Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Erik Loomis

rss feed

Visit Erik Loomis's Website

Kissinger and Cuba

[ 26 ] October 2, 2014 |

Reunión_Pinochet_-_Kissinger

Augusto Pinochet–Henry Kissinger’s kind of Latin American ruler.

Henry Kissinger’s response to Cuba sending troops to Angola in 1975 was quite rational and appropriate, showing how this Nobel Peace Prize winner is someone who still needs to be taken seriously today.

Mr. Kissinger, who was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, had previously planned an underground effort to improve relations with Havana. But in late 1975, Mr. Castro sent troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas.

That move infuriated Mr. Kissinger, who was incensed that Mr. Castro had passed up a chance to normalize relations with the United States in favor of pursuing his own foreign policy agenda, Mr. Kornbluh said.

“Nobody has known that at the very end of a really remarkable effort to normalize relations, Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro’s head,” Mr. Kornbluh said.

“You can see in the conversation with Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic,” Mr. Kornbluh said, adding that Mr. Kissinger used “language about doing harm to Cuba that is pretty quintessentially aggressive.”

The plans suggest that Mr. Kissinger was prepared after the 1976 presidential election to recommend an attack on Cuba, but the idea went nowhere because Jimmy Carter won the election, Mr. LeoGrande said.

“These were not plans to put up on a shelf,” Mr. LeoGrande said. “Kissinger is so angry at Castro sending troops to Angola at a moment when he was holding out his hand for normalization that he really wants to, as he said, ‘clobber the pipsqueak.’ ”

The plan suggested that it would take scores of aircraft to mine Cuban ports. It also warned that the United States could seriously risk losing its Navy base in Cuba, which was vulnerable to counterattack, and estimated that it would cost $120 million to reopen the Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico and reposition destroyer squadrons.

The plan also drafted proposals for a military blockade of Cuba’s shores. The proposal warned that such moves would most likely lead to a conflict with the Soviet Union, which was a top Cuba ally at the time.

“If we decide to use military power, it must succeed,” Mr. Kissinger said in one meeting, in which advisers warned against leaks. “There should be no halfway measures — we would get no award for using military power in moderation. If we decide on a blockade, it must be ruthless and rapid and efficient.”

Hard to see how that could have gone wrong.

El Salvador’s War on Women

[ 11 ] October 1, 2014 |

For Republicans, Central American nations’ treatment of women is no doubt a model, not a problem:

It is a war against women and girls that is documented in Amnesty International’s new report, On the Brink of Death: Violence against Women and the Abortion Ban in El Salvador. 



The report illustrates how a change in the law 16 years ago criminalized abortion in all circumstances, making it one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. Women and girls in El Salvador cannot have an abortion, even if continuing their pregnancy might kill them, or if the fetus is not viable and will not live. 
Even a nine-year-old girl pregnant after from rape cannot get an abortion. 



Those that defy the law and seek an unsafe, clandestine abortion are often punished severely. More than 11 per cent of maternal deaths are from unsafe abortions; deaths that are preventable. Those that survive face the possibility of prison sentences of two to eight years. 



The Amnesty International report found that women who have had miscarriages are suspected of terminating their pregnancies and have been charged with aggravated homicide. Courts can order a prison sentence of up to 50 years in an aggravated homicide case. 



The cases highlighted in our report are stark enough, but while in San Salvador, I have met with some of the world’s most forgotten women, women who were fighting for their rights in the face of adversity. It was a truly humbling experience. 



Consider the story of Cristina. She was 18 years old when she miscarried. She passed out and was rushed to hospital where, instead of care and kindness, she was accused of actively terminating her pregnancy. In August 2005, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 



Ted Cruz rubs his hands together in excited approval.

The End of Oysters?

[ 53 ] October 1, 2014 |

Oysters_(3048538276)

This is depressing news for we oyster lovers. In short, climate change is creating ocean acidification which will decimate oyster beds. What’s more, we know it is already happening but the carbon currently affecting oyster beds today was spewed fifty years ago, meaning that what is happening today won’t be fully felt for another 50 years.

Ocean acidification is bound to get worse, before it gets better

It takes a few decades for all this acidic water to make it to the surface. That means the oyster die-offs we’re seeing now at hatcheries across the Pacific Northwest are being caused by carbon absorbed into the ocean at least four or five decades ago, when greenhouse gases levels were significantly lower. “The worst part is that even if I could push a button right now which would stop all CO2 emissions today, for the next 50 years things are going to get worse before they start improving,” Eudeline says. There are record levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now, which means the worst might be yet to come for producers like Taylor Shellfish.

Shellfish operations could move inland, but be prepared to drop almost $20 on an oyster

If acidity levels continue to soar, operations like Taylor Shellfish could theoretically move their operations completely inland and harvest oysters in a lab. But the production costs would get stupid high. “Instead of paying $10 a dozen, you’re going to pay $200 a dozen,” Eudeline says. “That’s just the cost of what it would take to grow an adult oyster on a land-based system where you can control all the water quality.” Plus, growing oysters on land just isn’t, well, natural. Says Eudeline: “We rely 99.9 percent on nature to do the job. If nature cannot do the job anymore, that means there will be a decrease [in oysters] — there is no doubt.”

Eat your bivalves today because your children probably won’t know what they taste like.

Why is the Forest Service Restricting Photography in Wilderness Areas?

[ 139 ] October 1, 2014 |

My love of an intrusive federal government is well-known. I think government can indeed do most things better than the private sector. But that doesn’t mean that government is perfect. Far from it. I was hoping that the FDA’s attempts to restrict raw milk cheese imports was the stupidest regulatory standard I would hear of this year. But the Forest Service has it beat:

The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country’s wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas.

Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in 36 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.

Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.

Huh? Why?

Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, says the restrictions have been in place on a temporary basis for four years and are meant to preserve the untamed character of the country’s wilderness.

Close didn’t cite any real-life examples of why the policy is needed or what problems it’s addressing. She didn’t know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.

She said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.

“It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” she said. “We have to follow the statutory requirements.”

That doesn’t make very much sense at all. First of all, it’s a non-problem. Second, why does it apply to individuals taking pictures?

Not surprisingly, there is a significant backlash from western members of Congress of both parties:

Rep. Peter DeFazio and three other congressional leaders said Monday they still have deep concerns about the constitutionality of a U.S. Forest Service proposal restricting wilderness photography.

The Forest Service faced nationwide outrage last week over plans to require a permit for photography and filming in vast swaths of the country’s federally designated wilderness areas. Its chief, Tom Tidwell, backed off late Thursday, saying his agency respected the First Amendment and wouldn’t restrict media or amateur photographers’ access.

But the onslaught of criticism has continued.

As written, the proposal would allow special permits to be granted for commercial filming in wilderness only to share information about the “use and enjoyment of wilderness” or its scientific, educational, historic or scenic values.

DeFazio, D-Ore., Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the top leaders in the House Natural Resources Committee, said that requirement was “constitutionally questionable” and should be rescinded.

“We do not believe the Forest Service, or any other agency, should be in the business of determining what type of information can be disseminated to the public,” they said in a Monday letter to Tidwell.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said the provision was just one example of the gaps between Tidwell’s promises Thursday and the Forest Service’s written proposal.

Tidwell told the Associated Press last week that the plan didn’t apply to still photography. The proposal repeatedly says it does.

I’d say there is about a zero percent chance this ever gets implemented. I wish I knew why the heck this proposal was even floated.

The Republican Party: Where Facts and Evidence Don’t Matter

[ 91 ] October 1, 2014 |

Chait has a good profile of Tom Cotton, quite possibly the next senator from Arkansas. This despite his vote against the farm bill that many Arkansas citizens rely upon:

Yet farm subsidies have lived on. Their survival has nothing to do with any public policy merits. There is no persuasive economic rationale for why the government should write checks to people who operate farms as opposed to textile mills or construction firms or any other business. (Yes, people need to eat, but the market is capable of supplying food, just as it is capable of supplying clothing and shelter.) Farmers are also more affluent than the average American. Since they are overwhelmingly white and conveniently spread throughout nearly every state, their claim to public subsidy has gained some popular legitimacy.

Faced with his controversial vote against the farm bill, Cotton has urgently fashioned himself as an agri-supremacist. He has urged the locals to ignore the judgment of fact-checking journalists who pronounce his ad false: “I don’t think liberal reporters who call themselves fact checkers spent much time growing up on a farm in Yell County growing up with Len Cotton, so I think I know a little bill more about farming than they do.” Cotton’s identity as a onetime farmboy, by this argument, lends him a superiority in any dispute over farm policy that overrides even the facts themselves. Cotton perhaps first developed this epistemological theory while studying philosophy at Harvard.

Cotton goes further still. Molly Ball, in an engrossing profile, reports that Cotton argues against food stamps because its recipients live high on the hog: “They have steak in their basket, and they have a brand-new iPhone, and they have a brand-new SUV.” As an argument against food stamps, this is laughably false: The program offers a benefit averaging $1.50 per person per meal, and its beneficiaries are quite poor.

This is perfect. Evidence doesn’t matter because it’s provided by those outsiders who probably don’t go to church. Growing up in Yell County (a bit too on the nose I think), with that kind of background what can’t one say about policies that effect the good people of Arkansas? That also gives him “credibility” to talk about those big black bucks moochers driving up in their Cadillac and paying for steak dinners with their welfare checks

Mark Pryor might not be anyone’s favorite Democrat. The nation will be worse off when he is replaced by Tom Cotton.

Violence at Work

[ 8 ] October 1, 2014 |

It’s hardly shocking that the difficult conditions of modern work would lead to a rise in workplace violence as people, who often have access to high-powered weapons, snap. The workers who experience the most workplace violence? Retail sales workers.

German World War I Propaganda Posters

[ 36 ] September 30, 2014 |

Everyone loves American propaganda posters from World War I. Like this one:

us-propaganda-6-jpg

In fact, a selection of these posters are currently on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, which I will be seeing before it closes.

But what about German World War I propaganda posters? Well, they are pretty interesting:

cc503ad386a9a205493178ce1fdf7e99

This is a plea for rabbit skins to be sent to the military.

Or this one urging the killing of seals for train oil:

7590

Whose American Exceptionalism?

[ 52 ] September 30, 2014 |

In the recent battles over the new AP U.S. History standards, standards that center nothing more than the standard narrative of most American historians in 2014, one of the right-wing critiques is that they don’t celebrate American exceptionalism, while instead instilling in our young people that they should question authority (the horror!). Among the many problems with these assertions is that the idea of American exceptionalism in service of whatever right-wing agenda is currently popular means forgetting the many ways that exceptionalism has operated in the past. Kevin Levin:

Part of the criticism of the revised AP US History curriculum revolves around the assumption that it undercuts and even contradicts a narrative of America’s Exceptionalism. I don’t believe it does and I base such a conclusion on the fact that I’ve read through it. More accurately, it doesn’t say anything one way or the other. I suspect that the vast majority of critics have yet to read it through.

What I’ve never understood, however, is if some people expect me to teach American history through such a lens, whose understanding of the concept should I teach?

Baptist’s slaveowners fully embraced capitalism. Despite the Panic of 1837 slavery resulted in enormous profits throughout the first half of the nineteenth century and helped to push the nation west on its course of “Manifest Destiny.” Americans celebrated this expansion and the wealth created as a sign of its exceptionalism. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why there is such a need to argue that American slavery was not profitable and that it was on the decline by the eve of the Civil War. Better to see it as positioned in sharp opposition from the kind of post-Civil War capitalist surge than as the engine that pushed it forward. We should ignore the fact that it was John Calhoun’s theory of “Due Process” that was later embraced by pro-big-business legal thinkers during the Industrial Revolution.

No, no, stop with that version of American exceptionalism. We just need to teach that America is awesome. Enough said.

Moyers

[ 7 ] September 30, 2014 |

Bill Moyers is finally retiring. Sad but hardly unexpected as he is in his 9th decade of life. A great journalist and a great man.

Kosher Food Blackmail of American Housewives

[ 100 ] September 30, 2014 |

Back in the days when albums were an important way of communicating with the public, the American States Rights Party decided to release an album teaching us whites the true way, i.e., that Jews are a horror threatening white America. I think released in 1961, some call this the most repulsive record ever. And, well, yeah. However, did that stop me from listening to one side of it? No. And what did that one side tell me? That Jews are responsible for all sorts of horrors, including wall to wall carpeting (I too am outraged). You learn that Martin Luther King was Felix Frankfurter’s puppet. Most importantly, Christians need to avoid buying from Jew-loving companies. This includes Kraft. And Ford. Wait, what? Yes, Ford. Only through these actions will good Christians stop the United States from becoming the Congo. Which given the time might mean the CIA overthrowing a popular leader to put into power one of the most vile and corrupt dictators of the 20th century.

Other things I learned include that Jews also love pornography. Jewish ownership of CBS and ABC led to the betraying of the white race through their support of integration. Peanut butter brands to avoid include Jiffy and Skippy. Drink Lipton tea, not Tetley (no guidance on Twinings? What will I do?) Finally, and this goes without saying, Jews are responsible for the graduated income tax. Of course none of this makes any sense, but it’s worth being reminded, in these days of the right-wing embracing its somewhat mythologized view of Judaism that serves as part of a white army against Islam and bringing in the apocalypse through its expansive policies, of how recently the right saw Jews as equal to African-Americans in the pantheon of threats to whiteness.

Ban the Confederate Flag

[ 219 ] September 30, 2014 |

California takes a significant step in what I think should be a movement to ban the Confederate flag:

Starting next year, the Confederate flag will no longer be available for sale or on display at government agencies in California. Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law that prohibits selling or displaying items that have the flag on it.

The law was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Isadore Hall of Compton after his mom saw a replica Confederate at the Capitol gift shop. As a person of color, Hall says the state should avoid promoting symbols of racism. The gift shop no longer displays or sells the item.

This only applies to sales in places owned by the state, so racists will still be able to buy their Confederate flags at shops off the highway in Needles or whatever. But the state officially designating the symbol as racist and thus moving it in the popular mind as a symbol of hate speech that should eventually be banned nationwide is a really positive move here. Other states should follow California’s lead.

Resistance in the Pennsylvania Coal Country: Past and Present

[ 23 ] September 29, 2014 |

Last week, I gave a talk at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, titled “Resistance in the Pennsylvania Coal Country: Past and Present,” although in reality, I talked more broadly about Appalachia in the second half of the talk. Anyway, it was filmed and is here if you want to watch it. I can’t seem to embed it so click the link. I got pretty warmed up during the talk and really laid into the horrors of the coal industry.

Page 5 of 258« First...34567102030...Last »