Thursday, June 11, 2020

I will be back

I know I haven't posted anything for a while. The truth is that I have no heart for it, no spirit for it. It's two days short of four weeks since my wife died and I'm still finding it hard to do more than make my way through the days.

It won't always be that way; I know - even though there are too many moments when I don't see how - but I know that people do get through this, that people do manage to get on with their lives, to again feel the passion about the injustices that moved them before.

So I know I will be back at some point. But that point is not yet here.

For the moment, I will offer this: Three posts selected sort of randomly from the past couple of years about police violence against African-Americans.

From June 2017 - https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2017/06/262-another-black-man-dead-another-cop.html
From October 2017 - https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2017/10/355-outrage-of-week-backlash-against.html
From June 2019 - https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-erickson-report-page-3-listen-up.html

And one other thing: I hope, I can't help but hope, I hope even though that same hope has been lost so many times before, I hope that this time will be the time that we as a nation, as a society as a whole, more particularly the time that the rest of us face up to the reality of the day-to-day racism, the built-in racism, the systemic degradations and denigrations visited on our non-white brothers and sisters.

So despite my well-earned cynicism, I still hope. Change is in the air. Carry it on.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Death in the time of COVID-19 is different

There seems no point to saying this; I don't know if anyone would even care. But I just feel I want it said somewhere.

Death in the time of COVID-19 is different. And it's not just about the virus.

My wife died this morning. She had been terrified of contracting and dying of COVID-19. Not without good cause: She was a diabetic and had a heart attack in her history, so she had a compromised immune system - and that plus being 69 put her well intro the high-risk category.

But, no. She died of a heart attack.

Last night she was complaining of painful breathing and asked me to call 911. The EMTs were there in no more than 10 minutes. As they checked her out, she was alert and aware and a quick ECG didn't indicate any major problems - but because of her history, they took her to the ER for observation.

As the EMTs worked on her in the ambulance, I stood in the rain, determined not to turn away until they left and were gone from my sight. I recalled a time I was working away from home for some time and she would come by train to visit me - and when she left to go home, I would do much the same: I would watch the train leave until it was out of sight. A way to hold on to her presence a bit longer.

So I stood in the rain and I watched and waited because I couldn't be with her in the ER. I couldn't be with her when a few hours later I was told she had deteriorated badly and had been moved to critical care and put on a ventilator. I couldn't be with her a couple of hours after that when her heart finally gave up trying. I couldn't sing to her one last time. I couldn't let her know she was not alone.

All because of that damn disease, all because of precautions against spreading it.

I understand the need, I do - but still it hurts so very much.

And it hurts extra thinking of all the others who have died and who will die, not just from the virus but from a multitude of causes, dying without a familiar face, without a familiar touch, there at the end, all those who, no matter how caring the hospital staff may be, still in a very real sense die alone.

As my wife did.

Because of that damn disease.

Death in the time of COVID-19 is different.

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A PS, which I include strictly for the sake of the record. I learned later from her cardiologist that it wasn't her heart. It was a massive bacterial infection that got into her blood, sending her into sepsis and her compromised immune system simply wasn't capable of fighting it off. It changes nothing.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Thoughts on Bernie's withdrawal

[A significant part of what follows is drawn from some things I have written before. I brought them together to express my feelings at this moment.]

The man himself
So just three days after I wrote that Bernie Sanders should not drop out, he did. And so it goes.

Actually, what he did was pretty similar to what I was thinking I would do, having accepting the reality that the nomination was beyond reach: suspend the campaign, continue with the primaries, continue to gather delegates, and use that to exercise some power in the Platform Committee and use that in turn to move the Party and how it approaches the people.  The difference is that while I would have stopped campaigning, I just wouldn't have announced I was doing it, answering any "dropping out" questions with some version of "My intent is to continue to address the issues I have addressed all along and we'll see what happens."

The truth is, although I have long acknowledged that my political heart is more in "on the streets" action than electoral campaigns, his withdrawal still hurts. It's a sad moment, especially because there was a time not that long ago, just a touch over six weeks ago, in fact, when it seemed possible he could get the nomination. So yeah, even though I knew that was no longer in reach, a formal end to the campaign still makes me blue.

But. That just raises the question I touched on in that previous post: What now? Because let it be clear that as I said then, this is not the end. It must not be the end. As someone notable said in 1980 at the end of a different presidential campaign,
For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
Because as he himself has said, this is not about Bernie Sanders. Even his own campaign slogan declared it: "Not me. Us." This is about, again in his phrase, political revolution.

This is about change. This is about changing the nature and the structure of political, social, and economic power in our country, in our society.

It is about racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual equality and freedom. It is about the economy, about an economy for the many, not the few, for the workers, not the bosses, banks, and billionaires. It is about education. It is about health care. It is about housing. It is about the environment and the climate. It is about peace.

It is about justice.

Justice, as I put it nearly 40 years ago, in its truest sense: economic, social, and political. It is about a justice that rejects the ascendancy of bombs over bread, of private greed over public good, of profits over people. It is about a justice that centers on the preciousness of life and will fight to maintain and even expand that preciousness. It is about a justice that affirms and embraces the right of every human being to a decent life free of hunger, fear, and oppression.

It is about, in the end, revolution.

So while his quitting the race is a real loss, especially when early on it looked truly possible, it's not about Bernie Sanders and it's also in exactly the same sense not about elections. It's not even about voting. It's about the process of change. Voting is a part of that process, which is why, in a sense, for the moment, it was about Bernie Sanders because he has been the vehicle, using electoral politics, to push for that change.

But now, at this point, how do we proceed from here? I have to tell you something: Tweets and Facebook posts and the rest are not gonna cut it. Period. Oh, they can be great for circulating ideas, for passing on information, for keeping each others' spirits up, for organizing, but they themselves will not change anything. Oh, sure, they can affect little bits here and there; they can embarrass a restaurant into changing a policy or an individual store into apologizing for something, and I'm sure someone could come up with some more significant example of a more significant effect, but change the fundamental nature of power in the US? Not a chance.

Way, way, back in the dreaded '60s, I said something along the lines of "the system can withstand any number of people just saying 'No' to that system. That won't change anything. We have to do "No," we have to act on our beliefs."

It's still true. We need to act on our beliefs. If we are going to see the kind of change we talk about, if we are going to see that political revolution, if we are going to change the nature of power in this country, we have to act. We can't just talk - have to act. And we can't just vote - we have to act. We can't even just campaign for a favored candidate, even though, yes, that is a form of action, but it is not near enough. We have to act outside of and beyond electoral politics. We have to be in public, in the streets, even filling the streets, in the jails, even filling the jails.

We have to be loud, noisy, disruptive, but most of all creative; we have to be impolite, rude, to power; and we have to not care what they call us - because they will call us all sorts of things - but keep on going anyway.

I know I haven't offered any concrete proposals, proposed any specific actions, which is because I don't have any to offer. What I want to press home is, the whole point of this is to press home, that if we actually believe in this political revolution, if we actually want to see, in that wonderful Biblical phrase that Martin Luther King quoted in his I Have a Dream speech, if we want to see "justice rolling down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream," if we actually believe what we say, then now is the time, now is the moment, to look beyond the primaries, beyond the convention, beyond November, beyond political candidates, beyond voting, and ask ourselves "What now? And what then?"

Sunday, April 05, 2020

WaPo says Sanders may quit - he shouldn't

Follow me on Twitter: @LarryEr94572822

So there's a story being pushed by the Washington Post that some people around Bernie Sanders are urging him to drop out of the presidential race and that he's considering doing so if he's dealt a significant defeat in Tuesday's Wisconsin primary, one which Joe Blahden is predicted to win. This according to what the paper calls “two people with knowledge of the situation.”

Personally, I'm suspicious of the story. But before I get to that, take a moment to look at that election itself.

There are only two reasons it is taking place. One is that the GOPpers in the Wisconsin legislature are balking at cooperating on a delay or alternatives such as mail-in ballots. Y'see, they have a candidate for state Supreme Court up for election to a full term that day and they want to be sure he is firmly in place in time to support their measures to limit ballot access in the fall.

But the other is that the Democratic Party establishment in general and Bladen in particular want the in-person primary to take place without delay because they figure that a big victory will put Bernie away once and for all, the risks to public health be damned.

Which relates to why, getting back to the WaPo story, I'm suspicious: It sounds a lot like a deliberate leak, a strategic leak, intended to push Sanders into withdrawing by creating an expectation that he will.

As the article itself notes:
Advisers with stronger ties to the Democratic Party have been more vocal in urging him to contemplate a withdrawal, while independent activists have been pushing for Sanders to remain in the race.
In other words, the closer they are to the party establishment, an establishment that from the very beginning has sought to dismiss and demean the "political revolution" Sanders hoped to build, the more eager they are to see Bernie just give up. This doesn't mean they never supported his run, but it does mean that those connections to the party establishment diluted their commitment to the sort of basic changes we need.

Bernie Sanders
That desire to dismiss and demean, one which extends far beyond the inner workings of the party, was reflected on Twitter comments on the article, comments I said revealed "utter glee" at the prospect of Sanders' withdrawal, "glee that goes well beyond a natural pleasure in seeing your preferred candidate win" to a "sneering dismissal that doesn't seek unity from Sanders' supporters but craven capitulation."

Which frankly is exactly why Sanders shouldn't quit. Yes, yes, I know he isn't going to get the nomination. But his very campaign slogan tells why he should continue: "Not me. Us." The whole point is that the campaign is not about him, it's about the issues, about the proposals, about, ultimately, significantly changing the nature and structure of political, social, and economic power in our country, in our society.

And you know damn well - or you damn well should know - that if he drops out, his policy proposals, including the now-utterly-relevant Medicare for All, will instantly vanish from our political discourse, eagerly and happily disappeared by a political and media establishment that never wanted to have to deal with them in the first place. It's important for those proposals to be part of the public conversation as long as possible.

Which is why the fight must go on, right through to - assuming it can happen - the convention. Then at the convention, take the fight to the rules committee, take it to the platform committee, take it to the floor, even to having to go through the actual roll call and no, if Blahden gets a majority in that roll call, do not agree to a measure to make it unanimous.*

Let the convention, however it is worked out to conduct it, be contentious. Let it be chaotic. But let it be clear that this is not the end. Let it be clear that as he himself has said, this is not about Bernie Sanders. This is about change. This is about, again, political revolution.

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Which for Sanders supporters, still leaves one question: What now? For my part, I simply cannot get excited about Joe "Nothing will fundamentally change" Blahden, as you might guess from the name I've given him. And I do have serious doubts that he can beat Tweetie-pie even apart from the wild card of COVID-19: It's unclear if that will that lead to people going "200,000 dead? 20% unemployment? Throw the bum out!" or to "Rally around the president in a time of crisis!"

For me personally, in terms of the election, my first concern is that it happens. I can't countenance the notion of Tweetie-pie announcing a "postponement" or even worse "a postponement until the crisis is over," a declaration that is ridiculously beyond his Constitutional powers but which I fear would be passively accepted by far too many unless things have significantly improved by then. Tweetie-pie already dreams of dictatorial rule and if he thought he could get away with it - and frankly I fear that he could - he would cancel the election outright.

But let's assume for the moment that that won't happen, that the election will come off as usual - "as usual," of course, including various right-wing schemes at voter suppression. I live in a safe state, safe enough that I don't even need to pay attention to the presidential race. This time around, I think the Senate is actually more important and I will be paying most of my attention (and giving any donations) to those races.

*OTOH, if Blahden fails to get a majority but does have a significant plurality, Bernie should be true to his word and withdraw at that point, as I'm sure he will if it works out that way.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Some Good News amid all this

Some Good News amid all this

I wrote a number of time in the past about the struggle over the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, as Native American groups staged large-scale civil disobedience and protest in the attempt to block the pipeline from putting water supplies at risk.

Now comes some long overdue Good News on that front.

On March 25, the Washington, DC, federal district court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law when it affirmed federal permits for the pipeline originally issued in 2016.

The ruling, which came in response to a suit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, found that in approving the project the Corps had violated the National Environmental Protection Act by, among other things, failing to take into account the criticisms by the Tribe's experts and paying insufficient attention to the safety record of the parent company, one which the court said "does not inspire confidence."

The original parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, has merged with Sunoco over the course of the legal battle over the pipeline.

The pipeline, designed to carry oil 1200 miles (1930 km) from North Dakota to Illinois, crosses the Missouri River near Standing Rock Sioux lands, threatening their water supply. After a lot of dithering, in December 2016 outgoing President The Amazing Mr. O denied the required permits - only to have Tweetie-pie reverse the decision his first week on the throne. The pipeline was completed in June 2017.

However, a suit challenging parts of the approved permits continued. Now, the court has ordered the Corps to undertake a full review and prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement, which the Corps has thus far avoided doing. Such a review could take years, during which the pipeline may - this has not yet been decided - have to be shut down.

Hopefully, in light of the finding that the project went ahead in violation of federal law, the court will do the obvious and shut it down until the review can be completed (since the result could be to find that the pipeline never should have been built, at least in its present configuration or on its present route). But we can't count on it: In 2017 the same court allowed construction of the pipeline to continue and in October 2017 said the pipeline could continue to function while the suit continued.

Still, the order for a full Environmental Impact Statement is different from a remand order to address details, so maybe the court will feel differently this time. In any event, the new decision is still Good News.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some updates via Twitter posts

Consider this a quick means of posting by listing my recent Twitter tweets, listed chronologically.

You can follow me on Twitter: Larry Erickson
@LarryEr94572822

March 19
[in response to a "Time" article on "Why Can the Utah Jazz Get Coronavirus Testing, But I Can't?"]

It's because they're rich and we're not. What about that do you not understand?

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March 21
It’s said (wrongly) that the Chinese for “crisis” is made of characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” At this time of crisis the danger is obvious. But it’s also an opening to push for real changes in our economy to benefit people both now and into the future. Will we dare?

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March 21
[in response to a Raw Story article that the DOJ is using the pandemic to ask for permission for courts to hold prisoners indefinitely without trial]

One of the things I have been concerned about is the possibility of the state using our submission to ad hoc controls due to a real health crisis to get us to submit to permanently increased control over our lives, including our political freedoms.

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March 21
I will accept President Tweetie-pie calling COVID-19 "the China flu" if and when he can show he has ever, even once, called H1N1 (the "swine flu") - [a new strain of] which first emerged in Ft. Dix, NJ - the "American flu" or the "US flu" or "the US Army flu."

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March 21
Maybe instead of denying the idea that corporations are people, we should embrace it because that should mean people are corporations - so we will be as deserving of a bailout.

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March 21
[regarding a report from "The Intercept" that banks are pressuring health care firms to raise prices on critical drugs and medical supplies for dealing with the pandemic]

Corporate mantra: Never let a good crisis go to waste!

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March 22
[in response to a report that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) had responded to the proposal to allow for indefinite detention of prisoners with "over my dead body"]

I've expected exactly this sort of move [from the DOJ], trying to use the crisis to entrench power and undermine civil rights. I expect there will be more. Happily, constitutional rights is an area where the left and the right can often find common ground.

One more thing: I hope people read the original "Politico" article. There is more involved here than this one outrage.

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March 22
[in response to Stephanie Grisham whining "I don’t know why the media has to look backwards" after being confronted with Tweetie-pie's failures in dealing with the crisis]

So we must not "look backwards?" Does this mean Tweetie-pie's administration will never again make any reference to what Barack Obama did or didn't do in an attempt to avoid responsibility for its own abysmal failures?

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March 22
Never forget [all the lies Tweetie-pie has told about the coronavirus].

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March 23
[in response to a report that Senate Democrats has blocked a GOPper "relief" plan because it did too much for corporations and not enough for ordinary people]

I guarantee that the GOPpers will use this to blame the Dems for "doing nothing to help" and "politicizing" and "trying to exploit" the crisis. I certainly hope the Dems already have their political counterattack ready. But I bet they don't.

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March 23
[in response to an article that the editor of the right-wing Christian journal "First Things" called saving lives a "false God"]

R. R. Reno, editor of said journal, is also quoted in the article as saying fear of dying of the disease is a victory for Satan. Mr. Reno is clearly a deeply disturbed man.

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March 23
A reminder that the rest of the world is still out there: The Tweetie-pie administration is blowing up a mountain - including Monument Hill, home to sacred Native American land and burial sites - in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to build its wall.

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March 24
[in response to a report that Brit Hume said it's an "entirely reasonable viewpoint" for grandparents to be expected to sacrifice themselves to coronavirus in order to protect the economy]

Insane. Utterly, totally, insane. No more can be said.

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March 24
[in response to Glenn Beck endorsing the "old folks back to work" idea]

So all this is about protecting the economy? Okay, since corporations are people, were told, how about any corporation that's over 70 years old close, sell its assets, and distribute the proceeds to employees, sacrificing itself in order to protect the broader economy?

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March 24
[in response to an article saying that due to COVID-19 concerns that several Trump properties are facing financial problems]

Aha - so that's why he is so interested in "getting back to work." Like we didn't know all the time.

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March 25
[in response to Tweetie-pie claiming the media is pushing to "keep our Country closed as long as possible" to hurt his re-election chances]

My challenge to the entire Twitterverse: Come up with somebody, anybody, who is a more egomaniacal, self-centered jerk than is Prez Tweetie-pie. This really does border on if not outright describe true clinical megalomania.

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March 25
[citing a FAIR analysis of media coverage of administration actions toward Venezuela and Iran during the pandeminc]

If you don't do what the US tells you to, you can just go ahead and die.

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March 25
[in response to Tweetie-pie saying at a presser “It’s hard not to be happy with the job we’re doing”]

Experience says that ending social distancing too soon will kill people [based on a 2007 JAMA study of 43 cities during the 1918 pandemic].

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March 25
[in response to a Washington Post article that hospitals are considering universal "do-not-resuscitate" orders for COVID-19 patients, even over the objections of patients and families]

This is how bad it can get.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Announcement re: The Erickson Report

Okay, let's do this.

First: I'm fine. I'm okay. But:

The studio where The Erickson Report is produced is a small, public assess cable TV station which is going to be operating with a skeleton staff for at least the next several weeks.

The station covers three towns, two of which are for the moment continuing to have government meetings so the station staff has to focus on their primary responsibility of recording those meetings and getting them on air.

Add to that the fact that while I am in overall good health, I have to face the fact that by virtue of my age I am in a higher risk group, requiring extra care, extra caution.

All that adds up to this: The Erickson Report will not be produced for at least the next few weeks. How many constitutes a "few" depends on what happens around us in the region and the country over that time.

Just to emphasize, this is not the end; we will be back. It's only a question of when.

IN THE MEANTIME:
Check here from time to time. I may not have a show, but I still have my blog. I expect to be posting from time to time.

Also: This has prompted me to finally break down and join Twitter. I'm a neophyte at it and still figuring things out, but I suppose I can learn. I would be delighted if you followed me.

I'm using Larry Erickson and it's @LarryEr94572822.

"See" you soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

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

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

Finally we have the Outrages and there are three of them, all related to court decisions.

I'll do this first because I can do it quickly. Last month, I discussed the morally depraved ruling by the Supreme Court to allow the "public charge" rule to go into effect while appeals against it continue. This is the one that allows denying green cards to potential immigrants if some official thinks they might at some point in the future need any one of a variety of types of public support.

The rule is expected to cut legal immigration by up to two-thirds and obviously it will be the "tired, the poor, the huddled masses" who will be affected.

The Outrage this time is that there was a second suit related to the public charge rule, which as the result of a stay had resulted in the rule not being in effect in Illinois.

On February 21, SCOTUS doubled down on its xenophobic depravity and lifted that stay, meaning the rule is now in place nationwide.

Which is a sickening Outrage.

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Next is that on February 28, we continued our march toward centralized authoritarian rule as the Court of Appeals for Washington, DC, agreed with the Tweetie-pie gang that the courts can't force former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before the House Judiciary Committee because in the absence of proof of damage to some entity beyond the federal government, then quoting the decision, "any dispute remains an intramural disagreement about the ‘operations of government’ that we lack power to resolve."

In other words, for all practical purposes the executive branch can simply and with impunity refuse to provide information or testimony to Congress even if the specific letter or the law says it must - remember the thing about how Treasury "shall" provide requested tax information to Congressional tax committees - because there is no legal mechanism to force them to do so.

It's a dubious position given the court system's traditional role of arbiter of disputes but it does show how easy it is to let more and more power and control to flow to the Executive. That is not only an Outrage, it's frightening.

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But the big Outrage this time is yet another court action.

The ACLU is asking the Supreme Court to take up the case of DeRay Mckesson, who is being sued by a Baton Rouge cop.

What happened, in brief, is that there were protests in the city after two white police officers shot and killed Alton Sterling, a black man, in July 2016. Police responded, as you would expect, with riot gear, excessive force, and illegitimate arrests.

At some point during one protest outside police headquarters, someone (it's not known who) threw something (it's not clear what) that hit some cop (whose name is unknown). That cop sued DeRay Mckesson, who was one of the organizers of the protest, on the grounds that as an organizer, he was liable for anything done by anyone present if violence was "forseeable."

A district court threw out the suit as clearly violating a core tenet of the First Amendment: In the context of a protest, individuals cannot be held liable for the unlawful, unintended acts of others. 

The Supreme Court
Then the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals - the same one that upheld the Texas and Louisiana abortion laws - took it up. The court concluded that Mckesson was not the person who threw the object, which indeed no one, not even the cop, had suggested he was, that he had no control over the individual who threw the object, and that he had not intended for the object to be thrown. Despite that, the judges concluded that Mckesson could be liable for the officer's injuries and overturned the district court ruling.

Huh? How? Because, the court said, during the protest, Mckesson (according to the cop) directed others onto the street in front of police headquarters, which supposedly violated some Louisiana law. Therefore, it was foreseeable that police would get involved and therefore foreseeable that violence could occur and therefore Mckesson could be liable for any harm that followed.

This is insane and insanely dangerous. Not only for the not unreasonable but still disturbing assumption that any time police are involved you can expect violence, but also that it literally could destroy the right of public protest by laying the risk of personal or organizational bankruptcy over any protest.

Quoting the ACLU:
Under the Fifth Circuit's theory, a police officer - or, equally, a counter-protester - need only allege that a protest organizer directed or enabled other protesters to do any illegal thing, from overstaying a permit in order to pack up, to pumping the volume up a little too loud, to conducting a sit-in that obstructs access on a sidewalk or constitutes a trespass. Countless potential plaintiffs could argue that their injuries - sprained ankles, broken windows, extreme stress - probably would not have occurred had the protest not been at that place at that time, or had police or counter-protesters not responded as they did.

With these costly risks, who would be willing to lead a protest?
In fact, it's even worse than that, because by the 5th Circuit's logic, the likelihood of police presence is itself enough to make violence "foreseeable" and therefore make protesters liable for any violence that occurs.

But police presence at protests is routine, especially in the case of large crowds or a focus on issues of public controversy. So essentially any organizer of any protest is running the risk of financial ruin for what some fool - or agent provocateur - does even in the absence of any illegal act.

Happily the Supreme Court dealt with this back in 1982 in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., making it clear that the Constitution limits the government's ability to place responsibility for violence onto peaceful protesters. Interestingly, one of its recent uses was to protect Donald Trump against a suit over violence at one of his campaign rallies and another was to protect protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

But it looks like this battle is going to have to be fought all over again. Since 1982, the composition of the Supreme Court has changed for the worse, but at least we can, indeed must, hope the members still believe in the First amendment.

Because if they uphold this insanely outrageous ruling, we are completely screwed.

The Erickson Report, Page 5: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

Now for our regular feature, this is Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages. And we start, as we most commonly do, with the Clowns.

This first one is not so much a Clown as a con, and I suspect the real clowns here are the people who fall for this - but then again, I feel sorry for them.

Anyway: Paula White, TV preacher and pastor of the City of Destiny megachurch in Apopka Florida and Tweetie-pie's personal spiritual advisor (yes, that's true), was preaching at the King Jesus church Supernatural Ministry School in Miami early in February.

During that appearance, she told her followers that the way to God was to send her church money, the more the better, so much so that they should skip paying their electric bill in order to do it, because by paying your bill rather than sending that money to her, you are, in her words, "saying spiritually that 'power company, I have now established a spiritual law that puts you first, so, power company, save my family, deliver my drug addicted son, kill this cancer in my body.'”

I wonder if she's considered that if all these people don't pay their electric bill, they won't be able to watch her on TV?

Paula White: clown. Evil clown, but clown.

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Next up: On the March 5 edition of Chris "I'll never be my dad" Cuomo's CNN show “Cuomo Prime Time,” Nina Turner, a co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, got into it with Hilary Rosen, a political commentator for CNN and an unofficial Joe Biden surrogate.

Turner said that Sander's policies are “in the spirit” of Martin Luther King, who, quoting Turner, “warned us - us being the Black community - about white moderates,” referencing King's famous "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." (Look it up and read it even if you already had. It is still a remarkable document.)

Nina Turner - Chris Cuomo - Hilary Rosen
In response, Rosen claimed - incorrectly - that King actually referred to the "silence" of white moderates and subsequently told Turner that she - i.e., Turner - doesn't have the "standing" to invoke King.

That as you would expect caused such a major reaction, enough that Rosen apologized on Twitter. This was her apology, in full:
On air Thursday I said my colleague @ninaturner didn’t have standing to use MLK Jr. That was wrong. I am sorry for saying those words. Pls no need to defend me and attack angry black women. They have standing. I always need to listen more than I talk. We rise together.
Which required Rosen to apologize again, this time for the racist trope "angry black women."

Okay, you say something offensive and stupid enough that you have to apologize, that's not good. When you have to apologize for your apology - yeah, you're a Clown.

As a footnote, Sanders called on Biden to apologize to Turner for Rosen’s remarks. Discussing that with Mehdi Hasan, a columnist at The Intercept, during his show on Friday, Cuomo noted that Rosen doesn’t work for the Biden campaign; she has just endorsed him.

Hasan responded by saying “A lot of the ‘Bernie bros’ who are accused of using bad language, they don’t work for Bernie either, but the media and a lot of the Democratic candidates insisted Bernie take responsibility for them. So why the double standard?"

Which is a really good question - except that, if you think about it for a moment, it pretty much answers itself.

The Erickson Report, Page 4: The death penalty is the death of justice

The death penalty is the death of justice

On Thursday, March 5, the state of Alabama legally murdered Nathaniel Woods, again showing that the US legal system cannot be trusted to deal with matters of life and death.

In 2005, Woods was convicted of felony murder in the killings of three Birmingham, Alabama police in June 2004.

There are two undisputed facts here: One, Woods was there. Two, he didn't fire the shots, a man named Kerry Spencer did. After that, it of course gets hazy as police and prosecutors claim Woods "masterminded" the killing and "lured" police to the location. But Spencer, who admitted to being the shooter, claiming it was because he saw cops aiming their guns at him so he was going to shoot first - a defense he was not allowed to raise at his trial - said Woods was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and ran away when the shooting started.

There are more things here that are undeniable, however: It is undeniable that Woods received grossly inadequate representation, so much so that one attorney actually abandoned him in the middle of his appeals and he turned down a plea deal of 20 to 25 years at least partly because he had been misled into believing he couldn't be sentenced to death since he wasn't the gunman.

It is undeniable that two sisters of one of the slain cops openly opposed the sentence, declaring that Woods was not guilty of murder and the sentence was in the words of  one "so unjust."

It is undeniable that Woods was condemned without a unanimous jury vote, something that is possible only in Alabama.

It is undeniable that The Appeal, a nonprofit news organization that covers the criminal justice system, found Woods to be “actually 100 percent innocent.”

And it is also, in my opinion, undeniable that Woods was rushed to execution as punishment for his refusal to cooperate in his own official murder. Death Row inmates were told to choose which of two methods by which they wanted to be killed, lethal injection or the experimental method of nitrogen hypoxia, where the victim is starved of oxygen. Woods refused to make a choice, after which his execution date was scheduled ahead of some others who had been on Death Row longer.

By the way: Among those whose date for execution has not yet been set is Kerry Spencer.

Nathaniel Woods
There is more, more here that I find truly offensive, such as Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey's reprehensible refusal to intervene, justified later by a statement that was nothing more than echoing the prosecution's story along with calling Woods "a known drug dealer," a crime for which as far as I can determine he was never convicted or even formally charged - but then again, the after-the-fact smear of a dead black man is hardly new.

But ultimately what is most offensive is that we still, we still, we still pursue the death penalty, this remnant of medieval brutality, this paean to blood vengeance.

It is, happily, hopefully, slowly dying out: Last May, New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish the death penalty. Since 1976, there have been 1516 executions in the US but just one state - Texas - accounted for 37% of that total and just five states - Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Florida, and Missouri - accounted for nearly two-thirds while 15 states executed no one in that time.

Sadly, last August the Tweetie-pie White House announced an intention to bring the grim reaper back to federal jurisprudence, but Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Dick Durbin are in their respective chambers the primary sponsors of bills that would eliminate the death penalty at the federal level. While the case of Nathaniel Woods is not a federal one, obviously, it can be hoped that it will spark others - Are you listening, Nancy Pelosi? - to act.

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Everything You Need to Know: about the health care industry

Everything You Need to Know: about the health care industry

And as what you could consider a footnote to that, we resurrect another old feature not seen in some time, one called Everything You Need to Know, where you can learn a great deal about something in a very short time.

In this case, it's everything you need to know about the nature of our health care industry in just two sentences:

One: Twenty percent of American adults, roughly 50 million people, have contributed to a crowdfunding campaign to pay for someone's medical bills or treatments.

Two: Just after the Democratic centrist group hug around Joe Biden, reducing the chances of a Bernie Sanders candidacy, stock prices for health insurance companies spiked dramatically.

And that is Everything You Need to Know.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Good/Bad News: Help with medication costs

Good/Bad News: Help with medication costs

Next up, something that looks like Good News but underneath is not.

Eric Threlkeld is a technical engineer living in Utah with his wife Erica. His job requires him to travel a great deal, so he has loads of airline miles. Keep that in mind.

A little over a year ago, in December 2018, Threlkeld was shocked when Jake Balle, who he had hired as his real estate agent as he and his wife looked for a house, when Jake Balle told him that Balle and his wife Marqui fork out $6,600 a year for insulin pens for their son, Reid. Reid has type 1 diabetes, meaning his body produces little or no insulin. There is no cure and the only thing keeping 7-year-old Reid alive is the insulin delivered through a small pump attached to his abdomen.

Knowing that prescription drugs are much cheaper in Mexico, Threlkeld offered to pick up several insulin pens during his next trip there. He found them: same brand that Reid uses, same packaging, same dose, it's the same stuff, for a bit over one-tenth the cost.

In January, Threlkeld and his wife made another trip, this time on his days off, using his airline miles to pay for their flights.

Through this experience, Threlkeld and his wife learned just how great the need is. Last month they started a nonprofit, the Medic(a)tion Found(a)tion, to help people who have been affected by skyrocketing prescription medication costs. They ask people to donate money or airline miles to defray the costs of travel with the idea of having volunteers go to Mexico at least every other month to buy insulin.

And they are expanding: On their next trip they are also going to be picking up some steroid inhalers for another patient being buried under the cost of prescription medicine.

Eric and Erica Threlkeld
All of which seems like a true feel-good story about caring people seeing a need among the people in their local community and using the resources they have to try to do something about it. So why is this bad news?

Because why should they have to?

Why should anyone have to do this? Why should anyone have to go to Mexico, to leave the country, in order to find life-saving medicine at a price they can manage to pay? Why should anyone be financially crippled just trying to keep their child alive? Why should the cost of insulin have doubled over just four years so that type 1 diabetics pay on average $6000 a year? Why should any family ever have to choose between medication and the mortgage, to decide every month which do we risk this time - sickness or homelessness?

How is this even conscionable? Of course, it's not, which is why people like the Threlkelds do what they do: because it's necessary. Because people are suffering to satisfy the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Because it is unconscionable.

And it's not going to change until and unless we make it change.

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Good News: Hope for abortion rights

Good News: Hope for abortion rights

We start with something I used to do a lot but haven't in some time - but even here there is a twist. So we start with Good News - but it's Good News with an asterisk. Because it might be Good News, it hints at Good News, but won't know for a while if it truly is.

On the morning of March 4, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of June Medical Services v. Russo. This case arises out of Louisiana's attempt use the law to regulate abortion out of existence, following the path blazed by other reactionary, anti-women state governments that, having faced the fact that they can't outright ban abortion, try to put so many practical and regulatory roadblocks in the way that it's virtually impossible to get one.

In this case, it's Louisiana’s law that requires abortion providers to obtain “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. No admitting privileges, no legal abortion services. The argument is that this provides the benefits of protecting the patient's health and ensuring continuity of care.

Now, these arguments are straight-up lies. First, an abortion is one of the safest medical procedures: During the oral arguments, Justice Elena Kagan noted one clinic in the court record has served around 70,000 women over the course of 23 years and has transferred only four patients to a hospital. In fact, studies have shown that the mortality rate for live childbirth is nearly 15 times that of abortion.
What's more, in the event of an emergency, a patient will be taken to the nearest hospital, the doctor's admitting privileges or no. Which is to the good because getting admitting privileges is not simply a matter of sending a letter or filing a form. Some hospitals will refuse to grant such privileges because they outright oppose abortion. And a good many hospitals require doctors to admit a certain number of patients per year to get and keep admitting privileges, which is difficult for abortion providers precisely because they so rarely need to admit anyone.

As for continuity of care, that is more maintained now by computer file than physical presence; in fact, a growing number of hospitals have "hospitalists," who function as your primary care physician while you are in the hospital; in fact, the doctor that you think of as you own PCP may well not see you at all during the time you're an in-patient.

There is only one reason for these restrictions: to force as many clinics providing abortion services as possible to close to make it as difficult as possible - and from their perspective, hopefully outright impossible - for a woman to exercise her right to a legal health procedure.

But this is where it gets interesting. Just four years ago, in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of a Texas law almost identical to the Louisiana one. In that case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court found that the requirement of admitting privileges provides no medical benefit, since abortion patients who experience complications can go to any hospital. The Court also found that the rule would force many clinics to close - which was of course the point - which would impose substantial burdens on women who might be required to travel hundreds of miles to reach an open clinic. Creating burdens plus adding no benefit equaled the law was unconstitutional.

So why are we here again? Because the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also upheld the Texas law, essentially ignored the Supreme Court's binding precedent in order to uphold the Louisiana one by claiming not only that the requirement of admitting privileges does provide a medical benefit but that under the Louisiana law, the closing of clinics didn't create as much of a burden as in Texas and getting admitting privileges is easier. In short, instead of hitting you with a big stick five times, Louisiana was only going to do it four times and that makes it okay.

So the Supreme Court is hearing a case almost identical to one it ruled on four years ago. The big difference is that Rat Kavanaugh is on the bench now, leading many abortions rights advocates to fear that the Court will use the opportunity not only to uphold that Louisiana law but to overturn Roe v. Wade - and that the 5th Circuit corruptly upheld the Louisiana law against precedent for precisely that reason.

So where is the Good News is any of that? Well, as I said, it's not Good News, it's potential Good News and it lies in the unusual or at least unexpected line of questioning pursued by Chief Justice John Roberts during oral arguments.

The issue, of course, is that given that it is undeniable that the law would require at least some clinics to close, what is the additional burden to women that the requirement of admitting privileges would create versus the supposed medical benefits to those same women. In 2016's Whole Woman’s Health, the high court had ruled that there was no such medical benefit. And surprisingly, John Roberts, who dissented in Whole Woman’s Health, seemed to understand that this time around.

For example, he asked Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill
Do you agree that the benefits inquiry under the law is going to be the same in every case, regardless of which state we’re talking about? I mean, I understand the idea that the impact might be different in different places, but as far as the benefits of the law, that’s going to be the same in each state, isn’t it?
He later said much the same thing to Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Wall, who was defending the law for the Tweetie-pie administration, asking "Why do you look at each state differently if the benefits of the law - they’re not going to change from state to state.”

Chief Justice John Roberts
Which means that it is possible, it is not unreasonable to think or at least hope, that John Roberts will join with the four more liberal justices to again overturn the 5th Circuit and strike down the Louisiana law as unconstitutional.

Why Roberts, who is widely believed to be favorably disposed not only toward allowing states to restrict abortion but to overturning Roe v. Wade, would take such a tack is uncertain, but there are some possibilities.

One and the one most devoutly to be hoped for but is the least likely, is that he has changed or at least is changing his mind on the matter and now that it is coming down to an actual decision to empowering states to ban abortions, he is hesitating.

Another is that he may be disturbed by the idea of overturning a precedent set in his own court just four years ago, which would seem like a slap in the face in a Roberts-court-legacy sense and he does seem rather sensitive to how the Roberts court will look to history.

Yet another is that he may be just ticked off at the 5th Circuit for ignoring the precedent and has no intention of putting up with that.

And one more, suggested by at least some observers, is that the case Louisiana presented was so sloppy, so full of deceptions and so lacking in actual fact and data, that even if he wanted to uphold the law he couldn't justify to himself doing in on the basis of such a poor presentation.

Whatever the reason, we have been given some hope that even with Rat Kavanaugh on the bench, the loss of access to abortions is not a forgone conclusion. This does not mean that given another case, under other circumstances, that Roberts would not happily side with the reactionaries. But it does mean that despite what many of us had feared, the fight is not yet lost.

And that, well, it isn't Good News, but at least it's a possibility of it. Which is more than we usually get these days.

The Erickson Report for March 11-24





The Erickson Report for March 11-24

Good News: Hope for abortion rights
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/03/june-medical-john-roberts-louisiana-abortion-case-arguments.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22270271
https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hospitalist
https://legaldictionary.net/whole-womans-health-v-hellerstedt/

Good/Bad News: Help with medication costs
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/03/06/this-couple-goes-mexico-buy-low-cost-insulin-strangers-who-need-it/

Everything You Need to Know: about the health care industry
https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/2/20/1920420/-Report-20-of-adults-in-the-U-S-donated-to-crowdfunding-campaigns-to-cover-medical-costs
https://www.norc.org/NewsEventsPublications/PressReleases/Pages/millions-of-americans-donate-through-crowdfunding-sites-to-help-others-pay-for-medical-bills.aspx
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/02/which-side-are-you-ask-progressives-health-insurance-stocks-spike-after-centrists

The death penalty is the death of justice
https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/06/us/nathaniel-woods-executed-reaction/index.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/us/nathaniel-woods-alabama.html
https://www.alternet.org/2020/03/dont-look-away-this-nation-is-so-cruel-rights-advocates-decry-execution-of-nathaniel-woods-by-alabama/
https://abcnews.go.com/US/nathaniel-woods-execution-cast-scrutiny-alabamas-death-penalty/story?id=69433694
https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-erickson-report-page-7-two-weeks-of.html
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/06/after-alabama-executes-nathaniel-woods-ayanna-pressley-leads-fresh-calls-us-abolish

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/02/paula-white-how-do-you-get-from-the-trailer-park-to-a-white-house-job-give-money-to-trumps-spiritual-adviser/
https://www.alternet.org/2020/02/trump-spiritual-adviser-tells-followers-to-skip-paying-monthly-electric-bills-so-they-can-send-her-church-more-cash/
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https://www.huffpost.com/entry/nina-turner-cnn-hilary-rosen-bernie-sanders-joe-biden-mlk_n_5e63b624c5b605572805b6e0
https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]
https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-erickson-report-page-4-two-weeks-of.html
https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/484196-supreme-court-allow-public-charge-rule-to-take-effect-across-country
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https://www.alternet.org/2020/02/federal-court-gives-trump-a-big-gift-but-exposes-the-impeachment-trials-biggest-fraud/
https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000170-8dbe-d93c-a979-bfff3cf80000
https://www.thedailybeast.com/heres-the-law-that-requires-steven-mnuchin-to-turn-over-trumps-taxes-or-lose-his-office-and-go-to-prison
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https://www.aclu.org/mckesson-v-doe-new-petition-writ-certiorari
https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/03/07/will-us-supreme-court-protect-right-protest
http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/17/17-30864-CV1.pdf

Saturday, February 29, 2020

A quick Footnote to the Clown Award

 A quick Footnote to the Clown Award

I am in a way amused by all the references to the vague, amorphous, pour-in-you-own-brand-of-paranoia blob that is the "Deep State."

When I first came across the term back in the dreaded '60s, it had a relatively specific meaning: It referred to the clandestine activities of agencies such as the CIA and NSA, undertaken with the full awareness and direction of the Executive branch but usually without the knowledge or approval of Congress (except, occasionally, for certain committee chairs) and always without the knowledge or approval of the public. It was the notion of the White House, acting as the United States, having a secret foreign policy different from, even at odds with, the publicly declared one, one that operated beyond the reach of, often enough in breach of, the law.

The idea was considered quite shocking. It was, indeed, an innocent time.

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

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

We wrap up with our regular feature, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages, with this time only time for one of each.

Our Outrage came on February 25 when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to slam the courthouse door in the faces of the parents of a Mexican teenager who was shot down over the border by an American agent.

The court's five radical right wingers held that the parents could not use American courts to sue Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr., who killed their unarmed 15-year-old son in 2010.

Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said the case is "tragic," but that strong border security and international relations issues led to the ruling against the parents of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca.

“Since regulating the conduct of agents at the border unquestionably has national security implications, the risk of undermining border security provides reasons to hesitate" about allowing the parents to sue in American courts, Alito wrote.

This is insane, utterly and completely insane. "National security implications?" What are the national security implications of telling the Border Patrol you can't start shooting at people in Mexico - start shooting and killing people across an international border - without consequences?

Hey, here's a security implication for you: What are the security implications for Mexicans when the US Supreme Court says in effect that US government agents can kill Mexican teenagers with impunity? All they have to do is claim some kind was throwing rocks at them and - even though video of the incident denies it - they will walk.

And impunity is exactly what we are talking about: US officials refused to prosecute Mesa, and the Obama administration - note, Obama, not Tweetie-pie - refused a request to extradite him so that he could face charges in Mexico. When the parents of the boy tried to sue Mesa, federal judges dismissed their claims and now the Supreme Court has done it with finality.

And so a boy lies dead, his parents are left to mourn with no recourse, and nobody - except the parents - pays any price. Because "national security."

So yeah, Alito calls it "tragic," a word that should be reserved for cases involving accidents or what are called acts of God. This was neither. This was now-officially sanctioned murder. That is not tragic, that is despicable. As are the five.

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Our Clown will only take a moment because it is so farcical that simply stating it is enough. No expansion is required.

Rush Limburger has stated that the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was faked by the "Deep State" in order to sucker George Bush the lesser into invading so he would be embarrassed when no WMDs were found.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Listen Up! The Democratic Party and media establishments are not on the side of progressive change

Listen Up! The Democratic Party and media establishments are not on the side of progressive change

So it develops that on February 22 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar at his campaign headquarters in Laredo and voiced hope that in the party primary on March 3 Cuellar would achieve a “resounding victory” over challenger Jessica Cisneros.

“We assume that Henry will win," Pelosi said, but "We want this to be not only a victory, but a resounding victory."

Henry Cuellar is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. He votes with Tweetie-pie nearly 70% of the time, has an "A" rating from the NRA, is anti-choice, is a top recipient of money from the private prison and fossil fuel lobbies, and is the first-ever congressional Democrat to receive reelection support from Americans for Prosperity Action, a super PAC funded by Charles Koch Among his other supporters are the American Bankers Association, the Texas Bankers Association, and the US Chamber of Commerce. He is thoroughly wired into corporate America and the banks.

On the other hand, Jessica Cisneros is a progressive with a solidly progressive agenda, an immigration and human rights attorney running a union-backed campaign fueled by small donors and who accepts no corporate money.

But Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would rather have Cuellar than Cisneros on the ballot and "resoundingly" so, even though the district is considered a safe Democratic one: In 2016 - remember, this is Texas - Hillary Clinton won the district by 20 percentage points over Tweetie-pie. In 2018 the GOPpers didn't even put up a candidate and Cueller got 84% of the vote against a libertarian.

And this is not the only example of this, of the Democratic party establishment rallying one of its own over a challenger, even when that challenger represented more of what the party claims to support. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently tweeted that
There are Ds in safe blue seats who side with the NRA, are anti lgbtq+, and yet are protected because they advance the interests of big donors, fossil fuels, etc.
What's more, this is not even new. Two notorious examples:

In 2010, Bill Halter primaried incumbent Senator Blance Lincoln of Arkansas. Halter, Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, was hardly some radical; but he was a little to her left and thereby in fact was that much closer to the party's platform than she was. What's more, he consistently outdid her in head-to-head match-ups against the likely GOPper candidate.

Even so, the party establishment closed ranks around Lincoln to the point where in the closing days of the race, they openly campaigned against labor on her behalf. With that support, she won the primary - and, as the polls had predicted, went on to lose in November.

Even earlier: In 2006, Ned Lamont primaried Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut on an anti-war platform. He won the primary, upon which Lieberman ran as an independent with the not entirely implicit support of the Democratic party establishment, which gave only perfunctory support to Lamont. Lieberman won, much to the relief of the institutional Democratic party.

Nancy Pelosi
Listen Up, people! Get it through your heads: The Democratic party establishment is not on our side. The Nancy Pelosis of this world are not on our side. Not on the side of average working people, or of the unemployed, or of the poor, or of the struggling, or of the victims of discrimination and bigotry, or even of the future of this plant.

Yes, certainly there are individuals who have been and are fighting the good fight - I've already named one - and certainly, there are individuals who were or are on our side on specific issues. But as a group, as a whole, they are not. As a group, as a whole, they are on our side insofar as and only insofar as it's necessary to protect their positions, their privileges, and their sinecures.

They'll ignore us, fight us, resist us, and then for the sake of their own benefit, they'll try to take credit for what we gained by our efforts.

After his victory in the Nevada caucuses, Bernie Sanders tweeted of the Republican and Democratic party establishments "They can't stop us." In response, longtime Democratic party strategist Joe Lockhart tweeted "The Democratic establishment gave us civil rights, voting rights, the assault weapons ban, social security and Medicare. What have you done Senator?"

Hey Lockhart: You didn't "give" us anything! We won it. All of it. Every one of those things came as the result of years, usually decades, of organizing, marching, protesting, lobbying, petitions, letters, phone calls, court suits, nonviolent civil disobedience, and yes, voting. We did it. Not you. So I turn the question back to you, Lockhart: Can you, can anyone in the Democratic party establishment, name one gain that has come without significant outside pressure? Can you name one advance that originated in the upper echelons of the Democratic party establishment? You can't because you didn't "give" us squat.

And you're not going to "give" us single-payer health insurance, a living wage, or a livable future for ourselves and our children. Remember Nancy Pelosi snidely calling the Green New Deal "The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they're for it, right?" Remember that? None of that will happen, none of those gains will be made, without us constantly, constantly, pushing you, taking what we gain and coming back again and again for more.

They are not on our side. You, Mr. Lockhart, are not on our side.

Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, I still recall with bitterness how during the Obama years she blocked House votes on the Peoples Budget produced annually by the Congressional Progressive Caucus as well as on progressive motions to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - even though they likely wouldn't pass at that point - because she was not going to allow the demonstration of any opposition to Obama policies among Democrats.

And it's not just the political establishment, its the media establishment as well, which can easily be seen in the treatment of Bernie Sanders. Now, full disclosure: I supported Sanders in 2016 and I support him this time, but what I'm addressing here is not because of him in particular; I strongly suspect that if he wasn't running, Elizabeth Warren, who is the most progressive of the other candidates, would be getting much the same treatment, getting the same "too far left, too radical, can't win" line so  beloved of the pundits. Maybe it wouldn't be to the same degree, but yes it would be there.

The night of the Nevada caucuses, Chris Matthews of MSNBC said
I'm wondering if Democratic moderates want Bernie Sanders to be President? Maybe that's too exciting a question to raise. Do they want Bernie to take over the Democratic Party in perpetuity? Maybe they'd rather wait four years and put in a Democrat that they like.
In other words, he was suggesting that the party leaders would prefer four more years of Tweetie-pie to a Sanders presidency.

During a radio interview on February 21, MSNBC contributor and journalism professor Jason Johnson said, referring to Sanders,
I don't care how many people from the island of misfit black girls that you throw out there to defend you on a regular basis.
Informed by the host that he had "crossed the line," Johnson, who is African-American, replied "I don't care."

Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press, approvingly quoted a column calling Sanders' supporters a "digital brownshirt brigade." Chris Matthews compared Sanders' win in Nevada with the Nazi takeover of France in 1940 - for which, be fair, he apologized the next day.

Bernie Sanders
On February 22, longtime Democratic strategist James Carville called Sanders supporters "fools" and the same as climate deniers for believing the excitement his campaign generates could bring out people who don't usually vote.

And then of course there is the plethora of "Sanders is just like Trump" articles, all of them with the unstated subhead of "If you think Tweetie-pie is too extreme, you have to think the same of Sanders."

A typical example is Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, declaring in his own paper on February 23 that Sanders and Tweetie-pie "both reject the reality of climate change." How? Tweetie-pie, of course, by considering it a hoax, while Sanders does it by the “fantasy extremism” of his climate plan. That is, he takes climate change too seriously, is in too much of a hurry to get something done. And who does Hiatt rely on for a non-extreme plan? The CEO of Total Oil, one of the seven largest oil companies in the world.

But nothing illustrates the bias as clearly as the foofaraw over Sanders being pushed on a statement he made in 1985 praising some aspects of the rule of Fidel Castro, specifically his literacy program and health care. He has been asked about it twice in town halls and been attacked not only by Democrats in Florida, but some of his opponents for the nomination for offering anything other than unreserved condemnation for anything to do with Fidel Castro.

Leaving aside the question of if people will or even should care about an opinion he expressed 35 years ago, the utter dishonesty of how this has been dealt with in the media is I was going to say appalling but I think telling is the better word.

First, consider this:
- Cubans not only have the highest life expectancy in the geographical region, but also place among the top five in the world.
- In 2014, the country was praised by Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, as a world leader in the medical sphere.
- UNESCO has rated Cuba's as the best education system in Latin America. Literacy is at 99.8%.

Simply put, what Bernie Sanders said in 1985, what he to his credit stands by today, was true. He did not endorse Castro's regime, he did not excuse the oppression, the political imprisonment, the denial of freedoms. But he did make a true statement about certain social programs. And as he said, "truth is truth."

But truth is not good enough. Truth is not a defense when it comes to describing those who the political establishment has declared beyond the pale, nor is it a defense when the speaker is an outsider, is a threat to the establishment that needs to be crushed.

You don't believe me? Quote:
Castro brought superb systems of healthcare and education to his people.
That was Jimmy Carter, speaking in 2002. Or how about this:
The United States recognizes the progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its enormous achievements in education and in health care.
That was Barack Obama, speaking in Cuba on March, 21, 2016. And that wasn't even the first time he said it.

Do you recall any uproar about either of those? Do you recall either of those men being read out of political life on the grounds that they were "embracing a dictator?"

Of course not because it didn't happen because neither of them was thought to be an outsider, to be not a member of the establishment and therefore a threat to it.

And so Sanders continues to get pummeled. Not because he lied but because he spoke an unpopular truth - or importantly more to the point, a truth that the media and Democratic party establishments will strive and are striving to turn into an unpopular truth, not because they want to crush Bernie Sanders in particular but because they want to crush any challenge to their social and political hegemony.

They are not on our side. And they will continue to not be on our side, to ignore us, to dismiss us, to deny us as the lord of the manor denied the bastard son he fathered by the servant girl even when that boy was the legitimate heir - that is, to bring this back to reality, to deny us even when we represent the majority. It will go on until we make it impossible for them to continue to do so.

There is yet much to be gained, much to strive for, allies and alliances to be made and lost, and undoubtedly many unavoidable compromises to be made along the way. But never forget: They are not on our side.

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Anti-Palestinian bias marks media response to "the Deal of the Century"

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Anti-Palestinian bias marks media response to "the Deal of the Century"

Last show, I went into the so-called "Deal of the Century," which others have called the steal of the century, the proposed phony "peace deal" for Israel and Palestinians, showing how it's a totally bogus attempt to cement and justify Israeli domination over the Palestinians. I said that this time to spend some time looking at US media reactions to this what i called Ripoff of the Century, reactions which tell us a lot about the way the political and media establishment view that part of the world and the people in it.

And I'm going to do that, but first there's an important update, one showing that the agreement is not only bogus, but that the Israeli government doesn't even mean to live up to the promises it supposedly made in it.

J Street, which describes itself as a pro-Israel liberal group, reports that over the past week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyoyo has announced plans to build thousands of settlement units in and around East Jerusalem, including several that cross what have been identified as red lines, settlements slicing through Palestinian neighborhoods, settlements whose construction would devastate any chance for a viable Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

For over two decades, Israeli governments have heeded advice from experts, the US, and other governments and refrained from crossing these red lines. They've undertaken other harmful settlement expansions, but until now they have refrained from pursuing these plans.

No more. J Street reports that Netanyoyo
has painted a clear picture of what it looks like when a government of Israel no longer even feigns interest in resolving its conflict with the Palestinians, is unbound by the rule of law and is given an unquestioning green light for its plans by the United States. ... [T]he government of Israel has outlined its plan to forever be the only sovereign state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
So an "agreement" that is not only a fraud, it's a blatant lie.

But - I did say I said would talk about how major voices in US mainstream reacted to plan when it was released  because those reactions reflected and revealed a basic underlying assumption of that media about the conflict, an assumption that the Palestinians, in the end, just aren't that important. That their concerns, their hopes, their desires for justice, their economic, physical, and political condition, really just don't matter. That they can be, like any strange object, interesting to look at but ultimately remain unworthy of significant engagement, of the expenditure of any energy or conscience.

For example, the NY Times’ Bret Stephens responded to the plan's announcement by writing that "Nearly every time the Arab side said no, it wound up with less" - which, rather than underlining Israel's "my way of the highway" "negotiating" style, merely to him demonstrated to his own satisfaction that the Palestinians should just give up and accept the plan.

David Ignatius of the Washington Post disingenuously asked "Palestinian antagonism is understandable, but what alternative would they and their supporters propose?”

I dunno, maybe an actual Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, including withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank, the lifting of the embargo on Gaza, and some symbolic right of return - the same thing Palestinians have been offering for decades with no response? I mean, the Palestinians can't even offer to formally recognize Israel since they did it 27 years ago in a deal worked out between Yasir Arafat and Yitzak Rabin.

Similarly, the New York Times editorialized that "This could well be the last opportunity for their own state that the Palestinians will ever have or at least the makings of the best deal they can expect. ... [T]hat may not be a just outcome, but it is perhaps becoming the realistic one." In other words, just give up.

The idea that the US and Israel should be condemned for producing this "unjust outcome," that there should be a demand that they do better - much better - just doesn't rise to the level of consideration. Because the Palestinians are not important enough for that.

Then there was Thomas Friedman of the New York Times advising the Palestinians to "try to make some lemonade out of these Trump lemons" because "It’s not as if they have a lot of great options, and their resistance to the Israeli occupation has gotten them nowhere." Again, they should just give up.

The idea that instead of dismissing Palestinian needs as not important enough to merit concern, he should be demanding that Israel do better, do justice, is not even on the table.

Instead, he would have the Palestinians say "Yes, but we will use this plan as a floor in negotiations with Israelis, not a ceiling" because that "would surely gain a lot of US, Arab and European good will." If resistance to the occupation has "gotten then nowhere" - which is not true; it's only because of resistance to occupation that the idea of a Palestinian state is discussed at all - but if resistance has gotten them nowhere, exactly what has acquiescence gotten them?

Of course, Friedman is also the one who in the wake of a massive Israeli assault on Gaza in late 2008, an assault that in his words "inflict[ed] a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population," he was the one who said that death and pain it was simply a case of "educating" Hamas.

He was also the one who infamously said that the whole purpose of the Iraq war was to tell some country in "that part of the world" - it didn't have to be Iraq, he said, it could have been Saudi Arabia, it could have been Pakistan - but the purpose was to tell some country in that part of the world to "Suck. On. This." So maybe he's not the best place to look for someone with a concern with justice.

Another thing for which we shouldn't look in the media is any sense at all the the US has ever been anything other than a good-faith actor in the conflict, has ever been anything other than a just and impartial mediator in what has passed for negotiations these past decades.

Thus, the NYT says the Steal of the Century is
the latest of numerous American efforts to settle the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians
while the Wall Street Journal holds that
for half a century, American presidents have tried to find a path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
But consider this: According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1946 the US has given Israel over $108 billion in military aid. We are now pledged to give Israel $3.8B a year every year through FY2028. The CRS notes that
In 2019, Israel is more secure and prosperous than in previous decades. And yet, despite its status as a high income country, military power, and top global weapons exporter, Israel remains largely dependent on the United States for the procurement of certain key high-cost U.S. weapon systems, such as combat aircraft.
Which means that if the US actually wanted a "path to peace," if it actually wanted to "settle the seemingly intractable conflict" on balanced and fair terms that could protect and secure both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, terms that would require Israel to surrender its imperial aims on the West Bank and admit its guilt in the impoverishment of Gaza, if the US actually wanted to pursue a just peace, it has the power to do so. It has the leverage to force the dominant power - Israel - to acknowledge and respect the rights and just aspirations of its weaker adversary.

The fact that the US won't do that, the fact the even suggesting that idea seems absurd and impossible, is proof enough that the US has not been an honest broker, a good-faith mediator.

And the fact that there is zero chance of such an idea becoming discussed in the mainstream media brings us back around to Stephens, Ignatius, Friedman and the rest of the elite media, who are essentially united in telling the Palestinians to give in, take whatever crumbs fall off the table, and don't expect or even hope for better even as they spiritually starve for lack of justice.

Back in 2002, Moshe Ya'alon, then Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, told the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz that it needed to be "burned into the Palestinian consciousness" that they are a defeated people. That view may yet not be burned into Palestinian minds, but it clearly has been into the minds of the American media.
 
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