Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Erik Loomis

rss feed

Visit Erik Loomis's Website

Next, Shaming People in the Stocks

[ 59 ] February 7, 2014 |

Debtors prison still exists, just under a different name of “not paying court costs.” Luckily, the ACLU is fighting this.

Today in Historical American Racial Atrocities

[ 181 ] February 7, 2014 |

The always useful Executed Today reminds us of another lovely event in American history:

On this date in 1902, two African-American U.S. Army privates were hanged before a crowd of 3,000 at Guinobatan, Philippines for deserting to the anti-occupation insurgency.

The 7,000 black soldiers deployed to put down Philippine national resistance against the American occupation faced an obvious conundrum: they were second-class citizens back home, fighting a savage war to keep Filipinos second-class citizens abroad.

Men in such situations have been known to square that circle by going over to join their fellow downtrodden.

Edmond† Dubose and Lewis Russell, whose firsthand voice we do not have, must have felt those unreconciled strivings, too. These two enlisted men slipped out of the 9th Cavalry‡ in August 1901 while that regiment was conducting anti-insurgency operations in Albay, and were next seen fighting with those same insurgents.

Captured, they were among approximately 20 U.S. soldiers death-sentenced for desertion.

General Adna Chaffee, a veteran of the U.S. Indian Wars and latterly fresh from crushing China’s Boxer Rebellion, approved the hangings — as did the U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt. (Roosevelt later announced that future desertion cases would not be capitally punished, so Dubose and Russell were the only two executed for that crime during the U.S. war against Philippine independence.)

So nice of TR to make that pronouncement after the black men were killed.

I would show a photo of this as well. But I don’t have one.

Dead Horses in American History (II)

[ 111 ] February 6, 2014 |

Dead horses after Battle of Gettysburg, 1863

The Wages of Coal

[ 35 ] February 6, 2014 |

Plumer has a good summary of one of the nation’s most underreported energy/environmental problems–coal ash storage. Storing this nasty stuff safely is a real problem. Environmentalists have pushed for new regulations, but the Obama Administration has moved very slowly. What’s the risk of coal ash?

One big worry is a sudden catastrophic spill like the one that happened in Tennessee. But there’s also the risk that ash could contaminate the water or air on a smaller scale, too. Coal ash often contains a variety of toxic elements like selenium, mercury, and lead — although the precise amounts vary. These heavy metals can pose health risks to humans and wildlife.

The big spills are somewhat rarer, with the 2008 Kingston disaster in Tennessee being the biggest to date. But it’s not impossible: The EPA has identified 45 wet ash ponds around the country that are “high hazard” — that is, if the encasing broke, it could lead to a loss of human life. (It would be as if a massive dam broke.) Two of those high-hazard ponds are located at Duke Energy’s Dan River site in North Carolina.

The risk of smaller contamination is also worth noting. In its 2010 proposed rule, the EPA identified a variety of ways this could threaten human health: If the coal ash was deposited in an unlined landfill or sand pit or quarry, some of those toxic elements could leach into the groundwater or migrate off-site. Or liquid waste could leak into surface water during a flood. Or dust from dry ash could become airborne.

The environmental group Earthjustice has found 207 sites in 37 states where coal ash has contaminated the water or air in violation of federal health standards. For example: Out in Prince George’s County Maryland, millions of tons of coal ash from a landfill leaked into a nearby creek after two recent hurricanes. Out in Nevada, the Moapa River Reservation has alleged that dry coal ash was frequently blowing into their communities from uncovered dumps, leading to a rash of illnesses.

Not surprisingly, the facilities where this stuff is stored tends to be in impoverished areas and so whether in big or small accidents, the poor are the one paying the wages of coal production. This is very much an environmental justice issue, as much as it is an energy policy issue.

AFL-CIO Coming Out for Keystone

[ 109 ] February 6, 2014 |

For quite awhile, the AFL-CIO has tried to tread a middle ground on fossil fuel development. Understanding that its constituent unions had differing feelings on the issue and finding itself between the knowledge that it desperately needs alliances with other progressive organizations in order to remain a politically potent force on one hand with the demand for immediate jobs on the other, it tried to remain relatively neutral on the Keystone XL Pipeline and other issues.

That neutrality seems to be slipping as Richard Trumka has recently started supporting the pipeline and other fossil fuel projects.

The nation’s leading environmental groups are digging their heels in the sand by rejecting President Obama’s “all-of-the above” domestic energy strategy—which calls for pursuing renewable energy sources like wind and solar, but simultaneously expanding oil and gas production.

But it appears the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, won’t be taking environmentalists’ side in this fight, despite moves toward labor-environmentalist cooperation in recent years. On a recent conference call with reporters, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka endorsed two initiatives reviled by green groups: the Keystone XL pipeline and new natural gas export terminals.

“There’s no environmental reason that [the pipeline] can’t be done safely while at the same time creating jobs,” said Trumka.

In response to a question from In These Times, Trumka also spoke in favor of boosting exports of natural gas.

“Increasing the energy supply in the country is an important thing for us to be looking at,” Trumka said. “All facets of it ought to be up on the table and ought to be talked about. If we have the ability to export natural gas without increasing the price or disadvantaging American industry in the process, then we should carefully consider that and adopt policies to allow it to happen and help, because God only knows we do need help with our trade balance.”

The call came amidst a series of three speeches by the AFL-CIO leader pushing for more investment in energy and transportation infrastructure. Trumka did not specifically praise Keystone and natural gas exports during the first speech, at the UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk on January 15, and it is unclear whether he will in the remaining two. But the labor leader’s comments on the conference call were enough to peeve environmentalists.

I understand the need for jobs. But the AFL-CIO is just wrong here. Yes, members need jobs. And if the pipeline is going to be built anyway, then they should be union jobs. But there is also some moral component to the jobs that we create and actively supporting the jobs that are contributing to catastrophic climate change is not something the federation should be doing.

I’m sure that no small part of this is that unions like the Laborers who have most actively supported the pipeline are a lot more powerful than the opposing unions and they care more about it. So no doubt Trumka is feeling the pressure internally. But this just reinforces the belief that basically every other progressive organization in the country has toward American unionism–out of touch, inclined toward political reaction, clannish, and old-fashioned. Now, maybe unions shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks. Certainly that’s been the position of many of the building trades going back to their creation. But labor should also stop wondering why other progressive movements don’t take it seriously.

Lynched Black Women

[ 161 ] February 6, 2014 |

Laura Nelson

Black History Month isn’t just about MLK and the civil rights movement. It’s about remembering the horrible things that white people did to black people through American history. Here’s a good post detailing the lynching of black women. Some examples for your Thursday:

Laura Nelson
Laura Nelson was lynched on May 23, 1911 In Okemah, Okluskee, Oklahoma. Her fifteen year old son was also lynched at the same time but I could not find a photo of her son. The photograph of Nelson was drawn from a postcard. Authorities accused her of killing a deputy sheriff who supposedly stumbled on some stolen goods in her house. Why they lynched her child is a mystery. The mob raped and dragged Nelson six miles to the Canadian River and hanged her from a bridge.(NAACP: One Hundred Years of Lynching in the US 1889-1918 )

Ann Barksdale or Ann Bostwick
The lynchers maintained that Ann Barksdale or Ann Bostwlck killed her female employer in Pinehurst, Georgia on June 24, 1912. Nobody knows if or why Barksdale or Bostick killed her employer because there was no trial and no one thought to take a statement from this Black woman who authorities claimed had ”violent fits of insanity” and should have been placed in a hospital. Nobody was arrested and the crowd was In a festive mood. Placed in a car with a rope around her neck, and the other end tied to a tree limb, the lynchers drove at high speed and she was strangled to death. For good measure the mob shot her eyes out and shot enough bullets Into her body that she was “cut in two.”

Marie Scott
March 31, 1914, a white mob of at least a dozen males, yanked seventeen year-old Marie Scott from jail, threw a rope over her head as she screamed and hanged her from a telephone pole in Wagoner County, Oklahoma. What happened? Two drunken white men barged Into her house as she was dressing. They locked themselves in her room and criminally “assaulted” her. Her brother apparently heard her screams for help, kicked down the door, killed one assailant and fled. Some accounts state that the assailant was stabbed. Frustrated by their inability to lynch Marie Scott’s brother the mob lynched Marie Scott. (Crisis 1914 and 100 Years of Lynching)

I could go on.

Philip Roth Should Come Out of Retirement, Write a Novel on Gilded Age Corruption

[ 62 ] February 6, 2014 |

What is Philip Roth doing in retirement?

Roth: Currently, I am studying 19th-century American history. The questions that preoccupy me at the moment have to do with Bleeding Kansas, Judge Taney and Dred Scott, the Confederacy, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, Presidents Johnson and Grant and Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan, the Freedman’s Bureau, the rise and fall of the Republicans as a moral force and the resurrection of the Democrats, the overcapitalized railroads and the land swindles, the consequences of the Depression of 1873 and 1893, the final driving out of the Indians, American expansionism, land speculation, white Anglo-Saxon racism, Armour and Swift, the Haymarket riot and the making of Chicago, the no-holds-barred triumph of capital, the burgeoning defiance of labor, the great strikes and the violent strikebreakers, the implementation of Jim Crow, the Tilden-Hayes election and the Compromise of 1877, the immigrations from southern and eastern Europe, 320,000 Chinese entering America through San Francisco, women’s suffrage, the temperance movement, the Populists, the Progressive reformers, figures like Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, President Lincoln, Jane Addams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, etc. My mind is full of then.

Maybe he’d respond to a change.org petition??

Today in Racists

[ 97 ] February 6, 2014 |

Texas Attorney General and likely next governor, Greg Abbott:

Greg Abbott unveiled his latest policy proposal in Dallas yesterday, a border security proposal that Abbott called his “Securing Texans Plan.” Abbott’s proposal would double spending on border security, costing $300 million over the next 2 years. He has called for hiring 500 more state troopers and spending millions on new high-tech security equipment.

In his speech, Abbott justified his proposal by comparing the South Texas border region to a third-world country. Said Abbott: “This creeping corruption resembles third world country practices that erode the social fabric of our communities and destroy Texans’ trust and confidence in government.”

His entire proposal was replete with militaristic rhetoric that characterized South Texas as a war zone that wasn’t really part of Texas. In describing his border plan, Abbott said, “We must do more to protect our border going beyond sporadic surges…I’ll add more boots on the ground, more assets in the air and on the water, and deploy more technology and tools for added surveillance.” He instead proposed a “continuous surge” of state troopers to the region.

I like the subtle equation of “Texan” as “white” by defining South Texas as un-American. Those are dog whistles that many in the Lone Star State hear loud and clear.

Dead Horses in American History (I)

[ 66 ] February 5, 2014 |

How have I blogged here for 2 1/2 years without exposing you all to my collection of dead horse images? Over the next week, it’s time to change that and fill a gap in your life you didn’t know existed.

Dead horse washed into tree by flood, near Louisville, Kentucky, 1937

Good News from the NLRB

[ 15 ] February 5, 2014 |

This is very positive news from the National Labor Relations Board:

A proposal to streamline union elections that was slammed by Mitt Romney and scrapped by a Woody Allen-quoting judge is being revived by the National Labor Relations Board, the agency announced Wednesday morning.

“Unnecessary delay and inefficiencies hurt both employees and employers,” NLRB chairman Mark Pearce said in an emailed statement. While emphasizing that “No final decisions have been made,” Pearce argued the proposed changes “would modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act.” The new move by the NLRB, the federal agency charged with interpreting and enforcing private sector labor law, was made by a 3-2, party-line vote. It sets in motion a multi-month process, including an April public hearing, leading up to a final vote.

By changing how challenges to voter eligibility are handled, the proposed rule change has the potential to shorten the period between when non-union workers petition for a government-supervised election to win union recognition, and the date when the election actually takes place. Then-presidential contender Mitt Romney slammed the proposed changes in 2011, charging that Obama’s “out-of-control labor board continues to trample on the rights of workers, the interests of job creators, and the rule of law” and would “force employees into ‘quickie’ union elections” and thus “benefit only union bosses, while preventing employees from making an informed decision about unionization and preventing employers from challenging illegal activity.”

But hey, those Obama appointed NLRB members making it easier for workers to join unions show once again that there is no meaningful difference between the two parties and thus Rand Paul is the only progressive alternative in 2016.

Water News and Notes

[ 26 ] February 5, 2014 |

Variety of water related news on a work filled Wednesday.

1. Richard Lyon has a good run-down on the political side of the California drought. House Republicans are looking to pass a bill that will gut environmental protections for San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and divert a ton of money into more and bigger dams that won’t really solve any of the real problems involved in California’s water supply. Jerry Brown opposes this bill, as does Dianne Feinstein. And for good reason:

The bill unwinds key parts of a landmark 1992 law that directed more water to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It repeals an expensive San Joaquin River restoration program that Congress approved five years ago. It strips wild-and-scenic protections from a half-mile of the Merced River in order to potentially expand McClure Reservoir. It lengthens federal irrigation contracts and preempts some state law.

It’s also strongly opposed by the Brown administration in California, whose top natural resources official wrote House leaders Friday to say the bill “falsely holds the promise of water relief that cannot be delivered.”

“This is not a time to start an argument over water we don’t have,” Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird said in a telephone interview Friday. “It would be really helpful not to do something that pits one part of the state against another.”

Effectively, California Republicans are taking advantage of an environmental crisis to gut environmental laws and regulations. Get out your fainting couches, I know this is shocking.

Beth Pratt has more on the issue. And clearly, salmon protections are the ultimate problem with California water supplies….

2. Oceans are getting might toasty. And in 2013, ocean temperature skyrocketed. This, to say the least, ain’t good.

3. Greg Hanscom on one of the most contentious issues surrounding water today–to what extent should taxpayers subsidize people living in flood zones along the coasts through the National Flood Insurance Program. There is no easy answer to this question. If developers choose to rebuild in areas destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, what should the insurance look like? And if we choose not to subsidize that development like in the past, who will pay the cost when the next hurricane hits? The developers? Homeowners? The poor increasingly forced to live in flood zones because land will be cheaper? The politics around this are very hard.

Prosecuting The People Who Caused the Economic Crisis Would Be Just Like Auschwitz

[ 304 ] February 4, 2014 |

The Wall Street Journal doubles down on the claim that criticizing the 1% could lead to the next Holocaust.

Page 20 of 215« First...101819202122304050...Last »
  • Switch to our mobile site