Sunday, June 23, 2019

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

Following Up: US borders have never been "secure"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expecting people to stop coming is insane.

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

Expecting those already here to leave is insane.

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

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

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

Now for one of our occasional features, Listen Up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages - the Outrages

Okay, switching over, some Outrages for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why is this an outrage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages - the Clowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Erickson Report for June 19 to July 2, 2019

The Erickson Report for June 19 to July 2, 2019

This week:

- Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

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

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

Sunday, June 09, 2019

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

A Longer Look at Immigration

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

This time, the topic is immigration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is insane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

Next up, a new feature that's a redesigned and somewhat revamped version of popular features f rom the old show, a feature now called Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

Going chronologically, first up is May 11, the day when a new poll from CivicScience, a Pittsburgh-based market research firm, was released. They had polled more than 3600 Americans on the issue of mathematics instruction.

In response to one question, 56% of the respondents said Arabic numerals should not be taught in American schools; 29% said they should be part of the curriculum; while 16% offered no opinion.

And if you don't get why that is some Clown combination of ignorance and bigotry, these are Arabic numerals: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.

And before you start going "Oh those stupid right wingers again," know that when respondents were sorted into three categories, GOPper, Democrat, and Independent, not one of those three showed a majority in favor.

Here are a couple of cases where you can't tell if it should be Clown or Outrage, so I'll leave it to you. I report, you decide.

Andrew Napolitano
On May 16 on "Fox and Friends," Andrew Napolitano, who is Fox News' Senior Judicial Analyst, said that tossing out Roe is no big deal because if you want an abortion, you just go to New Jersey or New York "where infanticide is legal."

During legislative debate on May 17, Missouri state representative. and former cop Barry Hovis said “most of my rapes [during his time as a cop] were not the gentlemen jumping out of the bushes that nobody had ever met. That was one or two times out of a hundred. Most of them were date rapes or consensual rapes.”

Later that day, Hovis said he intended to say “date rapes or consensual or rape.” Which in contact actually makes no more sense than the original statement.

The reporter who covered the story noted that Hovis did not correct himself at the time despite, according to a witness, "A lot of 'What?'s ringing around the chamber."

Here's an oldie but a goodie for you: On May 20, NPR reported on a 40-year-old California law that requires public school teachers on extended sick leave to pay for their own substitute teachers - an amount that can easily mean half their paycheck.

The law is finally getting some overdue attention - and of course there are those who say changing it is a bad idea because, of course, it only makes sense that the cost of a substitute can't be borne by the budget of the entire district but must be dumped on the back of a single sick individual.

Ben Carson
Here's the Clown you knew: On May 21, during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, HUD Secretary and man perpetually in REM sleep Ben Carson couldn't describe basic terms related to the agency.

For one, he thought that REO, which stands for "real estate owned," which is what happens when a property goes into foreclosure, referred to Oreos, the cookie/

You've heard about that; why it's here is that he didn't even have the self-awareness to be embarrassed or ashamed by his cluelessness about the agency he heads. After the hearing, he tweeted that he planned to send a member of the committee a box of Oreos.

Ben Carson is a classic Clown: He's not stupid - he was a famed brain surgeon, he's not stupid - but it's clear he's lazy and just doesn't give a damn as long as he gets his check and doing nothing for it.

Meanwhile, the Tweetie-Pie administration -

By the way, I call him "Tweetie-Pie" because of his love of tweeting. I used to call him TheRump because he's so obviously an ass, but this seems even more appropriate as he gets more cartoonish every day.

Anyway, the Tweetie-Pie administration continues its attack transgender rights.

On May 22, HUD announced it intends to reverse the requirement that operators of homeless shelters receiving department funding have to “provide equal access ... in accordance with an individual’s gender identity.” The change would allow shelters to segregate transgender people and to consider a person’s biology when determining if they will be admitted to the shelter in the first place.

Then on May 24, Health and Human Services published a proposal to remove a section of the Affordable Care Act that defined discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include gender identity. The change would make it acceptable under law for healthcare providers to refuse care to transgender patients and for for insurance companies to refuse to cover them.

Also on May 24, Alabama was amending its marriage law to let bigots off the hook.

Under existing state law, couples are required to obtain a marriage license from a probate judge and hold a ceremony to “solemnize” the union. Under the new law, the solemnization requirement is eliminated and it is the responsibility of couples themselves to record their own union.Probate judges then would simply pass those records along to a state office.

In other words, this is being done so that bigot judges can say they have no part in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and bigot ministers can refuse to do a ceremony.

Here's a deep outrage that can be filed under the heading "We Are Not Alone," that is, we are not the only nation with problems: On May 25, Felix Klein, Germany’s commissioner on anti-Semitism warned German Jews that in the face of last year's 20% rise in anti-Semitic crimes, it could be dangerous for Jews to wear kippahs, the traditional skullcaps also known as yarmulkes, in public. He had already cautioned against wearing kippahs while visiting big cities.

On May 26, in a remarkable and quite typical Clown case of lack of self-awareness, White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley claimed Democrats receive “complicit” and “compliant” treatment from the news media "in a slant that makes everything negative no matter how positive the subject matter may be.”

I usually ignore Tweetie-Pie for the Clown category because he's such an easy target that it seems unfair to others, but I couldn't let this one pass:

Sebastian Gorka
On May 28, during his trip to Japan, Tweetie-Pie claimed he did Joe Biden a favor by calling him a “low IQ individual” because Kim Jong Un had called him a “low IQ idiot.”

In that spirit, I promise that the next time someone calls Tweetie-Pie - or T-P for short, also quite appropriate - an imbecile, I'll do him a favor and call him a moron.

The Clowns keep coming:

On May 29, after Robert Mueller's presser, right-wing blowhard and all-around creepy person Sebastian Gorka said Mueller wasn't qualified to park a car. Here are Gorka's own qualifications in that area. (He also got an expired meter ticket for the latter one.)

On the other hand, here is a real Outrage: The European Union and EU-member states had donated two classrooms to be used in the West Bank for Palestinian children in grades 1-6.

In October the Israeli Civil Administration, which is in charge of policy in the occupied territories, seized and dismantled the schools. The EU missions in the West Bank called for the immediate reconstruction of the classrooms.

Israel not only ignored that call, on May 31 it emerged that in what can only be considered a deliberately cruel move, Israel is auctioning off the stolen classrooms, not only denying Palestinian children access to an education but looking to profit off doing it.

The auction is expected to be held in the week or so.

Oh, but don't forget: BDS is anti-Semitic. Just ask Israel.

Also on May 31was the mass murder in Virginia Beach. The best summation of the meaning was delivered quite unintentionally by CNN, which opened it's report by saying, quote,
At least 12 people were killed Friday after a gunman opened fire at a municipal building in Virginia Beach. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in the US since November.
I'll leave you with this, an oft-reprised headline from The Onion:
No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
Finally for now: On June 1 Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin admonished Catholics in not to support or attend any LGBTQ Pride Month commemorations in June, warning that such events promote a “culture” and “activities” that are “especially harmful for children."

This from a bishop of a church with a long and demonstrated history of child sexual abuse that was actively covered up by the church hierarchy - including in a diocese in Pennsylvania where Thomas Tobin served as an auxiliary bishop.

By the way, Pride Month is particularly significant this year because it marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, and if you don't know about that event, look it up.

The Erickson Report - Page 1: Following Up on reproductive rights

Following Up on reproductive rights

Last time, I spent some time talking about the recent attacks on the right to an abortion.

I want to follow up on that by noting that not all the news is bad - for one thing, you know those so-called “heartbeat” bills, the ones banning abortions once a so-called “fetal heartbeat” can be detected, which is usually around six weeks and before many women even know they are pregnant -

Interrupting here to raise something important to remember: I say “so-called” because the term “fetal heartbeat” in this context is completely bogus. It’s a PR ploy. What’s being detected is cardiac activity, more specifically, some pulsing indicating communication among a group of what will eventually become cardiac cells. There is at this point no cardiovascular system so it is not by any sane understanding of the term a “heartbeat.”

Getting back to where I was, four states have passed such mislabeled bills this year, but they failed in several more, including Republican-led ones. Efforts in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia all fell short.

Just as importantly, there is a form of pushback in that some places are taking steps to protect that right in the unhappy but unfortunately not unlikely event that Roe v. Wade is overturned.

For example, The Guttmacher Institute reported that 2018 was "the first in recent years when the number of proactive policies enacted outpaced new restrictions." 29 states and the District of Columbia enacted 80 measures that expanded access to reproductive health care.

This year, A variety of states are expanding access to abortion services, repealing restrictions, and updating their codes to do away with decades-old measures that are not enforced.

- Early this year, New York enacted a law to enshrine the protections of Roe intro law and removed abortion from the criminal code.
- Vermont lawmakers passed a state constitutional amendment to ensure abortion rights.
- In Maine, a bill is moving through the legislature requiring the state Medicaid program and private insurance companies to cover abortion care.
- Nevada has removed criminal penalties for people who terminate a pregnancy without consulting a physician.
- llinois removing old measures requiring spousal consent, waiting periods and criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions and now treats abortion as health care.
- At the end of April, the state Supreme Court of Kansas ruled by 6-1 that the state’s constitution enshrines a woman’s right to an abortion.

Beyond that, it turns out that that Alabama law is not particularly popular there: According to a poll done last year but only released in May, only 31% of Alabama voters support a law as extreme as the one passed.

And it's not just Alabama: According to a new USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, by 55%-45% Americans oppose the so-called "fetal heartbeat" laws and by nearly three to one, 73%-27%, they oppose seeing all abortion facilities in their states closed.

Fifty percent say SCOTUS should uphold the Roe v. Wade decision; another 30% say Roe should be upheld but maybe within stricter limits; only 20% say it should be overturned.

And finally for now, in Georgia At least five county DAs say they will not enforce the state's new anti-choice law

So yes,  not all the news is bad. On the other hand, here are two things to keep in mind:

An Indiana law barred abortions based on the fetus’ sex, race, or disability. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the law and SCOTUS recently refused to hear an appeal from that decision. But as part of that, Clarence Thomas took the opportunity to launch a vicious and wholly irrelevant attack on birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger. I told you - if they kill Roe v. Wade,  they'll be coming for birth control next.

The other thing - and never forget this - is that Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Missouri, and Kentucky, all sporting their new more-restrictive anti-choice, anti-women's health, laws, all of them rank among the 10 worst states for maternal mortality, infant mortality, or both. The connection between lack of access to abortion and lack of access to pre- and post-natal health care is very real.

The Erickson Report for June 5 to 18, 2019

The Erickson Report for June 5 to 18, 2019

This week:

Following Up on reproductive rights

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

A Longer Look at immigration
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