Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Erik Loomis

rss feed

Visit Erik Loomis's Website

The Great Mistery of the Great Whore Unfolded

[ 16 ] 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

[ 89 ] 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

[ 23 ] 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

[ 28 ] 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

[ 155 ] 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?

Jim Jeffords, RIP

[ 2 ] August 19, 2014 |

Jim Jeffords gave control of the Senate to the Democrats in 2001 when he left the Republican Party. If it didn’t permanently eliminate the Republican control that would allow the Bush Administration to do all sorts of horrible things with congressional approval, it forestalled it and for that we owe him thanks.

Also, it made me laugh at Republicans at a time when there was very little for me to laugh about given that Bush had just stolen the election.

Problems with Renewables

[ 54 ] August 19, 2014 |

When your solar panels burn so hot that the birds flying over them burst into flames, your energy plans have problems.

As I’ve said before, all forms of energy are going to have negative environmental consequences. But while far more birds die from smashing into glass buildings that will ever die from solar panels, the visuals on this are pretty horrible.

What’s Wrong With White People (II)

[ 110 ] August 18, 2014 |

Oh white people.

Current job approval of President Obama by race:

African-American: 85%
Hispanic (a term I dislike but that’s what they use): 52%
White: 32%

In other news, we live in a post-racial society.

It’s Always About Profits

[ 21 ] August 18, 2014 |

Since the murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, shares of Taser International have risen 25 percent. Given that the company makes tasers and body cameras for police, it’s not totally clear to me which is driving the jump. Both probably. For the capitalists, it doesn’t matter. The company profits on police violence and on regulating police violence. Hard to find a better example of capitalism.

Faux Outrage over the Poor Owning Technology

[ 48 ] August 18, 2014 |

In other words, people who whine that the poor have cell phones instead of their proper role of starving or that those “choosing” to have something like a cell phone rather than health insurance are the undeserving poor are idiots. Because these often aren’t actually choices and even if they are, what the hell is it to you that people make the choices that improve their lives in ways they see fit with their limited resources?

The Deadly Workplaces of Texas

[ 31 ] August 16, 2014 |

Excellent Dallas Morning News expose on dangerous work in the Texas construction industry.

More workers die here than in any other state. On average, a Texas worker is 12 percent more likely to be killed on the job than someone doing the same job elsewhere, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of federal data.

That translates to about 580 excess workplace deaths over a decade.

Construction has contributed mightily to Texas’ booming economy. And the state’s construction sites are 22 percent deadlier than the national average.

Forty percent of Texas’ excess death toll was among roofers, electricians and others in specialty construction trades. Such workers are sometimes treated as independent contractors, leaving them responsible for their own safety equipment and training. Many are undocumented immigrants.

Government and industry here have invested relatively little in safety equipment, training and inspections, researchers say. And Texas is one of the toughest places to organize unions, which can promote safety.

“There’s a Wild West culture here,” said University of Texas law professor Thomas McGarity, who has written several books about regulation. Texans often think, “We don’t want some nanny state telling workers how to work and, by implication, telling employers how to manage the workplace,” he said.

The Texas construction industry flourishes in the state’s business-friendly climate, Gov. Rick Perry has said.

“Let free enterprise reign, and be wary of overregulation,” he declared in a 2009 speech at the Central Texas Construction Expo. “All that regulation adds to your overhead, and you can’t operate at a profit.”

Which is more important than keeping workers alive.

What causes this higher danger?

A 2013 report by the Workers Defense Project, an Austin-based advocacy group, estimated that 41 percent of construction workers in Texas are improperly treated as independent contractors.

A state law passed in the last legislative session allows a fine of $200 for each misclassified worker found at a publicly funded project. The Texas Workforce Commission says it has issued one fine under the new law.

In Illinois, a similar law also covers construction companies working on private projects. A roofing contractor there was fined $1.6 million for having 10 misclassified workers.

“Now that’s a deterrent,” said Mike Cunningham, executive director of a labor union association called Texas Building Trades.

What would fix the problem?

Texas is a right-to-work state. That means workers aren’t required to join a union if one exists for their shop. Texas has the sixth-lowest rate of union membership in the country.

The News’ analysis found that states with weaker labor unions tended to have a higher fatality rate. Long-term academic research that studied other factors has come to similar conclusions.

Of course.

In conclusion, Texans will continue to die while working construction. That many are undocumented immigrants is a feature of the system.

Page 1 of 24712345102030...Last »
  • Switch to our mobile site