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Cubs Failure

[ 66 ] August 22, 2014 |

Typical that the Chicago Cubs, with their century of pathetic failure and fans who revel in it combined with their Koch Brothers-esque owners, would provide one of the great, if minor failures in baseball history so the billionaires wouldn’t have employees become eligible under Obamacare.

Earlier this week, the Chicago Cubs grounds crew experienced a disaster. As rain poured onto Wrigley Field, they were unable to cover the playing surface with a tarp in time. They were booed. The game was called. Because of the mismanagement, their opponents, the San Francisco Giants, protested the game after it had been called as a win for the Cubs. They succeeded. It was the first successful protest in Major League Baseball in 28 years, according to Deadspin.

But the whole bizarre episode was cast in a new light Thursday when the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Cubs had slashed worker hours to keep them under 30 hours a week to avoid paying health benefits under Obamacare.

Citing “numerous sources with direct knowledge,” the Sun-Times reported that the Cubs had sent home 10 grounds crew workers early the night of the Tuesday game that ended in disaster. And at least part of the reason, per the newspaper’s sources, is that the team has been trying to keep seasonal workers under 30 hours per week as the Affordable Care Act takes effect.

The law requires large employers to offer health insurance to full-time employees (defined as those who work more than 30 hours a week) or pay a fine. The rule goes into effect in 2015.

A spokesman for the Cubs, which are reportedly worth $1 billion and were the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, didn’t refute the claims when asked by the Sun-Times, but he denied personnel changes were responsible for the field tarp incident.

The only problem with the Cubs enduring another 100+ years of failure is that it gives their fans a meme to organize around. Would another deserved 100 years help or make the franchise and its fans even more annoying, if that’s possible?

Police Violence Against People of Color: Not Just Afflicting African-Americans

[ 57 ] August 22, 2014 |

It’s important to note in the wake of Ferguson that the war against people of color waged by American police forces is not just against African-Americans. Take this case:

In October 2013, An 8 year old Rosebud Sioux girl was shot by a stun gun when Pierre Police arrived on scene and were not able to obtain a paring knife the young girl was holding. In the days that followed, the family of the little girl reported she was suffering from trauma, while the Pierre Police Chief Bob Granpre said the actions of the Police were justified.

Since the incident, family members have secured the use of Dana Hanna and Patrick Duffy as attorneys in the South Dakota area and the tribe has spoken out against the incident. The Pierre police after releasing initial findings will no longer offer comment on the matter after inquiries by ICTMN.

Rose Stenstrom, the grandmother of the little girl and a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal council, says she was upset that her little granddaughter was a delightful and talkative little girl who some media outlets made out to be a monster.

Racism against Native Americans in South Dakota is every bit as nasty as you think racism is toward African-Americans in Alabama. This kind of ridiculous police violence against Native Americans–small children even!–is par for the course in South Dakota. These sorts of stories are only gaining attention today because of Ferguson, but they happen every day in this sweet land of liberty.

Terms of Endearment

[ 15 ] August 22, 2014 |

Interesting little history of various terms of endearment. I wonder what would I happen if I started calling my friends “bawcock.”

Next in the Attack on Public Sector Unionism

[ 24 ] August 22, 2014 |

Moshe Marvit with the next round of attacks on public sector unionism from the people who brought you Harris v. Quinn. Basically, they are going after the entire idea of exclusive representation in all states. Given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, it seems unlikely that the principle will last, even though it is foundational to American labor law:

On the heels of its recent Supreme Court victory in Harris v. Quinn, the National Right to Work Committee and Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) has initiated a bold new attack on unions.

In a recent fundraising appeal sent on August 10, the president of both organizations wrote that Harris “was just the beginning,” and that fair share provisions (or, as he called them, “forced dues”) were only “part of the problem.” Now, having succeeded in imposing a right-to-work model for home healthcare workers across the country, NRTW is gunning after a much greater and unexpected target: exclusive representation.

One of the bedrock principles of American labor law is exclusive representation, whereby a union represents all the workers in a bargaining unit after it shows majority support by the workers. In a new case filed on behalf of a few Minnesota home care workers, Bierman v. Dayton, NRTW is now arguing that a union elected by the majority of workers should not be permitted to represent anyone that does not choose to join.

Last week, I wrote about a new positive experiment in members-only unionism at Volkswagen, which does not follow the exclusive representation model. If it is successful, Bierman v. Dayton would transform all public-sector unions into forced members-only unions, opening the door to a radical reconfiguration of public labor organizations.

In Minnesota, 26,000 home health care workers are currently voting by mail-in ballot whether to elect SEIU as their union. Those ballots are due by August 25. In its first maneuver of Bierman v. Dayton, NRTW filed for a preliminary injunction to invalidate the state law that authorized these workers to vote for a union—in other words, an exclusive representative—to bargain with the state. Expedited oral arguments were held on Tuesday, and on Wednesday afternoon the federal judge denied NRTW’s request for an injunction.

This early loss was to be expected, as NRTW is mounting a novel legal argument that runs counter to decades of labor and constitutional law. And NRTW’s litigation strategy generally includes repeated early losses as its representatives work their way through the judicial circuits to the Supreme Court.

The Worst Place in the World

[ 194 ] August 21, 2014 |

Burning Man already sounded horrible. A bunch of white hippies on mushrooms and MDMA dancing to techno in the desert in 110 degree heat without proper sanitation is my version of hell.

Or so I thought. Burning Man has gotten so much worse:

A few years ago, this assumption would have been mostly correct. But now things are a little different. Over the last two years, Burning Man, which this year runs from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1, has been the annual getaway for a new crop of millionaire and billionaire technology moguls, many of whom are one-upping one another in a secret game of I-can-spend-more-money-than-you-can and, some say, ruining it for everyone else.

Some of the biggest names in technology have been making the pilgrimage to the desert for years, happily blending in unnoticed. These include Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Google founders, and Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon. But now a new set of younger rich techies are heading east, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, employees from Twitter, Zynga and Uber, and a slew of khaki-wearing venture capitalists.

Tyler Hanson, who started going to Burning Man in 1995, decided a couple of years ago to try working as a paid Sherpa at one of these luxury camps. He described the experience this way: Lavish R.V.s are driven in and connected together to create a private forted area, ensuring that no outsiders can get in. The rich are flown in on private planes, then picked up at the Burning Man airport, driven to their camp and served like kings and queens for a week. (Their meals are prepared by teams of chefs, which can include sushi, lobster boils and steak tartare — yes, in the middle of 110-degree heat.)

“Your food, your drugs, your costumes are all handled for you, so all you have to do is show up,” Mr. Hanson said. “In the camp where I was working, there were about 30 Sherpas for 12 attendees.”

Mr. Hanson said he won’t be going back to Burning Man anytime soon. The Sherpas, the money, the blockaded camps and the tech elite were too much for him. “The tech start-ups now go to Burning Man and eat drugs in search of the next greatest app,” he said. “Burning Man is no longer a counterculture revolution. It’s now become a mirror of society.”

Strangely, the tech elite won’t disagree with Mr. Hanson about it being a reflection of society. This year at the premiere of the HBO show “Silicon Valley,” Elon Musk, an entrepreneur who was a founder of PayPal, complained that Mike Judge, the show’s creator, didn’t get the tech world because — wait for it — he had not attended the annual party in the desert.

Hippies and Silicon Valley douchebag capitalists? I want to make one thing clear. Whatever terrible things Farley has said about the Air Force does not apply to all members of this site. Clearly air power could have real value here.

17,000!!!

[ 59 ] August 21, 2014 |

Wow, the Dow topped 17,000! That must mean these corporate profits are really trickling down to American workers, right?

Call it the no-raises recovery: Five years of economic expansion have done almost nothing to boost paychecks for typical American workers while the rich have gotten richer.

Meager improvements since 2009 have barely kept up with a similarly tepid pace of inflation, raising the real value of compensation per hour by only 0.5 percent. That marks the weakest growth since World War II, with increases averaging 9.2 percent at a similar point in past expansions, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by Bloomberg.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has zeroed in on faster wage growth as an important milestone for declaring the job market healed and ready to withstand policy tightening, even as other labor measures improve. Stagnant earnings also explain an economy that’s having trouble sustaining a rebound in housing and consumer spending, according to David Blanchflower, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Doubling the taxes on corporate profits, closing the many loopholes that allow American corporations to
operate in the U.S. while taking advantage of foreign corporate tax rates
, punishing corporations for tax dodging, and spending those taxes on social and economic programs would be a great start to fixing this problem. Unfortunately, I’d probably get closer to reality by eating some tabs of LSD.

The Great Mistery of the Great Whore Unfolded

[ 31 ] August 21, 2014 |

Palmieri1

Brooke Palmieri has a great discussion of early Quaker pamphlet printing and the impact they had upon 17th century English religious life. It sounds like that if you weren’t a Quaker, they were really annoying, in part because they flooded the nation with their literature. Well worth reading.

Lessons of Salaita

[ 116 ] August 21, 2014 |

Why have we seen a recent crackdown on academic freedom and freedom of speech against academics, whether Stephen Salaita or myself? The answer is that administrators are scared of controversy. It reminds me of World War I, when U.S. entry and the following Red Scare led to the firing of many academics. We are reaching a point where academics are increasingly unable to take controversial positions at the peril of their employment. But one key difference between the two periods is that while the earlier attacks on academic freedom were coming from leading politicians and major power players, what has happened to Salaita is that he made upper University of Illinois administrators worried about how he would reflect upon them. Modern university administrations do not operate to serve students or education. They exist primarily to send administrators farther up the administrative totem pole, whether at the current institution or at another. How do you rise up that food chain? You cut funding for liberal arts and humanities. You reorient resources to big rethinkings of some part of the university you can put on your c.v., even though they will never be implemented. You convince rich donors to give money to build a nice building for the departments and programs you care about, like business. You move resources toward whatever is going to serve your personal future and away from the core mission of the university. You denigrate any majors that rich donors don’t see as valuable or that you can’t fundraise from. If you can, you even retrench faculty, sending 50 year old professors of German and Philosophy who have been at your school for 20 years onto the street.

What you don’t do is have employees say things that might attract attention. For a long time, people said we needed to run our colleges and universities like corporations. And now we are and people like Salaita have no room in the corporate university. Like corporations, the executive class serves itself, not the employees or the students/clients. What happened to me and what happened to Salaita are examples of that. In the linked piece above, I thought this was fairly heartbreaking:

I worry that a lot of academics will decide it’s the latter, and that the only safe path for them is to stay out of the limelight. I’ve seen scholars face this question before, and retreat in order to preserve their careers—a decision I cannot fault. A few weeks ago, for example, an untenured friend of mine noted a powerful link between current events and her field of expertise. She’s a brilliant scholar and great writer, so I encouraged her to write about it. It would have been a great essay, one easily pitched to major publications. It would have helped to shape our understanding of the world in which we live. It was also political in nature.

When she ran the idea by her dean, he said that while he supported her writing about public issues in theory, he wouldn’t necessarily support an opinion piece. He said faculty members must remember that their institution will be judged by statements they make in public. My friend took this as a sign that she risked not getting tenure if she took a controversial stance in public. She didn’t write the essay.

This is bad for my friend’s institution and bad for her. Her small college loses the opportunity to demonstrate the expertise of its faculty members in a responsible way. And she not only has an idea she can’t express, she loses the chance to be read by thousands of people, an experience that most academics never get.

Of course the dean told her not to write it. What if it reflected poorly on him? And because she is an assistant professor, she can’t buck him. Or I mean, she could but there’s a risk there. And so the public discourse is denied a valuable voice and the ability for academics to connect with the broader public–something administrators always say they want but which they really don’t unless it is the business faculty working with local corporations or some such thing–is cut off.

Not the Onion

[ 25 ] August 21, 2014 |

Ouch:

Egypt on Tuesday urged U.S. authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri – echoing language Washington used to caution Egypt as it cracked down on Islamist protesters last year.

U.S. foes Iran and Syria also lambasted the United States, but while they are frequent critics of Washington, it is unusual for Egypt to criticise such a major donor. It was not immediately clear why Egypt would issue such a statement.

Ties between Washington and Cairo were strained after Egyptian security forces killed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters following the army’s ousting of freely elected President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s statement on the unrest in Ferguson read similarly to one issued by U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration in July 2013, when the White House “urged security forces to exercise maximum restraint and caution” in dealing with demonstrations by Mursi supporters.

The ministry added it was “closely following the escalation of protests” in Ferguson, unleashed by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman on Aug. 9.

Jazz Hot

[ 29 ] August 20, 2014 |

In 1939, a promotional film in English was made for Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Hot Club of France. It’s unclear why, probably for a tour of Britain the group was doing that year. The start of this is a bit slow, with a history of jazz for the British uninitiated listeners. And then the Hot Club starts. You ever wanted to see Reinhardt’s fingers move across the guitar with excellent camera work that makes this very clear? Now is your chance. Just amazing footage.

For whatever reason, YouTube doesn’t allow this to be embedded, but you can watch it if you link.

The Seafarers

[ 7 ] August 19, 2014 |

A couple of weeks ago, I referenced Stanley Kubrick’s 1953 film The Seafarers, a promotional film he did for the Seafarers International Union. I couldn’t find an easily accessible copy at the time but have since alleviated that problem. Here it is, although not entirely safe for work given that seamen love pictures of topless women and evidently so does Kubrick.

Now, this is not the greatest film ever, nor does it really showcase Kubrick’s future talents, although the long, languorous shot of the food in the cafeteria is pretty great. Really, it’s more interesting as a window inside the mid-20th century labor movement. If you are looking for your leftist ideal of a labor movement, replete with socialism, cross-movement solidarity, etc., you never were going to find it in the SIU. It was formed as an AFL counter to Harry Bridges’ International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). What this union is about, as it states repeatedly, is security for workers. For most workers, this is the most important thing a union can offer and it, not radical social change, was at the core of labor’s appeal. This film was intended for use in convincing new members to sign up and it’s pretty effective in that, focusing on the concrete benefits for workers and their families and the internal democracy of the union.

Narrated by Don Hollenbeck of CBS News (imagine the reaction if Brian Williams or Wolf Blitzer narrated a union promotional film today!), this is just a really useful document for understanding American unionism at the peak of its power.

The NFL Shakedown

[ 159 ] August 19, 2014 |

This is impressive, if you are impressed by shakedowns:

Rihanna, Katy Perry, or Coldplay might be doing the Super Bowl halftime show this year—that is, if they’re willing to pay up. According to The Wall Street Journal, the NFL has narrowed down its list of potential performers for the 2015 gig to those three candidates, though it’s also asking “at least some of the acts” if they’d be willing to pay the league for the privilege of playing the halftime show—something that’s absolutely insane, but not 100 percent unreasonable, considering how many people actually watch the performance. Alternately (and this is where it gets wacky), they should “be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league.”

Billionaires demanding not only payment from performers to play on their big stage but then shaking them down for millions after the performance. Nice. How long until owners demand a cut of their players’ promotional deals?

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