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Nixon on Panda Sex

[ 18 ] July 28, 2014 |

I’m not saying this is on the level of LBJ ordering pants, but Richard Nixon talking about panda mating patterns is not something you expected to hear when you woke up this morning. And look, he got his information from Bob Haldeman, so you know it’s reliable!

The Hillary Juggernaut

[ 177 ] July 28, 2014 |

The fundamentals in 2016 are unbelievably in favor of a Hillary blowout.

Obviously things can change of course.

Fault

[ 400 ] July 28, 2014 |

Where does the fault lie for the problems between Israel and Palestine? As John Judis correctly points out, it lies heavily with Israel. In part:

Israel is one of the world’s last colonial powers, and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are its unruly subjects. Like many past anti-colonial movements, Hamas and Fatah are deeply flawed and have sometimes poorly represented their peoples, and sometimes unnecessarily provoked the Israelis and used tactics that violate the rules of war. But the Israeli government has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to rule harshly over its subjects, while maintaining a ruinous blockade on Gaza. That’s the historical backdrop to the events now taking place.

Israel’s settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem now number over 500,000. Palestinians are allowed to build on only about 40 percent of the West Bank. Settlers enjoy Israeli citizenship and rule of law. The Palestinians are under harsh military rule. No Palestinian may travel abroad without Israeli approval. There are 542 roadblocks impeding the movement of Palestinians, but not of settlers on the West Bank. Water rights are restricted. The settlers consume about six times more water than the 2.6 million Palestinians. Settler attacks on the Palestinians, which the police often ignore, have steadily increased. The number of “price tag” attacks spiked by 300 percent this last spring during the peace talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the failure to end the occupation through a two-state solution, but Netanyahu and his administration undermined the negotiations. That was the initial conclusion that Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiators conveyed to reporter Nahum Barnea immediately afterwards. As Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tabon recounted, Netanyahu made some concessions to Kerry last winter, but he still wouldn’t agree to any limits on an Israeli military presence in a future Palestinian state; and he wouldn’t budge on East Jerusalem or on the borders of a Palestinian state. And while the negotiations were occurring, Netanyahu and his administration reneged on a promise to release Palestinian prisoners and accelerated housing development in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. His administration announced plans for almost 14,000 housing units, or 50 a day, during the nine months of negotiations.

The reality is that Israel is indeed a colonial power and acts as such toward its subjugated peoples. That the Israeli state evolved in response to one of the greatest acts of horror ever committed in the human race is especially ironic given the nation’s behavior toward the Palestinians. Unless Israel’s supporters are willing to say that Europeans keeping them in overcrowded ghettos with no jobs or water or hope, similar to what they have done in Gaza and the West Bank is OK, they are massive hypocrites.

I really wish I could see Martin Peretz’s face as he read this article in his former magazine. Although it is countered by this “moral defense” of Israelis killing civilians, which is gross and morally bankrupt.

The Carceral State

[ 104 ] July 28, 2014 |

It’s entirely possible that in 100 years, historians will look back on the early 21st century United States and remark not only on the racist prison system that shows how little advanced we are from the Jim Crow era but also how little most Americans, even most liberals, really cared about the issue. Yet the imprisonment of millions is a really defining characteristic of the country today:

Mass incarceration’s effects are not confined to the cell block. Through the inescapable stigma it imposes, a brush with the criminal-justice system can hamstring a former inmate’s employment and financial opportunities for life. The effect is magnified for those who already come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Black men, for example, made substantial economic progress between 1940 and 1980 thanks to the post-war economic boom and the dismantling of de jure racial segregation. But mass incarceration has all but ground that progress to a halt: A new University of Chicago study found that black men are no better off in 2014 than they were when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act 50 years earlier.

The common retort is that people of color statistically commit more crimes, although criminologists and scholars like Michelle Alexander have consistently found no correlation between the incarceration rate and the crime rate. Claims about a “black pathology” also fall short. But police scrutiny often falls most heavily on people of color nonetheless. In New York City alone, officers carried out nearly 700,000 stop-and-frisk searches in 2011. Eighty-five percent of those stops targeted black and Hispanic individuals, although they constitute only half the city’s population. Overall, NYPD officers stopped and frisked more young black men in New York than actually live there. Similar patterns of discrimination can be found nationwide, especially on drug-related charges. Black and white Americans use marijuana at an almost-equal rate, but blacks are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession nationally. In Pennsylvania, Illinois, and other Midwestern states, that arrest disparity jumps to a factor of five.

The collective impact of these policies is as rarely discussed as it is far-reaching. Mass incarceration touches almost every corner of modern American society. Any meaningful discourse on racism, poverty, immigration, the drug wars, gun violence, the mental-health crisis, or income inequality is incomplete without addressing the societal ramifications of imprisoning Americans by the millions for long stretches of time with little hope for rehabilitation.

The New Gilded Age

[ 16 ] July 28, 2014 |

For the plutocrats, the real outrage is that income inequality hasn’t grown by more. Give it another 5 years:

Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too.

The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.

The Seafarers

[ 11 ] July 27, 2014 |

I was unaware that Stanley Kubrick had made a documentary about the Seafarers International Union in 1953. I have not seen it, but it is now available here, although I will have to wait until I am back in the U.S. to watch it.

Grifters

[ 31 ] July 27, 2014 |

Sarah Palin should win the Nobel Prize for Grifting.

Companies that Have Their Clothing Made in Factories Where Workers Die

[ 14 ] July 26, 2014 |

REI (PDF) which works through North Face, another company who has their clothing made in factories where workers die.

The True Meaning of Tragedy

[ 338 ] July 26, 2014 |

The real tragedy going on in Israel-Palestine is not the hundreds of dead or the kids the Israelis are killing by bombing Gaza’s schools, or the fact that Israel is the moral equivalent of apartheid-era South Africa (increasingly so too given the attack on public debate and the left within Israel). Although all of those things are true, the real tragedy is how the events are affecting rich expats partying in Tel Aviv:

For the 20,000 or so young internationals who call Tel Aviv home, the city’s world-renowned nightlife is a key draw. But many, like Fruchter, are simply not in the mood to party with the sounds of sirens wailing in the background and the death toll rising by the hour in Israel’s latest war in Gaza.

Athena Karp, a 28-year-old former Philadelphian who runs her own startup in the city, says her usually very active social life has slowed down in recent weeks, but especially since the Israeli ground incursion, when it began affecting her friends, colleagues and employees more directly. “We were supposed to have a going away party for a friend who was leaving the country, and we decided to cancel it,” reports Karp, who moved to Tel Aviv two years ago. “A few of my friends also had birthdays, but we didn’t throw any parties for them. We just felt this wasn’t a time for celebrations.”

So. Very. Sad.

The Chamber

[ 11 ] July 26, 2014 |

Did the Chamber of Commerce create an anti-business wingnut Congress by becoming a hard-core Republican partisan group? I don’t know, but perhaps it is in the Chamber’s interest to support some Democrats. I am less convinced it in the interest of working people for the Chamber to support Democrats since Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown are going to do much more for everyday people than Mary Landrieu and the Democratic Party is much better off not having Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson in it.

The Mexican League

[ 28 ] July 26, 2014 |

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My wife is a historian of Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico. So that means that I spend some time here when she is doing her work. Such is now. It’s not exactly a vacation, as I am finishing the edits on one book and the manuscript on another, but the work is interspersed with an amazing lunch every day, the likes of which you would be jealous of if you understood how awesome the food is in Oaxaca. Seriously, just put Oaxacan food in Google Images.

Anyway, Oaxaca is home to a Mexican League team, the Guerreros. And over the last two summers, I have had the great enjoyment of attending some games. The Mexican League is considered AAA level. I’d say this is a bit generous. There are decent number of ex-major leaguers in it. There are also some serious out of shape players and poor fundamentals at times. It’s probably more akin to AA except without the future stars that often play there. But it is quality baseball overall. A lot of pitchers throwing in the mid to high 80s with some hard throwing relievers who have too many control problems to stick in the majors.

Like in AAA games, one of the joys of seeing a Mexican League game is recognizing the ex-major leaguers. The Tijuana team for instance has a great collection of washed up major leaguers holding on, including Russell Branyan, Miguel Olivo (no word if he has bitten off the ear of any players yet), Jose Contreras, and Ramon Ortiz. That’s pretty sweet. The Guerreros are led by former Orioles catcher and Oaxaca native Geronimo Gil, who is now in his late 30s, really slow, but still has some pop. This team also has Eliezer Alfonso, who played a few years, mostly for the Giants and Padres and evidently with the Mariners but I don’t remember it. Last night, they were playing the Quintana Roo Tigres, a team noted for having the very tough home town to play in of Cancun. They were led by Karim Garcia plus 30 pounds since he last played in the majors a decade ago.

While you’d think the food at a Mexican League game would be great, especially in Oaxaca, you’d be wrong. Mostly it’s even worse versions of American ballpark food than you’d get in the U.S. Bad nachos, revolting looking hot dogs and the like. There are some standard empanadas you can get covered in onions that are OK. On the other hand, you can sit right behind home plate for 50 pesos (about $4) and buy a tallboy of Victoria for 30 pesos. So that ain’t bad.

And then there’s Tato and the cheerleaders. Tato is the mascot you see above. He is like a character The Simpsons would have created back when it was good in the 90s. He’s the mascot with big-time attitude. At one game last year, he was out between innings doing his thing. He pulled out a chair and sat on it. A female mascot that looked the same but with long hair came out. She then proceeded to give him a lap dance. This was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen at a ball game. At another game, he put a can of silly string up to his crotch and sprayed it toward the fans behind home plate. The cheerleaders are a whole other deal. 6 or 7 young women wearing very skimpy costumes, doing dance routines a couple of times a game between innings, and getting their picture taken with young Mexican boys whose fathers are training them in heteronormativity. Or with the occasional American frat bros who show at the game and who make me want to be Canadian.

The game was pretty good. Despite the Quintana Roo pitcher having no control, he managed to go 5 innings and give up 1 run thanks to two of the worst baserunning mistakes I’ve ever seen live. The Tigres went up 4-1, but a 5 run 8th brought Oaxaca back. This was great because the crowd was going crazy. They have organized chants. A guy was playing a cowbell with a screwdriver handle (last year there was a very old man banging a drum the entire game. He wasn’t there this year, which worries me). They also started doing the Tomahawk Chop to stereotypical “Indian” music from westerns like they play at Braves and Florida St. games. Now this is interesting because here you have people engaging in Indian “savage” stereotypes which I hate–except that nearly everyone in that stadium was at least part is not full blooded indigenous. I don’t think they had any ethnic identity with North American Indians. It’s just what you did. Life is complicated.

Anyway, the Guerreros closer came in for the top of the 9th to Hells Bells. Not original but still effective. He got the 1st batter out easily and then the control went away big time. By the time there are 2 outs, Quintana Roo has scored a run and there are men on 2nd and 3rd. Karim Garcia is up. He hits a groundball to the first basemen. Slight bobble which means he can’t run it to 1st himself. The pitcher is slightly late getting to the bag. Bang-bang play but because Garcia can’t run anymore because he’s kind of out of shape, he’s out after sliding headfirst into the bag. Game over. Oaxaca wins 5-4.

Good times if you are ever in Mexico.

Expropriation is a Good Answer to This Problem

[ 41 ] July 25, 2014 |

Coal billionaires are the best people:

Coal mines owned by billionaire James Justice II have been cited for more than 250 environmental violations in five states with unpaid penalties worth about $2 million, according to sources and records obtained by Greenwire.

Violation notices — including many cessation orders — from the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and state regulators have been issued for Justice mines in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, records show.

Justice, a coal baron whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $1.6 billion, also owns West Virginia’s storied Greenbrier Resort. He sold many of his mines in 2009 to Russian steel and mining giant Mechel OAO. “The coal business is terrible,” Justice told the Associated Press last year. “It’s just terrible, and we’re doing everything in our power to stay open.”

I’m sure that even if the government can get the $2 million out of Justice’s blood-stained hands, it will really stop him from committing more violations, given that the equivalent is for the government to fine me a penny for something. Justice lights more money than that on fire for the hell of it.

But this is just great:

He’s not without support in Appalachia.

“Sure, he’s had some help from the state with tax credits and partnerships. Sure, some have raised questions about some of Justice’s companies’ practices, late payments, regulatory fines and the like,” said an editorial in the Charleston Daily Mail.

“Yet, while many talk of diversifying the state’s economy in the face of market and regulatory setbacks for the coal industry, Jim Justice and company are doing something about it. They are bringing investments and tourism dollars that are rarely, if ever, seen at that level in southern West Virginia.”

So someone tell me–what precisely is this tourist money the coal industry is bringing to West Virginia. The state does bring in plenty of tourists–to play in the beautiful mountains. I don’t recall the mountaintop removal operations replacing those mountains as a real generator of outdoor activity or fun. I guess there could be a new game called “Who Can Drink the Most Cadmium Tainted Water” the kids are playing these days.

Sure, he’s shortening people’s lives. Sure, he’s polluting the land and serving as a geologic agent reshaping the region. Sure, he’s the son of Satan. But he has money so the Charleston Daily Mail is going to support him to the bitter end.

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