Saturday, September 07, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 4: A Longer Look at Our Criminal Law System

The Erickson Report, Page 4: A Longer Look at Our Criminal Law System

And that brings us to A Longer Look at that profound failing at the heart of our legal system, because these cases are linked by more than the fact that they're both about convictions for murder.

Larry Swearingen was legally murdered because there was no error in the procedures, there was no misstep in applying the rules of the courts, and there is no requirement for a court to consider newly-discovered evidence or to believe it if it's produced. Johnson is still in prison because the court system was more interested in "the integrity of the legal process" than the fact of a wrongful conviction.

The court system, that is, the courts as part of what we call the criminal justice system, is more interested in the technicalities of legal procedure than it is with truth or with justice. It has been said before that "The law is not about justice. The law is about the law." And despite what we call it, we do not have a criminal justice system; we have a criminal law system.

So what happened in these cases is not the fault of Judge Edwards. It is not the fault of Judge Hogan. It is the way the system is designed: The original trial court is the place, the only place, where facts are to be determined, where truth or falsehood are to be found out. After that, at any higher court, it's all about procedure, about rules and regulations, and the truth of the original charge, indeed the very personhood of the convicted person, fades to insignificance.

Oh, certainly if you can show corruption on the part of the police or prosecution you can get a conviction overturned, but that's because they broke the rules; it has nothing to do with the truth or falseness of the charge.

Larry Swearingen
The profound flaw at the heart of our criminal justice - properly criminal law - system is that it equates justice with the process, not with truth or fairness or decency or even the accuracy of a criminal charge and sees nothing wrong with innocent people being imprisoned or even executed as long as they got "a fair trial."

To be convicted, the evidence has to show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But once you are convicted, the system is designed to assume that result was correct, so in the absence of some demonstration of official misconduct, of clear and undeniable rule-breaking, getting reconsideration on the basis of new evidence of innocence is like changing the mind of someone who already has firmly made theirs up - particularly because if a case is sent back to consider new evidence, it usually goes back to the original trial judge, who is now in the position of being asked, in effect, to confess that they were partly responsible for sending an innocent person to prison or even to Death Row. Such a change of mind happens, but it's rare. The system that claimed a bias in favor of the defendant at trial now has a far stronger bias in favor of the prosecution.

Lamar Johnson
It goes so far that the Supreme Court has never actually found that it is unconstitutional to execute a person known to be innocent of a capital crime, not so long as all the correct procedures were followed.

For example, in the 1993 case Herrera v. Collins, the Supreme Court denied habeas relief to a Texas death row inmate, ruling that in the absence of other constitutional grounds, newly discovered evidence of actual innocence would have to meet an "extraordinarily high" threshold - a threshold far higher than that required for conviction - to be grounds for a new trial. The court said he didn't meet that requirement. He was later executed.

The only sliver of hope on this particular front is found in the case of Troy Davis, another possibly innocent man executed by the state, in this case the state of Georgia in 2011. Responding to a 2009 petition from Davis, the Supreme Court ruled that "the District Court should receive testimony and make findings of fact as to whether evidence that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes petitioner’s innocence."

Troy Davis
That is indeed an "extraordinarily high" threshold, requiring evidence that could not - not was not, could not - have been obtained at time of the trial and which "clearly establishes innocence" - not "creates reasonable doubt about guilt" and note again that it's not necessary to "clearly establish" guilt in order to convict. But it at least suggests - but again does not say - that it would be unconstitutional to officially murder an innocent person even if all the legalities were seen to.

And in any event the failing - the devotion to procedure rather than justice - remains. I don't have an answer for this, I don't have a grand proposal for thoroughgoing change. I admit in fairness that a lot of the incantation-encrusted structure that has grown up around the law arose from attempts to prevent personal biases and cruel arbitrariness from determining outcomes of legal proceedings, but in so doing is has also for the most part locked out concepts such as compassion and completely rejected the concept that sometimes it's necessary to slip outside the rules in order to do what is right.

Meanwhile, as our legal system has become a nearly impenetrable, self-referential, high priesthood where most of us can find ourselves blocked from the courthouse for not knowing which official form to file or missing a deadline of which we were never informed because it was up to us to know, that failing continues to eat away at the justice we foolishly believed the system was about and the names like Larry Swearingen, like Lamar Johnson, like Troy Davis, like all the others wrongly convicted, even wrongly executed, will continue to haunt us.

Again, I don't know the answer. But I do know this: At his legal murder, Larry Swearingen said "Lord forgive them. They don't know what they are doing." I think he was wrong. They know exactly what they are doing. They are serving the system.

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

Now the Outrages, and there are two of them, linked by the way they demonstrate a profound flaw, a profound failing, at the heart of our criminal justice system. And I'm not talking about racism or classism - the advantages the rich have over others - or anything like that, I am talking about the philosophy that undergirds the system itself.

The first involves one Larry Swearingen, who on August 21 was legally murdered by the state of Texas.

Swearingen had been convicted in 2000 of the 1998 rape and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter. The evidence was strictly circumstantial, consisting largely of the fact that he was the last person seen with her before she disappeared and some signs of what could have been a struggle in his home. No physical evidence connected him to the crime; the closest thing to actual hard evidence was that a cell phone tower noted his phone signal that evening, meaning he was in the vicinity of a certain road potentially relevant to the case at the time.

Swearingen never denied knowing Trotter and maintained his innocence literally to his last breath. His attorneys had mounted a major effort through the legal system to defend him, fending off four previous dates for execution over the years, arguing that the prosecution relied on "junk science."

So what's the deal? It's that a number of influential Texas pathologists, together responsible for thousands of death investigations every year, say that the evidence proves that Trotter had not been dead very long when her body was found more than three weeks after she disappeared. In which case, Swearingen could not have killed her, since - the ultimate alibi - he was in prison on an outstanding warrant and had been there since a couple of days after Trotter vanished. Even the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, Dr. Joye Carter, recanted her trial testimony in 2007, admitting that the ease with which she was able to weigh and dissect Trotter’s organs, which would have been seriously deteriorated had she been killed in the time before Swearingen was arrested, made the state’s timeline impossible.

Larry Swearingen
Here's the crucial point: The courts didn't care. As an example, a nine-day hearing was held in 2012, laying out expert testimony on why Trotter had to have been killed not long before her body was found, thus long after Swearingen was in prison. Even before the final transcripts were filed, Judge Fred Edwards, who presided over the original trial, dismissed the science presented by the defense as "junk."

And so it went: The rulings were issued, the procedures were followed, there was no error in the operation of the machinery of the law, all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed according to formula, and so finally Swearingen was officially killed and the law was satisfied - as a quite likely innocent man lay dead.

Our second Outrage involves Lamar Johnson, who has been in prison in Missouri for 24 years, having been sentenced to life without parole for a murder even prosecutors now say he did not commit.

Johnson was convicted of murdering Marcus Boyd in 1994, in a case that even at the time should have left everyone scratching their heads. Prosecutors claimed that in the space of just five minutes, Johnson left a friend's apartment, traveled 3 miles to Boyd's home, killed Boyd, and then traveled by foot back to his friend's apartment.

But what's brought renewed attention is the fact that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner's Conviction Integrity Unit has filed a 67-page motion seeking a new trial for Johnson, based on having uncovered a staggering amount of misconduct on the part of homicide detectives and prosecutors, including inventing witness statements, paying the single eyewitness, and pressuring that person into making a false identification. Then there was the fact that two other men confessed in 1996 and 2002 that they were the ones who killed Boyd in a botched robbery.

Lamar Johnson
But Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan rejected the motion on August 23, saying in effect it was 24 years too late, citing a provision of Missouri law that, believe it or not, requires a motion for a new trial to be made within 25 days of trial's end. Hogan's decision gives no evidence of there being an exception for evidence discovered after that time.

In fact, in her ruling, Judge Hogan seemed much more concerned with a question of if prosecutors and Johnson’s lawyers had violated some rules of court procedure in pressing for his freedom. She wrote that she was "concerned about the integrity of the legal process in this case" even as she could not spare a word for what one of Johnson's lawyers called "the clear, convincing, and overwhelming evidence" that Johnson is innocent.

She did, however, for some reason find it relevant to include in laying out the background to the case that the same day that Gardner filed her motion, she "also released a copy of its motion and exhibits to the national media," an irrelevant observation which bluntly doesn't say much for Hogan's impartiality.

And so Johnson still sits in prison, hoping against hope for a successful appeal although it's hard to see on what basis if Judge Hogan cited that law about filing for a new trial correctly, since there is then no visible error, even if the aside about releasing the motion to the media could be taken as an indication of personal bias against Gardner or her office.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

Okay, we turn now to a popular feature, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages. We start, as usual, with the Clowns and oh do we have a carful this time.

Our first Clown is conservative radio host and poster boy for privilege Ben Shapiro, who said on his show a couple of weeks ago that people who have to work two jobs are actually just, well, stupid:
If you had to work more than one job to have a roof over your head or food on the table, you probably shouldn’t have taken the job that’s not paying you enough. That’d be a you problem.
Put another way, if you have to take a second - or a third, or a fourth, or whatever - job in order to provide for your family, it's your own damn fault because you should have refused to take any job at all until one that paid enough came along.

He got scorched on Twitter, provoking him to shift into damage control mode, claiming - I shouldn't even have to tell you this - claiming he was taken out of context, the context being, it seems, that the government should take no steps at all toward establishing a living wage because The Market (pbui) "knows more than you do."

Ben Shapiro
How that affects his blaming struggling people for their problems goes unexplained. Which is pretty typical for a Clown.

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Next up, and we're sort of taking these chronologically, is the Hasbro company, which has come out with a variation on the board game Monopoly, this one called "Monopoly Socialism." You immediately can get a flavor of the game by noting the tagline is "Winning is for capitalists."

Historian Nick Kapur described the game in a lengthy Twitter thread, including noting the lame jokes about vegetarianism - how that got to be about socialism is beyond me - and the "We Are All Winners" school as well as pointing out the mockery aimed at environmentalism and, get this, voting.

the game
The whole idea seems to be that no one in the game gets anywhere, the "community fund" that finances projects which individual players can't afford is designed to be constantly going broke, and from time to time any wealth that the community has actually accumulated is simply destroyed.

I could have done without Kapur's suggesting the target audience is "hate-filled baby boomers who grew up during the cold war and are triggered by anything done by anyone under 40," but the fact remains that the whole thing is so thoroughly lame it is hard to imagine just who it is for and it is clearly the product of the minds of Clowns.

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We move on to the fact that last week, in response to a report that bedbugs had been found in the New York Times newsroom, a George Washington University professor named named David Karpf tweeted that "The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens," Stephens being a right-wing Times op-Ed columnist.

Bret Stephens
His tweet got, Karpf later said, nine likes and zero retweets and was not sent to Stephens.

Now personally, I think the joke is not funny and in fact a bit creepy but Stephens, who somehow heard about it, went out of his little mind. He wrote to Karpf complaining about his tweet and essentially daring Karpf to come to his house and say it to his face - a letter which he copied to the the university provost, that is, Karpf's boss. Oh, not to threaten his job of course, not to get him in trouble at work, oh no perish the thought, rather it was merely that he thought the provost should be aware of his underling's behavior. He then wrote a whole column about about attacks on Jews in World War II referencing insect comparisons and saying "the rhetoric of infestation is back."

To top is off, he then took advantage of his place as a contributor on MSNBC to get face time to bloviate about his side of his by-then-viral tiff with Karpf, who of course was afforded no such opportunity.

And if all that doesn't add up to Clown status (with the Times and MSNBC as enablers), then how about this:

James Inhofe
Despite cc'ing Karpf's boss, when it came to the case of Tucks Carlson saying Iraqis are "semi-literate primitive monkeys," Stephens defended him, saying threatening someone's career is an assault on free speech - in addition to which, insect and "infestation" references are not new to him, as he once compared Palestinians to a giant mosquito.

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Okay, an old favorite Clown is Sen. James Inhofe. He has introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to limit the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to regulate lake levels and flood control related to a dam on Grand Lake in northeastern Oklahoma.

Folks upstream of the damn, including local Native American tribes and officials in the high-poverty town of Miami, say that maintaining high water levels on the lake has contributed to repeated floods as water backs up from the dam. Two dozen floods in less than 30 years, in fact, with 150 homes torn down and more abandoned as a result. This spring’s floods forced the Eastern Shawnee tribe to evacuate, its ceremonial grounds covered in three feet of water.

LeBron James
Inhofe wants higher water levels at Grand Lake on the grounds that it "makes the lake a better place for recreation and commerce." We're all sure here that the facts that he has a vacation home there and a company in his wife’s name holds $1 million in property around the lake has nothing to do with his enthusiasm for deregulation.

Inhofe's middle name, no joke, is Mountain. Which seems entirely appropriate for a Clown who has rocks in his head.

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And the Clowns keep on coming. LeBron James has reportedly filed for a trademark for the phrase "Taco Tuesday," apparently based on his popular series of social media posts on the theme.

According to the application, James wants to trademark the phrase for "advertising and marketing services" through "indirect methods" that include social media and blogging.

So be careful: If you ever want to have tacos on a Tuesday, you may have to pay a fee to LeBron James, professional Clown.

the shirt
As a footnote to that, of course the phrase "Taco Tuesday" has been around a long time, long before LeBron James became a fabulously rich man who wants to be a fabulously richer one. You're not supposed to be able to trademark a common phrase or expression, but in a world where money speaks louder than law and the patent office is hopelessly overburdened, that principle did not keep Paris Hilton from trademarking "That's hot!" or Rachel Zoe from getting a trademark on the word "bananas" referring to something crazy, even though that's an expression that dates back to at least 1935.

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Then there are the Clowns of the administration of the Highland Hills Middle School in Highland Hills, Indiana, where a 13-year-old girl got in trouble over a t-shirt.

What was wrong with it? Well, it had a slogan that read "Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic when you can just be quiet?" which the principal declared inappropriate and disrespectful, along with claiming the words “Sex” and “Homo” were too eye-catching. As you can see in the picture, yeah, they really do just pop out at you, don't they.

The school's dress code bans shirts that are "suggestive, obscene or promote alcohol or drug products or use" or are sheer. It seems that "oppose bigotry" needs to be added to that list - unless doing so is already considered obscene by the Clowns at Highland Hills Middle School.

Dan Rehill
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Finally for this time, we have the Rev. Dan Reehil, a Clown pastor at the St. Edward School, a Roman Catholic grammar school in Nashville, Tennessee. He just sent an email to parents of students telling them that the Harry Potter books have been removed from the school library because they "risk conjuring evil spirits." Seriously.

Quoting the email:
These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception. The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.
Personally, I think that's just Riddikulus.

Clowns to the right of me, Clowns to the left of me, Clowns in front of me, volleyed and thundered....

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Following Up on Three Items

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Following Up on Three Items

We start this time by Following Up on three things previously discussed.

On the very first episode of The Erickson Report, we took A Longer Look at Venezuela and its disappearance as a news story after the US-backed attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in favor of self-declared president Juan Guaidó fizzled out.

As part of that, I noted how the Tweetie-pie White House had imposed two rounds of damaging economic sanctions against Venezuela, the first in 2017 and the second in January of this year.

Following Up: On August 5, there came a third round of sanctions, these intended to be economically crippling.

The executive order blocks all property and assets of the Venezuelan government and its officials, and prohibits any transactions with them, including the country's Central Bank and the state oil company, essentially creating an economic wall between the US and Venezuela. What's more, it threatens that any non-US company that does any business of any sort with Venezuela may itself be subject to US sanctions.

In April, a study published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that US sanctions against Venezuela had already resulted in 40,000 deaths between 2017 and 2018.

Now, referring to the latest round of this economic terrorism, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of the severe impact on the human rights of the people of Venezuela, saying the new sanctions could deny food, medicine, and other necessities to millions of people.

The story may have disappeared from the US media, but it remains real for the people of Venezuela, who are being told by the US "give us the government we tell you to - or starve."

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Next: A couple of weeks ago I took A Longer Look at the Boycott-Divest-Sanctions (BDS) movement and Israel, in the course of which I discussed the reports that between the end of March and the end of December 2018, Israeli snipers had killed 180 unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip and wounded over 6100 more - both numbers higher now - and referred to the fact that Gaza has been rightly called "the biggest outdoor prison in the world."

Here's indication of what I meant.

COGAT stands for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories. It is the Israeli government agency that scrutinizes every package entering Gaza in search of banned items, including allegedly deadly "dual-use" items that could, Israel insists, be used for "military purposes." Such "dual-use" items go well beyond what you would think as a norm. The label can be arbitrarily put on items such as drones, cameras, and radios, for which you can at least imagine a military use, to microscopes, medical equipment, construction material, and spare parts for assembly lines.

And now COGAT has attained a real coup: The beginning of August, the agency breathlessly tweeted that it had uncovered "dozens of pairs of military shoes that were hidden in a shipment of civilian goods, in an attempt to smuggle them into Gaza for terrorist purposes," adding that "This is another miserable and failed attempt by terrorist groups in Gaza to hide behind the civilian population."

The tweets were illustrated with pictures of the military shoes, terrorist contraband. Yes, those shoes. The picture is from the tweet COGAT sent out. Pictures of ordinary, everyday, lace-up hiking boots.

It was so absurd, at least some people thought the tweet was a joke. But it wasn't. Instead it is testimony to the deeply paranoid, deeply cruel, and deeply destructive blockade Israel has placed around Gaza. It needs to stop.

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Finally for this time, around the end of July, I noted the argument being raised against Medicare for All that polls say that people love their private insurance plans, so anything that suggests getting rid of those is doomed to failure.
Here's the thing[, I asked at the time], are those people really happy with their insurance? Are they happy with the premiums, the co-pays, the deductibles, the medically-necessary procedures put on hold until you find out if "insurance will cover it," the not being able to choose your doctor because they are "out of network?" Or are they just happy that they have insurance?
A recent Business Insider poll seems to answer that question.

It showed that 59 percent of respondents who have employer-provided insurance "said they would support switching their employer-based health insurance to a government plan under Medicare for All" as long as quality of coverage would remain the same or improve - which bluntly it would or there is no point in doing single-payer in the first place.

As Business Insider put it,
[t]he results highlight the fact that ... mainly people just like being covered, bearing little loyalty to a specific insurer.
Incidentally, the poll also found that among those Americans on government-run healthcare plans - Medicare, Medicaid, and military coverage - 57% love their plan, which is 16 percentage points higher than those on employer-provided plans and 18 points higher than those with privately-purchased insurance.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The Erickson Report for September 4 to 17



The Erickson Report for September 4 to 17

This episode:

- Following Up on Venezuela
https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-erickson-report-page-3-deeper-look.html
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/08/06/economic-terrorism-after-failed-military-coup-attempt-trump-imposes-total-embargo
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/08/09/warning-severe-harm-millions-people-un-human-rights-chief-condemns-trump-embargo

- Following Up on BDS and Israel
https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-erickson-report-page-5-longer-look.html
https://www.commondreams.org/further/2019/08/07/banning-terrorist-boots-what-occupation-looks
https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/terror-boot-claim-kicks-twitter-scorn

- Following Up on Medicare for All
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/08/09/undermining-right-wing-attack-poll-shows-most-americans-employer-provided-insurance
https://www.businessinsider.com/most-americans-employer-based-plans-healthcare-medicare-for-all-2019-8

- Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]
https://splinternews.com/ben-shapiros-advice-for-poor-people-have-you-ever-cons-1837248752
https://www.mediaite.com/online/ben-shapiro-roasted-over-blaming-poor-people-for-having-to-take-a-second-job-thats-what-a-spoiled-rich-kid-says/
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https://splinternews.com/new-edition-of-monopoly-is-all-about-the-horrors-of-soc-1837475885
https://twitter.com/nick_kapur/status/1164233656799506433
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https://twitter.com/davekarpf/status/1166094950024515584
https://twitter.com/davekarpf/status/1166159027589570566?s=20
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/30/opinion/world-war-ii-anniversary.html
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/professor-labeled-bret-stephens-bedbug-here-s-what-nyt-columnist-n1046736
https://splinternews.com/gw-professor-officially-throws-bret-stephens-in-the-tra-1837640830
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https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/8/27/1881779/-Powerful-Republican-senator-puts-his-lake-house-over-flood-prevention-for-a-nearby-town
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https://twitter.com/JoshGerben/status/1167771202397626368/video/1
https://www.theroot.com/lebron-james-vying-to-trademark-taco-tuesday-1837795463
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https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/teen-dress-coded-for-wearing-shirt-that-reads-why-be-racist-sexist-homophobic-or-transphobic-when-you-can-just-be-quiet-223631447.html
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https://www.aol.com/article/news/2019/09/02/catholic-school-reportedly-removes-harry-potter-books-from-library-because-they-risk-conjuring-evil-spirits/23805519/

- Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]
https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Lord-forgive-em-Larry-Swearingen-14369155.php
https://splinternews.com/texas-executes-man-for-murder-conviction-whose-alibi-wa-1837459947
https://www.thenation.com/article/death-row-prisoner-larry-swearingen-may-be-innocent-do-texas-courts-care/
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https://www.theroot.com/late-charge-judge-says-prosecutors-demand-to-free-in-1837596264
https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/stltoday.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/5c/75c4e19c-9220-5b21-acae-14d9aad821d0/5d6032524f933.pdf.pdf
https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/st-louis-judge-denies-lamar-johnson-s-motion-for-new/article_add3e1eb-2d62-518b-8ed8-5b56b9af8f94.html

- A Longer Look at the flaw at the heart of our criminal law system
https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/did-the-supreme-court-recognize-an-innocent-persons-right-not-to-be-executed.html
https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/news/u-s-supreme-court-orders-historic-hearing-on-innocence-claim-in-troy-davis-case
https://www.innocenceproject.org/
http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com/features/10-infamous-cases-of-wrongful-execution.html

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

An addendum to all that, not for on-air

I thought I would throw this in just for the heck of it. As long as I am, as I'm sure some of you think I am, wallowing in aging hippie nostalgia, I figured why not.

A while back, I came across a discussion among some young folks - and as I was pushing 70 at the time, I think I can use that expression - who were complaining about what they said was all the attention given to the '60s, particularly regarding the political movements of the time.

I replied that I didn't see this mass of fawning attention, indeed most of what I saw seemed more sneering than swooning, "but," I added, "eye of the beholder and all that." Still, I went on to say, if you're looking at us old farts and want to shut us up, then show us up: Use the '60s as a marker and turn it into BFD material.

"If you do that," I said or at least as close to this as memory allows, "I guarantee you'll find us old farts cheering you on and standing right there beside you."

The reason I bring this up is that as part of that, I threw together a short list of signs of the cultural impacts of the '60s. I noted that none of these originated in the '60s, but it was that time in which they were brought into the mainstream. This was the list:

- When you see people not blinking at an interracial couple - that was us.
- When you see men wearing colors - that was us.
- When you see women comfortably wearing jeans - that was us.
- When you see two adults unselfconsciously holding hands in public - that was us.
- When you see two men unselfconsciously holding hands in public - that was definitely us.
- When you think about being environmentally-conscious - that was us.
- When you see companies finding it necessary to try to convince everyone how environmentally-conscious they are - that was us.
- When you see companies actually being environmentally-conscious - that was definitely us.
- When you see people admitting that there is a glass ceiling - that was us.
- When you see women challenging the glass ceiling - that was us.
- When you see women actually breaking the glass ceiling - that was definitely us.
- When you hear anyone defining patriotism in terms of willingness to challenge authority when it's wrong - yeah, that was us.

Again, I'd never claim that any of that originated in the '60s and you can certainly find antecedents in earlier times, sometime multiple decades earlier. But I still say that in terms of widespread acceptance? Yeah, that was us.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Woodstock: Is any of that relevant now?

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Woodstock: Is any of that relevant now?

Does any of this matter for today, is it relevant in any way other than historical ones? I think it does and is. I see around me today multiple campaigns for change but I don't see a Movement, I don't see any evidence that the people involved in these various efforts conceive of themselves as part of a bigger whole.

Do those who identify with #MeToo feel a kinship with Black Lives Matter or the discussions over reparations? Do those who focus on global warming see themselves as part of the same cultural or political whole as the fight to raise the minimum wage or protect voting rights? I don't think they do, to the loss of each and every one of them.

I was struck by something just recently: Bernie Sanders gave a speech which covered a number of topics. Afterwards, there was a commentator who slammed the speech and Sanders because he didn't mention race or gender until 23 minutes in and yes, she said she clocked it. Actually, she was wrong; he first mentioned the topic less than five minutes in, but that's not really the point. Be clear here: She didn't attack him for what he said about race and gender, which apparently was to her at the very least unobjectionable, she was attacking him because he didn't say it early enough in the speech; he didn't give her focus privilege of place.

Bluntly, in the '60s the response to that criticism would have been along the lines of "What the hell difference does that make? This was a speech, not a Top 10 list ranked according to importance." When the order in which topics are addressed in a speech becomes a basis for criticism, we do not have a Movement, we have a collection of atomized, isolated efforts incapable of drawing strength from each other.

Worse, it seems to me that there has developed a basic divide between the two fundamental types of activism, which I call "inside" and "outside."

By inside, I mean what might be called "Inside the Beltway" thinking - and I note that is not a matter of geography but of a way of thinking, one that focuses on political campaigns, elections, and lobbying to the exclusion of other means. That thinking will fail you in the long run because the apparent distaste some have for street actions does genuine damage to our cause. Elections surely have their place, a necessary place, in the process of change. But not only are they not the only part, they're not even the first part of that process because change starts from outside - as Margaret Mead is supposed to have said, "never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has."*

But those who go outside, those who favor street action, pickets, rallies, mass demonstrations and marches, civil disobedience, and the like - and I confess that for all the lobbying and political campaigning I have done, the streets is where my heart is - people, then, like me need to understand that we need those working the inside route, because our demands and proposals will remain unfulfilled demands and proposals if no one is there to act on them.

These sides of activism, inside and outside, should be mutually reinforcing, should be, if I can use a cliche, two sides of the same coin, but now it seems like they are different worlds with each observing the other from a distance. And every bit of lobbying and campaigning, every rally-driven demand, is weaker for it.

Yes, there have been victories, have been successes, and don't think for even an instant that I am denigrating the efforts of oh so many people or any of what has been achieved. But I can't help but be distressed by how many of those efforts have been aimed at preventing losses of what has been gained in years past by movements of years past rather than on going further, gaining more. We need to do better. We can do better. You can do better.

I will leave you with this: I am hardly the first to raise the idea of the lack of an over-arching message among progressives, which simply means that others have noted the same atomized nature of our efforts that I am critiquing here, except that I would change it from a lack of an over-arching message to a lack of a feeling of connection, a lack of a feeling that despite our particular focuses, we are family, we are of the same tribe, even if the connection lies more in convictions than any outward sign, much like the members of a religious congregation can feel a connection to each other, even as they outwardly may appear diverse.

So for your consideration I offer for what I suppose you could call a shared religion, a set of shared convictions, a secular religion that stands on three mutually-supported legs, my over-arching message for progressives: Justice, compassion, and community. Conceive of every political action you take or for that matter anyone takes, whether inside or outside, as a reflection of one or more of those principles and realize how as you are in one particular effort, you are one of multiple strands that very much need to be woven together to make a capital M movement far stronger than the sum of its parts.

One more very important piece of advice: Do not repeat the mistakes of the past. I'm sure you won't repeat my generation's mistakes of overconfidence, but don't repeat the mistakes of other generations. Don't slice away your friends and supporters in a foolish attempt to avoid criticism or look "more mainstream." It will not help you; it never has and it never will, it merely narrows the field of fire for the forces of reaction. And don't divide yourselves into sectarian camps where people are dissed and dismissed for not using quite the preferred language of for having a different focus from you. That way lies madness and the death of dreams.

*There is no record of Mead having said this but her family believes it to be a real quote because it accords so well with her thinking. They suggest it probably came from a QandA session or an unrecorded interview.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Woodstock: the political life around it

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Woodstock: the political life around it

Okay, there is another reason besides aging hippie nostalgia that I wanted to bring this all up. Because Woodstock did not exist, did not occur, in a social or cultural vacuum.

For one thing, the Vietnam War was at its most intense levels. Casualty figures for the Indochinese are hard to come by, even overall totals of how many millions died are estimates. But for Americans, we have year-by-year totals and in 1968, 16,592 US soldiers were killed in Vietnam; in 1969. the figure proved out to be 11,616. But look at that 1968 figure. Those 16,600 killed are more than double the number of Americans killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars combined, across the entire history of those war, right up to the present.

Opposition to that war was also becoming more and more intense. There were major demonstrations on college campuses across the country throughout 1969. A few months before Woodstock, in April, there were mass antiwar demonstrations in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and other places. On October 15, two months after the festival, the National Moratorium against the War generated thousands of local actions across the country including mass rallies, some of them quite large, along with parades, teach-ins, forums, candlelight processions, prayers, and the reading of the names of the war dead, with the estimates of total participation ranging from two to five to seven million. A month after that, on November 15, a half-million turned out in Washington, D.C. to protest the war with 100,000 more in San Francisco.

But that wasn't the only issue. Civil rights had seen some legislative successes in the preceding years, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but the inadequacies of those gains was clearly demonstrated in what became known as "the long hot summer" of 1967, when riots driven by frustrations and economic desperation broke out in black neighborhoods in 159 US cities. At the time of Woodstock, the phrase "black liberation" and a discussion of what that meant was a part of every conversation about civil rights or race.

But in turn it was the very strength of those two movements - peace and civil rights - that gave strength to, gave extra vigor to, a third, as women in the movement began to get fed up with being always expected to keep to the background, to do the work but get little or none of the credit. The expression "male chauvinist pig" came into circulation, sometimes as a teasing warning when preceded by "don't be a" but also as a sneering dismissive putdown of deserving targets.

And speaking of being fed up, less than three weeks before Woodstock, in Greenwich Village in New York City, some patrons of a gay club and dance bar known as the Stonewall Inn decided they had had it with being hassled, assaulted, and arrested by cops for essentially nothing more than being gay or lesbian. What become known as the Stonewall Riots - more properly the Stonewall Uprising - continued on and off for five days, giving birth to the modern LGBTQ rights movement, with the first gay pride marches occurring just a year later.

Meanwhile the long-standing movement against nuclear weapons was beginning to expand into opposition to nuclear power, merging or at the least overlapping with the environmental movement, which continued to gain strength - recall the first Earth Day, in some ways the only real occasion of that now corporate- and government-approved event, came just eight months after Woodstock.

All this and more was swirling around and through the culture in the summer of 1969. That was the atmosphere, the if you will cultural milieu in which Woodstock happened. Woodstock was by no means intended as a political event, but it was a cultural event, as it proved, a major cultural event, and as such did not and could not stand apart from the political currents of the time. What Woodstock was, what it became, was affected by what was going on around it.

Now, I am certainly not saying that all those at Woodstock were dedicated political or cultural activists who went straight from the festival to the frontlines, even less that people went to Woodstock with the idea that the act of going was itself a conscious political statement. In fact, I expect most of those to be seen in tie-dye t-shirts, jeans, and sandals in 1969, whether at Woodstock or anywhere else, had no more interest in the world at large other than how it immediately impacted their personal lives than those sporting whatever hipper-than-thou gear is currently fashionable do today.

But at the same time, going was by its nature a statement of sorts. Semiotics is the study of sign process, that is, it is the study of signs and symbols as a significant part of communication. That includes the way cultures and subcultures sign themselves. Ever since Monterey Pop in 1967, you pretty much knew that by going to a big rock festival, you would be surrounded by people with long hair dressed in colorful clothes and yes, tie-dye t-shirts, jeans, and sandals, people who were thereby signing that you and they shared a set of cultural values, that you were with your tribe.

The point here is that while you can't say Woodstock was a consciously political event nor can you say that those attending were all political or cultural activists, you can say that those political and cultural activists who attended the festival shared a number of cultural assumptions with those around them, certain cultural principles that had become emblematic of what had become known as the counterculture, cultural principles such as sharing, rejection of competition, and embracing of exploration and discovery, both physical and spiritual.

That is, they pursued a political activism rooted both in cultural, not just intellectual or traditionally political, concerns as well as in a lifestyle that knew the words “others” and “future” as emotional touchstones, not merely statistical measures - the precise difference between the so-called "New Left" of the '60s and the "Old Left" of previous generations, whose adherents could quote chapter and verse of political theory and chant slogans with the best of them but too often sounded as if they regarded the people on whose behalf they were trying to speak more like exhibits in a court case than living, breathing people.

Indeed, a significant part of ‘60s activism was almost purely cultural: The “live your life as an example to others” idea and the "conscious" or "intentional" communities that set out to prove that there are juster, fairer ways to organize our social relations.

Beyond that, one positive result of that footing in cultural as well as more traditional political concerns was the (relative) ease with which the movement became multi-issue: Whenever those distressing, depressing arguments about the issue or the tactic arose, a significant portion of the movement just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. “You work on what you think is important and I’ll work on what I think is important and whenever we can make the two overlap we’ll work together. Simple! We’re all after pretty much the same end, anyway, right?” The “same end” bit wasn’t always (maybe not even usually) true, of course, but it was true enough to keep things bubbling along without the movement getting bogged down in endless, unresolvable disputes about the relative importance of the arms race vs. feminism vs. the environment vs. racism vs. economic issues vs. and so on.

In short, I firmly believe, I argue, that a main - perhaps the - core energy source for the movement of the ‘60s was that area where political involvement and cultural/spiritual concerns overlapped to form a politically-involved counterculture.

That energy gave us the sense that you could make a difference, that your dreams could be lived out, that they really could come true, that the future was wide open and all things were possible. And it enabled us to keep trying. For all the sexism we came to acknowledge in the counterculture and the peace movement, people kept trying to live more egalitarian lives. For all the undercurrents of racism we dug out of white activist’s relations with black groups, people kept trying to work it out and live more justly. For all the awareness of our umbilical cord connections to the consumer society, people kept trying to live more simply, with greater ecological awareness. There was a sense that you could make it better both in yourself and in others by both your social example and your political actions.

It was that sense, especially when slammed up against the reality of the chasm between the America we saw around us and the America we were taught to believe in, in school that produced the anger and the joy, the tough determination and gentle compassion, the bitter awareness and sweet dreams that marked a movement that over a several-year span was powerful enough to end the draft, limit and finally stop a war, force one (and maybe two) Presidents from office, shake the foundations of a society’s judgements about half its population, open millions of eyes to the reality of racism, force the nuclear power industry to a virtual halt, set in motion other movements for justice, and change - perhaps not by much but clearly permanently - that society’s sense of its relationship to the environment.

And it's good to have that record of success, of progress, because it is of course true that ultimately, in many ways, we failed. Our dreams could not be lived out, at least not full force, the future was not wide open, and not all things were possible. Sexism and racism persist. Poverty and hunger still haunt us. Climate change is a Sword of Damocles over us. Yes, we stopped one war - but the changes we made weren't enough to prevent new wars and more wars, wars that, just like Donovan sang in 1970, "drag on." We got hemmed in, in some cases weighed down, by commitments and obligations of a different sort, commitments and obligations not to the whole community, but to the narrower community of spouses, of children, of aging parents, and the jobs and careers that sustained those commitments.

That doesn't mean we simply surrendered; the '60s generation went disproportionately into what are called "helping" or "caring" fields, fields such as health and medicine, education, social work, public interest law, and so on. But it does mean that the task we set for ourselves was bigger than we ever let ourselves imagine. Our community, our tribe, came together so easily, so naturally, that we just assumed it could stay together just as easily - which, and in retrospect it's easy to say "of course," it couldn't. The result was that when those other commitments arose, we didn't do the work, we didn't put in the effort, to maintain that community in part because we had fooled ourselves into thinking that effort wouldn't be necessary.

So we lost our tribe, we lost the sense that we were all part of the Movement, the Movement with a capital M, that vaguely defined but still somehow an organic whole of which we were part. Between that and the end of the Indochina War, which for a non-insignificant number had been the whole reason for their political activism, that core energy was gone - and so was, I would say, the '60s as a political movement.

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Woodstock: personal memories

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Woodstock: personal memories

I remarked to someone at work a few days before recording this that it is surely unusual for someone to be be able to recall where they were and what they we doing at that moment exactly 50 years before.

But I could. I could because at that time of the morning exactly 50 years earlier, I was somewhere in Sussex County, New Jersey, taking a back route to Bethel, New York and the first day of what was called an "Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music" but which everyone came to know as just Woodstock.

As a self-confessed "aging hippie" I suppose I should say something about the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, especially since, um, I was there. Really. I was. Unlike the probably five million who say they were.

I don't want to come across as wallowing in nostalgia but I've realized over the past few days of various remembrances that a few of the things that stick out in my memory aren't among those commonly cited.

In fact, "the mud" seems to be the common thread; for example, the Daily Mail described Woodstock as
a trip of a party [where] increasingly filthy festival-goers danced, stripped and dropped acid in torrential rain.
But "the mud" didn't really happen until after the big thunderstorm on Sunday. Before that, on Friday and Saturday, there had been some rain - I remember Ravi Shankar playing right through the rain and later Melanie having to interrupt her set to move further under cover because the rain was playing havoc with the tuning of her guitar - but it wasn't that bad. It was rainy but going "the mud the mud the mud" just isn't right, especially because there was a hot sun to dry things out between rains.

So yeah, my memories are not the same as some others, so by way of commentary and as a way of opening a discussion of the world in which Woodstock happened and its relevance for today, if any, I'll just tick off a couple of things I recall that haven't figured so much in the "a look back at" coverage:

- One that couldn't make the coverage 'cause it was purely personal: My friend Craig and I - who had tickets, dammit - drove up the back roads, avoiding the Thruway and Rt. 17 and thus the multiple-hours-long traffic jams. We parked within a few miles of the site.

- Coming into the site the first day, there was an entry road, more like a dirt track that was probably used for farm vehicles. The site itself was in a pasture that formed a natural bowl and between that track and the pasture there was a small rise, maybe three or four feet high. You went up that rise and looked down into that pasture and OH MY GOD! THERE ARE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF FREAKS! HOT DAMN!

- Foolishly, Craig and I left that night because we hadn't brought a tent and intended to stay at a campsite shelter for hikers on the Appalachian Trail, which proved to be full, forcing us to sleep outside, yes in the rain. The next day so many more people had arrived that we would up having to park some teens of miles away from the site.

- Walking in the hot sun among the crowds heading to the site, I saw where a family had turned their hose on to offer water to the walkers. (Yes, I know, don't drink from the hose, there could be bacteria and all but this was 50 years ago and no one was thinking about that.) I heard the woman telling someone that they originally had intended to ignore the whole thing but when they heard that a neighbor was charging $1 for a glass of water - again, remember this was 50 years ago; the equivalent today would be something over $7 - they were so shocked that they thought they had to do something. "Charging these kids money for water!" She was outraged.

- Probably the musical highlight for me was Ravi Shankar, with whose music I was then not particularly familiar, but he completely blew me away.

- I remember Abbie Hoffman announcing from the stage that we were page one of the New York Times.

- I remember the several-minutes-long standing ovation given to Max Yasgur (who owned the farm, in case you didn't know) and him saying something about how it should be a lesson to his generation how and this is not a quote but it's close enough "400,000 young people can come together for three days of peace and music and have nothing but peace and music." Yes, of course, there was other stuff going on and there were a few incidents, but overall, that was a fair assessment.

- On Sunday, Craig noticed and alerted me to the big and amazingly black thunderclouds several minutes before the announcement was made from the stage. And y'know, there is a point where you're wet enough that frankly it doesn't matter anymore and you just give up all attempts to stay dry.

- A while after the storm had passed, a number of National Guard helicopters hovered over the crowd. There was sufficient paranoia among the counterculture at the time (not entirely without justification; as the saying goes, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you") that it caused a little ripple through the throng. What's this? What's going on? The doors are opening. What's happening?

And out of the helicopters come thousands and thousands of - daffodils! The National Guard is showering us with daffodils! I tried to catch one but it bounced off my hand and fell into the hands of a short girl next to me who probably wouldn't have gotten one otherwise, so that was cool.

- My favorite memorabilia from the event was not the uncollected tickets (which I might still have somewhere but which I think are now buried in the sands of time) but rather a newspaper ad that came out later: The long-distance bus company that served the area took out an ad expressing how impressed its drivers were with the patience, kindness, and friendliness of the concert-goers who were stuck on the buses for upteen hours due to the traffic. I remember one quoted as saying that as a result of the experience, "A long-haired kid is welcome on my bus anytime." Which in 1969 was music to our ears.

- Or maybe on that account I should name as my favorite memorabilia my sleeping bag, which was soaked through and must have weighed over 50 pounds when I was carrying it out - and which I still have.

All of which raises that Ultimate Question that always gets asked: Will there ever be another Woodstock?

The answer to that question is "No."

The thing is, what made Woodstock Woodstock, what made the whole experience what is was, was that it just happened. It wasn't anticipated, it sure as hell wasn't planned (the organizers were prepared for a crowd of up to 50,000, not eight to 10 times that many), it wasn't something anyone set out to create. It just happened.

So no, there will never be another Woodstock. I'm sure that at some point there will be a [blank] or a [blank] and maybe later a [blank], but each of those will be what they are, existing on their own terms, something that - well, that just happened. And they'll be great. But they won't be Woodstock - they will be themselves.

The Erickson Report for August 21 to September 3





The Erickson Report for August 21 to September 3

- Woodstock: personal memories
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-7351009/Woodstock-pinnacle-hippie-dream-turns-50.html

- Woodstock: the political life around it
https://www.militaryfactory.com/vietnam/casualties.asp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_protests_against_the_Vietnam_War
http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/15/newsid_2533000/2533131.stm
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long,_hot_summer_of_1967
https://www.britannica.com/event/Stonewall-riots
https://www.oprahmag.com/life/a27657496/stonewall-riots-significance-facts/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiotics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAOH4mYk-AI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrOE2s_ldlQ

 - Woodstock: Is any of that relevant now?

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 7: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

The Erickson Report, Page 7: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

Turning to the Outrages, we have first the fact that the Tweetie-pie administration has announced plans to resume executing federal prisoners, ending a 16-year moratorium on the practice.

Attorney General William Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons to schedule executions for five inmates on death row, bringing back the grim reaper with a vengeance, as the government has carried out just three executions since the federal death penalty statute was expanded in 1994 and the last of those was in 2003.

The bloodlust flies in the face of the trend in the nation as a whole. There were just 25 executions in the whole country in all of 2018, a quarter of the number of 20 years earlier.

New Hampshire abolished the death penalty in May, making it the 21st state to do so. In some of the other states where it remains the law, the death penalty is effectively frozen, including by governor-issued moratoriums in California and Pennsylvania and a court order in North Carolina, and in yet others the penalty simply isn't invoked.

Popular support for capital punishment is also down, dropping from around 80% in the mid-1990s when fear of crime and actual crime rates were much higher to a bare majority of 54% now, according to the Pew Research Center.

Amnesty International called the decision to resume sanctioned murder "outrageous" and "the latest indication of this administration’s disdain for human rights."

Which I would say is the least you can call it. The fact is, despite the lack of any evidence that the death penalty reduces the murder rate, despite the demonstrated racist bias in imposition of the death penalty, despite the cold reality of the execution of innocent people, despite dropping crime and dropping support, this remnant of barbarity persists. It is and will remain a moral outrage.

=

This will just be a quick note because I'm out of time and this is something I will definitely be talking more about soon.

On August 2, the US formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF, which was signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

We now face the prospect of a new nuclear arms race.

The killing of the pact comes just three days before the 56th anniversary of the signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, one of the earliest treaties on nuclear weapons, that one atmospheric testing, and just four days before the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

The Erickson Report, Page 6: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

The Erickson Report, Page 6: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

Ah, our regular feature and a crowd favorite, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages.

Starting as we usually do with the Clowns, our first example is poor, beleagured Susan Collins. Her approval rating among her constituents in Maine has plummeted from the sky-high 78% at one point in 2015 to being underwater now: 45% approval and 48% disapproval, a fact which which she blames on "unceasing attacks by dark money groups" but does not, apparently, see any connection to having sold her soul to Tweetie-pie, particularly with her vote to put Bret Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court after her risible claim she was sure, oh so sure, that he will never ever nohow how can you even suggest the idea that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Susan Collins
Making her even more of a clown is the fact that she has already benefitted from dark money and that of the $2 million she raise last quarter for her re-election, less than $100,000 came from people in Maine.

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Our loser Clown of the week is Rep. John Ratcliffe, who auditioned for the post of Director of National Intelligence by berating Robert Mueller with the totally false claim that he didn’t follow the special counsel regulations.

Of course, in the wake of his act his name shot to the top of Tweetie-pie's list, and His High Orangeness announced on July 28 that he was going to nominate Ratcliffe only to change his mind just five days later after even Senate GOPpers couldn't stomach the idea of this thoroughly unqualified prat.

John Ratcliffe
With the withdrawal of the nomination, this may seem borderline irrelevant now but I still want to take the opportunity to point and laugh.

=

Next up, we have a candidate for the Least Self-Aware Award.

William Perry Pendley, a right-wing lawyer and commentator, is the new head of the Bureau of Land Management. He has argued that climate science isn’t real, that environmentalists want to “destroy” civilization, that diversity is killing people, and that the best thing for managing public lands is for the feds to sell off more of it.

He also said in a 2018 interview that a real problem in government is that federal employees aren’t held “personally liable” or “personally responsible for the harm that they do” regarding federal land management.

William Perry Pendley
He better hope that his own standards don't apply to him. Which of course they won't, but we can dream.

=

Finally, I know I said I wasn't going to mention El Paso or Dayton but I came across this as I was preparing the show and it is just so jaw-dropping stupid that I had to include it.

Mike Huckleberryhound insists that there is only one thing that can put a stop to mass shootings.

A ban on guns? Don't be absurd.
A ban on assault or military type weapons, then? Forget it.
Mike Huckabee
Universal background checks? A ban on large-capacity magazines? Nope and nope.

Nope, not even better mental health programs or a ban on video games. The only thing that will help is - wait for it -

thoughts and prayers.

No joke. That's what he said in so many words, adding that until, quoting now, "kids are brought up once again to believe that we are all made in the image of God, that life is sacred and superficial differences like skin color are meaningless” - don't know when thinks kids in this country were brought up that way but I want some of what he's been smoking - anyway, until we are, um, again he said all pacifists and totally nonracist, until then, quoting again, "passing more laws is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

Shorter Mike Huckleberryhound: I don't give a damn and stop bothering me

The Erickson Report. Page 5: A Longer Look at BDS and Israel

The Erickson Report. Page 5: A Longer Look at BDS and Israel

It's time for us to take A Longer Look.

Because the right to engage in peaceful political boycotts is under active attack in the US.

Well, to be precise, it's under active attack if the target of a peaceful political boycott is Israel.

Twenty-seven states covering more that 250 million people have laws that in some way punish people or businesses or both for daring to engage in or support any sort of economic boycott of Israel, even if that boycott is limited to the Occupied Territories, which Israel holds and controls in clear violation of international law and UN resolution.

These US laws are part of a nationwide assault on the Boycott-Divest-Sanction - or BDS - Movement, the goal of which is to use economic pressure to force Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. The attacks on the movement are mostly based on taking various clearly anti-Semitic statements by one founder of the movement and projecting those attitudes wholesale onto every person, every business, and every group supporting the boycott, purposely forgetting that BDS is a movement, not an organization taking orders from the top down.

Congress has played its part in the assault as well: Last year, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, sponsored by two Rs and two Ds, tried to flat-out make it a crime to boycott Israel. It failed, but there is talk of it being reintroduced this year.

This session has seen Senate passage of the Combat BDS Act, which encourages states to create laws that three federal courts have now blocked as unconstitutional. In late July, the House easily passed H. Res 24, which condemned BDS, claiming the movement "promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation." Among those voting "aye" were progressive heroes Ro Khanna and Ayanna Pressley, who were described by some on Twitter as "progressive - except for the issue of Israel and Palestine."

By the way, I'll note, because it's important that we do, the exact same description of BDS in that resolution could have been applied to the anti-apartheid movement aimed at South Africa as well as any number of other political boycotts - remember the boycott of North Carolina over its anti-transgender so-called "bathroom bill?" Couldn't that have been called "collective guilt?" The boycott was of the state, not of the particular legislators who voted for the bill. Couldn't that have been called "mass punishment?" The economic impact by definition was spread across the whole state's economy. Should that have been condemned by the House of Representatives?

Happily there is some pushback against this; Representatives Ilhan Omar, John Lewis, and Rashida Tlaib hsve introduced a resolution reaffirming the First Amendment right to participate in political boycotts as grounded in America’s history. Lewis's support is particularly important because he opposes BDS but he opposes restrictions on our Constitutional rights even more. Pressley, for her part, tried to defend her vote to condemn BDS by pointing to her support for this resolution, but that shows either low-grade CYA or a fundamental ignorance of the issues at hand.

Why is something like BDS needed? Two recent reasons.

The first is in Gaza. According to the conservative Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post, "thousands of Gazans protest along the security fence on a weekly basis ... calling for an end of the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip." The "security fence"  is a barrier that Israel built to keep those living in Gaza penned in.

Israel has responded to the protests violently. According to a UN report, between March 30 2018, when the series of demonstrations started and the end of the year, Israeli snipers killed 180 unarmed Palestinian protesters and wounded more 6100 others. "The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities," the report said.

Now, to prove how decent and moral they are, Israeli officials have said that snipers are going to aim at the ankles of protesters rather than shooting them anywhere on the body, because of the unfortunate tendency of the previous policy to kill people.

But as noted by Jon Heller, an associate professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam,
Israel’s “most moral” IDF admits sniping legs has an unfortunate tendency to kill, so it instructs its snipers to shoot at ankles. Sniping innocent protesters, however, is still fine.
The Israeli civil rights organization B'Tselem declared that the change in policy
in no way suggests that the military attaches great value to human life. On the contrary, it shows that the military consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans.
For our second recent reason, we move from Gaza, which has rightly called the "largest open air prison in the world," to Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, on July 22 Israeli forces demolished scores of homes in Sur Baher, a Palestinian village that straddles East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Parts of Sur Baher lie inside the municipal boundary of East Jerusalem, Israeli-occupied and still a point of contention, and parts lie outside the apartheid wall that Israel has built between itself and the West Bank. However, some parts of the village lie in between: outside the boundary of Jerusalem but still on the Israeli side of the barrier, which there, as in several other places, wrongfully intrudes into the West Bank. Because it outside the boundary of Jerusalem, the area is ostensibly under control of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel doesn't care. It declared those houses "illegal" because they didn't have Israeli building permits, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to get and ignoring that the area is supposed to be under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. It also declared them a "security risk" because of their proximity to the fence - a risk, never forget, that Israel created by building the damn fence - and then used those excuses to demolish the homes and drive out the residents.

The move was denounced by Amnesty International, calling it "part of a systematic pattern by the Israeli authorities to forcibly displace Palestinians in the occupied territories," actions which which "amount to war crimes."

In joint statement, three key officials of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs declared that "Israel's policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law."

The European Union issued a statement opposing the operation, which said in part that
Israel's settlement policy, including actions taken in that context, such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions, and confiscations of homes, is illegal under international law.
So here's the deal: If you think that shooting nonviolent protesters in the world's largest outdoor prison, if you think an on-going policy that "amounts to war crimes," is in violation of international law, and amounts to at least a type of ethnic cleansing, if you think that is not a valid basis for an economic boycott, especially one against a nation whose leader, Benjamin Netan-yo-yo, has proven himself a liar and a hypocrite with regard to the two-state solution in which our own leaders claim to believe so fervently, if you think that is not sufficient cause for a nonviolent economic boycott, then I would challenge you to come up with a program for justice in the Middle East that does not involve suppression of Constitutional rights here and passive submission by Palestinians, dreamy wishful thinking, blind trust in those who have proven their bad faith, or willful blindness and probably all three there.

Just know that if you try, you will fail.
 
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