Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 5: Final thoughts

The Erickson Report, Page 5: Final thoughts

[This is a slightly cleaned up transcript of the last few minutes of the show. If it seems a bit disjointed, forgive me: It was done ad-lib, based on my memory of a couple of things I'd read recently. The biggest change is that at the time I couldn't remember the name of the Great Smokey Mountains National Forest.]

Last for this show, there is something I've wanted to talk about. It's not really political - or at least it's as non-political as we usually get around here. But it's something I've been thinking about recently.

Last week, it was last week, I was outside, looking up in the dark at some trees and bushes and whatnot and I saw something and I looked again and oh my gosh -

It's a lightning bug.

And I thought "My gosh, I can't remember the last time I saw a lightning bug."

When I was a kid, they seemed to be everywhere. It was a ritual of spring and early summer to go out and catch some in a jar and find them dead the next morning and no, punching holes in the lid did not help. I did that.

And now, you just don't see them, you just don't see them any more.

And I have to tell you, it's not your imagination. They are disappearing. Lightning bugs - or fireflies, if you prefer but they called them lightning bugs where I grew up - are disappearing. There are 2000 species of lightning bugs that have been in decline for several years, a couple of decades in fact. They are disappearing. It's not your imagination.

In fact, Great Smokey Mountains National Forest in Tennessee has people coming in the spring specifically because of the lightning bugs. Specifically because they are still there in good numbers and you can still see them - it's now become a tourist attraction to be able to see lightning bugs.

I remember one time I was living in a town, we were living on a corner and across from us there was an empty field and to the left was a little marshy area, a little wetlands. A little stream running through it, just tall grasses and reeds and it was tick hell in the spring but I remember one evening being in the yard and looking over and seeing in and above those marsh grasses hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lightning bugs.

Now, you have to understand that at the time I made my living as a professional photographer, a still photographer. That's what I did. And I thought to myself that I could not take a picture that would do justice to this. The lights flickered and swirled and danced and streaked. There was no way a still photograph could do justice to what I saw. I have seen attempts, but there is no way that a still photo could reproduce that experience.

You're not imagining it: They are disappearing. Nobody actually knows why. Nobody actually knows why. But the two biggest, most common notions are loss of habitat - the more we build, the more we pave, the more we drain, the fewer places they have to live.

And the other thing is light pollution. The more we we light up the night, the more lights - See, the thing is, and you probably know this, those flashes are used to find and attract mates. It's part of reproduction. The more lights there are, the harder it is for the lightning bugs to see the other lightning bugs, to see the flashes. And they're also confusing.

We, we humans, we keep forgetting, we keep imagining that we are so small and the world is so big, how can we be affecting things? But the fact is that not by doing anything special, not by consciously doing it, not by trying to manipulate the natural world, just by living our lives, we humans, especially we advanced industrialized humans, are changing the natural world around us.

And even if it turns out that lightning bugs, there's no connection, that they could disappear without any significant impact on any other species, even if that was true, it still is a loss, a loss that we have brought on ourselves.

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

Turning to our Outrages, here's an outrage you probably didn't even know was one: so-called "chronic nuisance" laws.

Towns and cities across the country are passing local laws that punish landlords and tenants when crimes occur on a property.

Approximately 2,000 municipalities in the United States have such "chronic nuisance" ordinances on the books. The ordinances are usually extremely vague, sometimes defining nuisance behavior as whatever city officials decide is an “annoyance” or an “inconvenience.” A majority of such laws rely on an “excessive” number of 911 calls to make that determination, all of which leave doors wide open for discriminatory enforcement.

That's because upon citation for being a "nuisance," property owners typically are instructed to "abate the nuisance" or face steep penalties, up to in different places thousands of dollars in fines, revocation of rental permits, or even seizure of the property. Many landlords respond by evicting the tenant, refusing to renew their lease, or demanding tenants not call 911 - because the laws make no distinction between a tenant that is a nuisance and a tenant that is a victim, so getting rid of the tenant is often the easiest and cheapest way to deal with it.

The result is that the people most hurt by these ordinances are poor, handicapped, elderly, and/or people of color - that is, people with fewer resources to fight back and fewer options to pursue - and most particularly survivors of domestic violence, forced to choose between enduring threats and violence or risking homelessness.

You want some examples? Here are three:

- One woman was evicted from her home after the City of Bedford, Ohio, labeled her a nuisance and fined her landlord $250. Her crime? Calling 911 on two occasions because her boyfriend threatened to commit suicide.

- A tenant in Neenah, Wisconsin, was evicted after police responded to two calls within four months. The police were called during the first incident because the tenant’s boyfriend overdosed on heroin.

- A man living with AIDS in Portland, Oregon, was too sick to clean his yard. A city inspector decided the yard was a nuisance. Portland issued a warrant against him while he was hospitalized for meningitis, charging him nearly $2000 for the clean-up. He didn't have the money and had to sell his home to satisfy the debt.

Too many people facing emergencies - a loved one is experiencing an opioid overdose or a mental health crisis or they themselves are the victims of domestic abuse or some other crime - too many people facing emergencies feel that they can’t call 911 because the end result will be that they lose their homes.

In 2016 the Obama administration called on local governments to repeal chronic nuisance ordinances and said it’d issue guidance on how enforcement of such ordinances could discriminate against people with disabilities and thus violate the Fair Housing Act. But they never followed through. The guidance never came. And now, of course, there's no way in hell it'll happen before 18 months from now at the soonest. Tweetie-pie's DOJ has said it won’t even force municipalities to follow existing federal guidelines.

Proponents of these laws argue they are necessary to deter crime and protect public safety but how in hell you do that by discouraging people from calling for help is far beyond my comprehension.

Activists have fought back with lawsuits and pressuring local lawmakers, with some success - but fighting something like this town by town is a discouragingly long undertaking. Happily, in May New York became the 10th state to pass a law saying you can't be evicted for calling 911. But that is a long way from putting an end to this outrage.


This next one is largely taken from Alternet's piece on this, so I want to give them most of the credit.

Okay. You send your child to school. Your kid gets lunch at school. Maybe you don't have the resources or the time to prepare a lunch or maybe they prefer school food, which if true means schools have much better food than when I was going but never mind.

Anyway, your child accrues a school lunch “debt.” Maybe it’s because you’re financially struggling and have to prioritize other bills, like maybe medicine or rent or food for dinner. Maybe you gave your child money for lunch and they forgot to hand it in or they lost it or someone stole it and they were too embarrassed or ashamed to say so. For whatever reason, the debt increases.

What does the school do? If your child attends the Wyoming Valley West School District in Kingston, Pennsylvania, they send you a threatening letter saying that if the debt is not paid, you could lose your child.

About one thousand parents received a letter with just this thinly veiled threat. The letter informs parents that, “Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch” - although how they knew about breakfast I have no idea - and alleges that failing to provide your child with food - as in, not packing them lunch or paying for a school meal - could result in parents being sent to Dependency Court.

“If you are taken to Dependency court," the letter reads, "the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care.”

Making this obscene threat - remember, we are talking about a school lunch here - making it even worse is that the Wyoming Valley’s Cafeteria Purchase Charging and Insufficient Funds Policy (something obviously written by a government committee) doesn’t mention anything about going to court. Joseph Muth, the director of federal programs for the school district and the author of the letter, made it up.

Happily, no one outside the district is backing up the school's threat. In fact, County Manager David Pedri issued a statement saying
Foster care is to be utilized only when absolutely needed - when a child has been abused, is in need or has suffered a tragedy. It is NOT to be utilized to scare parents into paying school lunch bills.
And Joanne Van Saun, who runs the Luzerne County Children and Youth Services feels her agency was weaponized to threaten families, calling the letter "totally inappropriate and unnecessary."

It’s true, schools want to collect the money and in some school districts around the country that have such policies, the total debt for all families across the whole district can run into tens of thousands of dollars.

So I understand having a collections policy.  And indeed, Wyoming Valley West has one: If the debt gets big enough - $10, to be specific - the parents get a weekly automated phone call until it's paid. Which might be annoying but is is a far far cry from shaming kids by giving them PBandJ sandwiches instead of the regular lunch or, much worse, threatening families with taking away their children. That is simply unconscionable.

Even more unconscionable is the fact that this should be an issue at all. It's unconscionable that a family should ever be in a position to be unable to afford meals for their children. The thread of hunger - or to use the technical term, "food insecurity" - that weaves through our nation remains a moral and ethical outrage and cases like this, where people are threatened and shamed - and I hope Joseph Muth gets fired - when people are threatened and shamed for their struggles, well it just serves to put that outrage in ever starker relief.

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

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

Okay, next up, our regular feature, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages and we start, as usual, with the Clowns.

Lincoln, Nebraska has more than 50 sculptures installed in places around the city as a public art project called "Serving Hands Lincoln."

The sculptures each consist of a pair of hands, open and holding something like a butterfly, a field of grain, flags of the world, or the moon.

One sculpture, however, so offended one Lincoln woman that she wrote to the mayor, demanding it be removed. She described it as "two hands open, painted Red and Black, and formed into Devil Horns."

She claimed it to be anti-Christian, demonic, ugly, perverse, and a "hate crime against the church," made worse - as if that were possible - by its proximity to the Lincoln Children's Zoo.

So what could be so bad that it would get such a description? You see it to the right.

Yep, the hands were those of Spiderman.

I never thought of myself as particularly tuned into popular culture, but this is a degree of dissociation I could never dream of achieving.

Footnote: City ombudsman Lin Quenzer told the woman no, we are not removing the sculpture. 


Mike Kelly
Next up, Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania said on July 16 that he was not offended by Tweetie-pie telling Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.”
“He does not offend me,” he said.

Kelly, pictured here, insisted that he had standing to talk about offense because, quoting him, “I’m a person of color. I’m white.”

You can’t really blame Kelly, though: He’s just trying to reassert his clown bona fides by maintaining the standard he set last year. In May 2018 he told Faux and Friends that Democrats spend too much time talking about racial inequality. “I said that's not America. We don't talk about those things."

In case the point wasn't clear, he added that the best way to “make America great” is to “stop talking about discrimination."


Meanwhile, Tweetie-pie had managed to pull together the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement - known as USMCA, which sounds like a bad first draft of a Village People song. It is intended as a replacement for NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement and includes a few minor improvement on labor and environmental standards - on paper, at least, but it lacks any enforcement mechanism, rendering those improvements nothing more than corporate promises and we know how much those can be trusted.

Bluntly, the real purpose of this supposedly but not really new agreement, which Mexico and Canada agreed to grudgingly, is for Tweetie-pie to take credit for a trade deal and get a nice press release out of it.

However, that's not the reason I bring this up now.

This is: On July 10, dozens of House Republicans flooded Twitter with a series of tweets demanding an immediate vote on the proposed trade deal, right now, today, accusing House Democrats in general and Nancy Peolosi in particular of "harming America" by "dragging their feet" on approval.

One problem: The White House has not submitted the agreement to Congress; in fact it doesn't plan to do so before September 1.

In other words, these dozens of 15-watt bulbs - and I mean incandescent bulbs, not the energy-saver type - are demanding an immediate vote to approve a bill that literally does not yet exist.

John Stuart Mill said it for all time: In a Parliamentary debate with Conservative MP John Pakington on May 31, 1866, he said "I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid persons; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any hon. Gentleman will question it."


This I will say is old but it has just come to light as the result of a public records request, so in that sense it is new enough that I feel it's okay to include here.

William Latson in the principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida. In April 2018 he was asked by the mother of a student in an email how his school teaches about the Holocaust, which it’s required to do by state law.
Latson replied by saying that the school offers a one-day lesson to 10th graders but he said it’s not mandatory as some parents “don’t want their children to participate.”

The mother replied that “The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or a belief.”

Latson, however, persisted.“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and you have your thoughts but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs so they will react differently,” he reportedly replied.

Here’s the real money quote:
I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.
I wonder what the school teaches about the shape of the Earth and the Moon landing.

Latson added that the school presents information about the Holocaust to the students and allows them to make their own decisions about it. He said it does the same when it comes to slavery.


Allen McCoy
Speaking of which, we have the case of Allen and Patricia McCoy,who rent out a house in Adairsville, Georgia, a town of 3000-plus about 60 miles north of Atlanta.

According to a recently-filed lawsuit, the McCoys kicked out their white tenant, one Victoria Sutton, because she invited a black co-worker and his 5-year-old son over to her home.

“Maybe you like black dogs, but we don’t. So just get your stuff and get out,” Sutton was told in a conversation she recorded. She was subjected to multiple uses of the N-word by both McCoys as well as a physical threat.

The McCoys, of course, deny all of it and we know they must be innocent because, as Allen McCoy told a local TV station, “Some of the best friends I got is colored.”


Sebastian Gorka
Oh, and a quick one just to wrap up.

On his radio show on July 22, right wing flake Sebastian Gorka, a man whose name sounds like a monster in a Japanese sci-fi flick - you know, Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, Gorka - or better yet, from a remake of Clash of the Titans - "Release the Gorka!" - right wing flake Sebastian Gorka declared that
I think that whole trans thing started with Teletubbies. Remember? One of them wore a tutu.
No need to add anything.

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

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

We have here the first appearance of another occasional feature, this one called Five Things Noted in Passing, five things worth noting, each of which will be addressed in no more than about a minute. In the course of two weeks, there are always a multitude of things that I simply will not have any time to address. This way I can at least mention some of them.

Okay, Number One: Scientists in Iceland are installing a plaque to memorialize the nation’s first glacier lost to climate change. It will be installed next month at the site of the now-extinct Okjökull glacier in Borgarfjörður and will include a “letter to the future” reminding humans to do better at tackling global warming.

Number Two: Sens. Ted Cruz and Bill Cassidy have introduced a resolution to would brand the loose coalition of anti-fascist groups collectively known as Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization.

However, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism found that domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in 2018, making it fourth-deadliest for extremist attacks in the last 50 years. And "every single" one of those 50 "had a link to right-wing extremism."

Also according to the ADL, over the past 10 years, the far right has killed hundreds of people and accounted for about three-quarters of extremist murders in the US. Number connected to Antifa: 0

Number Three: Speaking to Chris Wallace on Faux News, presidential advisor and repeat winner of “Who Wants to be a Zombie” Stephen Miller said “I think the term ‘racist’ has become a label deployed by left/Democrats in this country to try to silence and punish and suppress people they disagree with, speech that they don’t want to hear.”

Quite true. Because “go back to where you came from” and “send her back” is speech that no decent person would want to hear.

The plaque
Number Four: On July 20, hundreds of activists rallied in Lawton, Oklahoma to demand Tweetie-pie stop imprisoning asylum-seeking children. Lawton is the site of Fort Sill, where the government intends to stick up to 1400 migrant children, starting next month.

Fort Sill was also the place where members of the Apache nation were imprisoned in the 1890s as their children were taken away and subjected to forced “assimilation” at the fort’s boarding school.

More recently, it is where 700 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II.

And Number Five: Finally, just a thought: There have been increasing attacks on Medicare for All, Medicare for All being defined here as universal health coverage that is not simply a minor extension of the ACA combined with increased subsidies for the private insurance industry disguised as “premium support.” A primary basis for these attacks has been the claim that polls say people are happy with their current coverage.

But here’s the thing: Are those people really happy with their insurance? Are they happy with the premiums, the co-pays, the deductibles, the medically-necessary procedures put on hold until you find out if “insurance will cover it,” the not being able to choose your doctor because they are “out of network?” Or are they just happy that they have insurance?

Put another way, are these polls really about public sentiment or are they truly trial balloons trying to determine which lies would be the most effective in scaring people away from universal coverage?

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Heroes and Villains

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Heroes and Villains

We start this time with a feature we call Heroes and Villains.

Our hero here is CNN.

Back in March, AP released the newest version of its style book, a reference used by a good number of media outlets. One significant change was to say that if something is racist, call it racist. Don't call it "racially charged" or "racially motivated" or "racially tinged," if it's racist, call it racist.

CNN apparently took this to heart because in the first mainstream media example I saw, an article about Tweetie-pie's attack Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib - aka “The Squad” - started with "In a series of racist tweets."

Usually, media would only use the word in a direct quote and even then would often prefer to say that "so-and-so objected to Trump's racially-infused language" rather than call it what it was. So it may not seem like much, but for any of the mainstream mass media to skip the euphemisms amounts to a breakthrough too long in coming. For being the first example I saw, CNN is our hero.

Our villain, on the other hand, is CNN.

In the same article, CNN noted a false accusation against Ilhan Omar that she had praised al-Qaeda when in fact she was describing the body language used by a college instructor in talking about the group. She was discussing the idea that terms like al-Qaeda are not translated into English - al-Qaeda means "The Base" or "The Foundation" - because that gives them "a bigger meaning," makes them seem more ominous. She said "You don't say 'America' with an intensity, you don't say 'England' with an intensity, you don't say 'the army' with an intensity. But you say these names because you want that word" - that is, al-Qaeda - " to carry weight."

CNN then said, quoting
It is possible to argue that Omar was making light of al Qaeda's crimes in suggesting that its name itself is what makes people recoil, or that she was implying that there is an equivalence between al Qaeda and the US army.
No, it's not possible! Not in the real world. Leaving aside the fact that I'm not at all sure that you can't draw some equivalence between al-Qaeda and the US army, there is no way a rational person could argue that she was "making light" of terrorist crimes.

CNN made a stab at defending Omar against the racist attacks, but it remains lost in the very same swamp of the phony “balance” of the very sort that made it impossible for so long to call racism by its proper name, and so couldn’t do it without giving the bigots and liars a script for another false attack against her.

And that makes the network a villain.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Erickson Report for July 24 to August 6

The Erickson Report for July 24 to August 6

Heroes and Villains

Five Things Noted in Passing

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

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

Remembering Lightning Bugs

Thursday, July 11, 2019

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

Hello to John Swift Memorial Roundup readers! If you'd like to see the posts on immigration that lead up to this, they are here (A Longer Look at immigration) and here (US borders have never been "secure").

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

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

Open borders, in case the concept is not clear from the name, refers to a policy of unrestricted immigration, of free travel into and out of a nation with little more fuss than crossing the border between two US states. There can be trivial variations on that, such as requiring you to have either money for a few days' expenses or a place to stay, but we're not going to bother with those.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nancy Pelosi: Are you listening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On other words, it's all FAKE NEWS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Erickson Report, Page 1: RIP MAD magazine

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

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

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

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

RIP, Alfred.

The Erickson Report for July 10-23

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

The Erickson Report for July 10-23

This time:

- RIP MAD magazine

- Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages
the Clowns
the Outrages

- A Longer Look at open borders

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Outrage: forced birthers charge pregnant woman with getting shot

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


Outrage: forced birthers charge pregnant woman with getting shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heroes and Villains: climate change

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


Heroes and Villains: climate change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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