Joe Hill, trade unionist killed 100 years ago

From the Stop the War Coalition in Britain:

Tony Benn, President of Stop the War Coalition: “There are many songs I would like to choose but Joe Hill sung by Paul Robeson would be among the top two. It says it all.”

Lyrics are here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

Thursday 19th November 2015

PETER FROST revisits the legendary labour movement hero exactly 100 years after he was murdered

It must be one of the best known and most inspiring anthems of the international labour movement. We all know “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,” it is still sung whenever and wherever workers are involved in struggle.

The subject of the song was shot on a trumped up murder charge exactly a hundred years ago today precisely to stop him becoming an inspiration to working people. It was a cruel plot, but it failed.

The copper industry bosses in Utah like so many employers in the US were both vicious and vindictive and were terrified of Joe Hill and the ideas he represented.

They took two years to convict him and then, on November 19 1915, their private firing squad cut him down. They and their political thugs, private police forces, strike-breakers and scabs are long forgotten but Joe Hill’s name still echoes around the globe.

Joe would have loved the fact that he is best remembered in song, because as well as being a great organiser and a shrewd communist politician Joe was first and foremost a balladeer for the working class.

His most famous songs include The Preacher and the Slave, The Tramp, There is Power in a Union and Casey Jones — the Union Scab and a hundred more. Some are still being sung today.

His last song, The Rebel Girl, celebrated his comrade and friend, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, hero of the Bread and Roses strike and long-time chair of the Communist Party USA. It was first sung at Joe Hill’s funeral.

So who was Joe Hill? He was born Joel Emmanuel Hagglund in Sweden, in 1879. In 1902, when 23, he and his brother Paul sailed to the US in search of work.

Joe learnt English and joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) better known as the Wobblies. This new militant union had been founded in 1905 for previously unorganised groups of workers. Its aim was to build one big union.

Joe started to earn his reputation as an IWW stalwart and travelled all over, organising workers under the IWW banner. He wrote and sang his own political songs, penned satirical poems and great cartoons as well making inspiring speeches.

His songs frequently borrowed familiar melodies from popular songs and hymns. He coined the phrase pie-in-the-sky, which appeared in his song The Preacher and the Slave, a parody of the hymn In the Sweet By-and-By.

As his fame spread, to avoid blacklisting, he changed his name, first to Joseph Hillstrom and then to Joe Hill.

By 1911, Joe was in Tijuana, Mexico, along with several hundred hoboes and radicals to help Mexicans trying to overthrow the dictator of Porfirio Diaz. In 1912 he was in San Diego with Wobblies, socialists, Suffragettes and trade unionists to protest against the police banning all street meetings.

In British Columbia he helped organise a railroad construction crew strike. In San Pedro he lent his support to a strike of Italian dockworkers. This led to Hill’s first imprisonment — 30 days for vagrancy.

Hill became a legend, not just to his political comrades but also to the vicious bosses of mills, factories and mines — and that was dangerous.

The copper bosses in Utah hatched their plans to teach a lesson to this uppity communist.

Early in 1914 a Salt Lake City former policeman and his son were shot and killed by two men. The men, faces covered by red bandanas, couldn’t be identified.

That same evening, Joe Hill arrived at a doctor’s office with a gunshot wound, he said he got the wound in a fight over a woman but would say no more.

Later research suggests that he and another Swede, Otto Appelquist, were rivals for the attention of 20-year-old Hilda Erickson. Appelquist had shot Hill, apparently out of jealousy.

A red bandana was found in Hill’s room. The local police, in the pay of local mine owners realised this was a chance to good to miss. They arrested Joe.

The prosecution dug up a dozen eyewitnesses who said that the killer resembled Hill. One was 13-year-old Merlin Morrison, the victims’ son. On first seeing Hill Morrison told police “That’s not him at all,” but after a little coaching he positively identified Hill as the murderer.

The carefully selected jury took just a few hours to find Joe Hill guilty of murder.

An appeal failed. Hill’s lawyer Orrin N Hilton, summed it up: “The main thing the state had on Hill was that he was a socialist, a communist and a member of The Wobblies therefore sure to be guilty.”

In an article for a radical socialist newspaper Hill gave his own opinion. He wrote: “There had to be a scapegoat and the undersigned being, as they thought, a friendless tramp, a Swede, and worst of all, an IWW, had no right to live.”

A huge campaign demanded Joe’s freedom but in vain. Joe Hill was executed by firing squad just a century ago.

Just prior to his execution, Hill had written to Bill Haywood, another IWW and communist leader, who himself would later be victim to another trumped-up murder charge.

Hill’s letter said “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organise… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

Supporters took Hill’s body to Chicago where it was cremated. His ashes were placed into 600 small envelopes and sent, all around the world, to IWW Wobbly branches and supporters.

In line with Joe’s last request many of the ashes were cast to the wind all over the US, Canada, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and Nicaragua.

More ashes were distributed on the first anniversary of Joe’s death to IWW convention delegates in Chicago.

The small envelopes carried a portrait of Joe himself and the legend “Joe Hill, murdered by the Capitalist Class.”

So feared was the establishment that some envelopes, and ashes, were seized by the US Post Office because of their subversive potential.

It took more than 70 years and some heavy negotiations to get these ashes released. In 1988 they were finally turned over to the IWW.

Suggestions on what should happen to them included enshrining them at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington. A more off-beat suggestion was that they be eaten by today’s Joe Hills, protest singers like Billy Bragg.

Billy Bragg has confirmed to me that he had indeed swallowed a small pinch of Joe’s ashes with some Union beer to wash it down.

Joe’s ashes were also scattered at a 1989 ceremony which unveiled a monument on the previously unmarked grave of six unarmed IWW coal miners, in Lafayette, Colorado. They had been machine-gunned by Colorado state police in 1927 more than 60 years before.

As the Ballad says: “Where working men defend their rights/It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.”

See also here.

Shoveler ducks wintering in Utah, USA, from where?

This is a northern shoveler video.

From The Wilson Journal of Ornithology in the USA:

Breeding origins of Northern Shovelers (Anas Clypeata) wintering on the Great Salt Lake, Utah

Anthony J. Roberts, and Michael R. Conover


The breeding origin and migratory connectivity of wintering birds are important to address how population changes on wintering areas are impacted by changes elsewhere in the birds’ annual cycle. In addition, identifying important point sources of nutrients used throughout the annual cycle can assist managers in identifying sources of toxins or pathogens.

We used stable hydrogen isotope ratios to identify breeding locations of Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata; henceforth shoveler) wintering at the Great Salt Lake (GSL), Utah. Stable-isotope likelihood-based assignment placed the largest number of shovelers collected during winter on the GSL as breeding in the western US and southern Canada, similar to a small sample size of banding records.

Shovelers wintering on the GSL generally did not breed locally or at the northern extent of their breeding range, rather wintering shovelers came from across their nesting range.

Ordovician echinoderm fossil from Utah, USA

This video is called Life Science – Echinoderms.

From Fossil Roulette:

30 January 2015

Name: Haimacystis rozhnovi
Location: Utah, USA, Wah Wah Limestone
Age: 466-488 million years ago, Ordovician Period

The early history of major groups of animals is often messy and mysterious. The suite of features that make those groups distinctive today show up piecemeal in different combinations in early species, like Haimacystis.

A long, thin column of discs and a flattened pod with a few wispy arms make up the body of this individual of Haimacystis. The animal is part of the same group that includes living sea stars, sea cucumbers, and intricately crowned sea lilies. The group also includes little-known, extinct animals like rhombiferans and corkscrew-armed gogiids.

Sea stars, sea lilies and other living animals in that group all have skeletons of calcified plates. All have five-part bodies that are usually symmetric.

Individuals of Haimacystis share some features with living members of their group, but their other features blur the neat distinctions that make five-part animals so different from other groups. They have calcified plates but they also have nineteen arms instead of five or ten. At best, they have two-part symmetry.

Haimacystis wasn’t a forerunner of its living relations or a species “on the way” to a more recognizable animals like starfish. Multiple species of sea lilies, one species of animals distantly related to sea stars, and at least six species of other early, irregular, extinct animals lived alongside Haimacystis. Haimacystis is its own subplot in the story of five-part animals.

Specimen Number: 1810TX5


Sumrall, Colin D., James Sprinkle, and Thomas E. Guensburg. “Comparison of flattened blastozoan echinoderms: Insights from the early Ordovician eocrinoid Haimacystis rozhnovi.” Journal of Paleontology 75(2001):985-992.

Where are similar fossils found?

Bonus: The fossil’s name has an interesting backstory. “Haimacystis is a compound of the Greek haima, flowing blood, and cystis, sac, referring to the blood dripping from superficial leg wounds suffered by one of the co-authors when the biggest slab of specimens described herein toppled over and almost crushed him.” – Sumrall et al. 2001, p. 992

Utahraptor dinosaur mass grave discovery

This video from the USA says about itself:

Gastonia vs Utahraptor– Epic!

This fight was a real fight that was recorded in bones! The Utahraptor was attacking such an armed dinosaur cause it was about to die by lack of food during a drought. And in the end both animals died, the Gastonia died by its wounds which the Utahraptor inflicted on its belly and legs. And the Gastonia died only 10 feet away after walking from the dead Utahraptor.

From the Washington Post in the USA:

Fossil treasure trove in quicksand reveals ancient dinosaur death trap

By Rachel Feltman

January 7 at 9:35 AM

Reports of what looked like a human arm brought Utah state paleontologist James Kirkland to a particular sandstone hill in 2001. But it turned out that his graduate student had actually found something entirely different — a veritable mass grave of Utahraptor dinosaurs. Now they’ve found the remains of six individual dinosaurs, and there may still be more inside of the 9-ton sandstone block they’re excavating.

That “arm” was actually a foot, and the fossil bits just kept coming. The site is now the largest find ever for this particular species, which was a large, feathered cousin to the more familiar Velociraptor. It seems that these unfortunate raptors were trapped in quicksand — sand so heavy with water that it loses much of the friction between its grains. Quicksand isn’t actually the deathtrap for humans that cinema would have us believe, but for a frightened animal who couldn’t gain purchase, it might have meant suffocation or slow starvation — or simply getting stuck until a bigger predator arrived to finish the job.

Brian Switek for National Geographic reports that a plant-eating dinosaur was found at the site, too, which could mean that the raptors all died at the same time while hunting the trapped creature. That would be exciting, because despite their depiction as pack hunters in the “Jurassic Park” films, we don’t have much evidence about whether dinosaurs like these came in droves or hunted solo.

If the researchers can show that the raptors grew tangled up together as they struggled to get free, or find evidence that the same weather patterns affected their bones when they died, it would add weight to the notion that raptors liked to rumble in gangs.

You can see clips of the excavation in progress over at National Geographic.

Grand Canyon wolf killed by hunter?

This video from Arizona in the USA is called Grand Canyon National Park.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

US hunter ‘shoots dead’ historic first grey wolf seen in Grand Canyon for 70 years

‘Echo’ attracted national attention when she made her way to the Arizona landmark through several states

Laura Zuckerman

Wednesday 31 December 2014

A gray wolf killed by a Utah hunter may have been “Echo,” a female who attracted national attention after wandering through several states to become the first of the protected animals seen at Arizona’s Grand Canyon in 70 years, officials have said.

The hunter, who was not named by authorities, told Utah wildlife officers on Sunday that he accidentally shot and killed a wolf equipped with a radio collar near the Arizona border after mistaking it for a coyote.

Wolves in Utah are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which bans killing of imperiled animals without a special permit, but coyotes in the state are allowed to be shot on sight.

The incident, which is coming under sharp criticism by conservationists, is being investigated by federal and state conservation officers as a possible violation of U.S. and Utah wildlife laws, authorities said.

Information gleaned from the radio collar shows the wolf killed in Utah was a 3-year-old female that was captured and collared in January in northwest Wyoming, said Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman Mark Martinez.

The wolf spotted near the northern rim of the Grand Canyon in October was also a young female, which had apparently roamed hundreds of miles (km) south from the Northern Rockies, according to an analysis of droppings near where she was seen.

It may be weeks before additional testing reveals whether the wolf killed in Utah is the same one, which was nicknamed Echo in a contest.

Echo was the first gray wolf seen in the Grand Canyon since the 1940s, when the last wolf there was killed as part of an extensive eradication campaign, said Chris Cline with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The gray wolf is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in most states.

Utah regulations require hunters to properly identify their target before shooting but cases of mistaken identity sometimes happen, Martinez said.

“It’s something we train people for in hunter education classes but it’s not a unique thing,” he said.

The hunter who shot the wolf near the city of Beaver in southwest Utah immediately contacted the state to report the incident as required by law, Martinez said. He said several coyotes in Utah have been equipped with radio collars tied to a research project.

Wildlife advocates said the death was shameful, whether or not the wolf was Echo.

“It’s very sad either way,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.