Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 4: A Longer Look at open borders

The Erickson Report, Page 4: A Longer Look at open borders

I promised last week to follow up on the idea of open borders as being worth a look. But what happened is that it wound up turning into A longer look - a longer look at open borders.

Open borders, in case the concept is not clear from the name, refers to a policy of unrestricted immigration, of free travel into and out of a nation with no more fuss than crossing the border between two US states. There can be trivial variations on that, such as requiring you to have either money for a few days' expenses or a place to stay, but we're not going to bother with those.

Okay. There are generally two types of argument, which sometimes overlap, raised in support of open borders: an economic one and a moral one.

At the top, one thing that can't be denied is that it would save money on enforcement. Open borders means no walls, no fences, no screening at airports, no ICE, no deportations, no detention centers, no immigration courts. The US spends in the neighborhood of $20 billion annually in immigration enforcement. Meanwhile, one study pegs the economic cost of wait times at the US-Mexico border alone to be more than $12 billion a year. Add the economic costs of wait times at other ports of entry and we could easily be talking about $40 billion a year on border security.

That's a lot of money but still it's small change in the larger, particularly the world, economy, so there's got be more to the economic argument, and there is. The real economic argument is based on hypothetical notions of economic efficiency.

The idea is that just as open borders in goods - "free trade" - supposedly allows physical resources to flow where they can be deployed most productively for their best use, so open borders for workers allows human resources to flow where they can be deployed most productively - and yes, workers do become more productive as they move from a poor country to a rich one because they join a labor market with ample capital and a predictable legal system.

The result of all this increased productivity, it's claimed, is that the world gets richer.

According to Fortune.com, four different studies have shown that, depending on the level of movement in the global labor market, the estimated growth in “gross world product” - the worldwide equivalent of GDP - would be in the range of 67% to 147%. Effectively, open borders would double the world's economic activity.

But here is the first rub and part of why I find the argument for open borders interesting enough to consider but not really persuasive. Let's suppose that's true, that open borders  produce a major increase in gross world product - GWP if you prefer. The world as a whole is richer but are the people richer? Or have we just created, as the very argument itself suggests, an even and ever greater divide between the rich nations and the poor ones, between the increasingly rich few and the increasingly desperate many? Even if we are to say that those coming in improve their own lot, what does that mean for those left behind?

It's argued that migrant workers often send money back home through remittances, which again could benefit a select few in those home countries, but how much of an impact could that have on the scale of a national economy, even for a poor nation?

And yes, what about those already here? Would the new arrivals drive down wages? Do they improve their own lot at the cost of driving down the lot of those already here to meet theirs?

The New Internationalist, hardly a right-wing source, says that multiple studies say wages are only minimally affected, if at all, by immigration, citing in particular one from Denmark which followed the wages and employment of every worker in the country between 1991 and 2008 and found that low-skilled wages and employment actually rose in response to the influx of refugees during that time.

Okay but even so, that is about low-skilled workers, not the economy as a whole and it's hard to accept that there is no impact when in the US corporations are increasingly using temporary visas known as H-1Bs to replace American high-skilled, particularly technology, workers with foreign workers because they will work for 25 to even 50 percent less than Americans.

More to the point, all of these cases - from the H-1B program to Denmark's dealing with a flood of refugees and all points in between - are still situations of controlled immigration, even if in the case of Denmark temporarily dramatically increased immigration. They are not open borders and it's reasonable to wonder how far those results can be extrapolated.

Meanwhile, the huge and widening wealth gap we are already seeing here at home is well-known enough to require no further reference; so even if we're to say that with open borders, low-skilled workers would be a little better off, the question remains of if open borders are a pathway, even a tool, for making that wealth gap, that gulf, even wider, that chasm even deeper, that barrier even harder to breach, a way to, if you will, give the poor an extra penny so the rich can have an extra dollar. Or ten. Or a hundred. Or a thousand.

Still still still, even if we ignore that, even if we say that well, we are one of those industrialized nations that will economically benefit, so we'll be better off even if it's a pittance so who cares, that only serves to raise a different issue: The fact remains that by some estimates, more than two-thirds of a person’s overall wealth is determined by where they live and work, that accident of place of birth is a major determinent of your wealth.

Which is where the economic and the moral cases come to overlap: Since where someone is born is entirely a matter of chance, the argument goes, there is no moral justification for compelling people to stay in a poor country. By the same token, those lucky enough to have been born in rich countries have no right to exclude others from their good fortune.

But they do: It's estimated that three-quarters of all border walls and fences in the world have been erected since 2000. Approaching 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, everywhere you look the world has more barriers than ever.

Which just puts an exclamation point on the moral argument, since the main intention of most of these barriers is to preserve the privilege of the wealthy at the expense of the poor by restricting their access to the resources and opportunities available in wealthy countries - while the ability of the rich and even more of capital to move when and where they like is barely touched.

And by the way, not just move for the sake of mere residency. In 21 nations, mostly in Europe and the Caribbean but also Canada, the United States, Australia, and other places, the rich essentially - not literally but essentially - can buy citizenship by investing in the domestic economy.

By what right, by what moral standard, do we allow the perpetuation of that self-reinforcing cycle that increasingly secures and protects the rich against the world's poor, against the world's desperate, against the world's refugees, against those whose moral and ethical claim to a share of the world's resources is as great as their own?

I think the moral case for open borders is clear and correct. But I'm still divided because I have said many times about open borders that my heart says yes but my head says no.

Because what of the practical issues? We are assuming that open borders will lead to a large influx of new residents into the US, considerably more than are coming now - otherwise there isn't an issue. So what are the practical issues of dealing with that rapidly swelling population?

What are the implications, for example, for public education? For schools and the supply of teachers? For health care facilities and the supply of doctors, nurses, and all the other sorts of health care personnel? For the provision of social services, which we have to assume will need to be greatly expanded?

What are the implications for the housing stock? The people have to go somewhere. Do we wind up with shanty towns or overflowing cities packed with 21st century versions of the darkest days of Hell's Kitchen or the increasingly rapid replacement of farmland with pavement and buildings?

What about the increased demands for energy? What about utilities such as the electric grid? What would be the impacts on air and water pollution?

Speaking of energy, since as Americans our carbon footprint is so large, what would be the impact of increased demands for power on global warming?

There are also social questions. Even advocates of open borders acknowledge that in the short term unchecked migration could certainly corrode social cohesion due to cultural conflicts between natives and immigrants. Although in the longer run it likely would make little difference - recall Peter Andreas, who I quoted last time about the historically insecure nature of our borders, noting once "undesirable" sorts of immigrants being, a few generations later, "unremarkably American" - it is still a concern that would require attention.

And yet - yes, another but - it could just as easily develop that none of that would be a problem, at least not big ones.

Why?

Because open borders not only promote immigration, they promote emigration, they promote immigrants’ return to their original homes. If immigrants know they can go home and then maybe come back again in the future, they are less likely to put down roots. Many will come for a few years, to work or study or save some money, and then go home. This happens routinely in the European Union, which has largely open borders among member states.

Consider that even without open borders, in the 1960s, 70 million Mexicans crossed into the USA - and 85 per cent of them later returned to Mexico. But the more militarized our borders become, the more restrictive our policies become, the more those already here don't leave for fear they would never be able to come back because of the restrictions and the dangers associated with the trip.

And those dangers are very real and extend beyond concerns like arrest, incarceration, and even the tearing apart of families. The number of people dying while crossing borders has reached unprecedented levels.

The group Border Angels estimates that since 1994, about 10,000 people have died in their attempt to cross from Mexico into the US. According to the Customs and Border Protection, over 7,000 people died crossing that border between 1998 and 2017.

Meanwhile, more than a thousand die every year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe, a number that threatens to increase as intensified border enforcement forces people into the hands of smugglers for more perilous journeys while governments, as I noted last time, criminalize programs to save refugees from drowning. Six hundred have already died in 2019.

And the people will keep coming and they will keep dying because on one point history has produced undeniable evidence: No matter how harsh we make their journey, no matter how perilous we make their passage, no matter how dehumanizing we make their detention, no matter how many walls and fences we build, no matter how many guards and guns, dogs and drones we deploy, the conditions of poverty, of hunger, of oppression, of violence, of crime that these human beings experience is bad enough to make the risks worth taking.

Ultimately, it's clear that existing migration policies do not work. The fact is that for all the debates raging in Europe and America, rich countries still take in only a small fraction of the world’s most vulnerable migrants. Indeed, so-called Third World nations take in more refugees than industrialized nations do. Those rich countries - including the US - can and must do more.

I don't know if open borders is a good answer, I truly don't. I believe in it but I have my doubts about its practicality. Maybe I shouldn't worry about practicality in the face of a requirement of morality, but I do. What I can say and do say is that open borders is clearly worth considering and that at the very least we should stop being so afraid to do that.

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

Turning to the Outrages, you know about the business with the citizenship question on the 2020 census, news about which will likely have changed between the time I do this and the time you see it. But I'm going to lead with how it stands are this moment because it ultimately leads to something darker.

First, just in case you didn't know, the Constitution requires that the census count people, not just citizens, for the purpose of, among other things, distributing representation in the House of Representatives. The idea being that members of Congress are supposed to represent all the people living in their states or districts, not just the citizens living there.

On June 27, the Supreme Court at least temporarily blocked the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census on the grounds that, in John Roberts' words, the reason for the change was "contrived." The case was remanded to District Court to see if the administration could come up with anything better.

It had already been revealed at the District Court level, before the case got to SCOTUS, that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross lied when he said the change was the result of a request from the Justice Department supposedly to better enforce the Voting Right Acts - you know the one the entire GOPper party is against - only to have it shown that he specifically asked the DOJ to come up with a reason to ask about citizenship.

Wilbur Ross
What's more, evidence came out in late May that the actual, conscious purpose of the question was to depress participation by Hispanic and Latinx immigrants and even citizens and thus enhance right-wing rule - because those folks tend to concentrate in areas more generally Democratic, which would lose representation through an undercount. That evidence is now the subject of a separate discovery process, one which the White House tried and failed to stop and while it technically was not part of the Supreme Court's decision, it's hard to imagine the justices weren't aware of it.

Okay. June 27, SCOTUS blocked the question. On July 2, the administration admitted defeat and stated that it had begun printing the census forms, minus the citizenship question.

On July 3, Tweetie-pie threw a tantrum, said the news that the administration had given up was "FAKE!" and so forced the DOJ to go back to district court with red faces and say they were still looking for legal pathways to include the question. The judge gave them until the afternoon of July 5 to come up with something, a deadline they failed to meet.

So of course the upshot of all this is that TP man is considering using an executive order to force the question into the census by ordering the Commerce Department to include it.

Which raises something else, something dark but which we can no longer ignore. Trying to force a citizenship question into the census by executive order would essentially mean defying the Supreme Court's order and the Constitution, which specifically assigns the job of overseeing the census to Congress. Which shouldn't surprise us since he has long defied Congress, denying its Constitutional authority over declaring war, denying its right to exercise any sort of oversight whatsoever, openly avowing that Congress can only know what he chooses to tell them.

He even defies the idea of leaving office, because those constitutional limits don't apply to him any more than any other ones do.

In March 2018, Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for abolishing term limits and making himself president for life, saying "I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday."

In April of this year, he said during a White House event for the Wounded Warrior Project that he would remain in the Oval Office "at least for 10 or 14 years."

On May, he retweeted Jerry Falwell Jr.'s tweet that "Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for" the Mueller investigation.

Damage from July 3 air strike
On June 16 he said in a series of tweets that his supporters "would demand that [he] stay longer" than 2024, which is when he would leave office if he won the 2020 presidential election.

People keep saying about this "it was a joke." Sorry, when you go to a thing at least four times, that's not a joke. That's something you're thinking about.

Nancy Pelosi: Are you listening?

Our other outrage is a bit of a reminder for you:

Early on July 3, an air strike hit a migrant detention center outside Tripoli, killing over 60 people and wounding scores more.

It was part of the campaign by the self-named Libyan National Army, lead by Trump-endorsed warlord Khalifa Haftar. The LNA, which holds eastern and much of southern Libya, launched an offensive in early April to seize control of Tripoli from forces aligned with the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord.

The World Health Organization estimates that almost 1,000 people have been killed during the fighting, with 5,000 more wounded.

The UN Security Council has struggled with how to deal with the renewed violence because shortly after the offensive began, both the US and Russia declared that they could not support any resolution calling for a ceasefire. The Council couldn't do more than issue an anodyne denunciation of the July 3 attack because the US would not agree to anything more.

So what's the reminder? It's that in 2011, President Hopey-Changey, the Amazing Mr. O, loudly cheered on by a significant part of the supposedly progressive community, actively participated in the NATO-backed overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi's regime under the false pretense of "protecting civilians."

He sought no approval from Congress; he did not even engage in the wimpy and meaningless charade of "consultation." Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even told a Congressional panel that the White House would ignore any attempts to invoke Congress's war powers. In short, he did all the things that that same community denounced when done by someone who isn't a Democrat.

And as was predicted at the time by at least some - me, for one - the result of the overthrow was not to protect civilians but to fracture Libya into a multi-sided civil war from which, eight years on, it has still not emerged.

If you endorsed what Obama did then, if you embraced the fiction of "humanitarian intervention," those dead refugees - and the many others who have died in these last years - are on your conscience.

And if you find that statement outrageous, too damn bad.


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

Next is our regular feature, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages.

We start, as usual, with the Clowns and indeed we start with a real winner: Glenn Kessler is the "fact checker" at the Washington Post. His turn-ons are candlelit dinners, walks on the beach, and making the concept of logic scream in agony.

During the second dog and donkey show of presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders said, quoting, "We have three people in this country owning more wealth than the bottom half of America."

In his "fact check," Kessler acknowledged the statement to be factually true but then dismissed it as a "snappy talking point" because "the comparison is not especially meaningful."
Why? Because, he said, quoting again, "people in the bottom half have essentially no wealth, as debts cancel out whatever assets they might have." That is, the fact that the bottom half of the US population has zero or even negative net worth is irrelevant to the state of the economy, says nothing about our economic system, and makes any comparison between their condition and that of the rich "not meaningful."

Glenn Kessler
David Sirota - full disclosure, he's Sanders's speechwriter - summed up the reaction best when he said Kessler's column should be filed under "things you can't make up."

For our next example, well, who could it be other than our Clowner-in-Chief.

Tweetie-pie's campaign is spending big bucks on online ads, including more than $2.7 million on nearly 28,000 ads on Facebook in the last 90 days alone.

The ads feature "Thomas from Washington" saying Tweetie-pie is "in our prayers for strength and wisdom from God almighty," "Tracy from Florida," who "could not ask for a better president," and "AJ from Texas," who despite being, he swears, a "lifelong Democrat," supports Tweetie-pie's border wall.

Only one problem - well several, actually: None of them are from the US and none of them said those things.

Instead, "Thomas," "Tracy," and "AJ" are stock photo models for Turkish, French, and Brazilian companies, respectively. And the voiceovers are not their voices but scripted lines recited by professional actors.

On other words, it's all FAKE NEWS!

Oh, but it's okay because the ads contain a disclaimer - in tiny print in the lower left corner and appearing for about two seconds.

Tweetie-pie
By the way, what do all these performers have in common: Ozzy Osbourne, Axl Rose, Pharrell, Neil Young, Prince's estate, Adele, The Rolling Stones, R.E.M., Elton John, Steven Tyler, Queen, The O'Jays, and Rihanna.

They all want Tweetie-pie to not use their music in his ads and rallies. Osbourne, Pharrell, Prince's estate, The Rolling Stones, and Steven Tyler went so far as to issue some form of cease and desist order.

Finally for now, to be a champion Clown you have to maintain a high level. To show you how ir's done a few bits from a true champion, Tucker - or as we know him around here, Tucks - Carlson.

The first one is kind of old now but it's still worthy.

On his June 5 show, Carlson deranged - and no, you're not wrong, I just made up using that as a verb, but it fits - he deranged that "Almost every nation on Earth has fallen under the yoke of tyranny." Only the brave and noble US has resisted!

And what is this yoke of tyranny, what is this horrendous worldwide oppression?

Tucks Carlson
Quoting again: "From Beijing to Buenos Aires, from Lusaka to London, the people of the world have been forced to measure their environment in millimeters and kilograms."

Yeah, the tyrant is the metric system. Indeed, a world in chains.

But here's the point: Champions can't rest on their laurels, so Tucks raised that bar even higher.

On his June 19 show, he actually - I'm am not exaggerating, this is a quote - he actually said "If white supremacy were a huge problem in America, how did Cory Booker become a senator?"

Followed by, a week later, in referring to the first Dimocratic debate, calling Booker one of "the two whitest candidates on stage."

Right.

By the way, my own response to Tucks' question is "If white supremacy is not a huge problem in America, why is Cory Booker being a senator worthy of note?"

The Erickson Report, Page 1: RIP MAD magazine

The Erickson Report, Page 1: RIP MAD magazine
 
We start this time on a sad note. I have to take a moment out for a quick RIP as another part of my youth slips away.

After just two more issues, MAD magazine, home to Alfred E. Neuman and "What, me worry?" originator of the fold-in and popularizer of the word furshlugginer, is ceasing publication of original material.

After those issues, MAD will disappear from the newsstands and be available only by subscription and the issues will consist of what were described as "vintage pieces and new covers.'

MAD published for 67 years and spawned a spinoff spinoff sketch comedy series and a number of imitators - "Cracked" is the one I remember - but none of them reached the level of what was called in every issue "the usual gang of idiots" that produced MAD.

RIP, Alfred.

The Erickson Report for July 10-23


[An apology for this being late. I fell during the recording of the show, breaking my nose in the process, which pushed production past the July 4 weekend and necessitated updating the show's contents.]

The Erickson Report for July 10-23

This time:

- RIP MAD magazine
https://www.madmagazine.com/
https://www.aol.com/article/entertainment/2019/07/04/mad-magazine-cease-original-content/23763244/

- Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages
the Clowns
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https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/07/01/after-sanders-points-out-poorest-have-zero-or-negative-wealth-wapo-fact-checker
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/07/01/after-sanders-points-out-poorest-have-zero-or-negative-wealth-wapo-fact-checker
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https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2019-07-02/trump-facebook-ads-use-models-to-portray-actual-supporters
https://www.thewrap.com/trump-facebook-ads-use-foreign-models/
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-facebook-ad-stock-models_n_5d1d7f12e4b0f312567eb8ae
https://www.msn.com/en-gb/entertainment/music/ozzy-osbourne-demands-donald-trump-stops-using-his-music-for-his-political-statements/ar-AADBPgx
https://www.thewrap.com/music-stars-slam-trump-songs-campaign-rallies-axl-rose-rihanna-photos/
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https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2019/06/05/tucker-carlson-almost-every-nation-earth-has-fallen-under-yoke-tyranny-metric-system/223874
https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2019/06/19/tucker-carlson-if-white-supremacy-were-huge-problem-america-how-did-cory-booker-become-senator/223979
https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2019/06/27/tucker-carlson-calls-cory-booker-one-two-whitest-candidates-stage-and-warns-democrats-could-ban/224080
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the Outrages
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https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/07/trump-executive-order-census-citizenship-question.amp
https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/accounting-census-clause
https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/27/politics/census-supreme-court/index.html
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/01/federal-judge-census-ruling-wilbur-ross-trump.html
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/thomas-hofeller-census-citizenship-question_n_5cefd3ece4b00cfa1967135e
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/scotus-alerted-evidence-census-citizenship-question/story?id=63386980
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/07/trump-drops-census-citizenship-question-legal-defeat-loser.html
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/03/trump-says-absolutely-moving-forward-with-census-citizenship-question.html
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-leaves-for-his-new-jersey-club-after-his-salute-to-america-today-2019-07-05-live-updates/
https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/24/politics/trump-congressional-approval-iran/index.html
https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-suggests-supporters-serve-more-two-terms-president-2019-6
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https://www.cbsnews.com/news/libya-airstrike-tripoli-migrant-detention-center-today-kills-scores-khalifa-haftar-lna-2019-07-03/
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/1000-dead-month-fight-libya-tripoli-190705160851496.html
https://www.apnews.com/0a96df2decf94028a1569d202f3bc6e9
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-un-idUSKCN1U025Y
https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2011/08/libya-here.html
http://whoviating.blogspot.com/2011/04/most-important-fact-about-libya-is-not.html

- A Longer Look at open borders
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/07/31/open-borders-help-economy-combat-illegal-immigration-column/862185002/
https://reason.com/2015/04/30/open-borders-in-america/
https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/04/16/the-case-for-immigration
http://fortune.com/2016/04/17/immigration-open-borders/
https://newint.org/blog/2017/11/29/why-open-borders
https://newint.org/
www.nytimes.com/2015/6/04/us/last-task-after-layoff-at-disney-train-foreign-replacements.html
http://fortune.com/2016/04/17/immigration-open-borders/
https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/fall-of-the-berlin-wall.html
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/07/countries-selling-citizenship/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migrant_deaths_along_the_Mexico%E2%80%93United_States_border
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/31/more-than-2500-refugees-and-migrants-have-died-trying-to-cross-t/
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/migrant-aid-ship-captain-detained-after-trying-forcibly-dock-italian-n1024911
https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/editorial-europe-treatment-of-migrants-is-worse-than-trump-a-1275539.html#ref=nl-international

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Outrage: forced birthers charge pregnant woman with getting shot


I had a fall during the taping of Episode 4 of The Erickson Report, delaying production for a week. So I thought I would post a couple of things intended for that show but which will not be used now.

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Outrage: forced birthers charge pregnant woman with getting shot

Another example of just how far the forced-birthers are prepared to go to enforce their dystopian view of women's independence.

Back on December 4 a 27-year-old Alabama woman named Marshae Jones got into a fight with a women named Ebony Jemison. In the course of the fight, Jemison shot Jones in the abdomen, leading Jones, who was five months pregnant at the time, to have a miscarriage.

Jemison was charged with manslaughter but a grand jury failed to indict and the charges were dropped.

Frustrated, prosecutors went after Jones, arguing she began the fight and therefore was responsible for her own shooting.

Why? Because they were unwilling to lose this opportunity to have a five-month old fetus declared a victim of manslaughter and thus a person. So on June 26 she was indicted for manslaughter and ordered jailed on $50,000 bond.

Charges were dropped on July 3 after an outcry and after it developed that Alabama's Criminal Code states that the prosecution of "any woman with respect to her unborn child" should not be permitted under criminal homicide charges like manslaughter. Police and prosecutors were so desperate for another woman to prosecute that they didn't even read the law.

After her arrest, police at least twice referred to her "unborn baby" (and to her as "the mother of the child") despite the medical fact that at roughly 21 or 22 weeks, the fetus is only barely and hypothetically viable.

But of course viability isn't the issue; "fetal personhood," treating even a fertilized egg as if it were a born child, giving a zygote more protection than the fully-grown woman, that is the point.

Marshae Jones
In fact, Alabama leads the country in criminal cases involving women accused of endangering their fetuses. Over 600 women have been charged since 2005 with alleged crimes related to their pregnancies.

The vast majority of them were prosecuted for exposing their embryo or fetus to controlled substances under the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute. That law was passed in 2006 and mandates 10 years in prison for drug use during pregnancy even if the fetus, once born, shows no ill effects. Penalties run up to 99 years if the fetus dies.

But those aren't the only cases: Pregnant women have been charged for getting in a car accident, failing to leave a physically abusive partner, or attempting suicide.

Alabama’s Yellowhammer Fund, which advocates for abortion rights in the state, said that Jones’ treatment was part of “a new beginning” in Alabama’s zeal to undermine women’s reproductive rights. "Today, Marshae Jones is charged with manslaughter for being pregnant and getting shot," the group stated. “Tomorrow, it will be another black woman, maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care.” And as always, "it will be poor, marginalized and black people who will feel this pain the most.”

Two footnotes: Ten states now have laws requiring physicians to tell patients that medically-induced abortions can be "reversed." What they really mean is that the procedure can be stopped after the first of two steps of the first part can be undone. Maybe. It's unproved, experimental, and based on anecdotal evidence. But anything to stop an abortion, even if it requires physicians to actively lie to patients.

Early in June, 42 elected prosecutors representing jurisdictions in 24 states, including Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and Ohio, issued a statement vowing not to enforce extreme anti-abortion restrictions passed in their states.

Heroes and Villains: climate change


I had a fall during the taping of Episode 4 of The Erickson Report, delaying production for a week. So I thought I would post a couple of things intended for that show but which will not be used now.

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Heroes and Villains: climate change

Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish activist who, in August 2018 at age 15, began an on-going solitary protest outside the Swedish parliament about the need for immediate action to combat climate change and has since become an outspoken climate activist.

She initiated the school strike for climate movement in November 2018. On March 15 of this year, an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world staged strikes and protests. Another event involving students from 125 countries took place on May 24.

She is of course not alone but she is a symbol of a movement becoming more assertive about the need for immediate action on climate, a movement that is coming to embrace nonviolent direct action, as mass protests over the weekend of June 22-23 showed.

For just one example, on June 22 in Germany, hundreds of activists under the slogan "We are unstoppable - another world is possible!" stormed an open-pit coal mine in Germany while thousands of others maintained separate blockades of the nation's coal infrastructure.

Greta Thunberg
Meanwhile, in New York City police arrested 70 environmental protesters outside the New York Times headquarters who laid down in the street and climbed onto the building to demand the newspaper start referring to climate change as a climate emergency.

The same day in Bath, Maine at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works, where some of the Navy's most advanced warships are built, 22 people were arrested for civil disobedience calling for Congress to "Fund Climate Solutions, Not Endless War"

And on July 2, the day this is being recorded, a UK group called Extinction Rebellion is staging a die-in, putting an independent edge to the opening of the London's city-organized, officially-sanctioned Climate Action Week.

Again, Greta Thunberg is not alone, but she still is a symbol of a movement that is no longer content to wait until the corporations and the politicians decide action is in their own interest. And for that she is a Hero.

The villain here may come as something of a surprise. It is Phil Goldberg, director of the Center for Civil Justice at the Progressive Policy Institute, an allegedly progressive organization - I mean, it's right in the name and all - connected to the Dimocratic Party.

Phil Goldberg
Various mayors around the country have been filing lawsuits against fossil fuel corporations for their pollution and contribution to global warming, arguing that "we did what the law required" is inadequate as a defense when they knew for a fact that those standards were inadequate. They failed to exercise due diligence, the argument goes, to exercise appropriate care, and thus can be held liable.

Phil Goldberg, who apparently needs to look up just what "justice" means, has been, precisely because of his association with PPI, an industry-useful leading point person denouncing such lawsuits. You know the game: He becomes "proof" that "even the lefties are against this."

In fact, this "lefty" is a former lobbyist for coal giant Peabody Energy and serves as special counsel to the National Association of Manufacturers in its fight against climate litigation besides having recently worked for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, a front group funded by several oil and gas trade associations, helping prepare a report on how tort law can be used to go after what the authors call “anti-pipeline activism.”
  
That's why he's the guy writing that the cities' "copycat lawsuits" are "ineffective political stunts" that "strike at the heart of our way of life" because they don't "balance" environmental concerns with the climate destroying fossil fuel production on which his bosses' profits depend.

That's why he's the guy doing it. That he's doing it under the cover of supposedly being progressive and supposedly concerned with civil justice, that's why he's our villain.

Heroes and Villains: immigration


I had a fall during the taping of Episode 4 of The Erickson Report, delaying production for a week. So I thought I would post a couple of things intended for that show but which will not be used now. This was to be the first appearance of a new occasional feature called Heroes and Villains.

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Heroes and Villains: immigration

Another new feature which will pop up from time to time. It's called Heroes and Villains and to kick it off we have a double-header.

Our first hero is new Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Reports had surfaced of a plan by ICE to launch massive nationwide raids over the weekend of June 22-23 including in Chicago, targeting thousands of migrant families for deportation.

Lori Lightfoot
The plan for whatever reason was dumped and the raids didn't happen, but not before mayors, city officials, and police departments from across the country announced they would refuse to cooperate with the feds in carrying out the raids.

Lightfoot was one of the first mayors to speak out. She ordered Chicago police to not cooperate and to cut off ICE’s access to databases of information on immigrants living in the city. She later declared that Tweetie-pie should "back off."

She was not the only mayor to speak out but she did so clearly and forcefully and for that Lori Lightfoot is our Hero.

There could be a lot of villains for this, but there is one who seems particularly apt.

Sarah Fabian
So our villain is Sarah Fabian. She is the Department of Injustice lawyer who stood before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 18 and argued that the Tweetie-pie administration does not have to provide items such as soap or toothbrushes or bedding to children held in immigration's human dog pounds despite a 1997 agreement requiring "safe and sanitary" conditions.

Fabian's argument, which the three-judge panel met with barely restrained incredulity, came down to saying that things like soap and the rest aren't required because they weren't specified in the original agreement.

After being scorched on social media, Fabian whined on Twitter that she wasn't saying kids don't deserve thing like soap, she was just saying that there is no obligation to provide them to the children in our concentration camps. Ah yes, that makes all the difference.

Some people tried to defend her by saying she was just doing her job, which prompted others to make reference to "just following orders." My own response: Quit.

Sarah Fabian: villain.



Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Following Up: US borders have never been "secure"

Following Up: US borders have never been "secure"

Finally for today, we’re Following Up on something.

Last time in taking a longer look at immigration, I said I intended to expand on two points: one, that our borders have always been porous; two, that there is a case to be made for open borders.

As it turns out, I don't have enough time for both, so I'm going to have to put the second point off until our next show. But I will get to it because even while I am not at all convinced that open borders are workable, it is an interesting and definitely arguable notion that deserves to be part of the debate.

Okay. I want to note at the top that in discussing how we have never had "secure control" of our borders, I am relying heavily on some work done by Peter Andreas, a professor of political science at Brown University, who says "The unauthorized movement of people is an American tradition."

In fact, it started even before there was a US: In 1763, King George III prohibited colonists from moving west of the Appalachian Mountains to settle. The colonists simply ignored him.

In the 1780s, Congress passed ordinances with the idea of raising revenue, deterring squatters, and promoting orderly westward migration. But a flood of unlawful settlers undermined the plans to the point where in 1807 Congress passed The Intrusion Act, which criminalized illegal settlement and authorized fines and imprisonment. It didn't work. It didn't work so much what became Vermont and Maine were born of squatters.

That pattern repeated itself for decades: illegal settlement, intense (and sometimes violent) resistance to government authority, and finally official resignation to the facts on the ground. For example, the westward migration included European immigrants who entered the country legally but then settled illegally. Unable to deter or remove those settlers, Congress passed “preemption” acts in 1830 and 1841. These were essentially pardons for illegal settlement, providing legitimate land deeds at discounted prices.

I had previously mentioned the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred the entry into the US of Chinese laborers. Turned away at ports of entry, Chinese immigrants simply went to Canada and came in through our northern border.

After the US successfully pressured Canada to deny entry to Chinese, the people-smuggling business moved south - to Mexico. The US-Mexico border already had a history as a route for smuggling goods in both directions; now, it became a gateway for smuggling people as well.

Significantly, Chinese immigrants were not the only “undesirables” coming in through Mexico. By the last decades of the 19th century, Lebanese, Greeks, Italians, Slavs, and Jews, all turned away at official ports of entry, slipped  in from Mexican. Worries over these immigrants was so acute that when the US Border Patrol was created in 1924, its main target was Europeans.

So now we have the descendants of those "undesirables" being, in Andreas' phrase, "unremarkably American" while the Mexicans and Central Americans who were once encouraged as a source of cheap labor have become the undesirables du jour.

US borders today are more heavily policed, closely monitored, and difficult to cross than ever. And officials continue to dream of "secure borders" that never existed even as they are occasionally forced to face reality, as they did most recently in 1986 with, as I mentioned last time, a measure that enabled 2.6 million undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status.

Expecting people to stop coming is insane.

Expecting them to stop finding ways to get in is insane.

Expecting those already here to leave is insane.

Any sane immigration policy must start from those three undeniable facts.

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Listen Up: police training causes murders like that of Willie McCoy

Listen Up: police training causes murders like that of Willie McCoy

Now for one of our occasional features, Listen Up.

First, a little background is in order here. On February 9, an employee at a Taco Bell in Vallejo, California called police to report a man unresponsive in his car in the drive-thru lane.

Six cops came and found Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old Bay Area rapper, asleep at the steering wheel with a gun in his lap. They surrounded the car with their guns drawn, later reporting it as "a confrontation with an armed man," saying that he didn't follow "loud verbal commands" and they were forced to kill him when he reached for his gun.

It was an all-too-typical, an all-too we have seen this movie too many times, of police seeing a young black man and seeing - or, often enough, merely thinking they see or later claiming to have seen, a gun - followed shortly by another young black man dead for no discernible reason - because remember, McCoy was asleep.

That became obvious in March when public pressure forced the release of body-cam footage, which revealed that police made no real attempt to wake McCoy but stood for some minutes with guns pointed at the sleeping man, during which time they noted that the gun had no magazine in it which meant that even if it was loaded, it had no more than one bullet.

And the footage also showed that the only moves McCoy appeared to make just before he was murdered was to stir slightly, scratch his left shoulder, and lean forward, his left arm moving toward his lap. The cops almost immediately opened fire. It's unlikely that McCoy even know what was happening to him.

The shooting, which McCoy’s family called an “execution by a firing squad,” sparked outrage and led to scrutiny of the Vallejo police department’s frequent use of deadly force and its history of misconduct and abuse cases.

Okay, that's the background. The reason for talking about it today is that news on this exploded anew on June 10 when a report from a city-hired consultant revealed that police has fired at McCoy 55  times in the space of 3.5 seconds. He was hit around 25 times in the chest, face, arm and shoulders.

Willie McCoy
What seemed especially shocking to many is that the consultant, one David Blake, a retired cop who has a history of writing reports that exonerate killer cops, declared the shooting to have been a "reasonable" - that was his word - a "reasonable and necessary" response by the cops.

More particularly, he said the killing was “in line with contemporary training and police practices associated with use of deadly force.”

Okay, Listen Up, people: That is the flaming problem!

It being "reasonable and necessary" to shoot a sleeping man 55 times in 3.5 seconds because he dared to scratch his arm is "in line with contemporary training and police practices." That's exactly what's wrong - exactly why the murder of Willie McCoy may anger us, may infuriate us, may even in some way shock us, but it does not truly surprise us.

The point here is that when I say that the killing of Willie McCoy is "in line with contemporary training and police practices," I don't mean that in the political sense - or just in the political sense - of this is how police deal with people, particularly black people, I mean in the literal sense that police are trained to behave this way.

We all know the racial and racist aspects. The equation in the public mind of "black" (and even more "black male" and even more "young black male") with violence and criminality is not merely our assertion, it's been researched and demonstrated repeatedly over decades. And we know how much of a driving force that equation can be in how cops act and react.

At the same time, the victims of mistreatment and police violence are not exclusively African-American (ask pretty much any white antiwar or anti-corporate protester).

So the point here is, the shooting of Willie McCoy is in line with current training and practice because that is what we are actively teaching cops. We are teaching them to be afraid, to be in constant fear, to have adrenelin pumping at the smallest provocation, to be ready - literally - to shoot first and ask questions later. The racism then amplifies it.

Cops are being taught risk avoidance, being taught to regard self-protection as their highest priority. Protect yourself first, fellow cops second, and the public third.

There is for example something taught in at least some police academies called the "21 foot rule," which holds that someone with a bladed weapon who is less than 21 feet away can rush a cop and injure or kill them before the cop could get their gun out and fire. Not only has this rule been questioned, it has been twisted and distorted to mean that if you are carrying a blade within 21 feet of a cop, they are justified in shooting you on the grounds that they felt they were at immediate risk of death; no actual aggressive move on your part is required.

This notion has become bad enough that in December 2014 some 125 Seattle police officers filed a lawsuit claiming that new rules in the city about the use of deadly force violated their Constitutional right not to de-escalate a situation before turning to lethal force, arguing in effect that cops have a Constitutional right to use any level of force up to and including shooting someone to death, any time they think they should, even if alternatives exist.

Meanwhile, a couple of years after that, a cop in West Virginia named Stephen Mader was fired for - and this is no joke - fired for not killing someone on the grounds that he had thus "failed to remove a threat," the "threat" in this case being a man with an unloaded gun who was trying to provoke the cop into killing him. "Suicide by cop," it's called and it's a real thing.

Cops being safe
So again, yes, the shooting of Willie McCoy is in line with current training and practice - and that is the problem!

Yes, police work can be dangerous, no doubt, no question, but if you're not prepared to deal with danger, if you're going to take the attitude, one which appears to be the default stance these days, that your personal safety outweighs any other considerations, even when that means just dumping that risk onto non-cops, then you shouldn't be a cop.

Having certain powers and authorities, including the authority to use force, even deadly force, when the situation demands it, powers and authorities that are unavailable to the general public, are part of what it means to be a cop; they are necessary tools cops must have in order to do their jobs.

But acceptance of genuine risk is another necessity without which the job is no longer that of a cop but that of an occupying military force, something too many police forces increasingly resemble and as which they are increasingly and not inaccurately perceived by the communities in which they operate.

Listen Up, people: The way we train police is screwed up and will only lead to more and more Willie McCoys.


The Erickson Report, Page 2: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Otrages - the Outrages

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages - the Outrages

Okay, switching over, some Outrages for you.

1. Pia Klemp, is German and 35 and also something of a rarity: She is a ship's captain and a member of Sea-Watch, a non-governmental organization that rescues asylum-seekers in the Mediterranean who are trying to reach Europe by boat.

She's also facing 20 years in prison in Italy for the heinous crime of not letting people drown.

Human traffickers in Libya extort thousands of dollars from migrants who arrive in the country desperately trying to reach Europe. As Klemp notes, those migrants risk the crossing of the Mediterranean "because there are no legal entry routes" and they keep coming because "there are so many reasons to flee."

But the ships used by the traffickers often are not seaworthy or are deliberately sabotaged, forcing humanitarian vessels such as Klemp's to either rescue the migrants or let them drown. Over the years, Klemp has rescued, by her estimate, at least 1000 people. For that, she has become a target of Italy’s extreme right-wing Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who has promised harsh penalties for so called "illegal" migrants which has led to rescue workers like Klemp being branded as criminals.

This despite the facts not only that seeking asylum is a human right but that Article 98 of the 1982 UN Law of the Sea says that:
“Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew or the passengers, to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost.”
Despite that, cases against Klemp and others are being pursued even as there is no proof of any substantial violation of law by any rescue vessel operated by any NGO.

Pia Klemp
Journalist Rula Jebreal summed it up: "Italy's fascists are using this case as a showcase to deter others from aiding migrants. They would prefer to let people drown in the Mediterranean."

2. Continuing on immigration outrages, they want them to drown in the sea; we lean toward letting them die in the desert.

According to a report in Politico from two weeks ago, Tweetie-pie is considering sweeping restrictions on asylum that would effectively block Central American migrants from entering the US.

If they are put into place, those seeking asylum will be found ineligible if they have entered or attempted to enter the US after failing to apply for asylum or other protections in any country that isn’t their country of origin that they went through to get to the US.

In other words, people fleeing El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, who make up the bulk of those seeking asylum at the southern US border, would be barred from applying because they walked through Mexico to get here.

In other words, the choices for asylum seekers are apply for asylum from within your home country, just sit there in the poverty, the crime, the violence, all the things you are seeking to flee, and see what the people who regard you as coming from shithole countries and say you are riddled with drugs and criminals and terrorists and don't want you in the first place will say about your case, or stay in Mexico - just don't bother us.

It really is like they aren't even pretending anymore. The bigotry, the hatred, the xenophobia is right out there for all to see.

3. Speaking of immigration, the Immigration and Nationality Act is a federal law passed in 1952 that stipulates that any child born abroad to a married US citizen parent is granted birthright American citizenship. The reference to "married" was largely to deal with situations where only one of the parents was a US citizen. "You're a citizen, your spouse is not, doesn't matter, the kid's a citizen."

But the State Department interprets the law to mean that a child born abroad must be biologically related to a US citizen parent and what's more, a child born to a same-sex couple through assisted reproductive technology, which is not mentioned in the law and barely existed at the time, is born "out of wedlock" and thus, it's claimed, is not a birthright citizen.

The Immigration and Nationality Act makes no reference to biology in determining birthright citizenship, giving the policy little textual support in law. But the State Department doesn't care, which has plunged same-sex couples into a legal nightmare, as the State Department in effect says they are not really married, that they're not really "married US citizen parents."

In February, a federal judge ruled in a suit brought by one same-sex couple that the Department’s imposition of a biological requirement is a "strained interpretation” of immigration law, and dismissed attempts to institute a biological testing standard as “unilateral.”

But the State Department has appealed that ruling and has fought to summarily dismiss a suit brought by another same-sex couple, so the fight - and the Outrage - continue.

Oh, a footnote to all this: The policy was adopted in 2014 - under Obama.

4. Next, this type of intellectual corruption is pretty commonplace these days, but still it’s outrageous.

William Happer
In mid-June the Environmental Defense Fund released emails between William Happer, a member of the National Security Council, and policy advisers with the Heartland Institute. The emails dated from 2018 and 2019 and were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act filing.

The emails show that Happer, who has claimed that carbon dioxide is good for humans and that carbon emissions have been demonized like "the poor Jews under Hitler," actively sought the help of the Heartland Institute, a notorious and brazen liar about climate change, in seeking to discredit the scientific reports on the subject coming out of NASA.

In the words of Matthew Nisbet, a professor of environmental communication and public policy at Northeastern University, "It's equivalent to formulating anti-terrorism policy by consulting with groups that deny terrorism exists."

5. One final outrage. Ryan Kirkpatrick is a student at West Park Elementary School in Napa, California. He's 9 years old.

On June 10, it was reported that after learning that some kids cannot afford lunch at school and have to take on debt, he used his saved-up allowance money to pay off those debts for his entire third-grade class - because, according to his mother, he wanted to make a difference. The total came to $74.50.

So why is this an outrage?

Ryan Kirkpatrick
Because why should he have to? Why is it acceptable for some kids to be too poor to afford a school lunch? Why should any child or their family have to depend on private charity - which is exactly what this is - to afford a meal?

Make no mistake, Ryan Kirkpatrick did a good and kind thing. The Outrage is not in what he did - it's in the fact that such an act is ever necessary.

And bear in mind that this comes at the same time that the federal minimum wage has passed an ignominious milestone: It has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since July 24, 2009 - and as of June 16 it had gone the longest time without an adjustment since the program was enacted in 1938. In fact, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has been declining since it hit its peak in February 1968 - that's a 51-year long decline in purchasing power.

A majority of states now have minimums above the federal level, but even in those, only three now have minimums above $11.50 an hour - a figure which offers purchasing power slightly below that of the federal minimum those 51 years ago. It's 51 years to get exactly nowhere.

Meanwhile, in 21 states the paltry, miserly, federal minimum is still the standard.

And we're all supposed to believe our economic lords and masters when they tell us the economy is doing great.

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages - the Clowns

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages - the Clowns

We're going to start the show with one of our frequent features, called Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages and this time we're going to start with the Clowns.

Our first clown is the Department of Energy. I’ll note that this is from a little more than two weeks back but it's too good to let pass.

1. In an otherwise mundane press release on May 28 announcing approval of more exports by a Freeport LNG terminal off the coast of Texas, the DOE declared the expansion of exports to be "critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world" and that more such exports will allow for "molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world.”

So it’s kind of like freebasing but without the kick.

2. Next up is the news that the Wicked Witch of the Desk and Clown Lady Supreme Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving us. She’s going home to spend more time lying to her family.

Actually, since there hasn't been a press briefing for about three months, I thought she left some time ago.

My favorite memory of her infamous career is when she told the press after Tweetie-pie fired James Comey that the White House had heard from “countless” - that was her word - “countless” FBI agents that they has lost faith in him only to have to tell investigators for Robert Mueller - a moment when there might be actual consequences for lying - that those comments were based on "nothing."

3. Our next clown is Sinclair Broadcasting, infamous for top-down corporate control of the well over 200 local TV stations it owns,control including distributing "must-run" segments touting the corporation's right-wing blather, including sometimes having it included in news shows as if it were a real news item.

One demand was that local stations use a huge "code red day" graphic any time there was a prediction of severe weather. Joe Crain, a meteorologist at WICS-TV in Springfield, Illinois, complained about the system on-air, noting that the dramatic, one-size fits all style is not nearly as informative as the more graded system used by the National Weather Service system and adding that many viewers had complained about it before calling it "a corporate initiative."

A day later, Crain disappeared from the air and a job listing for a meteorologist at WICS appeared - interestingly, not on WICS’s website, but on Sinclair's.

Robert Samuelson
4. Finally on this, Robert Samuelson, a Washington Post columnist who several years ago wished the Internet would just go away, well deserves his red nose.

In a column on June 12, he bemoaned the fact that the population of Japan is shrinking a little, predicting all sorts of dramatic, hideous outcomes as a result: Labor shortages! Deficits! Crushing debt burdens!

Of course, Japan is ten times as densely populated as the United States, so it would seem it could use a little more room.

Oh, but it's debt has ballooned! Well, yes it has, so much so that its debt service burden - which is the real measure of the “burden” of a debt, not how big it is but how much it costs to service it - its debt service burden will be about 0.1% of GDP, which in the US, allowing for the differences in the sizes of the two economies, would be about $20 billion. Utterly crushing.

But you know what makes it really bad in Samuelson's eyes? According to him, “Half of Japanese children born in 2007 are expected to live to 107.” The utter horror.

By the way, why is this a problem to him? Because capitalism is based on growth. There always has to be more: more people, more stuff, more production, more waste, more resource extraction, more more more. Without a constant flow of more, capitalism falters and ultimately fails.

Which means the dire future he sees for Japan is not dire for the Japanese but for capitalism.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Erickson Report for June 19 to July 2, 2019



The Erickson Report for June 19 to July 2, 2019

This week:

- Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

- Listen Up: police training causes murders like that of Willie McCoy

- Following Up: US borders have never been "secure"

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The Erickson Report - Page 3: A Longer Look at Immigration

A Longer Look at Immigration

Now we move to what I hope will be a regular feature of the show. It’s called “A Longer Look” and it’s where we examine a topic in somewhat more depth that we usually have time for.

This time, the topic is immigration.

We have been exposed to, have suffered through, been heartbroken by, the string of stories, extending over the past few years, of the cruelty, the bigotry, the casual indifference to the welfare of human beings, up to and including charging a man named Scott Warren with felonies for, in essence, refusing to allow immigrants to die in the desert, that is the reality of the policies of the Tweetie-Pie administration regarding immigrants and immigration.

We have seen the families torn apart, the children in cages, the dismantling of lives of people who have been in the US in some cases for decades, who have roots here, lives here, families here, some who came as children young enough that they have known no other home, we have seen increasingly furious attempts to deny legal rights to asylum seekers, all these people denied, degraded, dismissed because they are "illegal," more truly because they are "other," they are "not us."

Which at the end of the day should be no surprise since that's what it has always been about.

The very first US law touching on immigration, the Naturalization Act of 1790, limited naturalization - that is, the ability an immigrant to become a citizen - to "free white persons of good character," thus by definition excluding Native Americans, indentured servants, slaves, free blacks - and later Asians.

Starting in the 1850s, tens of thousands of Chinese laborers had been welcomed to the American West as a source of cheap labor, in particular to help build the railroads. When the demand for Chinese labor dried up, a racist anti-Chinese backlash quickly followed. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred the entry of Chinese laborers for 10 years and declared that Chinese could not become citizens. The act was renewed in 1892 for another ten years, and in 1902 Chinese immigration was made permanently illegal until the law was revoked decades later. Chinese remained ineligible for citizenship until 1943.

Our experience with Chinese exclusion provided a basis for later movements to restrict immigration by other "undesirable" groups such as Middle Easterners, Hindu and East Indians, and the Japanese - and, more recently, Muslims and people from, in the words of our president, "shithole" countries.

For example, the Immigration Act of 1924 barred immigration from Asia and set quotas on the number of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere - that is, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The quotas for specific countries were based on 2% of the US population from that country as recorded in the 1890 census. So populations poorly represented in 1890 were heavily restricted, blocked from legal entry, which especially affected Poles and other Slavs along with Jews, Italians, and Greeks, the latter two groups also affected by the notion dating  from the 1890s that "Mediterranean" people were inferior to northern, that is, whiter, Europeans. The purpose of the bill? According to the US Department of State Office of the Historian, it was "to preserve the ideal of US homogeneity."

Or, as one writer at the website OpenBorders.info noted, white supremacy has always been a central feature of US immigration policy.

There were some advances during the 60s and 70s, such as a 1968 act that eliminated immigration discrimination based on race, place of birth, sex, and residence along with abolished restrictions on immigration from Asia.

A 1976 law eliminated preferential treatment for residents of the Western Hemisphere, and a 1986 law included provisions through which over 2.6 million undocumented immigrants obtained legal status.

So let's be clear: While what we have seen these past couple of years may be something of a change from the most recent prior decades, it is not a real change, merely a reversion to the way we had always done things. It has always been about "preserving our homogeneity" in the face of "the other," the "not us."

By the way, know full well that I am not letting Barack Obama, the Amazing Mr. O, off the hook here: He deported more people than any previous president. But I also have to acknowledge that in the latter years of his presidency, it really does appear that efforts were focused on deporting people with actual criminal records, not just who they happened to come across.

But amidst all the news, I recall one case from two years ago that to me encapsulated all that is wrong with our national policies on immigration.

His name is Andres Magana Ortiz and he was an undocumented immigrant who had lived in the US for nearly thirty years. He has an American wife and three US-born children. During his time here he worked his way from migrant coffee farmer to owning his own land and being prominent in Hawaii's coffee industry, even to helping the US Department of Agriculture conduct a five-year study into a destructive insect species harming coffee crops and helping to run 15 other small farms.

He lost his fight to not be deported US despite letters of support from Hawaii's entire congressional delegation and the judge in his case, who, while legally unable to stop Ortiz's deportation, wrote a scathing opinion saying that that “the government decision shows that even the 'good hombres' are not safe,” that remark directed at Tweetie-pie, who had insisted that ICE would only go after the "bad hombres." On July 7, 2017, Ortiz "voluntarily" left for Mexico, just days before he was to be deported.

Here's the question that still haunts me: What was the point of this? What was gained by making him leave? What would have been lost by allowing him to stay? What was accomplished by this beyond satisfying the white-supremacist desires of the bigoted xenophobes occupying the upper reaches of Tweetie-Pie's administration? Just how sick are our national policies?

And consider this: Ignore for the moment that by the usual way such stories were told to us as we grew up, Ortiz is a classical, almost cliche, American success story, rising from migrant laborer to land owner, businessperson, and upstanding figure in the community. Ignore all that and for the moment just focus on the fact that he had been here for nearly thirty years. And it didn't matter.

Because there is no sort of statute of limitations on being an "illegal" immigrant. No matter how long you have been here, no matter how many and how thick are the roots you have set down, no matter how stable is the life you have established, no matter how much you have contributed to your community, it doesn't matter.

Think about that. There is no statute of limitations. Except for murder, terrorism, and sexual crimes against children, federal law has statutes of limitations for all sorts of crimes and all kinds of civil offenses. We have federal statutes of limitation for kidnapping, for fraud, for racketeering, for embezzlement, for all sorts of the most serious crimes. But not for being an undocumented immigrant. Not for crossing a border without the expected official permission. You did it two years ago, ten years ago, thirty years, fifty years, it makes no difference.

This is insane.

Even the notoriously anti-immigration - and note well that I didn't say anti-undocumented immigration, I said anti-immigration - the notoriously anti-immigration Mark Krikorian, even he a few years ago allowed as how even as he disagreed with it as a matter of policy, the idea that an undocumented immigrant who has been in the US for three years - that was his time frame - and has put down roots here should not be deported, that idea "at least makes a certain kind of sense." Even he was prepared to say that even though he disagreed with the idea, it was an arguable point.

So yes, as a first small step to bringing sanity to our policies there should be a time limit. There should be some sort of statute of limitations. There should be a point beyond which being able to show roots in the community and an established life will free you from the daily fear of discovery and deportation, the daily fear of the ripping up of your life and the ripping apart of your family.

Another small step is realizing that our borders have always been porous, that those who rant about "regaining control of our borders" ignore the fact that we have never had such control. I intend to talk more about this next time, more about how we have often found it necessary to recognize that there is a real limit to what could be done and we had to adjust to the facts on the ground - as we did to some extent in the 1986 law I mentioned.

There is one more, very dramatic, even radical step we could take, which again I intend to address next time, a step pretty much everyone on all points of this topic insists they are against but which deserves a hearing, because there is a case to be made - I won't say a genuinely persuasive case because I'm not entirely convinced myself - but there is a case to be made for open borders.

But instead, what we have is a thoroughly-broken system enforced by the well-named ICE because it is cold-hearted to its core, now directed by an administration chock full of bigoted xenophobes who don't care who they deport as long as they can eject and reject "foreigners," "them," "the other."

They are without mercy. They are without compassion. They are without understanding. They are without humanity. They and the system they oversee are an Outrage that must not be allowed to continue.
 
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