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Technology Will Chain You To Your Job

[ 81 ] July 20, 2014 |

I am always amused by the idea that technology will set us free from the hassles of work. Talk about utopian. The reality is that technology chains us to our jobs, creating a state of permanent surveilliance by our employers who demand more and more. The 40-hour week becomes a joke, both because many people cannot work at all or can only find part-time work while those who do have work have to labor well past 40 hours because the boss can track them.

Baseball’s Idiotic Unwritten Rules

[ 62 ] July 20, 2014 |

Given that baseball players are not the most intellectually curious of people, the battle for dumbest player can be tough. But Colby Lewis has a strong case given his outrage after Colby Rasmus committed the unpardonable crime of bunting against a shift with two outs and the Blue Jays up two in the 5th. I mean, have you ever heard of such a thing? Trying to get a runner on base up 2 with half the game left! I’m surprised Lewis didn’t throw at his head in the next at bat!

Jim Garner, RIP

[ 117 ] July 20, 2014 |

When I was growing up, my Dad watched A LOT of Rockford Files, which means I watched a lot of Rockford Files since the TV was always on. James Garner died yesterday and it reminds me of what a pleasant actor he was to watch, in Rockford or the many other projects he was involved with. For me though, he’ll always be associated with Sunday afternoon reruns with my Dad (may not have been Sunday but that’s how I remember it).

It’s also by chance my father’s birthday so wish him a Happy Birthday! He turns 72 today. He’s also a reader of the site so remember that when you tell me how much you hate me, you are telling that to an old man about his son. Of course, mostly his response to that nonsense is like mine.

Here’s an entire episode from Season 2. Classic 70s theme song and opening credits.

“That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of in a sausage factory, makes no difference to the relation”

[ 112 ] July 20, 2014 |

Turning schools into profit-making enterprises has been a disaster, not only in the U.S., but also in Sweden. Applying Taylorism to schools makes perfect sense to the high modernist education reformer like Michelle Rhee or Arne Duncan, but does nothing positive to address the real complexities of the classroom.

Passing as Indian

[ 73 ] July 19, 2014 |

This is a fascinating piece on African-Americans negotiating the Jim Crow South by putting a turban on their heads and claiming they were Indian. Which worked, as they avoided the racial laws. Also, you can read about who must be the only black Lutheran in history.

The Future of Air Travel

[ 283 ] July 19, 2014 |

This has the potential to be great, if by great you mean questioning whether to ever fly again.

The NFL’s Free Minor League

[ 23 ] July 19, 2014 |

The NFL constantly manages to show how little it cares about its players’ best-interest. When it comes to its relationship with college football, it also works hard to keep its free minor league system. Now the NFL has decided to cut back on the pre-draft evaluations it gives players, theoretically to protect them from making decisions about their own life declaring for the draft too early, but really from having to evaluate players earlier in their careers. Of course, some players are delusional about their prospects and declare too early (although a lot of these players are people already on their way out of their school for various reasons), but this has the effect of ensuring that the NFL has less of a chance of wasting resources while forcing a longer system of free labor that the NCAA relies upon.

Wingnuttia Down Under

[ 20 ] July 19, 2014 |

For awhile back in the 2000s, it looked like Australia would become a world leader on progressive legislation, especially on environmental issues. Then Tony Abbott took over and decided modeling himself on George W. Bush would be quite a bit farther to the left than he was comfortable with. Evidently, enough Australians are cool with this that he keeps on trucking:

Conservative prime minister, climate change denier, and accused misogynist Tony Abbott was elected in September. He started working as the nation’s leader almost immediately, but he had to wait until this month for newly elected senators to take their seats. Abbott’s (conservative) Liberal party still doesn’t control the Senate, but it has found Senate allies in a powerful party that was founded just last year by kooky mining magnate Clive Palmer. Palmer held a press conference with Al Gore last month to announce that he opposed some of Abbott’s climate-wrecking policies, and that he wanted a carbon-trading program to replace the carbon tax. That now seems to have been smokestacks and mirrors. When it came to repealing Australia’s $US23.50 per metric ton carbon tax, the immodestly named Palmer United Party fell into line on Thursday, helping the repeal pass the Senate by a vote of 39 to 32, without demanding the establishment of any alternative.

Play at Rumpscuttle and Clapperdepouch

[ 55 ] July 18, 2014 |

31 historical terms for sex going back to 1351. I am familiar with “getting my ashes hauled” because it comes up in old blues songs. The rest are far older and I was not familiar with.

Hobby Lobby, Harris, and Women’s Economic Security

[ 79 ] July 18, 2014 |

Kathleen Geier, Sarah Jaffe, and Sheila Bapat have a great discussion of how the Hobby Lobby and Harris decisions conspire to undermine women’s economic security. You should definitely read the entire thing, but Sarah’s piece is especially valuable. In part:

It should go without saying that the decision to have a child or not is one of the most profound economic decisions most of us will make in our lifetimes. The Supreme Court this week made it harder for lower-income women to be able to make that choice for themselves. While I support those who argue for the right of all people to enjoy sex on their own terms, we have spent far too little time elaborating the ways in which the “culture war” is a class war.

Take Hobby Lobby. The hashtag #NotMyBossBusiness gave me some hope that the discussion of this case would turn not on religion, hypocrisy or even just on corporate personhood but on the place where Americans’ freedoms are most curtailed: work. It is, after all, the boss, not the government, who has the most say over what we do and say, whether we can pay the rent or feed the kids, the boss who has increasingly sought the right to influence our political choices and what we wear and track our every move and keystroke.

Instead, I have watched photos of people going into Hobby Lobby stores to rearrange letter-blocks to read “pro-choice” flit across the Internet as if the workers who will have to put those blocks back away are unaware of their boss’s power over them. If we were more aware of this decision as one that will affect women not simply as women but as workers, we might stop and ask ourselves what it would mean to actually be in solidarity with the people who work at those stores, to help them get what they need.

The separation between abortion care and other healthcare that I commented on above plays out in Hobby Lobby, which attempts to paint birth control not as a legally required part of a worker’s compensation package, one that allows women to work on an equal footing with the men, but as something outside, different and worse. Or, in the voices of some dismissive commentators, simply less important, not a big deal, something easy enough for women to buy on their own.

If we recognized Hobby Lobby as a workplace issue, we might reply that the people who work at Hobby Lobby stores make between $9.50 and $14 an hour (and those are actually fairly good wages when it comes to retail work) and that $25 a month (if it’s actually that cheap; that depends on which form of contraceptive you’re using) is a significant extra expense if one is, say, raising children on the wages from that job.

I think the connection between the culture war and class war especially valuable since the culture war is very much a war against poor women seeking to control their own bodies and who lack options once the effects of the culture war are literally growing inside them. And the kind of activism that just makes Hobby Lobby workers have to labor harder while doing nothing to affect the company is the sort of the buying thriftshop clothes to protest sweatshops that might not be counterproductive but don’t really do anything to help the situation.

The Volkswagen Agreement

[ 47 ] July 18, 2014 |

As I stated earlier, I don’t necessarily see the UAW-Volkswagen agreement as a major victory. It’s certainly a positive thing for the workers involved, but as something to celebrate, I’m less than sure. Others however disagree (as they did in comments to the original post). Joe Atkins:

The UAW knew that withdrawing its objections to February’s tainted election, in consensus with Volkswagen, would expedite the company’s decision on the new product line,” Casteel said in a formal statement. “The fact that the new line is being announced four days after the rollout of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga reinforces the consensus that the UAW has reached with the company.”

Casteel said “a cornerstone of Volkswagen’s business model” is the Global Groups Works Council that provides employee representation on work-related issues at Volkswagen plants around the world.

In fact, Global Works Council chairman Bernd Osterloh, a strong supporter of union representation at the Chattanooga plant, was recently appointed to the board of directors of Volkswagen’s American operations. At one point, Osterloh said he would work to prevent the new SUV line from coming to Chattanooga if workers there didn’t get union representation.

Local 42 will not collect dues for the time being, and participation is voluntary. However, the UAW hopes membership will grow to a size that gives it weight in representing workers’ concerns at the plant. No formal agreement exists with Volkswagen regarding the local, but a “consensus” exists that allows the local to work with the company in the future, Casteel said.

This non-traditional approach to worker representation is somewhat similar to other efforts across the South to help those who have no collective voice vis-à-vis management. Examples include the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in North Carolina and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida, both of which have won agreements with major corporations despite the fact that farm workers aren’t covered in the National Labor Relations Act.

The victories by FLOC and CIW are significant not only because of region but because of the type of laborers and industry involved (migrant immigrants in a heavily exploitative industry existing far from the view of most Americans). Comparing the UAW deal to those unions actually depresses me because these are workers with more power, with a long-standing powerful union backing them, with the extremely unusual arrangement of international labor unions and the company supporting them, and on a big shop floor, traditionally a relatively easy place to organize, at least compared to the fields or small shops. The innovation is definitely something I support, but I still have trouble seeing it as a big win.

Late Obituaries

[ 18 ] July 18, 2014 |

John Le Carré on Philip Seymour Hoffman as A Most Wanted Man comes close to its release date. I’m excited about it but it’s going to be hard to watch just because you know you are watching Hoffman’s last great performance (I know he’s in some Hunger Games movies yet to be released but the chances of me watching those are low so for me this is it).

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