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Lydia Loveless

[ 3 ] July 30, 2014 |

One album I recommend very highly is Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else. This young, talented singer from Ohio is definitely someone to check out if you haven’t yet. If you haven’t heard her, this NPR performance is a good place to start, although quite a bit more subdued than her album. I read somewhere that her dad was in the band for awhile, but too many of her songs were about sex so it was too weird. Another excellent musician from southern Ohio as well, which seems to generate a whole lot of underrated music.

Are There Too Many Craft Beers on the Market?

[ 165 ] July 30, 2014 |

Living in Rhode Island, with one of the nation’s worst brewing scenes, the answer is absolutely not, but even when I am in paradise Oregon, the answer is still no. Yet some are concerned.

Located off Rhode Island’s coast, the Atlantic Ocean isle is filled with bluffs, beaches, and rolling hills, such as the one atop which the Atlantic Inn is perched. Here, on the lush lawn in front of the 1879 hotel, you can sit in white Adirondack chairs and watch the rippled waters. Or, on a recent summer morning, you could plop beside Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione and discuss craft beer’s coming bottleneck.

“We’re heading into an incredibly competitive era of craft brewing,” he says. “There’s a bloodbath coming.”

This may seem alarmist. After all, the Brewers Association just announced that 3,000-plus craft breweries now operate in America. Last year’s craft sales climbed 17.2 percent, overseas exports have escalated, and breweries such as Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, and Oskar Blues recently constructed second breweries to spread their bitter ales farther, wider, and fresher. Heck, Stone is building a brewery in Berlin. Berlin!

I’m onboard with America abandoning middle-of-the-road beer and exploring flavorful new directions. The highway, however, is getting mighty crowded. Hundreds of different beers debut weekly, creating a scrum of session IPAs, spiced witbiers, and barrel-aged stouts scuffling for shelf space. For consumers, the situation is doubly confusing. How can you pick a pint on a 100-brew tap list? Moreover, beer shops are chockablock with pale this and imperial that, each one boasting a different hop pun. When buying beer, I can’t count how many times I’ve assisted overwhelmed shoppers, playing the benevolent Sherpa in the wilds of modern brewing.

I was unaware that picking a beer off a taplist of 100 was a problem. This mostly sounds like a bunch of established brewers worried that newcomers are going to break into their market. Of course, there are some legitimate points. There’s a lot of gimmicks around right now. And if you are a newby to the world of craft beer, there’s no question that it can be totally overwhelming. But that situation can be solved pretty quickly with a relatively small amount of experimentation. Or at the very least you can find something you like and stick with. The stupid label wars, as many breweries begin to rely on cheap marketing tactics over quality, is annoying, but hardly worse than some wineries. And I don’t recall people complaining about too many wines on the market even though when I go to Bottles in Providence there are hundreds of different wines in the store.

I suppose there is a cap on the craft beer market. What I hope happens is that it is a race to the top, with lower quality brewers going out of existence. What probably happens is that conglomerates start buying up some of the brands. But even that doesn’t begin to touch the real small-time brewers opening tap rooms and small bars with relatively limited ambition. That is a great thing and just because Dogfish Head executives don’t like the competition doesn’t mean it is going away.

Republicans Fall in Line, Democrats Fall in Love

[ 103 ] July 30, 2014 |

I’m certainly interested in Rick Perlstein’s new book, although who knows when I will have time to read it. While it sounds like he probably gives more transformative agency to Reagan than I am really comfortable with, I have no doubt the insights will be very useful. I did think a bit of his interview with David Dayen worth mentioning here:

And that was true on both sides of the political aisle, right? You talk about Jimmy Carter as just this smile, someone who was an empty vessel for everyone’s beliefs that they projected onto him. You use this phrase, “they yearned to believe,” to describe liberal feelings toward Carter.

Could you believe that Dems could be attracted like iron filings to a magnet to a blank-slate candidate where everyone sees what they want to see? Yes, how about Barack Obama? It’s very similar. Of course, there’s this old adage, Republicans fall in line, Democrats fall in love. But I hope people see the parallel between liberals’ love of Carter, who was not a liberal, and who studiously declined during the campaign to commit himself to any liberal policy, and the present day. Remember in late 2006, Ken Silverstein wrote this article in Harper’s, talking about how Obama was in bed with agribusiness, in bed with local energy interests in Illinois, and not to be trusted? Well, in this time I’m writing about, also in Harper’s, there was an article by Steven Brill called “The Pathetic Lies of Jimmy Carter,” pointing out all of his flaws and misstatements, and it went nowhere. Because they yearned to believe. That’s something I put in throughout the book, they yearned to believe. And it’s a powerful force.

This is a useful lesson. I’ve said this before, but there is no reason to think Democratic presidents are going to create the change you want. They are a necessary tool to sign the bills legislating that change, but just choosing the right president and–poof–everything changes is never, ever going to happen and Democrats are far better off understanding this. Barack Obama was never going to lead a transformative movement and it was silly to think so. Even if Elizabeth Warren was elected president, she wouldn’t either. The constraints are far too great. That change has to come through grassroots organizing that make cowardly politicians afraid to resist or try to buy you off through compromise measures that are victories in themselves. There are of course areas where disappointment in Obama is quite justified–education, public lands, energy development, etc–but these are areas where executive authority dominate policy making. Even in these areas, there was no evidence in 2008 that he’d be any different. It’s not as if Arne Duncan appeared out of thin air.

Tyler Cowen’s Solution to Poverty

[ 120 ] July 30, 2014 |

Tyler Cowen’s solutions to poverty would not have been original in 1890:

You and other thinkers on the right have proposed that cultural factors play a large role in the widening income gap. What are you suggesting?

Note that the observed stagnation in earnings has plagued male earners, not women. Women continue to do better in the work force and also in education, or if they choose not to advance this is often a voluntary decision, linked to childbearing.

Men are perhaps better suited for old-style manufacturing jobs, and women are often better suited for service sector jobs. A lot of men seem to have problems with discipline and conscientiousness.

If we are looking for a remedy, a greater interest in strict religions would help many of the poor a lot — how about Mormonism for a start? Just look at the data. Many other religions prohibit or severely limit alcohol, drugs and gambling. That said, this has to happen privately rather than as a matter of state policy.

Cowen would fit in the Gilded Age quite well. Between his gender stereotypes and his telling the poor to live morally upright religious lives to succeed, thus blaming them for their own poverty if they don’t, Cowen sounds like he’s taken a time machine from the late 19th century. Andrew Carnegie could have used this guy. He goes on to talk about how income inequality is actually a “red herring.” I’m sure the people of the south Texas colonias, Detroit, and Youngstown would totally agree. Their poverty totally isn’t real.

These are the solutions to income inequality that I have no doubt the plutocrats funding him at George Mason love to hear. But telling poor people to convert to Mormonism is, to say the bloody least, not even part of a solution to poverty.

….Cowen’s “ideas” remind me of what I’m seeing here in Oaxaca. The cop cars (and the civilian cars the cops drive somewhat oddly since it tells everyone they are cops) all have bumperstickers saying things like “TRABAJO.” Which means work for those of you with even less Spanish than I have (luckily my wife is nearly fluent). I mean, that’s a great idea. Let’s not provide any jobs. But telling people to work through bumperstickers, that’s sure to fight crime!

Go Teach Pro-Capitalist Propaganda History at Arizona State University

[ 149 ] July 30, 2014 |

I don’t often comment on specific academic jobs but this really stuck in my craw. At Arizona State University:

The School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies (SHPRS) at Arizona State University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor specializing in the history of capitalism and political economy in Europe and/or the United States, from the 18th century to the present. Anticipated start date: August 2015. In addition being a member of the School’s history faculty, the successful candidate will be affiliated with the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU, working closely with colleagues in program development and advancing the Center’s involvement in the wider community in Phoenix and Arizona.

Required qualifications:

Ph.D. in History or an appropriately adjacent field, specializing in the history of capitalism and political economy in Europe and/or the United States, 18th-century to the present, at the time of appointment.

Desired qualifications:

Broad command of the economic, political, and intellectual history of capitalism and political economy, in modern Europe and/or the United States
Demonstrated ability to teach introductory, upper-division, and graduate courses in the above fields, as evidenced in cover letter and CV
Research focus on (a) the relations between free-market institutions and political liberty in modern history; (b) on the contribution of economic theories and ideologies to the formation of public policy related to major sectors of modern economies such as industry, healthcare, housing education and related topics; or (c) on the intellectual history of the leading normative principles of modern political economy–economic freedom, growth and efficiency; distributive justice; political liberty, and constitutionalism.

In other words, tell us how awesome you think capitalism is if you want this job. I was immediately suspicious–”the relations between free-market instituitons and political liberty”???–and asked around. Well, who do you send the CV to? Noted Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly fan Donald Critchlow. See this Reddit thread Critchlow did that begins with him criticizing “revisionist” history that focuses on race as a start to his politics.

Critchlow was hired to head the new Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU. That sure sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not:

The center has already received significant external support. It will house the Jack Miller Library on Constitutional Principles, a significant collection of classical books on political liberty and fundamental principles at the heart of American civic, cultural and constitutional life, and the Journal of Policy History, a peer-reviewed academic quarterly focused on the application of historical perspectives to public policy studies. The Miller Center is a non-profit, non-partisan and non-sectarian organization dedicated to the support of scholarship, teaching and study of the central ideas and themes of American history and the broader traditions of Western Civilization.

Additionally, a five-year grant providing up to $1.129 million dollars from the Charles Koch Foundation, an organization that supports research and educational programs focused on exploring the sources of well-being, will provide seed funding for the center. A post-doctoral program, faculty-student community workshops, a lecture program, student reading groups and library will offer many of the center’s activities.

Heck, why not name this the Charles Koch Chair in Corporate Hackery! And here I thought conservatives couldn’t get jobs in academia. I wonder if ASU has decided to keep this fair and balanced by allowing the CPUSA to host a center and use Venezuelan oil money to fund a position?

So the Center for Political Thought and Leadership should at least try to be relatively objective in its presentation of material, right? The center is just opening. So who is giving its opening keynote address in January? Rich Lowry! Well, you know that is going to be great. Was Dinesh D’Souza not available? Bill Kristol too busy urging policy makers to bomb brown nations?

Very nice Arizona State University. Congratulations on giving up on even the pretense of integrity by accepting Koch money to start an extremist center dedicated to serving the needs of billionaires. And I don’t know what role the History department had in this choice, but I for one would be far beyond disgusted were I a member of the department and I’d speak out about it.

Beaches

[ 154 ] July 29, 2014 |

Beaches are indeed pretty unpleasant.

Hot, boring, and gross is not a great combo for me. Give me a rocky coastline and tide pools any day. Or some mountains.

This is your late night thread on me asserting my aesthetic preferences are objectively correct.

Request in comments for picture of hiking at Mt. St. Helens, a far cooler experience than the beach, granted.

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Labor and Climate Change

[ 1 ] July 29, 2014 |

The stereotype is that unions oppose any action to fight climate change. Certainly that’s true for some unions, especially the Laborers and United Mine Workers. But it is not true for all unions. In fact, like most issues, organized labor is divided over climate change. That however means there are unions that see the absolute necessity for alliances with environmental organizations and to participate on the side of environmentalism. After all, climate change is very much a working class issue as the effects will be felt disproportionately by the poor.

That Pro-Life Hobby Lobby

[ 101 ] July 29, 2014 |

Hobby Lobby puts its pro-life, pro-child policies into practice:

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant.

Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits.

“They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says.

And here I thought Hobby Lobby was acting out of very strong principle for life and not because it hates women and wants to punish them for having sex.

There’s also this gem:

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company.

Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law.

Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Lying so she couldn’t get unemployment is very special, but forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why–because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century.

Chait on Israel

[ 207 ] July 29, 2014 |

Count Jonathan Chait among the long-time supporters of Israel depressed about the nation’s dead-end stance toward Gaza:

The story further reveals that Netanyahu appeared on several occasions to approach the brink of agreement, but pulled back in the face of right-wing pressure within his coalition. Numerous figures in the story attempt to plumb the Israeli Prime Minister’s psychology — does he truly have it in him to go over the brink and make peace, or is he merely bluffing? — but the exercise turns out to be ultimately futile. Either Israeli politics or Netanyahu’s own preferences kept Netanyahu from striking a deal. And since that failure, the most moderate leadership the Palestinians ever had, and probably ever will have, has been marginalized.

Viewed in this context, the campaign of Israeli air strikes in Gaza becomes a horrifying indictment. It is not just that the unintended deaths of Palestinians is so disproportionate to any corresponding increase in security for the Israeli targets of Hamas’s air strikes. It is not just that Netanyahu is able to identify Hamas’s strategy — to create “telegenically dead Palestinians” — yet still proceeds to give Hamas exactly what it is after. It is that Netanyahu and his coalition have no strategy of their own except endless counterinsurgency against the backdrop of a steadily deteriorating diplomatic position within the world and an inexorable demographic decline. The operation in Gaza is not Netanyahu’s strategy in excess; it is Netanyahu’s strategy in its entirety. The liberal Zionist, two-state vision with which I identify, which once commanded a mainstream position within Israeli political life, has been relegated to a left-wing rump within it.

Couple of points. First, going forward into the future, I have no idea how this turns out well toward Israel. Netanyahu seems to count on only ally as necessary–the Republican Party in the United States. Yes, there are still many many Democrats who are 100% on the side of Israel as well and AIPAC’s power in U.S. politics can’t be overestimated. But as they insult Democratic presidents and blow off John Kerry, they are going to lose support. And if Israel is starting to lose people like Jonathan Chait, then it’s support in the U.S. is showing real signs of eroding. Yes, Chait is still holding on to wrong ideas on this issue–such as his claim that the Palestinians are to blame for the decline of the Israeli left. But still, it’s a remarkable essay.

Within their own land, the demographic crisis is inevitable, leading to the nation needing to choose between inclusion and going full apartheid. It’s pretty clear that the Israeli public is moving toward the latter choice, not only in Gaza but in right-wing intimidation and violence against left-wing Israeli critics of the violence. Netanyahu is doing nothing but strengthening Hamas. If anyone can point out some way these attacks help Israel in the long run, let me know because I can’t think of any.

McDonald’s Ruled a “Joint Employer”

[ 29 ] July 29, 2014 |

Big news for workers’ rights today. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled McDonald’s a “joint employer.” This basically invalidates the claim used by fast food corporations that franchise out the stores that they are not responsible for what happens to the workers. Of course this is going to be challenged, but it opens up an attack on one of the ways corporations protect themselves from liability while undermining workers’ rights. The ability of workers to, say, sue McDonald’s for the bad working conditions of their stores would be a major gains in labor rights.

Lydia DePillis wrote on the potential of this decision a couple of weeks ago
:

That may be true of some franchise models. In the case of McDonald’s, though, advocates argue that the fast-food giant’s franchise agreement and actual business practices are so restrictive and pervasive that franchise owners have little latitude with their staffing arrangements and no choice but to keep labor costs as low as possible. In a somewhat unusual arrangement, McDonald’s even controls its own real estate and extracts exorbitant rents from its franchisees, who are on the hook for expensive renovations. All that has driven profit margins down to the point where former McDonald’s executive Richard Adams, now a consultant, estimates that about a quarter of franchises don’t even generate positive cash flow for the owner. That doesn’t give them many options.

….

It’s not just fast food, though: The Browning-Ferris decision could impact janitors, nurses, assembly-line techs, clerical workers, you name it. But what does having a joint employer look like in practice? How do you bargain with two bosses at once?

For the closest example of how this might work, look to show business, says Catherine Fisk, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine.

The big movie studios, after all, haven’t directly employed the people they depend on — like writers, set designers and lighting techs — since the 1940s. But they all know they have to deal with the unions that represent them, which set standard rates for their services. “You get access to all that labor, but you’re going to pay minimum terms,” says Fisk. “People who work in Hollywood recognize that if they all start working for half as much, writers won’t be able to pay their mortgages.”

Things could work similarly in other types of service industries, if it were clear that a large employer couldn’t just pick the contractor that agreed to provide labor for cheap.

Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free

[ 92 ] July 29, 2014 |

What is life like inside the immigrant detention centers the U.S. has set up to house the thousands of migrants fleeing Central American gang and drug violence?

I went down to Artesia, New Mexico last week to see for myself what has become of these vulnerable families. What I found brought me to tears. Mothers and their children are being hidden away, held in inappropriate detention facilities without access to adequate services, medical care, or legal counsel. And they are being deported in the middle of the night without warning and without the opportunity to a fair hearing.

I was able to speak first-hand with several of the moms, all who shared their feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. I could see the fear and desperation in their eyes. Many of the moms are young and some have been recently widowed, with painful stories of domestic abuse and wide-spread violence driven by drug cartels and gangs. Their stories reflect what the research has consistently documented: increasing rates of gender-based violence in Central America, where rape is now a common fate for women and girls as young as 8-years-old. In fact, in Honduras, gender-based violence is now the second highest cause of death for women of reproductive age. And yes, while these mothers themselves were targets of violence in their home communities, what ultimately drove these mothers to flee was not their own safety. They were fleeing for the sake of their children, many of whom were just too little to make the journey on their own.

One mother, Carla, told me her story while weeping, her two-year old daughter wiping her mother’s tears with visible concern on her round face. Carla fled Guatemala City after her husband was murdered. Once apprehended by Border Patrol, she and her daughter were held in a freezing, crowded cell and she was denied a blanket for her daughter. Carla had to remove her own t-shirt just to try to keep her daughter warm. She suffered the same conditions when she was transferred to Arizona, where officers laughed and insulted both her and her daughter, calling them “poor” and other names. When we met, Carla told me that her daughter had been suffering from severe diarrhea for more than five days, and that the doctor insisted she just keep giving her more water. In fact, all of the mothers I spoke to informed me that their children were suffering from some sort of dietary issue, whether it was diarrhea, not eating, or losing weight. I was told over and over again, “there is no medicine here, just water.” Carla said she had to beg for more than 24 hours just to get a diaper for her daughter.

These are basically inhuman conditions and are the official American response to a refugee crisis. If we aren’t going to allow people into our nation escaping horrifying violence, then what do our values mean? And then even if we aren’t sure we are going to allow them into our nation, is it that hard for a nation this wealthy to provide humane conditions while we figure out what to do? The answer to that question of course is no, it is not that hard. We could obviously provide diapers for babies. And we don’t.

….On how U.S. policies have made the Central American crisis much worse.

Nixon on Panda Sex

[ 18 ] July 28, 2014 |

I’m not saying this is on the level of LBJ ordering pants, but Richard Nixon talking about panda mating patterns is not something you expected to hear when you woke up this morning. And look, he got his information from Bob Haldeman, so you know it’s reliable!

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