Smithsonian

18 Dec 18
freedom and reason

It’s amazing how much people forget – or how much they never really knew. The New York Times reported in 2014 that there were about 100 permanent shelters located mostly near the United States-Mexico border, run by the Department of Health and Human Services. To deal with the influx of children that year, the Obama […]

18 Dec 18
Hmm Daily
“[T]he narrative of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire has become a touchstone, and often a critique, of capitalism in the United States,” Peter Liebhold, a Smithsonian curator, wrote on the Smithsonian magazine website. It certainly has; the story of women and children locked inside their workplace as it went up in flames, burning or jumping to death by the dozens, does seem to bring out some troubling dynamics in the historic relationship between labor and capital. But Liebhold was offering, or professing to offer, a different version of events. “Was History Fair to The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Owners?” the headline asked, in a phrasing perfectly designed to reverberate on social media. The details of the fire, Liebhold wrote, “show how history is trafficked sometimes in service to one agenda or another.” This particular bit of history-writing trafficked its way to the top of the magazine’s most-read list. It didn’t do much to advance the rest of its agenda, though. Point by point, Liebhold went through the history of the fire, and established that the conventional understanding is…pretty much correct. “Was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory a sweatshop run by greedy owners?” Liebhold asked. The answer: it was “a modern factory for its time,” in which hundreds of workers, many as young as 14, did work that could have been “monotonous, grueling, dangerous and poorly paid.” Its owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, were “hard-driving entrepreneurs who, like many other business owners, cut corners as they relentlessly pushed to grow their enterprise.” “Had the owners followed the law, would lives have been spared?” he asked. Building codes at the time, Liebhold wrote, were inadequate, so “few laws and regulations were broken.” Except, that is, the part where the owners “were accused of locking the secondary exits (in order to stop employee theft), and were tried for manslaughter.” Inside those parentheses—”in order to stop employee theft”—lay the monstrousness and inanity of Liebhold’s project. What Smithsonian was presenting was not a factual or even really a conceptual revisionism, but a moral revisionism—an attempt to find an angle from which obvious wrongdoing, which was understood as wrongdoing at the time, might not be wrong. So: yes, the escapes were locked, leaving people trapped to die in the fire, but the owners had a reason for locking them. They weren’t trying to kill anyone; they were just protecting their property in a way that ended up killing people. This was not a very good way of debunking the claim that greed, or capitalism, was to blame for the deaths! But Liebhold was in the grip of a particular kind of closed-loop reasoning, in which the fact that things were bad means that they necessarily had to be bad, so that their badness was therefore not actually bad. Thus we learned that it was commonplace for factory owners not invest in fire suppression, and that workers of the 1910s were more interested in lobbying to cut their work week down to 52 hours than in asking for workplace safety enhancements, and that an emerging consumer market was eager to buy low-priced clothing—and that some of these circumstances continue to this very day (“even today 14-year-olds—and even preteens—can legally perform paid manual labor in the United States under certain conditions”). What about all the other fire traps in which 146 people didn’t die? The idea here seemed to be to counter the error of presentism, in which we unfairly judge the people of the past by the standards of today. Who are we, in the secular security of the 21st century, to say that the conquistadors were bloodthirsty? How can we hold the Founding Fathers, men of their time, to blame for upholding and practicing slavery? Often enough, this is just enforced naivete passing itself off as sophistication. There were 16th-century witnesses horrified by the deeds of the Spaniards in the New World, and there were 18th-century abolitionists arguing against the slaveholders, and people knew what the Triangle fire was about when it happened. In Liebhold’s treatment, this was itself a moral error. The owners, he wrote, “became the scapegoats, even though a lack of government regulation and enforcement, as well as consumers demanding low prices could as easily have been blamed.” And what became of those scapegoats, whom an ignorant public insisted on treating as monsters? Well, they were acquitted on the criminal charges. And then: Blanck and Harris tried to pick up after the fire. They opened a new factory but their business was not as successful. In 1913 Blanck was arrested for locking a door during working hours in the new factory. He was convicted and fined $20.In 1914, Blanck and Harris were caught sewing counterfeit National Consumer League anti-sweatshop labels into their shirtwaists. Around 1919 the business disbanded. Harris ran his own small shop until 1925 and Blanck set up a variety of new ventures with Normandie Waist the most successful. So by the standards of the era, they were crooks. One of them was unconcerned enough about the mass death that two years later he got caught locking workers in again. And history remembers them as people who did evil, within a system that bred evil. Sometimes, history gets things right the first time around.
18 Dec 18
DANNY HURLEY 007 ;) 'hydrino' energy...

Why Is 137 the Most Magical Number? From physics, mathematics and science, to mysticism, occultism, the Kabbalah and the Torah, the number 137 may just be the most magical and important number in the universe. Flickr (CC BY-2.0) What’s the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe? If you’re expecting an incantation in some […]

18 Dec 18
Tampa Bay News Wire

LAKELAND, FL – “Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist” opens Dec. 22 at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College. The exhibition seeks to shed light on the complex artist himself, his favorite themes, and the artists he called his friends. The works in the exhibition show an unexpected side of Degas — namely […]

18 Dec 18
Morty's TV

STATEMENT FROM CBS BOARD OF DIRECTORS: The Board of Directors of CBS has completed its investigation of former Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, CBS News, and cultural issues at CBS. With regard to Mr. Moonves, we have determined that there are grounds to terminate for cause, including his willful and material misfeasance, violation of Company […]

18 Dec 18
Tommy Dogwood's Old Man Journal

12/2/18 While reading the latest edition of “Smithsonian” magazine this week I am reading an article “American Rhapsody” about the loss and protection of what is left of the Great Plains and there is a quote from an activist, named Elexa Dawson who is quoted as saying “OK, I’m not supposed to save the world […]

18 Dec 18
Tommy Dogwood's Old Man Journal

11/25/18 I am sure many people start with, “I have no idea what I am doing here but thought I might just start writing and see where it goes.” Well guess what? I have no idea what I am doing here but thought I might just start writing and see where it goes. So today […]

18 Dec 18
BM International Training Programme

Written by Elaine Addington, Open Museum Curator, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre I was very honoured to be invited back to Yerevan in November 2018, having previously been there with ITP in 2016 for the Learning, Engagement and Museums workshop. The invite came via ICOM and The Association Of Museum Workers and Friends. In celebration of […]

18 Dec 18
Scienmag: Latest Science and Health News

Credit: Johana Goyes Vallejos LAWRENCE — Stay-at-home dads might find their spirit animal in the smooth guardian frog of Borneo. A new pair of research papers authored by an investigator at the University of Kansas shows the male of the smooth guardian frog species (Limnonectes palavanensis) is a kind of amphibian “Mr. Mom” — an […]

18 Dec 18
Howzit Kohala

The scent of roasted coffee on the back of a light breeze wafted through the open windows of the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum Monday in Kealakekua, where still faces from the past waited patiently to tell their tales. Titled “E Hele Me Ka Puolo: The Gifts We Bring,” the Kona Historical Society’s new exhibit derives […]

18 Dec 18
RadioPublic

2018: What a year for podcasts, everyone. In pulling together our end of the year podcast retrospective, I saw a few things pop up as I looked at the shows we featured in Explore over the course of this year.

18 Dec 18
Oman & Woman

I am culturally aware and conscious of bias. Correct? I also have a basic understanding of the key pillars of the major religions and their most important food restriction. Don’t I? I know the difference between halal and kosher, high level. And still, when it comes to putting it into practice I can fail. It […]

18 Dec 18
Hidden History

In 1909, Frenchman Louis Blériot, in his homemade single-wing design, proved the long-range capabilities of the airplane. Bleriot XI