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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.

Is It Official ESPN Policy to Allow Employees to Blame Women for the Domestic Violence Athletes Commit Against Them?

[ 95 ] July 25, 2014 |

Color me shocked that a conversation between Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s loathsome First Take would lead Smith to blame women for domestic violence.

First Take panelists Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless continued to discuss the Ray Rice suspension on this morning’s episode, and Smith seized on the opportunity to say some deeply stupid things about the responsibility women have to not provoke men into violently attacking them.

This is just a train wreck, and Stephen A. doesn’t seem to realize just how dumb his monologue is until it’s way too late. His central point here, to which he keeps returning after throwing out caveats about how domestic violence is not OK, is that if you are a woman who doesn’t want to be beaten by men, you should make sure to do your part by not giving them a reason to do so.

“We also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can,” Smith says, “about elements of provocation.”

The context of course is the NFL’s depressingly small 2 game suspension for Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend (now wife) in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. For comparison, a third offense for smoking marijuana is a 4 game suspension.

At least someone can see the employment opportunities here for people of a certain point of view:

Of course the entire NFL is a joke when it comes to domestic violence. The Onion doesn’t even have to try here.

Stephen A. Smith is now very angry that people are mad at him and in defending himself basically makes the same argument he made on the show.

Obviously Smith should be fired. So should Bayless, but that’s more for his whole awful career than anything that happened today per se. But it won’t happen because people are talking about First Take, which is all ESPN cares about.

The Type of Government Action that Could be Used Against Capital Mobility

[ 46 ] July 25, 2014 |

It’s no secret that I see unrestrained capital mobility as a global plague creating a New Gilded Age that makes it nearly impossible for workers to build dignified lives against the constant geographical shift of employment every time they organize. For Americans, the disaster of globalized capitalism has been the fleeing of stable work abroad, a situation I believe has contributed to crises ranging from the decline of unions and weakening environmental movement to the fear of “unemployable majors” in higher education and long-term unemployment.

It’s not that the U.S. could do nothing about this phenomena. It’s not a natural law. Globalization is not gravity. It’s that the politicians, under tremendous pressure from corporations, choose to do nothing except encourage more American jobs to be shipped overseas, soon potentially through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama supports much to the demerits side of his presidential evaluation.

I was reminded of this when Obama yesterday called for a relatively minor but important reform:

President Obama on Thursday will call for Congress to end a tax loophole that allows big corporations to designate a foreign country as their official address, avoiding American taxes while maintaining their presence in the United States.

“The president will make clear that these companies are essentially renouncing their American citizenship so that they can ship their profits overseas to avoid paying taxes — even as they benefit from all the advantages of being here in America,” a White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the president’s remarks in advance.

This is a good policy but of course it could be extended much further. It is American tax law, or the lack thereof, that helps give corporations incentive to exploit labor in Bangladesh, Honduras, and Sri Lanka. We could change those laws to both incentivize American owned companies employing Americans and to ensure that when American companies choose to move operations overseas, the workers are treated with dignity and the ecosystems respected. That we don’t is a political problem, not an inevitable result of a globalized world.

Is There Anything We Can Learn From the Russian Revolution?

[ 200 ] July 25, 2014 |

I guess I’m pretty skeptical to the above question except that this essay reinforces my belief that radical groups (and maybe everyone I guess) mostly create ideology to justify their current positions rather than allow their actions to be shaped by ideology.

Republicans Take Economic Inequality Very Seriously

[ 65 ] July 25, 2014 |

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a fairly new economic think tank, decided to throw a bunch of money at economists to work on economic inequality issues. Being intentionally centrist, it wanted to give out these grants along a fairly wide ideological spectrum, with plenty going to conservatives. One problem: not a single conservative even applied for the money.

PETA’s Next Stunt: Announcing It Will Criticize Israel if Hamas Leadership Goes Vegan

[ 230 ] July 24, 2014 |

I hate PETA so much:

An animal rights group is offering to pay outstanding water bills for 10 Detroit residents on the condition they become vegan for one month.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking Detroiters to mail the group a copy of their most recent overdue water bill and a pledge by Aug. 1.

“Anyone who tries a rich, varied, and tasty vegan diet stops contributing to the immensely wasteful use of water in meat and dairy farming,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Vegan meals are also a cost-effective way to help prevent health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart conditions, the last thing that someone who is struggling financially needs to deal with.”

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department had cut off water service to 17,000 households for overdue bills as it faces a staggering amount of unpaid bills. Bill Johnson, department spokesman, said 89,000 customers owe about $91 million.

Is there no situation PETA won’t exploit in ways that kick dirt on the weak?

“Must so many people dwell in hovels while we are conquering space?”

[ 126 ] July 24, 2014 |

This is a fascinating 1967 document from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a great window into how the Great Society tried to figure out what to do with declining cities, in particular into the faith in science and technology to solve urban problems.

Turns out technology is not a panacea to solve urban problems. Shocking.

Pro-Life before Birth, Anti-Ice Cream

[ 40 ] July 24, 2014 |

I know what this is like, to be attacked by lunatics from around the country whipped up by frothing goat-molesting idiots:

A Portland ice cream shop is bombarded with dozens of threats from people clear across the country after raising money for Planned Parenthood.

The owners of What’s the Scoop? in North Portland created a specialty flavor for Planned Parenthood last week that sold as a fundraiser for the organization.

It’s something the shop says they do all the time for local organizations, to give back to the city that supports them.

The backlash only began after an anti-abortion blog caught wind of the fundraiser and published the information.

Now, the shop’s phone is ringing off the hook with threatening phone calls from as far away as New York. Their email account was also inundated with disturbing messages and threats over the weekend.

“Some of the calls and e-mails are really really gross. I don’t even like to say it out loud it’s so disgusting,” said owner Jodie Ostrovsky.

“It’s a flat out attack, there’s nothing behind it but hate,” said Ostrovsky. ” To attack us on unfounded grounds, to accuse of things that we haven’t done, to accuse an organization for things they haven’t done, it’s not right.”

Ostrovsky says many loyal customers have shown their support by responding to some of the online comments and buying ice cream.

I will say this though–the single easiest and most pleasant way to support reproductive rights is through eating ice cream. I will briefly be in Portland in a couple of weeks and now I have a definite stop on my agenda.

ISIS: More Competent than the Bush Administration

[ 32 ] July 24, 2014 |

If I’m Doug Feith or Dick Cheney or Paul Wolfowitz, this is just crazy talk.

An aid worker who travels to Raqqa said the ranks of ISIS were filled with volatile young men, many of them foreigners more interested in violence than governance. To keep things running, it has paid or threatened skilled workers to remain in their posts while putting loyalist supervisors over them to ensure compliance with Islamic rules.

“They can’t fire all the staff and bring new people to run a hospital, so they change the manager to someone who will enforce their rules and regulations,” the aid worker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to endanger his work.

Sure you can fire all the staff! And then replace them with people that have theoretical fealty to outside administrators who know nothing about the country and have no qualifications other than good connections within the Republican Party, thus bringing a level of incompetence to a nation that will truly prove the United States has the interests of the people in mind. Given how brilliantly this worked in the Bush Administration, I don’t see how ISIS hasn’t learned this lesson in Syria.

Poor International Comparisons

[ 119 ] July 24, 2014 |

Somehow I don’t think Niger lowering its birth rate is going to lead to it becoming the next Singapore:

There is no mystery about the immense benefits that Niger and its neighbors would realize if they brought their birthrates under control.

The so-called Tigers in East Asia have recorded sharply falling birthrates since the 1960s. And in a recent, influential paper titled “African Demography,” Mr. Guengant and a fellow demographer, John F. May, noted, “Human capital formation investments (for example, education and health) and job creation appear to have been greatly facilitated by a rapid decline in fertility.”

In the interview, Mr. Guengant drew this conclusion: “If you don’t get a handle on birthrates, you are going nowhere. The nongovernmental organizations have not been up to the job. Everybody looks at everybody else. Nobody has the political courage. And nothing is moving.”

No mystery? Actually I think there is plenty of mystery. Even more mysterious is how this makes it past the first round of editing since there’s a whole lot more to why Niger is poor and Singapore is not than women having too many babies. Although blaming everything on poor women of color having too many babies is a favorite theme of rich white people.

If You Support Alternative Energy, You Support Enormous Tubs of Ocean Lard

[ 30 ] July 23, 2014 |

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Seals have far surpassed Americans in their support for offshore wind energy:

The scientists observed eleven harbor seals outfitted with GPS tracking tags in the North Sea frequenting two active wind farms, Alpha Ventus in Germany and Sheringham Shoal off the southeast coast of the United Kingdom. One seal even visited 13 times, according to a report published this week in the journal Current Biology.

The wind turbines make up a grid. When foraging for food, the seals moved “systematically from one turbine to the next turbine in a grid pattern, following exactly how the turbines are laid out,” says study author Deborah Russell of the University of St. Andrews. “That was surprising to see how much their behavior was affected by the presence of these artificial structures and how they could actually adapt their behaviors to respond to that.”

If the Republicans nominated a seal for president in 2016, it would be an improvement over the current possible candidates.

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