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How Republican Judges Are Facilitating Corporate Exploitation Abroad

[ 27 ] August 3, 2014 |

Right-wing judges have consistently narrowed the use of American courts in recent years to crack down on corporations who engage in extremely egregious behavior abroad that violates human rights. Such is the case in the recent decision by a Reagan-appointed judge to throw out a lawsuit against Chiquita (formerly United Fruit) for paying Colombian paramilitary organizations. The company claims it was extorted by the paramilitaries, the Colombian people behind the lawsuit hold Chiquita responsible for the at least some of the deaths caused by the paramilitaries. In any case, it is quite clear that Chiquita knew it was violating U.S. anti-terrorism statutes in making these payments and didn’t care, which certainly makes one suspicious of its claims throughout not the case (not to mention its own history in violating the civil rights of millions of Latin American citizens over the decades).

The same principle of right-wing judges shielding American corporations from the consequences of their actions abroad also then applies to the violation of labor rights and environmental degradation. The American court system could and should be used to hold these corporations responsible for their global behavior, but for the judges of a political party that doesn’t want corporations held responsible for the domestic behavior, obviously that’s a non-starter, allowing the Thomas-Alito views to win.

Today in Rich Liberal NIMBY Hypocrisy

[ 79 ] August 3, 2014 |

Shorter residents of luxury Brooklyn Heights condos: “We love the idea of affordable housing, but if it affects our view, send them to Newark.

A Sunday Morning Quiz

[ 103 ] August 3, 2014 |

From the Ladies Home Journal, May 1957:

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After taking this quiz, act appropriately. Whatever that may be.

Today in Republican Minority Outreach

[ 65 ] August 3, 2014 |

Steve King threatens that if Obama delays deporting undocumented immigrants, Republicans will impeach him.

Oh please Rep. King, don’t do that. Combining impeachment with your war on brown people surely will destroy the Democratic Party, what with the rapidly shrinking percentage of white voters in this country. I am so, so scared.

It’s Hard Out There For the 1 Percent

[ 357 ] August 1, 2014 |

The Daily Capitalist urges us to understand the plight of the wealthy and how a visa glitch makes life so hard:

In Washington, D.C., Mira Edmonds said her au pair’s arrival from France, which was scheduled for last Sunday, has been indefinitely delayed. Ms. Edmonds, who is a lawyer, and her husband work full-time and depend on child care for their two children, ages 3 and 6. “I don’t know how we’re going to cope if she isn’t here soon,” Ms. Edmonds said.

Shed a tear, my friends, shed a tear.

And the Winner of Satan’s Favorite Earthling Is…..

[ 3 ] August 1, 2014 |

ALEC has an award for its favorite legislator. This is like, I don’t know, winning the award for the most horrible human being on the planet or something. Anyway, the winner, not surprisingly is an Art Pope lackey in North Carolina.

The King’s English

[ 239 ] July 31, 2014 |

I’m not sure Oak Ridge National Laboratory importing the ideas of Dr. Henry Higgins is such a good idea:

The rain in Spain won’t be falling mainly on the plain after all, at least not at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Tennessee-based research facility canceled what it had billed as a “Southern accent reduction” class amid employee backlash; for some staff, it came off as a little too “My Fair Lady: Appalachia.”

“Feel confident in a meeting when you need to speak with a more neu­tral Amer­i­can accent, and be remembered for what you say and not how you say it,” reads an email sent to thousands of staff members last week, advertising the new course. “In this course you will learn to recognize the pronunciation and grammar differences that make your speech sound Southern, and learn what to do so you can neutralize it through a technique called code-switching.”

The weekly course, set to run through mid-September, was offered on a voluntary basis only (with an $850 price tag). But some employees were insulted by the premise of the course and wording of the email, and complained. The lab subsequently called off the class.

David Keim, spokesman for Oak Ridge, which is the Energy Department’s biggest research facility and home to the Titan supercomputer, said the lab regularly offers accent modification classes for its many employees who are non-native English speakers. The lab employs some 4,400 people from 90 countries, as well as from across the U.S., and their work is highly technical. That makes professional development designed to help international researchers communicate more clearly and efficiently in high demand, he said.

Or Americans, especially the snotty elite classes not living in east Tennessee who are going to be interacting with ORNL employees, could just get over the idea of a proper accent and be OK with someone if their accent is from southern Appalachia, Rhode Island, Texas, or Minnesota. While obviously working with non-native speakers is a good idea that empowers the individual, embarrassing your employees because of where they are from and how they grew up makes the individual ashamed of themselves. Not everyone has to sound like they are on TV. This is real classism.

U.S. Responsibility for the Central American Child Immigrant Wave

[ 49 ] July 31, 2014 |

The reasons for the wave of child immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are complex, but as Óscar Martínez correctly states, many of them are related to the United States:

As thousands of children like Auner, Chele and Pitbull arrive at the US border, it is important to remember the role the United States has played in creating this mass migration. In the 1970s and ’80s, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were in the midst of either bloody civil wars or fierce government repression in which the United States played an iron-fisted role. Fearing the spread of communism in Latin America, the United States supported the autocratic military governments of these three countries, which in turn generated thousands of northbound migrants. Some of these migrants went on to join gangs in California. The 18th Street Gang and the Mara Salvatrucha were not formed in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala but in the United States. Some fifty years ago, the 18th Street Gang splintered off from Clanton 14 in Southern California. The Mara Salvatrucha formed in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. At the end of the ’80s and the start of the ’90s, the United States deported close to 4,000 gang members. When they arrived back in Central America, they found fertile conditions in which to increase their numbers: countries devastated by war and poverty, with thousands upon thousands of corruptible and abandoned children.

But it would be an oversimplification to say that the flight of children to the United States is the product of violence alone.

Rubén Zamora is currently the Salvadoran ambassador to the UN and, until a month ago, El Salvador’s ambassador to the United States. With his replacement awaiting confirmation by the Salvadoran Senate, Zamora has been left to address the international implications of the child migrant crisis. Zamora explains that there is no single cause of the surge in child migrants. In addition to gang activity, Zamora says that the improving economic conditions experienced by Salvadoran migrants to the United States have acted as a draw. “From sharing a single room with a group of people, now some migrants can pay $1,000 a month and rent a two-bedroom apartment for themselves in the suburbs,” he says. And that means “more people can pay to bring their children to the US.”

Thousands of migrants from Central America are ineligible for temporary protected status—not because they’ve violated any law but because they missed the cutoff dates. The United States offers a mere 5,000 visas for low-skilled workers every year. For many, the only chance for gaining legal status in the United States is the asylum process, and it’s a long shot. Over the last few decades, in part as a response to the wave of Central American migrants fleeing the civil wars, the United States has narrowed the definition of who qualifies for asylum. Because most of those fleeing Central America are not doing so because of their “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” they are ineligible.

I recently asked two immigration lawyers from California and North Carolina how many requests for asylum they file each week. “At least ten,” they said. They’ve lost track of how many migrants they’ve represented over the years. But the tally of those who have been successful is easy to remember: none.

“Parents don’t see any chance of bringing their children legally to the US,” Zamora says, “so what options are left for them?”

Martínez is also correct on the point that the kids are not going to stop coming. There really is nothing the U.S. can do to stop this wave. It can make lives worse for the children fleeing violence to be reunited with their parents. It can militarize the border to all get-out. It can have coyotes extradited to the U.S. The kids are still going to come until a) gang violence ends in Central America and b) there is no reason for Central Americans to migrate to the U.S. without documentation.

And it’s worth reiterating the long-term damage U.S. Cold War policy had in poor nations around the world. The actions of Dulles and Eisenhower and Reagan and North destabilized these nations, creating conditions that continue to blowback to the U.S. today.

The Lawsuit

[ 57 ] July 31, 2014 |

I guess I’m less than convinced that in this period of Republican extremism, the House GOP’s frivolous lawsuit against Obama is going to come back and bite them, certainly not to the point of being “politically disastrous.” Those who hate Obama love it. Those who hate the GOP are disgusted. For everyday people who don’t pay too much attention, it’s just another example of partisanship. If the GOP was to engage in another government shutdown or do something that actually affected people’s daily lives, sure. But unless they haul Obama before a court and make him look sympathetic on TV, I don’t see this as much of a difference-maker.

The Impact of the NLRB McDonald’s Franchise Decision

[ 23 ] July 31, 2014 |

Yesterday’s decision by National Labor Relations Board general counsel Richard Griffin declaring corporations joint employers of the workers in their franchises is a big, big deal. Couple of key rundowns from Steven Greenhouse, Alec MacGillis, and Seth Michaels.

Effectively, Obama’s NLRB has moved the needle significantly toward some of the nation’s poorest and most exploited workers. It gives workers a significant legal tool in their fight for a $15 hourly wage in fast food and is likely to have a domino effect across the subcontracted, temporary, outsourced, and franchised economy. Corporations have spend decades coming up with shady labor practices in order to avoid responsibility for workers, leading to rampant exploitation of workers with no hope of rising toward a middle class. This ruling may well begin the process of changing that by taking away the incentives for corporations to not directly hire their workers. Of course, an appeal is coming and so there is a long ways to go and many fights still to come.

In other words, both parties are the same and Rand Paul is the only progressive alternative in 2016.

Lydia Loveless

[ 6 ] July 30, 2014 |

One album I recommend very highly is Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else. This young, talented singer from Ohio is definitely someone to check out if you haven’t yet. If you haven’t heard her, this NPR performance is a good place to start, although quite a bit more subdued than her album. I read somewhere that her dad was in the band for awhile, but too many of her songs were about sex so it was too weird. Another excellent musician from southern Ohio as well, which seems to generate a whole lot of underrated music.

Are There Too Many Craft Beers on the Market?

[ 189 ] July 30, 2014 |

Living in Rhode Island, with one of the nation’s worst brewing scenes, the answer is absolutely not, but even when I am in paradise Oregon, the answer is still no. Yet some are concerned.

Located off Rhode Island’s coast, the Atlantic Ocean isle is filled with bluffs, beaches, and rolling hills, such as the one atop which the Atlantic Inn is perched. Here, on the lush lawn in front of the 1879 hotel, you can sit in white Adirondack chairs and watch the rippled waters. Or, on a recent summer morning, you could plop beside Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione and discuss craft beer’s coming bottleneck.

“We’re heading into an incredibly competitive era of craft brewing,” he says. “There’s a bloodbath coming.”

This may seem alarmist. After all, the Brewers Association just announced that 3,000-plus craft breweries now operate in America. Last year’s craft sales climbed 17.2 percent, overseas exports have escalated, and breweries such as Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, and Oskar Blues recently constructed second breweries to spread their bitter ales farther, wider, and fresher. Heck, Stone is building a brewery in Berlin. Berlin!

I’m onboard with America abandoning middle-of-the-road beer and exploring flavorful new directions. The highway, however, is getting mighty crowded. Hundreds of different beers debut weekly, creating a scrum of session IPAs, spiced witbiers, and barrel-aged stouts scuffling for shelf space. For consumers, the situation is doubly confusing. How can you pick a pint on a 100-brew tap list? Moreover, beer shops are chockablock with pale this and imperial that, each one boasting a different hop pun. When buying beer, I can’t count how many times I’ve assisted overwhelmed shoppers, playing the benevolent Sherpa in the wilds of modern brewing.

I was unaware that picking a beer off a taplist of 100 was a problem. This mostly sounds like a bunch of established brewers worried that newcomers are going to break into their market. Of course, there are some legitimate points. There’s a lot of gimmicks around right now. And if you are a newby to the world of craft beer, there’s no question that it can be totally overwhelming. But that situation can be solved pretty quickly with a relatively small amount of experimentation. Or at the very least you can find something you like and stick with. The stupid label wars, as many breweries begin to rely on cheap marketing tactics over quality, is annoying, but hardly worse than some wineries. And I don’t recall people complaining about too many wines on the market even though when I go to Bottles in Providence there are hundreds of different wines in the store.

I suppose there is a cap on the craft beer market. What I hope happens is that it is a race to the top, with lower quality brewers going out of existence. What probably happens is that conglomerates start buying up some of the brands. But even that doesn’t begin to touch the real small-time brewers opening tap rooms and small bars with relatively limited ambition. That is a great thing and just because Dogfish Head executives don’t like the competition doesn’t mean it is going away.

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