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Even the “Liberal” NPR

[ 128 ] April 1, 2014 |

The new UN Climate Report was damning, noting the near-certainly of catastrophic climate change that will affect everything on the planet. So of course NPR would report on it by interviewing the single scientist who refused to sign on to the final summary because it was too depressing. No doubt this will really focus the nation on getting serious about the problem.

The Harrison Death

[ 88 ] April 1, 2014 |

Given that Washington was a swampy cesspool of disease and both human and animal waste through most of the 19th century (as opposed to the spiritual and moral cesspool it is today), it’s hardly surprising that it was probably enteric fever that killed off William Henry Harrison instead of the long-held cause of pneumonia.

Anti-Unionol

[ 3 ] April 1, 2014 |

AFSCME wins April Fool’s Day with a fake advertisement for a suppository that destroys the middle class. Note: “the drug is not for everyone including pregnant women, people with families, if you have a pre-existing mortgage or if you suffer from student debt”

Baseball Songs

[ 33 ] March 31, 2014 |

Happy Opening Day. For that, here’s two of the best songs ever written about an individual baseball player. First, there is Buddy Johnson’s “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?”

Count Basie had a hit with this the next year that I think is the most famous versions, but I’m going with the original here.

Second is Tom Russell’s “The Kid from Spavinaw,” about Mickey Mantle. Of course, it’s incredibly depressing like most of the rest of American folk music.

Not that this is any more depressing than the 2014 Mariners.

In related news, I’m not entirely sure we need a feature film based on the life of R.A. Dickey.

Bangladesh and Climate Change

[ 35 ] March 31, 2014 |

Poor Bangladesh. This impoverished low-lying country not only sees its people slaughtered by the apparel industry while it makes clothes for western consumers, but it will also suffer (and is already suffering) more than any other large nation from climate change as rising waters will almost certainly create a massive refuge crisis in the coming decades. Western companies not only outsource exploitative labor conditions and pollute Bangladesh’s environment, but also outsource the long-term impact of their rapacious behavior on the people least able to handle it.

Medals of Honor for Genocide

[ 119 ] March 31, 2014 |

At Indian Country Today, Simon Moya-Smith asks the provocative question of whether the 20 soldiers who received the Medal of Honor for their actions in the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre should have them revoked. It’s hard to argue against the idea.

Native Americans continue to feel the pierce of what occurred that deplorable winter day. The story of the brutality and the inhumanity of what occurred is passed down to us from our elders because, quite unfortunately, these dark moments of American history are not shared in our schools as much as they should be.

To be sure, a great many of you who read this column are only learning of the Medals of Dishonor because I write of them. And that begs the question as to why. I’ll tell you: because it is very difficult for this country to fully recognize what it has done to its indigenous population. Well, it is time to start recognizing, and in so doing a time of healing (and learning) can begin.

Still, the fact that President Barack Obama would bestow the Medal of Honor to the 19 commendable veterans who were, at the time, discriminated against all the while refusing to revoke the 20 awarded to the soldiers who indiscriminately murdered hundreds of free Lakota, is hypocritical.

Obviously the political backlash against revoking Medals of Honor would be immense. On the other hand, what else has this government done to even begin seriously dealing with the legacy of genocide?

….In comments, Denverite notes there is precedent for revoking the Medal of Honor.

The Breckinridge Obituary

[ 20 ] March 31, 2014 |

In December 1863, rumors abounded that John C. Breckinridge, Southern Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1860, traitor, and Confederate general, had died. The New York Times was not sad:

If it be true, as is now positively declared, that a loyal bullet has sent this traitor to eternity, every loyal heart will feel satisfaction and will not scruple to express it. Ordinarily, enmity is disarmed before death; reproach is silenced, and even the sternest justice makes way for pity. The form that is shrouded is a sacred thing, and the grave itself is an altar on which every bitter feeling should be sacrificed forever. Human censorship does not presume to follow the spirit that has gone to its Eternal Judge; and even the most rigid feels constrained to remember his own frailties, and forgive. But where Death strikes such a public enemy as this, it exacts no silent obeisance. Personal feeling has no part in the matter. It is to be regarded purely as a public event; and if it really has the shape of a public deliverance, it is just as right to welcome it as any other public blessing. It is just as proper, too, to speak the truth of such a criminal when dead as when living. Humanity has a just reckoning with guilt of this particular dye that can never be satisfied without posthumous infamy.

If ever there was a public man pledged to a career of fidelity and honor, it was John C. Breckinridge. He belonged to a family that had always been noted for patriotism, as well as for every other exalted quality; as a young man he was personally associated with such great-souled patriots as Clay and Crittenden; the people of his own State, in his early youth, took him into their confidence with a readiness seldom exhibited, and the people of the United States elevated him to the second office in their gift, at an age without precedent in American history. Every inherited sentiment, every implanted principle, every obligation of gratitude, forbade him to be unfaithful to his country; but an unholy ambition ruined him. By nature frank, ardent, manly and eloquent, he fell a prey to the lures of higher preferment held out to him by plotters against the peace of the country. They named him for the Presidency at Charleston, and he accepted the nomination, though it was given in violation of every principle which had ruled Democratic conventions, and was sure to divide and destroy his party. How far he was actually cognizant, at that time, of the secession plot, is not yet known. It may be that he was let into the full confidence of the prime conspirators, and fully understood that he should help them ruin if they could not help him rule. It may be that he was at first merely a pliant dupe in the hands of crafty knaves. In measuring his guilt this matters little. The time came when the treason of his supporters was no longer disguised; and it was then his duty to have renounced them and denounced them. Had he been a true man, his indignation at the use the traitors had made of him, would have filled him with al the intenser hate of the treason itself; and the very fact that he had done something unwittingly to further it, would have stimulated him to redoubled efforts afterward to thwart and foil it. Instead of this, he showed all sympathy with it just as long as he could do so safely within the public councils, and then he betook himself bodily to the camp of the rebels. It might have been in weakness that he was first made a dupe, but his subsequent career marked him one of the basest and wickedest of traitors.

We know that it is not easy to draw distinctions between the shades of this black treason against the Union. Yet we can recognize that some sort of charity may be given to a man as Stonewall Jackson, who bred to the doctrine of paramount State sovereignty, and conscientiously believed that it was his duty to obey the decision of his State expressed through constitutional forms. But no such extenuating plea can be advanced for John C. Breckinridge. In one of his last speeches in the Senate, he declared that he was a son of Kentucky, and would follow her destiny. And yet, in spite of the fact that Kentucky, within a week afterward declared, by a majority of sixty thousand votes at the polls, that she would not go out of the Union, he went home and issued a manifesto, declaring that “there is no longer a Senate of the United States within the meaning and spirit of the Constitution; the United States no longer exist; the Union is dissolved;” and that he was now about to “exchange, with proud satisfaction, a term of six years in the Senate of the United States for the musket of a soldier.” The declared intention he made good by soon afterward rallying his friends at Russellville, where a resolution was passed, in so many words, bidding “defiance both to the Federal and State Governments,” and delegates were appointed to the Provisional Congress of the Confederacy. Breckinridge was soon afterward as thoroughly identified with the rebels as Jeff. Davis himself; though in doing it he had to turn his back, not only upon the Union, but upon his own State, whose destiny he had solemnly protested that he would follow. Of all the accursed traitors of the land there has been none more heinously false than he — none whose memory will live in darker ignominy. God grant the country a speedy deliverance of all such parricides.

Breckinridge in fact survived the war, dying in 1875.

Who Loves the Death Penalty?

[ 87 ] March 30, 2014 |

White people:

The differences among religious groups reflect the overall racial and ethnic picture on support for capital punishment. Twice as many white Americans favor the death penalty as oppose it (63% vs. 30%). Among black adults, the balance of opinion is reversed: 55% oppose capital punishment, while 36% support it. The margin is narrower among Hispanics, but more oppose the death penalty (50%) than support it (40%).

As Jamelle Bouie points out, the reason for this divide is racism and the history of whites using extreme violence against people of color.

NAFTA at 20

[ 51 ] March 30, 2014 |

The AFL-CIO has produced a report on the impacts of NAFTA 20 years after passage. Although the impacts are probably familiar to you, it’s worth a read anyway. The summary:

It’s a flawed model that promotes the economic interests of a very few and at the expense of workers, consumers, farmers, communities, the environment and even democracy itself.

While the overall volume of trade within North America due to NAFTA has increased and corporate profits have skyrocketed, wages have remained stagnant in all three countries.

Productivity has increased, but workers’ share of these gains has decreased steadily, along with unionization rates.

NAFTA pushed small Mexican farmers off their lands, increasing the flow of desperate undocumented migrants.

It exacerbated inequality in all three countries.

And the NAFTA labor side agreement has failed to accomplish its most basic mandate: to ensure compliance with fundamental labor rights and enforcement of national labor laws.

The only answer is to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership so this can all just get worse.

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The Only Appropriate State Fossil of South Carolina is a Piece of the True Cross

[ 63 ] March 30, 2014 |

Oh South Carolina:

Earlier this year eight-year-old Olivia McConnell wrote her state representatives to suggest that since South Carolina doesn’t currently have a state fossil, it should be given one! Olivia decided that she needed a legitimate reason to suggest this besides liking fossils, so she came up with three:

She sent the letter to Representative Robert Ridgeway(D) and Sen. Kevin Johnson(D), asking them to sponsor a bill officially making the woolly mammoth the official state fossil.

“We can’t just say we need a sate fossil because I like fossils,” the third grader told The State. “That wouldn’t make sense.” She ended the letter “Please work on this for me” before signing, “Your friend, Olivia.”

The bill passed the House with overwhelming support but encountered some difficulties when Senator Mike Fair(R-Turd) objected to the bill for “religious reasons.”

Fair, who has compared the President to Osama Bin Laden, helped to block funding for a rape crisis center, called climate change a hoax, and blocked evolution from the state’s science standards, saying “I don’t have a problem with teaching theories. I don’t think it should be taught as fact,” stood up for Biblical representation in the state fossil–after all, what’s science without Jesus?

Bryant proposed an amendment to the bill to include a passage from Genesis explaining the Biblical creation of life–because why not?

“I think it’s a good idea to designate the mammoth as the state fossil, I don’t have a problem with that. I just felt like it’d be a good thing to acknowledge the creator of the fossils,” Bryant told the Daily Beast.

Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell blocked the proposed amendment because it introduced a new subject. He has since amended the amendment to describe the Columbian Mammoth as “created on the Sixth Day with the beasts of the field.”

In response to the Lt. Governor’s ruling Senator Mike Fair placed an objection to the bill, which has been put on hold until they can take what was a simple thing that would benefit children across South Carolina and make one little girl very happy–and figure out how to please the Creationists.

If anyone is putting together a time capsule so people a century from now can open it to understand what the heck was wrong with the early 21st century United States, print out this story and include it.

Race and Organizing Southern Auto

[ 29 ] March 30, 2014 |

The UAW is continuing to organize the South after its catastrophic defeat in Chattanooga. It is targeting a Mississippi Nissan plant. Unlike Volkswagen, Nissan is fighting the union. The difference between the two campaigns is that in Mississippi, ministers are on the side of the workers, potentially lending important community support to the campaign lacking in Tennessee. But when I read this article about it that stresses the civil rights angle of the struggle, the main difference I see, and of course I have no ability to know the demographics in the plant, is that the workers and presumably the ministers are black. That hardly surprises me. In the early 21st century, people of color are more likely to support unions than whites. Given the sharp racial divides that determine much of American politics at this time, probably the ability of the UAW to win has as much (or nearly as much) to do with the racial demographics of the Nissan plant as its own organizing strategy. I’m not prematurely letting the union off the hook for another loss, but it’s impossible to ignore the racial issue within southern unionism, an issue that has never been separable from southern organizing campaigns and something that employers have always exploited to divide workers.

In other words, labor rights are indeed civil rights, but if the a lot of the white workers in the plant oppose civil rights, it’s unlikely they will support labor rights.

Shooting Range

[ 33 ] March 29, 2014 |

Bspencer’s post about animated films reminded me of the great and utterly bizarre Vladimir Tarasov 1979 animated film Shooting Range. Part of the superb Animated Soviet Propaganda DVD set, Tarasov’s film is perhaps best described as what happened when a bunch of LSD was smuggled into the Soviet Union and then dropped in whatever horrible concrete building the animators were stuck in. Maybe it was so hard to believe in Soviet propaganda messaging by 1979 that the craziness was necessary to keep it interesting, I don’t know. I’m surprised I’ve never posted this before, but I haven’t. The first time I watched this was in front of students. I basically decided to screen this cold because it looked great. I didn’t regret it. In 2 parts:

Enjoy.

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