Author Page for Erik Loomis
Glenn Reynolds is a terrible human being. He was a terrible human being to me personally when he and Michelle Malkin led a right-wing hate campaign against me in 2012. Technically Reynolds didn’t call for my firing, but he came right up to the edge of that and many of his readers called for it–even though I hadn’t done anything even moderately offensive to anyone with a brain. Nonetheless, as Henry points out, he does not deserved to be fired, even for his utterly loathsome and far from subtle call for drivers to run down protestors in Charlotte. Like Henry, I’m not sure this is exactly an academic freedom matter as Reynolds wasn’t representing the University of Tennessee. But it doesn’t matter too much either way because of the latter half of the last sentence. Does he deserved to be canned from USA Today? That’s a totally different question from a private entity. But he should not be fired from the University of Tennessee.
Also, when I was doing some student organizing work at UT back in the late 90s and early 00s, I went into the law school at night and taped a flyer about a labor event I was involved in on Reynolds’ office door. Even better, said labor event brought Richard Trumka to campus. I hope Reynolds threw a clot when he saw that.
Sounds pretty good to me!
Nope — not in the topsy-turvy universe of identity politics. The festival immediately disavowed the address, though the organizers had approved the thrust of the talk in advance. A “Right of Reply” session was hastily organized. When, days later, The Guardian ran the speech, social media went ballistic. Mainstream articles followed suit. I plan on printing out The New Republic’s “Lionel Shriver Shouldn’t Write About Minorities” and taping it above my desk as a chiding reminder.
Viewing the world and the self through the prism of advantaged and disadvantaged groups, the identity-politics movement — in which behavior like huffing out of speeches and stirring up online mobs is par for the course — is an assertion of generational power. Among millennials and those coming of age behind them, the race is on to see who can be more righteous and aggrieved — who can replace the boring old civil rights generation with a spikier brand.
When I was growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s, conservatives were the enforcers of conformity. It was the right that was suspicious, sniffing out Communists and scrutinizing public figures for signs of sedition.
Now the role of oppressor has passed to the left. In Australia, where I spoke, Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to do or say anything likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate,” providing alarming latitude in the restriction of free speech. It is Australia’s conservatives arguing for the amendment of this law.
As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump.
If I knew how to embed emoji, it would all the eyeroll emoji.
I mean, sure, one might argue if the left survived the narcissism of the 60s generation that so many of that generation seem to forget when they whine about millennials, but asking those who said they hoped they die before they got old to now understand now that they are old that, like themselves back in the day when THE LEFT WAS THE LEFT UNLIKE TODAY WHAT WITH THE IDENTITY POLITICS AND THE HIPPITY HOP AND THE LIKE, young people might not think in the same way as those 40 years older than they is evidently impossible. Unlike the GOOD OLD DAYS WHEN WE DROPPED ACID AND PLOTTED TO BLOW UP BUILDINGS AND FETISHIZED INCREASINGLY RADICAL REVOLUTIONARY GROUPS WHILE SHOWING HIPSTER DISDAIN FOR SELLOUT LIBERALS, the kids these days just don’t understand free speech and a real debate, right?
OK, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. But still….
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning to the restrict the display of Confederate flags by “amend[ing] our policy to make clear that Confederate flags will not be displayed from any permanently fixed flagpole in a national cemetery at any time.”
As expressed in a letter written by Roger Walters, interim undersecretary for memorial affairs, “We are aware of the concerns of those who wish to see Confederate flags removed from public venues because they are perceived by many as a symbol of racial intolerance.”
Great! But this might not fit Trumpism:
But a recent vote indicated a majority of House Republicans oppose the VA’s attempt to restrict where and when the Stars and Bars can be displayed. So does Sid Miller, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner who was recently tapped to be Donald Trump’s national co-chairman of his agriculture advisory team.
In a Facebook post published Thursday, Miller suggests the Civil War was first and foremost about protecting free speech — not slavery. He also strikes a skeptical note about whether Confederates who fought against the United States behaved treasonously.
Responding to a Washington Post column supportive of the VA’s move, Miller writes that the piece “makes my blood boil” and says the Post isn’t “entitled to… attempt to read the minds of my long-dead Confederate ancestors and determine that their actions and motivations during that awful war were treasonous.”
He also denounces “politically correct bureaucrats” pushing for the Stars and Bars to be banned.
“With all that is going on around our world and the serious threats that exist to our country and our constitiional [sic] freedoms by those who carry black flags with Arabic writing upon them, I would think that those in our national government would simply leave alone the flags marking the burial grounds of our Confederate dead,” Miller writes. “Unfortunately, I fear that is just wishful thinking on my part and highlights why the outcome of the upcoming election is so very,very important.”
A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union
In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
Truly, no one can read the minds of long-dead Confederates.
And hey, the Civil War was actually about free speech! That’s why conservatives should totally secede from the nation if those big government PC liberals dare to criticize them. After all, saying mean things when Sarah Palin or Donald Trump say something dumb is the ultimate restriction of free speech! And this is just outstanding.
In the lead up to the aforementioned House vote on Confederate flags, a staffer for Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) circulated an email making a case for preserving the Confederate flag that’s similar to Miller’s. The staffer, Pete Sanborn, wrote, “You know who else supports destroying history so that they can advance their own agenda? ISIL. Don’t be like ISIL. I urge you to vote NO.” He signed the email, “Yours in freedom from the PC police.”
Don’t be like ISIL, those liberals!
I liked this piece on support for Trump in eastern Colorado, an area which relies on an extremely globalized world in farm products to have any economy at all. Trump of course claims (FWIW) that he opposes free trade. Of course, I have massive problems with the current trade system as well, including that it allows farmers like these people in eastern Colorado to flood the market in nations like Mexico, forcing millions of people off their farms and into dirty and dangerous jobs in the maquiladoras or to cross into the U.S. But leave that aside for a bit because the point that these are voters who should absolutely support aggressive free trade policies for their own self-interests is valid. Yet of course they hate Hillary and love Trump because nothing is about policy and everything is about racial and cultural identity. And you have to give it to Trump–he has completely stripped away any pretense that Americans care about policy and issues. They will absolutely act against their own concrete economic interests. not only in the relative abstract of tax policy and the safety net but in the sense of I will vote for someone who will cost me my livelihood because I believe in white pride.
While we are justifiably focused on the election, American corporations are still exploiting overseas workers and we aren’t paying any attention to that. Unlike those who claim that American apparel companies moving overseas are beneficient glorious job creators gifting work to the global poor, the workers themselves are real people with real demands. For example, Cambodian workers are demanding an increase in their nation’s minimum wage, from $140 a month to just under $180. That is not a lot of money. But the western apparel companies are making no statement affirming this demand except to say they like a transparent minimum wage. One can at least strongly suspect they actively are working behind the scenes to oppose it. Cole Stangler asks a bunch of experts on these issues, including myself, if these companies can afford the extra $40 a month. Um, yes.
Workers’ rights advocates believe that the U.S. and European brands should take a strong stance today.
“They should back labor unions’ proposed wages and they do have a responsibility,” said Irene Pietropaoli, a Myanmar-based consultant on business and human rights. “They are under no legal obligation to do so, but they clearly are key players in this debate and so have an ethical responsibility to show leadership, to influence the government when they can, to use their ‘leverage,’ to use the wording of the UN Guiding Principles (on Business and Human Rights).”
That landmark document, crafted and endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, calls on companies to use their “leverage” to prevent “an adverse human rights impact” from taking place.
From labor’s perspective, that’s precisely what’s at stake. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, an international alliance of trade unions and labor rights advocates that focuses on the garment industry, has calculated Cambodia’s “living wage” to be $283 a month—far above what local unions are demanding.
However, economic interests get in the way of such a rate, explained Auret van Heerden, senior advisor with the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and former president of the Fair Labor Association.
Suppliers are reluctant to hike wages because, for one, there’s no guarantee their buyers will absorb the higher labor costs. What’s more: garment factories typically operate on short-term contracts, lasting just a few months. If a factory owner decided to unilaterally raise pay, he risks losing future business. A buyer might react by sourcing elsewhere in Cambodia—or by simply finding cheaper labor abroad, in say, Bangladesh or Myanmar.
“A lot of the suppliers, privately, are accusing buyers, brands, of being really part of the problem because they’re cutting their prices on the one hand and they’re expecting them to absorb more costs on the other hand,” said van Heerden.
Of course, the brands themselves could simply sign longer-term contracts guaranteeing higher wages—but they don’t. And, at the moment, van Heerden explained, they’re likely reluctant to get involved in the minimum wage debate for fear of upsetting their business and political partners in Cambodia.
“If the brands do weigh in, they’re going to certainly antagonize government and the industry association, and they’re going to antagonize their own suppliers, frankly,” van Heerden says. “So they’re going to step on three sets of toes and not going to get any credit from the unions unless they want to sort of put themselves in bed with the unions, which is not a position they want to be in either. I can understand why they’d want to stay out of it.”
It is a complicated situation for the companies as they aren’t the only ones who don’t want to pay good wages. But the companies also have the ultimate power–it’s their product. They have the ability to commit to keeping a factory open in a nation that raises its wages or the ability to simply say that they are going to raise prices by $1 for a pair of shoes and that money goes to the workers. We should make them act to improve the lives of the workers making our clothing.
I’ve been pretty disappointed in Kshama Sawant this election because she has mistaken what works in leftist politics to what doesn’t work. What works is exactly what she did–challenging the Democratic Party from the left in a one-party city. That’s a great idea. In that case, it’s not really a third party challenge. It’s a second party challenge. Instead of building on that to take on lame Democrats and cities and state legislatures in safe districts around the nation, she is making the same error that leftists have made throughout American history: seeking to go presidential immediately. By calling for progressives to vote for Jill Stein, she is calling for a strategy that leads to nothingness, quite literally for the millions who would die from neglect, bombing, and who knows what else in a Trump administration. It’s a dead-end political strategy of nihilism.
But what really gets me is the argument that Jill Stein is an anti-capitalist candidate? How is that true? She might be a candidate opposed to the big banks or whatnot, but she’s barely a socialist. Is Sawant wants the left to vote for anti-capitalist candidates, there are real socialists and communists out there. Why not vote for them? What does Jill Stein possibly offer except regrets over the death of Harambe the gorilla, playing nice with anti-vaxxers, and concerns about the effect of Wifi on our health?
Many progressives will vote for Clinton in spite of their opposition to her politics, simply to prevent Trump from setting foot in the White House. I understand their desire to see him defeated, but even more important is beginning the process—too long delayed—of building an alternative to the pro-capitalist parties monopolizing US politics.
Stein’s campaign is an opportunity to rally support for what is widely wanted and needed: radical change. Even a few million people voting for her would be a powerful expression of the changing political landscape. It would be a down payment for a whole new kind of politics in the years ahead, and a new party based on social movements and ordinary people—a party of, by, and for the 99 percent.
I grant that the Democratic Party is a pro-capitalist party. I do not see any evidence that the Green Party is anti-capitalist in any meaningful way. But once again, the left will throw away real potential gains for meaningless stands based on personality.
On September 21, 1908, the Industrial Workers of the World met for its 4th annual convention in Chicago. This convention would reshape the struggling nascent organization, moving it clearly from an intellectuals’ movement to a workers’ movement.
Founded in 1905, by 1908 the IWW hadn’t really done much of anything and its future was murky. This is not to blame the IWW. This is the fate of most new activist organizations. It’s fairly easy to start an organization. But giving it shape and guidance, dealing with difficult personalities, and deciding not only what course of action to take but what ideology will guide that action is always difficult. That’s especially true for the early twentieth century left, where a panopoly of intellectual currents and factions could all fight for control of a given movement. Given that the 1905 convention brought in everyone from the Western Federation of Miners to Eugene Debs to Lucy Parsons, it did not originate with any clear ideological formation.
This does not mean the IWW was completely moribund in 1908. It did have a few adherents and they were organizing workers. In 1907 for instance, the IWW arrived in Portland, Oregon and started an organizing campaign among the city’s timber workers, largely over issues of better pay. It was put down fairly quickly by a combination of employers and the American Federation of Labor, already identifying the IWW as a threat even as it had no real interest in organizing on an industrial basis. IWW miners had also organized the mines of Goldfield, Nevada until the mine owners conspired with Nevada politicians and Theodore Roosevelt to crush them.
But the leadership of the IWW was in flux. The controversial socialist Daniel DeLeon wanted to control the IWW. DeLeon wanted to be the American Lenin. In 1892, he became the editor of the Socialist Labor Party’s newspaper The People. This put him in a position to become the leader of the SLP. Once this happened, he hoped to springboard to be the head of a labor organization. He first tried to take over the dying Knights of Labor, then the American Federation of Labor. He had little support for either. DeLeon then decided to create a parallel labor organization called the Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance in 1895. When the IWW formed in 1905, DeLeon saw an opportunity to control the labor movement. He wanted to turn it into an adjunct of the SLP. But he received resistance almost from the first from the rank and file, especially the western workers who made up the core of IWW support, concentrated in the Western Federation of Miners. Those workers believed the state was their enemy and that political action was worthless. DeLeon wanted to create a leftist alternative to the Socialist Party and focus on political action. He kept introducing political questions into the IWW’s annual conventions, greatly irritating other Wobblies. All of this led to a lot of dissension in the conventions and little being accomplished.
In late 1907, the feud erupted openly, as DeLeon attempted to sabotage a call from James Connolly, the future Irish martyr who was working as an IWW organizer in New York, to launch a large recruiting drive in New York City. DeLeon took over the meeting by shouting about how Connolly was a traitor to the SLP. So by the time of the 1908 convention, most Wobblies were ready to be rid of DeLeon.
Another group attended this convention for the first time. Out of Portland, a group of radicals decided to hop trains and head to Chicago. This became known as the Overalls Brigade. Led by an organizer named John Walsh, these 19 workers headed east, organizing along the way. They held 31 meetings, sold more than $175 worth of IWW literature and $200 in IWW song sheets. They had complete contempt for DeLeon and for his own elitism about revolutionary theory that was supposedly above the head of the average worker. These were men who believed in industrial organizing, direct action, and taking on capitalism in a total war. They brought that spirit of direction action to the convention floor, singing their songs, and providing a bulwark of rank and file opposition to DeLeon. The Overalls Brigade opened the convention by singing “The Marseillaise” and convention leaders openly asking them to lead the fight against DeLeon.
Others joined the anti-DeLeon fray. IWW intellectuals like Ben Williams wanted this dealt with now because they believed the future of the IWW depended upon deciding just what its ideological stances were, especially around the role of direct action, industrial organization, and politics. DeLeon was ousted in a procedural vote because he did not represent a local which he claimed to represent. The delegates then debated the role of politics in the IWW. This was more closely divided than the decision to oust the difficult DeLeon. Some wanted to keep the political clause in the IWW constitution to give it a patina of respectability that would discharge claims it was an organization of anarchist bombthrowers. But in a 35-32 vote, the delegates did eliminate the reference to political action. Although what the IWW believed in was not really articulated at this point (and in fact, the IWW would always be awfully cagey about their actual ideological details), the emphasis on direct action was in the ascendant. Like the AFL, their diehard enemy, the IWW would refuse to play in politics, believing the state to be a class war enemy of workers’ rights. This demonstrates the sheer hopelessness that workers had for state action during the Gilded Age. The only thing that both union federations could agree on was that the state was worthless for guaranteeing anything for workers. The IWW was still not a stable organization after the 1908 convention, but it had eliminated the internal divide that would prevent it from moving forward with organizing workers and fighting class warfare.
The Overalls Brigade would return to the Northwest and bring their radical direct action to the workers of the Northwest, first with the Spokane Free Speech Fight and then with a decade of worker empowerment, strikes, and challenging the timber industry, police, and political leadership of the Pacific Northwest until they were crushed in a maelstrom of violence during and after World War I.
DeLeon went on to bitterly attack the IWW, especially for the “slum proletariat” that had taken over the convention and removed him. He died in 1914, failing in his effort to become Lenin.
This is the 193rd post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.
We are all pretty pessimistic right now. There’s just about a 50/50 chance the next president of the United States is going to be Donald Trump. That’s beyond frightening. But perhaps that’s entirely mitigated by Americans beginning to turn their backs on the horror of pumpkin beer.
As I chronicled in a February 2016 article, brewers were caught completely off-guard late last year when sales of the once cultish style rotted away like a jack-o-lantern on a tropical Christmas afternoon. The problem: overproduction, oversaturation, underwhelming craft growth and overly hot autumn temperatures. Those woes were caused, in turn, by increased volume at established breweries, new breweries trying to cash in on the craze, fewer drinkers entering the market, and, well, climate change. For the first time, mass quantities of pumpkin beer sat on the shelves months past their sell-by date and a lot of breweries, wholesalers and retailers lost money. Many declared sudsy pumpkins a dying trend and decided to cut production this year.
Now it’s mid-September. Most craft brewers have finished their 2016 pumpkin run and trucked it out to their distributors.
Did they cut production? Yes — many of them drastically. That is, if they produced any pumpkin at all.
“Ithaca [Brewing] has discontinued its pumpkin, as has Shock Top (an Anheuser-Busch InBev product),” says the owner of an East Coast AB InBev distributor who didn’t want to use his name. “We knew the market had kind of hit the wall last year.”
Samuel Adams produced one instead of two pumpkins this year. Pumpkin powerhouses Harpoon Brewery, Southern Tier Brewing and Shipyard Brewing all produced less volume, as did four Philadelphia-area breweries contacted at random.
Maybe some of these breweries like Southern Tier, who once made their name on very solid beer in a variety of styles only to plunge whole hog into super sweet holiday beers based on the success of their terrible Pumpking, will start focusing on good quality beers again.
As for Trump and the decline of pumpkin beer, well, you win some, you lose some.
The entire conversation around immigration in this country, specifically immigration from Mexico and Central America, is broken, but the entire rhetoric around the Trump’s border wall is incredibly stupid, as Casey Walker points out.
It is a political moment that compels me to relate this history. There is currently a candidate for president — an unserious person, but a serious contender — whose opening campaign gesture, and most common applause line, is a broadside against Mexico and Mexicans that ends with a vision of a border wall. Donald Trump promises he will build an enormous border fence, spanning the entirety of the 2,000-mile boundary-line between the United States and Mexico. And he asserts that Mexico will pay for it.
As Trump regales his followers with this dream, he does not appear to recognize how much wall already exists. He seems not to know, or not to care, that in San Diego a border wall already extends beyond where the land ends, hundreds of feet into the Pacific Ocean. In many of the most populous cities along the border, there are in fact two walls, patrolled day and night, with a no-man’s-land in between. There are concrete-filled steel beams a dozen or more feet high. There are deceptively stubby panels of rusty siding that belie the electronic eyes all around and the Border Patrol vehicles perched on nearby hillsides.
And I can tell you that across those lands where no wall exists, there is the desert where I grew up, where daytime summer temperatures regularly top 125 degrees Fahrenheit, where the sand feels like it might at any moment turn to glass. Should a migrant become lost, should his hired guide abandon him, the cost in crossing these deserts is death. It is worth reading the accounts of the first boundary commission surveyors, who were given the unenviable task of marking the material line agreed to on paper in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. The surveyors found the land they traveled through inhospitable, treacherous, confusing, and nearly unmappable. “Much of this country, that by those residing at a distance is imagined to be a perfect paradise, is a sterile waste,” they wrote, “utterly worthless for any purpose than to constitute a barrier or natural line of demarcation between two neighboring nations.” I will be the first to defend the stark beauty of the desert, to dispute the notion that it is only a sterile waste. There are ocotillos and Joshua Trees, bighorn sheep in the rocky hills, and tortoises so hardy that one has to imagine they possess a stoic wisdom. But that the Mexican-American borderland is brutal to the disoriented and unwanted and alone — that is beyond dispute.
To be precise, then, it is not a wall that Trump wants, but additional walls, walls that would extend through landscapes where crossing the lines demarcated in the official paperwork already kills people. Every serious analysis of Trump’s proposal has concluded that the additions he describes would be prohibitively expensive to build. They would be impossible to maintain. And his wall would almost certainly be ineffective as a deterrent to the immigration he wishes to prevent — many people who desire American citizenship settle here initially simply by overstaying a temporary visa. All of these facts are so obvious they feel tedious to recount. And yet here we are, in a political moment where the transparent unworkability of Trump’s border vision is not enough to disqualify it, or its speaker, from mainstream political discussion. The social and political reforms the United States must undertake with respect to immigration have complex dimensions — but these are not the questions that Trump addresses. Trump’s border wall can be refuted on a bumper sticker: It is a lie.
Of course it’s a lie. But white people LOVE this lie. And not white people in Arizona and Texas either. It’s white people in Nebraska, in Iowa, in Mississippi, who love this lie because even if they don’t know any Mexicans, the mere existence of the Spanish speaking option being stated to them when they call the pharmacy is an unthinkable outrage against their racial privilege. When I lived in Albuquerque, there was a profile in the paper of one of the yahoos who had decided to become a Minutemen. He was from Alabama and he was motivated to protect his nation from the evils of Mexico when–and I swear this is what he said–he was at his favorite buffet in Birmingham and heard people speaking Spanish.
That is who this border wall would be for.
This is the grave of Ulysses S. Grant.
Ulysses S. Grant was a failure at basically everything in life up to the Civil War, rose out of obscurity and disgrace to lead the nation in the crushing of treason in defense of slavery (although Grant himself had married into a slaveholding family), became the nation’s most popular individual, served as an entirely mediocre president who was in awe of the wealthy and a sucker for the schemes of Jay Cooke that helped plunge the nation into the Panic of 1873, became a unfortunately vilified president by those who hated Reconstruction, and, in recent years, has become a wildly overrated president by those who want to reject the Dunning school of history. Ulysses S. Grant was a great general, a man with a decent but not great record on civil rights as president (he openly lamented the 15th Amendment by the end of his presidency), and has been batted around like a tennis ball by detractors and defenders. Ulysses S. Grant also liked whiskey.
Ulysses S. Grant is buried at the General Grant National Memorial, New York, New York.