked the blocked set of stairs and burned alive. Women trapped on the eighth floor began jumping out of the windows. Meanwhile, the falling bodies impeded firefighters, whose ladders only went as high as the seventh floor, Their nets were not strong enough to catch the women from such a height, especially since they were jumping in groups.
The guilty owners escaped by climbing up to the roof and jumping over to an adjoining building.
A union march on April 5 was attended by 80,000 people, protesting the horrible conditions that led to the disaster. Blanck and Harris managed to escape criminal penalties, but the fire became a classic example of how terrible events often have beneficial consequences. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire led to major fire prevention laws and factory safety regulations, and it galvanized unions an pro-labor activists, which were already ascending in political power.
It also began the journey of the Democratic Party, which had only elected a single President since the Civil War, into its role as a reform party and the party of the disenfranchised. [Pointer: James Hodgson]
2. This was, of course, inevitable. Thanks to a recently passed “Equity and Diversity” law affecting educational training, Washington schools are, in some districts, adopting “race-based discipline,” which is exactly what it sounds like, as well as illegal.
The Clover Park School Board, for example, adopted a revised student discipline policy at its March 14 meeting. The new policy holds that disruptive students may face “exclusionary as well as positive and supportive forms of discipline.” The focus is to keep students in the classroom and provide “equitable educational opportunities.” The policy must meet “individual student needs in a culturally responsive manner” via “culturally responsive discipline,’ with “culturally responsive” defines as “knowledge of student cultural histories and contexts, as well as family norms and values in different cultures; knowledge and skills in accessing community resources and community and parent outreach; and skills in adapting instruction to students’ experiences and identifying cultural contexts for individual students.”
In other words, Authentic Frontier Gibberish.
When two conservative school board members asked what is meant by the term “culturally responsive discipline.” Deputy Superintendent Brian Laubach “explained”…
“Essentially they’re referring there, that you look at ‘are you dispersing discipline across the ethnicities, the racial groups equitably,’ right?, So, are you disciplining African-American boys more than you’re disciplining white boys, right? So, are you paying attention to all of that in your data?…What are their backgrounds? Ethnicity? That sort of thing can be commented in that way about it. Then, asking classroom teachers, asking administrators who dispense that discipline, you know, what brought that about over the other forms of discipline you used in your classroom to make a change happen before sending a kid out, perhaps, for a behavior violation.”
Oh. Clear as day.
2. Anything to protect Joe from the facts…CNN and other news sources rushed to explain President Biden’s petty effort to fire Dr. Oz and Herschel Walker from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, claiming that the two had violated the Hatch Act, and the move was not partisan pettiness. They were flat-out wrong. As I explained to an inquiring reader,
The letters demanding Walker and Oz resign didn’t mention the Hatch Act, and here’s why: The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations makes it clear that a special government employee may indeed run for partisan political office, stating, “An employee who works on an irregular or occasional basis or is a special government employee as defined in 18 U.S.C. 202(a) is subject to the provisions of the applicable subpart of this part when he or she is on duty.”
An SGE is a person who is “retained, designated, appointed, or employed to perform, with or without compensation, for not to exceed one hundred and thirty days during any period of three hundred and sixty-five consecutive days, temporary duties.” This covers appointments to presidential councils and commissions, and the code goes on to cite the exact situation of Oz and Walker as an example of what those people can do when they are not on duty. An appointee to a special commission or task force who does not have a regular tour of duty may run as a partisan political candidate, but may actively campaign only when he or she is not on duty.
This means volunteers can run for office and otherwise engage in partisan political activity. The Hatch Act restrictions [on political activity] apply only during the period of any day in which the SGE actually is performing government business. For example, if one attends an advisory committee meeting from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., the appointee could attend a political fundraiser at 3:00 p.m. and even solicit political contributions from the attendees.
The council, in normal years, meets only once.
CNN has a legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who could have lent a hand in helping CNN to get the law right, but, as usual, getting it right wasn’t the objective. [Richard Moore’s excellent substack newsletter performed the task the news media refused to do.]
3. More knee-jerk “blackface” incoherence...Don’t ask why I stumbled on this, but a slideshow ostensibly about problems on the set of the Sixties TV sitcom “Bewitched” included this note:
The episode “Sisters at Heart” was written by 22 African-American students at Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles. While the plot had a strong anti-racism element, one aspect of it didn’t age too well. The episode featured a spell that made one of Darrin’s racist clients see everyone with black skin. Unfortunately, that effect was achieved using blackface. Interesting concept. Terrible execution.
Why? How else would that “spell” be demonstrated? Dark make-up isn’t blackface, when it is used for a valid dramatic purpose. This is just brainless taboo-mongering. (I’ve never seen this episode, by the way. I bet it’s been permanently pulled.)
4. A quitter and an Ethics Hero! Ash Barty, just 25 and ranked No. 1 in women’s tennis, announced her retirement less than two months after winning the Australian Open for her third Grand Slam singles title. “I’m so happy, and I’m so ready. I just know at the moment, in my heart, for me as a person, this is right,” Barty said in six-minute video posted on her Instagram account.
Barty has been playing pro tennis since she was 15, and ten years was enough, as she said it was time to “chase other dreams.” So many other child protegees in sports and entertainment can’t muster the courage to quit while on top, before they become permanent cases of suspended immaturity, never able to emerge from the limited world of celebrity and the narcissism it engenders, and constantly under the metaphorical thumb of hangers-on, sycophants, agents, sponsors and fans.
I’m betting she doesn’t un-retire, either, like Tom Brady.
5. Another web slide show purported to list the “45 Most Annoying Songs of All Time” according to “music lovers.” Not that it matters, but this is a dishonest feature, never describing who or what the “music lovers” are and how the list was complied. More substantive is the objection that “all time” obviously implies before 1985, when the oldest song on the list, “We Are The World” was first inflicted on the culture. And that entry is an anomaly: most of the others arrived within the last 20 years. I have heard and heard of exactly seven of these songs, and I can’t decide if that’s bad or good for someone who works as hard as I do to stay culturally literate. I can confidently say, however, that the list, in addition to not even trying to be what it claims to be, is crap. To begin with, the most annoying song of all, John Lennon’s “Imagine,” is missing completely. So are all of the most horrible songs of the Sixties, notably Barry McGwire’s hsyterical “Eve of Destruction” and the fatuous “In the Year 2525” I doubt that more than a handful of the 45 could stand up to the pure over-blown idiocy of “MacArthur Park,” or the deadly sacchrine “Feelings,” or the moronic “Pina Colada Song.”
If you are going to compile a “Best” or “Worst” list, have the integrity to do your homework. That’s all I ask.