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.


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.

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Following Up on school lunches

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Following Up on school lunches

I want to Follow Up on something I raised briefly last time, when I expressed my outrage over a school district in Florida that threatened parents who hadn't paid for their children's school lunches with having those children removed to foster care.

But the real outrage, I said then, was that any family should ever be in the position of not being able to afford food for their children.

It develops that that, however, is not an outrage to the administration of Tweetie-pie.

For two decades, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP - still commonly called by its original name of Food Stamps - has had rules which allow states to raise limits on eligibility, making it easier for families with high housing or child care costs, as well as those with some savings and other assets, to still quality. Such loosened limits are now in effect to some degree in some form in 40 states, allowing them to better support low-income working families, promote asset-building among those households, and improve state administration while lowering administrative costs.

Now, the gang of misanthropes swearing fealty to His High Orangeness want to dump those rules, denying states the ability to address local conditions.

“Too often, states have misused this flexibility,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, forgetting, it seems, that "flexibility for states" is a traditional mantra for right-wingers whenever they think states will be harder on poor people than a related federal program. He considers families not being forced to choose among rent, health care, and food to be an "abuse."

The White House gangsters estimated that 3.1 million people would lose access to Food Stamps under their proposal, which is evil enough - but it turns out that they left something out, which brings us back directly to school lunches: The plan would potentially strip around 500,000 kids of free school lunches.

See, children automatically get free school lunch if their families receive Food Stamps, a policy that reduces paperwork and thus reduces both costs and the risks of bureaucratic screw-ups. The proposed change would eliminate that automatic eligibility, forcing every single family to apply individually under tightened standards.

For some reason, the death-eaters in the White House never mentioned that fact in their formal release of the proposed rule changes. Maybe they thought announcing an intention to deny school meals to a half-million poor kids was an image too bad even for them to present.

But frankly, I doubt it: Nothing seems beneath them.

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Heroes and Villains

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Heroes and Villains

Alright, now for one of our occasional features, called Heroes and Villains

You may have heard about the massive protests in Moscow demanding free and fair elections in gthe wake of opposition candidates being barred from running in the Moscow city council elections.

The police response, to what should be no one's surprise, has been brutal. Hundreds arrested this past weekend, 1000 the weekend before, with many reported beaten, as crowds called out "We are unarmed," and "Our blood is on your hands."

In the midst of the state violence, 17-year-old Olga Misik sat down on the ground in her bulletproof vest in front of Putin's armed goons and read aloud the Russian Constitution, including Article 31 affirming the right to peaceful political assembly, creating a quiet but potent symbol of peaceful defiance.

Olga Misik
In what again should have been a surprise to no one, Misik was allowed to leave the demonstration only to be arrested later when there were no witnesses. She was held overnight and beaten before being charged with "attending a public event [held] without filing a notice" and fomenting "mass unrest."

For being a symbol of courageous nonviolent defiance that has been compared to the famous image of a single Chinese man facing down a tank in Tiananmen Square, Olga Misik is a hero.

As for our villain, well, of course it's Vlad Ptooie. You thought someone else?

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Five Things Noted in Passing

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Five Things Noted in Passing

Next up comes Five Things Noted in Passing, devoted to mentioning at least briefly a few of the many, many pieces of news that can't be included in a half-hour show.

Number One: Emmet Till was a 14 year-old boy from Chicago visiting family in Money, Mississippi in August of 1955, where he allegedly flirted with a white woman cashier at a country store.

Four days later, the woman's husband and brother went to the home where Till was staying, kidnapped him, stripped him, beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and threw his body, tied to a 75-pound cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the the Tallahatchie River.

Emmett Till
His body was found four days later. His murderers were tried for the crime - and were acquitted in under two hours.

Since 2007, there have been several memorial signs near the site of the murder. The signs have been repeatedly vandalized - but for some reason a recent example caused extensive outrage: Three University of Mississippi students posed by one bullet-pocked sign bearing guns and grins.

The result is a new sign, 500 pounds, steel-reinforced, bulletproof, and protected by security.

Which is apparently what it takes, today, to protect a memorial to a black child murdered and mutilated by bigots 64 years ago.


Number Two: To prove resistance can be joyful, Ronald Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San José State University, have installed three pink seesaws along the steel border fence on the outskirts of El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

The seesaws were slid through the fence so that the two ends were in the two different countries, making the wall, the professors said, a literal fulcrum of US-Mexico relations.


Number Three: The Polar Star is a heavy icebreaker, designed to make its way through Antarctic Sea ice, which can be over 20 feet thick. Its primary job is clearing a path for resupply of the McMurdo research station as part of Deep Freeze, a multi-service operation to support the US Antarctic Program, which is led by the National Science Foundation.

It is the US's only heavy icebreaker and it was launched in 1976 - 43 years ago. Every time it makes the trip, necessary to support the research being done at McMurdo, which can be done nowhere else in the world, things break down, pipes leak, equipment stops working. The boat spends its entire time in homeport in a struggle to be ready for the next time. The Coast Guard and Navy are supposedly cooperating on plans for new icebreakers, but for now every year there is the risk that the researchers at McMurdo could find themselves without supplies.


Number Four: The case of Parvez Manzoor Khan is before a US magistrate in Jacksonville, Florida. I won't try to go through the details of the case, which gets complex, but I wanted to mention it because of its potential impact: The Justice Department is trying to strip Khan of his citizenship, which he obtained in 2006, on the grounds that in his application he failed to disclose aspects of his immigration history.

Parvez Manzoor Khan
However, it develops that even if he had disclosed those details, it would not have prevented him from becoming a citizen. Nonetheless, the Injustice Dept. is pressing the case while admitting that if it's successful, there is no guarantee that ICE would not renew attempts to deport him to Pakistan.

The even important, the broader, thing is that if Khan loses his citizenship, the DOJ has already made it clear that it intends to pursue similar cases against other naturalized citizens.

I wonder if any of them will be from Norway.


And Number Five: A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine compared state-by-state rates of gun ownership with rates of gun homicide from 1990 through 2016.

The study found that the rate of domestic-violence-related firearm homicide was 65% higher in states with the highest rate of gun ownership than in states with lower gun ownership rates.

Which I supposed should be filed under the heading of "And this is news how?"

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Opening thoughts

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Opening thoughts

I want to start this show by telling you that I am not going to talk about El Paso. I am not going to talk about Dayton.

Except to say this: I don't want to hear a thing, not one single damn thing, about the "thoughts and prayers" of the right-wing bozos, bigots, hypocrites, liars, and twits lamely trying to act like they give a damn about the carnage for which they, yes, are responsible because of their opposition to action.

Mick Mulvaney - Major Toht
I was also going to call them dipwads but I didn't because that implies they're stupid and they're not, they're not stupid, they know exactly what they're doing. They just don't have enough humanity or conscience to care - as right on schedule, as reliable as the Sun rising in the morning, they blame mass shootings on things like video games, as Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did, with Patrick dragging in old favorites bullying on social media and lack of school prayer for good measure, or insist it's all a "mental health" issue, as was done by Texas governor Greg Abbott, Tweetie-pie himself, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, otherwise known as Major Toht from Raiders of the Lost Ark - while of course Faux News intones that "now is not the time" to talk about gun violence.

They know what they are doing. It's just that they are eager, they are intent on, they are desperate to, talk about something, anything, anything other than the damn guns.

But I'm not going to talk about that. Instead I'm going to refer you to something I did a little over a year ago: a special half-hour report on guns. The website displayed is a page from my website. Go there and you will see two posts, one the video version of that report and the other the text version, including links to the sources used. I will let that, for now, be my statement. 

The Erickson Report for August 7 to 20

The Erickson Report for August 7 to 20

This week:

- Keep your "thoughts and prayers."

- Five Things Noted in Passing

- Heroes and Villains: Olga Misik and Vladimir Putin

- Following Up: school lunches

- A Longer Look: BDS and Israel

- Two Weeks of Stupid [the Clowns]

- Two Weeks of Stupid [the Outrages]
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