Wednesday, August 28, 2019

An addendum to all that, not for on-air

I thought I would throw this in just for the heck of it. As long as I am, as I'm sure some of you think I am, wallowing in aging hippie nostalgia, I figured why not.

A while back, I came across a discussion among some young folks - and as I was pushing 70 at the time, I think I can use that expression - who were complaining about what they said was all the attention given to the '60s, particularly regarding the political movements of the time.

I replied that I didn't see this mass of fawning attention, indeed most of what I saw seemed more sneering than swooning, "but," I added, "eye of the beholder and all that." Still, I went on to say, if you're looking at us old farts and want to shut us up, then show us up: Use the '60s as a marker and turn it into BFD material.

"If you do that," I said or at least as close to this as memory allows, "I guarantee you'll find us old farts cheering you on and standing right there beside you."

The reason I bring this up is that as part of that, I threw together a short list of signs of the cultural impacts of the '60s. I noted that none of these originated in the '60s, but it was that time in which they were brought into the mainstream. This was the list:

- When you see people not blinking at an interracial couple - that was us.
- When you see men wearing colors - that was us.
- When you see women comfortably wearing jeans - that was us.
- When you see two adults unselfconsciously holding hands in public - that was us.
- When you see two men unselfconsciously holding hands in public - that was definitely us.
- When you think about being environmentally-conscious - that was us.
- When you see companies finding it necessary to try to convince everyone how environmentally-conscious they are - that was us.
- When you see companies actually being environmentally-conscious - that was definitely us.
- When you see people admitting that there is a glass ceiling - that was us.
- When you see women challenging the glass ceiling - that was us.
- When you see women actually breaking the glass ceiling - that was definitely us.
- When you hear anyone defining patriotism in terms of willingness to challenge authority when it's wrong - yeah, that was us.

Again, I'd never claim that any of that originated in the '60s and you can certainly find antecedents in earlier times, sometime multiple decades earlier. But I still say that in terms of widespread acceptance? Yeah, that was us.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Woodstock: Is any of that relevant now?

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Woodstock: Is any of that relevant now?

Does any of this matter for today, is it relevant in any way other than historical ones? I think it does and is. I see around me today multiple campaigns for change but I don't see a Movement, I don't see any evidence that the people involved in these various efforts conceive of themselves as part of a bigger whole.

Do those who identify with #MeToo feel a kinship with Black Lives Matter or the discussions over reparations? Do those who focus on global warming see themselves as part of the same cultural or political whole as the fight to raise the minimum wage or protect voting rights? I don't think they do, to the loss of each and every one of them.

I was struck by something just recently: Bernie Sanders gave a speech which covered a number of topics. Afterwards, there was a commentator who slammed the speech and Sanders because he didn't mention race or gender until 23 minutes in and yes, she said she clocked it. Actually, she was wrong; he first mentioned the topic less than five minutes in, but that's not really the point. Be clear here: She didn't attack him for what he said about race and gender, which apparently was to her at the very least unobjectionable, she was attacking him because he didn't say it early enough in the speech; he didn't give her focus privilege of place.

Bluntly, in the '60s the response to that criticism would have been along the lines of "What the hell difference does that make? This was a speech, not a Top 10 list ranked according to importance." When the order in which topics are addressed in a speech becomes a basis for criticism, we do not have a Movement, we have a collection of atomized, isolated efforts incapable of drawing strength from each other.

Worse, it seems to me that there has developed a basic divide between the two fundamental types of activism, which I call "inside" and "outside."

By inside, I mean what might be called "Inside the Beltway" thinking - and I note that is not a matter of geography but of a way of thinking, one that focuses on political campaigns, elections, and lobbying to the exclusion of other means. That thinking will fail you in the long run because the apparent distaste some have for street actions does genuine damage to our cause. Elections surely have their place, a necessary place, in the process of change. But not only are they not the only part, they're not even the first part of that process because change starts from outside - as Margaret Mead is supposed to have said, "never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has."*

But those who go outside, those who favor street action, pickets, rallies, mass demonstrations and marches, civil disobedience, and the like - and I confess that for all the lobbying and political campaigning I have done, the streets is where my heart is - people, then, like me need to understand that we need those working the inside route, because our demands and proposals will remain unfulfilled demands and proposals if no one is there to act on them.

These sides of activism, inside and outside, should be mutually reinforcing, should be, if I can use a cliche, two sides of the same coin, but now it seems like they are different worlds with each observing the other from a distance. And every bit of lobbying and campaigning, every rally-driven demand, is weaker for it.

Yes, there have been victories, have been successes, and don't think for even an instant that I am denigrating the efforts of oh so many people or any of what has been achieved. But I can't help but be distressed by how many of those efforts have been aimed at preventing losses of what has been gained in years past by movements of years past rather than on going further, gaining more. We need to do better. We can do better. You can do better.

I will leave you with this: I am hardly the first to raise the idea of the lack of an over-arching message among progressives, which simply means that others have noted the same atomized nature of our efforts that I am critiquing here, except that I would change it from a lack of an over-arching message to a lack of a feeling of connection, a lack of a feeling that despite our particular focuses, we are family, we are of the same tribe, even if the connection lies more in convictions than any outward sign, much like the members of a religious congregation can feel a connection to each other, even as they outwardly may appear diverse.

So for your consideration I offer for what I suppose you could call a shared religion, a set of shared convictions, a secular religion that stands on three mutually-supported legs, my over-arching message for progressives: Justice, compassion, and community. Conceive of every political action you take or for that matter anyone takes, whether inside or outside, as a reflection of one or more of those principles and realize how as you are in one particular effort, you are one of multiple strands that very much need to be woven together to make a capital M movement far stronger than the sum of its parts.

One more very important piece of advice: Do not repeat the mistakes of the past. I'm sure you won't repeat my generation's mistakes of overconfidence, but don't repeat the mistakes of other generations. Don't slice away your friends and supporters in a foolish attempt to avoid criticism or look "more mainstream." It will not help you; it never has and it never will, it merely narrows the field of fire for the forces of reaction. And don't divide yourselves into sectarian camps where people are dissed and dismissed for not using quite the preferred language of for having a different focus from you. That way lies madness and the death of dreams.

*There is no record of Mead having said this but her family believes it to be a real quote because it accords so well with her thinking. They suggest it probably came from a QandA session or an unrecorded interview.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Woodstock: the political life around it

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Woodstock: the political life around it

Okay, there is another reason besides aging hippie nostalgia that I wanted to bring this all up. Because Woodstock did not exist, did not occur, in a social or cultural vacuum.

For one thing, the Vietnam War was at its most intense levels. Casualty figures for the Indochinese are hard to come by, even overall totals of how many millions died are estimates. But for Americans, we have year-by-year totals and in 1968, 16,592 US soldiers were killed in Vietnam; in 1969. the figure proved out to be 11,616. But look at that 1968 figure. Those 16,600 killed are more than double the number of Americans killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars combined, across the entire history of those war, right up to the present.

Opposition to that war was also becoming more and more intense. There were major demonstrations on college campuses across the country throughout 1969. A few months before Woodstock, in April, there were mass antiwar demonstrations in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and other places. On October 15, two months after the festival, the National Moratorium against the War generated thousands of local actions across the country including mass rallies, some of them quite large, along with parades, teach-ins, forums, candlelight processions, prayers, and the reading of the names of the war dead, with the estimates of total participation ranging from two to five to seven million. A month after that, on November 15, a half-million turned out in Washington, D.C. to protest the war with 100,000 more in San Francisco.

But that wasn't the only issue. Civil rights had seen some legislative successes in the preceding years, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but the inadequacies of those gains was clearly demonstrated in what became known as "the long hot summer" of 1967, when riots driven by frustrations and economic desperation broke out in black neighborhoods in 159 US cities. At the time of Woodstock, the phrase "black liberation" and a discussion of what that meant was a part of every conversation about civil rights or race.

But in turn it was the very strength of those two movements - peace and civil rights - that gave strength to, gave extra vigor to, a third, as women in the movement began to get fed up with being always expected to keep to the background, to do the work but get little or none of the credit. The expression "male chauvinist pig" came into circulation, sometimes as a teasing warning when preceded by "don't be a" but also as a sneering dismissive putdown of deserving targets.

And speaking of being fed up, less than three weeks before Woodstock, in Greenwich Village in New York City, some patrons of a gay club and dance bar known as the Stonewall Inn decided they had had it with being hassled, assaulted, and arrested by cops for essentially nothing more than being gay or lesbian. What become known as the Stonewall Riots - more properly the Stonewall Uprising - continued on and off for five days, giving birth to the modern LGBTQ rights movement, with the first gay pride marches occurring just a year later.

Meanwhile the long-standing movement against nuclear weapons was beginning to expand into opposition to nuclear power, merging or at the least overlapping with the environmental movement, which continued to gain strength - recall the first Earth Day, in some ways the only real occasion of that now corporate- and government-approved event, came just eight months after Woodstock.

All this and more was swirling around and through the culture in the summer of 1969. That was the atmosphere, the if you will cultural milieu in which Woodstock happened. Woodstock was by no means intended as a political event, but it was a cultural event, as it proved, a major cultural event, and as such did not and could not stand apart from the political currents of the time. What Woodstock was, what it became, was affected by what was going on around it.

Now, I am certainly not saying that all those at Woodstock were dedicated political or cultural activists who went straight from the festival to the frontlines, even less that people went to Woodstock with the idea that the act of going was itself a conscious political statement. In fact, I expect most of those to be seen in tie-dye t-shirts, jeans, and sandals in 1969, whether at Woodstock or anywhere else, had no more interest in the world at large other than how it immediately impacted their personal lives than those sporting whatever hipper-than-thou gear is currently fashionable do today.

But at the same time, going was by its nature a statement of sorts. Semiotics is the study of sign process, that is, it is the study of signs and symbols as a significant part of communication. That includes the way cultures and subcultures sign themselves. Ever since Monterey Pop in 1967, you pretty much knew that by going to a big rock festival, you would be surrounded by people with long hair dressed in colorful clothes and yes, tie-dye t-shirts, jeans, and sandals, people who were thereby signing that you and they shared a set of cultural values, that you were with your tribe.

The point here is that while you can't say Woodstock was a consciously political event nor can you say that those attending were all political or cultural activists, you can say that those political and cultural activists who attended the festival shared a number of cultural assumptions with those around them, certain cultural principles that had become emblematic of what had become known as the counterculture, cultural principles such as sharing, rejection of competition, and embracing of exploration and discovery, both physical and spiritual.

That is, they pursued a political activism rooted both in cultural, not just intellectual or traditionally political, concerns as well as in a lifestyle that knew the words “others” and “future” as emotional touchstones, not merely statistical measures - the precise difference between the so-called "New Left" of the '60s and the "Old Left" of previous generations, whose adherents could quote chapter and verse of political theory and chant slogans with the best of them but too often sounded as if they regarded the people on whose behalf they were trying to speak more like exhibits in a court case than living, breathing people.

Indeed, a significant part of ‘60s activism was almost purely cultural: The “live your life as an example to others” idea and the "conscious" or "intentional" communities that set out to prove that there are juster, fairer ways to organize our social relations.

Beyond that, one positive result of that footing in cultural as well as more traditional political concerns was the (relative) ease with which the movement became multi-issue: Whenever those distressing, depressing arguments about the issue or the tactic arose, a significant portion of the movement just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. “You work on what you think is important and I’ll work on what I think is important and whenever we can make the two overlap we’ll work together. Simple! We’re all after pretty much the same end, anyway, right?” The “same end” bit wasn’t always (maybe not even usually) true, of course, but it was true enough to keep things bubbling along without the movement getting bogged down in endless, unresolvable disputes about the relative importance of the arms race vs. feminism vs. the environment vs. racism vs. economic issues vs. and so on.

In short, I firmly believe, I argue, that a main - perhaps the - core energy source for the movement of the ‘60s was that area where political involvement and cultural/spiritual concerns overlapped to form a politically-involved counterculture.

That energy gave us the sense that you could make a difference, that your dreams could be lived out, that they really could come true, that the future was wide open and all things were possible. And it enabled us to keep trying. For all the sexism we came to acknowledge in the counterculture and the peace movement, people kept trying to live more egalitarian lives. For all the undercurrents of racism we dug out of white activist’s relations with black groups, people kept trying to work it out and live more justly. For all the awareness of our umbilical cord connections to the consumer society, people kept trying to live more simply, with greater ecological awareness. There was a sense that you could make it better both in yourself and in others by both your social example and your political actions.

It was that sense, especially when slammed up against the reality of the chasm between the America we saw around us and the America we were taught to believe in, in school that produced the anger and the joy, the tough determination and gentle compassion, the bitter awareness and sweet dreams that marked a movement that over a several-year span was powerful enough to end the draft, limit and finally stop a war, force one (and maybe two) Presidents from office, shake the foundations of a society’s judgements about half its population, open millions of eyes to the reality of racism, force the nuclear power industry to a virtual halt, set in motion other movements for justice, and change - perhaps not by much but clearly permanently - that society’s sense of its relationship to the environment.

And it's good to have that record of success, of progress, because it is of course true that ultimately, in many ways, we failed. Our dreams could not be lived out, at least not full force, the future was not wide open, and not all things were possible. Sexism and racism persist. Poverty and hunger still haunt us. Climate change is a Sword of Damocles over us. Yes, we stopped one war - but the changes we made weren't enough to prevent new wars and more wars, wars that, just like Donovan sang in 1970, "drag on." We got hemmed in, in some cases weighed down, by commitments and obligations of a different sort, commitments and obligations not to the whole community, but to the narrower community of spouses, of children, of aging parents, and the jobs and careers that sustained those commitments.

That doesn't mean we simply surrendered; the '60s generation went disproportionately into what are called "helping" or "caring" fields, fields such as health and medicine, education, social work, public interest law, and so on. But it does mean that the task we set for ourselves was bigger than we ever let ourselves imagine. Our community, our tribe, came together so easily, so naturally, that we just assumed it could stay together just as easily - which, and in retrospect it's easy to say "of course," it couldn't. The result was that when those other commitments arose, we didn't do the work, we didn't put in the effort, to maintain that community in part because we had fooled ourselves into thinking that effort wouldn't be necessary.

So we lost our tribe, we lost the sense that we were all part of the Movement, the Movement with a capital M, that vaguely defined but still somehow an organic whole of which we were part. Between that and the end of the Indochina War, which for a non-insignificant number had been the whole reason for their political activism, that core energy was gone - and so was, I would say, the '60s as a political movement.

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Woodstock: personal memories

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Woodstock: personal memories

I remarked to someone at work a few days before recording this that it is surely unusual for someone to be be able to recall where they were and what they we doing at that moment exactly 50 years before.

But I could. I could because at that time of the morning exactly 50 years earlier, I was somewhere in Sussex County, New Jersey, taking a back route to Bethel, New York and the first day of what was called an "Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music" but which everyone came to know as just Woodstock.

As a self-confessed "aging hippie" I suppose I should say something about the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, especially since, um, I was there. Really. I was. Unlike the probably five million who say they were.

I don't want to come across as wallowing in nostalgia but I've realized over the past few days of various remembrances that a few of the things that stick out in my memory aren't among those commonly cited.

In fact, "the mud" seems to be the common thread; for example, the Daily Mail described Woodstock as
a trip of a party [where] increasingly filthy festival-goers danced, stripped and dropped acid in torrential rain.
But "the mud" didn't really happen until after the big thunderstorm on Sunday. Before that, on Friday and Saturday, there had been some rain - I remember Ravi Shankar playing right through the rain and later Melanie having to interrupt her set to move further under cover because the rain was playing havoc with the tuning of her guitar - but it wasn't that bad. It was rainy but going "the mud the mud the mud" just isn't right, especially because there was a hot sun to dry things out between rains.

So yeah, my memories are not the same as some others, so by way of commentary and as a way of opening a discussion of the world in which Woodstock happened and its relevance for today, if any, I'll just tick off a couple of things I recall that haven't figured so much in the "a look back at" coverage:

- One that couldn't make the coverage 'cause it was purely personal: My friend Craig and I - who had tickets, dammit - drove up the back roads, avoiding the Thruway and Rt. 17 and thus the multiple-hours-long traffic jams. We parked within a few miles of the site.

- Coming into the site the first day, there was an entry road, more like a dirt track that was probably used for farm vehicles. The site itself was in a pasture that formed a natural bowl and between that track and the pasture there was a small rise, maybe three or four feet high. You went up that rise and looked down into that pasture and OH MY GOD! THERE ARE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF FREAKS! HOT DAMN!

- Foolishly, Craig and I left that night because we hadn't brought a tent and intended to stay at a campsite shelter for hikers on the Appalachian Trail, which proved to be full, forcing us to sleep outside, yes in the rain. The next day so many more people had arrived that we would up having to park some teens of miles away from the site.

- Walking in the hot sun among the crowds heading to the site, I saw where a family had turned their hose on to offer water to the walkers. (Yes, I know, don't drink from the hose, there could be bacteria and all but this was 50 years ago and no one was thinking about that.) I heard the woman telling someone that they originally had intended to ignore the whole thing but when they heard that a neighbor was charging $1 for a glass of water - again, remember this was 50 years ago; the equivalent today would be something over $7 - they were so shocked that they thought they had to do something. "Charging these kids money for water!" She was outraged.

- Probably the musical highlight for me was Ravi Shankar, with whose music I was then not particularly familiar, but he completely blew me away.

- I remember Abbie Hoffman announcing from the stage that we were page one of the New York Times.

- I remember the several-minutes-long standing ovation given to Max Yasgur (who owned the farm, in case you didn't know) and him saying something about how it should be a lesson to his generation how and this is not a quote but it's close enough "400,000 young people can come together for three days of peace and music and have nothing but peace and music." Yes, of course, there was other stuff going on and there were a few incidents, but overall, that was a fair assessment.

- On Sunday, Craig noticed and alerted me to the big and amazingly black thunderclouds several minutes before the announcement was made from the stage. And y'know, there is a point where you're wet enough that frankly it doesn't matter anymore and you just give up all attempts to stay dry.

- A while after the storm had passed, a number of National Guard helicopters hovered over the crowd. There was sufficient paranoia among the counterculture at the time (not entirely without justification; as the saying goes, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you") that it caused a little ripple through the throng. What's this? What's going on? The doors are opening. What's happening?

And out of the helicopters come thousands and thousands of - daffodils! The National Guard is showering us with daffodils! I tried to catch one but it bounced off my hand and fell into the hands of a short girl next to me who probably wouldn't have gotten one otherwise, so that was cool.

- My favorite memorabilia from the event was not the uncollected tickets (which I might still have somewhere but which I think are now buried in the sands of time) but rather a newspaper ad that came out later: The long-distance bus company that served the area took out an ad expressing how impressed its drivers were with the patience, kindness, and friendliness of the concert-goers who were stuck on the buses for upteen hours due to the traffic. I remember one quoted as saying that as a result of the experience, "A long-haired kid is welcome on my bus anytime." Which in 1969 was music to our ears.

- Or maybe on that account I should name as my favorite memorabilia my sleeping bag, which was soaked through and must have weighed over 50 pounds when I was carrying it out - and which I still have.

All of which raises that Ultimate Question that always gets asked: Will there ever be another Woodstock?

The answer to that question is "No."

The thing is, what made Woodstock Woodstock, what made the whole experience what is was, was that it just happened. It wasn't anticipated, it sure as hell wasn't planned (the organizers were prepared for a crowd of up to 50,000, not eight to 10 times that many), it wasn't something anyone set out to create. It just happened.

So no, there will never be another Woodstock. I'm sure that at some point there will be a [blank] or a [blank] and maybe later a [blank], but each of those will be what they are, existing on their own terms, something that - well, that just happened. And they'll be great. But they won't be Woodstock - they will be themselves.

The Erickson Report for August 21 to September 3

The Erickson Report for August 21 to September 3

- Woodstock: personal memories

- Woodstock: the political life around it,_hot_summer_of_1967

 - Woodstock: Is any of that relevant now?

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 7: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

The Erickson Report, Page 7: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

Turning to the Outrages, we have first the fact that the Tweetie-pie administration has announced plans to resume executing federal prisoners, ending a 16-year moratorium on the practice.

Attorney General William Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons to schedule executions for five inmates on death row, bringing back the grim reaper with a vengeance, as the government has carried out just three executions since the federal death penalty statute was expanded in 1994 and the last of those was in 2003.

The bloodlust flies in the face of the trend in the nation as a whole. There were just 25 executions in the whole country in all of 2018, a quarter of the number of 20 years earlier.

New Hampshire abolished the death penalty in May, making it the 21st state to do so. In some of the other states where it remains the law, the death penalty is effectively frozen, including by governor-issued moratoriums in California and Pennsylvania and a court order in North Carolina, and in yet others the penalty simply isn't invoked.

Popular support for capital punishment is also down, dropping from around 80% in the mid-1990s when fear of crime and actual crime rates were much higher to a bare majority of 54% now, according to the Pew Research Center.

Amnesty International called the decision to resume sanctioned murder "outrageous" and "the latest indication of this administration’s disdain for human rights."

Which I would say is the least you can call it. The fact is, despite the lack of any evidence that the death penalty reduces the murder rate, despite the demonstrated racist bias in imposition of the death penalty, despite the cold reality of the execution of innocent people, despite dropping crime and dropping support, this remnant of barbarity persists. It is and will remain a moral outrage.


This will just be a quick note because I'm out of time and this is something I will definitely be talking more about soon.

On August 2, the US formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF, which was signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

We now face the prospect of a new nuclear arms race.

The killing of the pact comes just three days before the 56th anniversary of the signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, one of the earliest treaties on nuclear weapons, that one atmospheric testing, and just four days before the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

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

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

Ah, our regular feature and a crowd favorite, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages.

Starting as we usually do with the Clowns, our first example is poor, beleagured Susan Collins. Her approval rating among her constituents in Maine has plummeted from the sky-high 78% at one point in 2015 to being underwater now: 45% approval and 48% disapproval, a fact which which she blames on "unceasing attacks by dark money groups" but does not, apparently, see any connection to having sold her soul to Tweetie-pie, particularly with her vote to put Bret Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court after her risible claim she was sure, oh so sure, that he will never ever nohow how can you even suggest the idea that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Susan Collins
Making her even more of a clown is the fact that she has already benefitted from dark money and that of the $2 million she raise last quarter for her re-election, less than $100,000 came from people in Maine.


Our loser Clown of the week is Rep. John Ratcliffe, who auditioned for the post of Director of National Intelligence by berating Robert Mueller with the totally false claim that he didn’t follow the special counsel regulations.

Of course, in the wake of his act his name shot to the top of Tweetie-pie's list, and His High Orangeness announced on July 28 that he was going to nominate Ratcliffe only to change his mind just five days later after even Senate GOPpers couldn't stomach the idea of this thoroughly unqualified prat.

John Ratcliffe
With the withdrawal of the nomination, this may seem borderline irrelevant now but I still want to take the opportunity to point and laugh.


Next up, we have a candidate for the Least Self-Aware Award.

William Perry Pendley, a right-wing lawyer and commentator, is the new head of the Bureau of Land Management. He has argued that climate science isn’t real, that environmentalists want to “destroy” civilization, that diversity is killing people, and that the best thing for managing public lands is for the feds to sell off more of it.

He also said in a 2018 interview that a real problem in government is that federal employees aren’t held “personally liable” or “personally responsible for the harm that they do” regarding federal land management.

William Perry Pendley
He better hope that his own standards don't apply to him. Which of course they won't, but we can dream.


Finally, I know I said I wasn't going to mention El Paso or Dayton but I came across this as I was preparing the show and it is just so jaw-dropping stupid that I had to include it.

Mike Huckleberryhound insists that there is only one thing that can put a stop to mass shootings.

A ban on guns? Don't be absurd.
A ban on assault or military type weapons, then? Forget it.
Mike Huckabee
Universal background checks? A ban on large-capacity magazines? Nope and nope.

Nope, not even better mental health programs or a ban on video games. The only thing that will help is - wait for it -

thoughts and prayers.

No joke. That's what he said in so many words, adding that until, quoting now, "kids are brought up once again to believe that we are all made in the image of God, that life is sacred and superficial differences like skin color are meaningless” - don't know when thinks kids in this country were brought up that way but I want some of what he's been smoking - anyway, until we are, um, again he said all pacifists and totally nonracist, until then, quoting again, "passing more laws is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

Shorter Mike Huckleberryhound: I don't give a damn and stop bothering me

The Erickson Report. Page 5: A Longer Look at BDS and Israel

The Erickson Report. Page 5: A Longer Look at BDS and Israel

It's time for us to take A Longer Look.

Because the right to engage in peaceful political boycotts is under active attack in the US.

Well, to be precise, it's under active attack if the target of a peaceful political boycott is Israel.

Twenty-seven states covering more that 250 million people have laws that in some way punish people or businesses or both for daring to engage in or support any sort of economic boycott of Israel, even if that boycott is limited to the Occupied Territories, which Israel holds and controls in clear violation of international law and UN resolution.

These US laws are part of a nationwide assault on the Boycott-Divest-Sanction - or BDS - Movement, the goal of which is to use economic pressure to force Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. The attacks on the movement are mostly based on taking various clearly anti-Semitic statements by one founder of the movement and projecting those attitudes wholesale onto every person, every business, and every group supporting the boycott, purposely forgetting that BDS is a movement, not an organization taking orders from the top down.

Congress has played its part in the assault as well: Last year, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, sponsored by two Rs and two Ds, tried to flat-out make it a crime to boycott Israel. It failed, but there is talk of it being reintroduced this year.

This session has seen Senate passage of the Combat BDS Act, which encourages states to create laws that three federal courts have now blocked as unconstitutional. In late July, the House easily passed H. Res 24, which condemned BDS, claiming the movement "promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation." Among those voting "aye" were progressive heroes Ro Khanna and Ayanna Pressley, who were described by some on Twitter as "progressive - except for the issue of Israel and Palestine."

By the way, I'll note, because it's important that we do, the exact same description of BDS in that resolution could have been applied to the anti-apartheid movement aimed at South Africa as well as any number of other political boycotts - remember the boycott of North Carolina over its anti-transgender so-called "bathroom bill?" Couldn't that have been called "collective guilt?" The boycott was of the state, not of the particular legislators who voted for the bill. Couldn't that have been called "mass punishment?" The economic impact by definition was spread across the whole state's economy. Should that have been condemned by the House of Representatives?

Happily there is some pushback against this; Representatives Ilhan Omar, John Lewis, and Rashida Tlaib hsve introduced a resolution reaffirming the First Amendment right to participate in political boycotts as grounded in America’s history. Lewis's support is particularly important because he opposes BDS but he opposes restrictions on our Constitutional rights even more. Pressley, for her part, tried to defend her vote to condemn BDS by pointing to her support for this resolution, but that shows either low-grade CYA or a fundamental ignorance of the issues at hand.

Why is something like BDS needed? Two recent reasons.

The first is in Gaza. According to the conservative Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post, "thousands of Gazans protest along the security fence on a weekly basis ... calling for an end of the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip." The "security fence"  is a barrier that Israel built to keep those living in Gaza penned in.

Israel has responded to the protests violently. According to a UN report, between March 30 2018, when the series of demonstrations started and the end of the year, Israeli snipers killed 180 unarmed Palestinian protesters and wounded more 6100 others. "The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities," the report said.

Now, to prove how decent and moral they are, Israeli officials have said that snipers are going to aim at the ankles of protesters rather than shooting them anywhere on the body, because of the unfortunate tendency of the previous policy to kill people.

But as noted by Jon Heller, an associate professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam,
Israel’s “most moral” IDF admits sniping legs has an unfortunate tendency to kill, so it instructs its snipers to shoot at ankles. Sniping innocent protesters, however, is still fine.
The Israeli civil rights organization B'Tselem declared that the change in policy
in no way suggests that the military attaches great value to human life. On the contrary, it shows that the military consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans.
For our second recent reason, we move from Gaza, which has rightly called the "largest open air prison in the world," to Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, on July 22 Israeli forces demolished scores of homes in Sur Baher, a Palestinian village that straddles East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Parts of Sur Baher lie inside the municipal boundary of East Jerusalem, Israeli-occupied and still a point of contention, and parts lie outside the apartheid wall that Israel has built between itself and the West Bank. However, some parts of the village lie in between: outside the boundary of Jerusalem but still on the Israeli side of the barrier, which there, as in several other places, wrongfully intrudes into the West Bank. Because it outside the boundary of Jerusalem, the area is ostensibly under control of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel doesn't care. It declared those houses "illegal" because they didn't have Israeli building permits, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to get and ignoring that the area is supposed to be under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. It also declared them a "security risk" because of their proximity to the fence - a risk, never forget, that Israel created by building the damn fence - and then used those excuses to demolish the homes and drive out the residents.

The move was denounced by Amnesty International, calling it "part of a systematic pattern by the Israeli authorities to forcibly displace Palestinians in the occupied territories," actions which which "amount to war crimes."

In joint statement, three key officials of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs declared that "Israel's policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law."

The European Union issued a statement opposing the operation, which said in part that
Israel's settlement policy, including actions taken in that context, such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions, and confiscations of homes, is illegal under international law.
So here's the deal: If you think that shooting nonviolent protesters in the world's largest outdoor prison, if you think an on-going policy that "amounts to war crimes," is in violation of international law, and amounts to at least a type of ethnic cleansing, if you think that is not a valid basis for an economic boycott, especially one against a nation whose leader, Benjamin Netan-yo-yo, has proven himself a liar and a hypocrite with regard to the two-state solution in which our own leaders claim to believe so fervently, if you think that is not sufficient cause for a nonviolent economic boycott, then I would challenge you to come up with a program for justice in the Middle East that does not involve suppression of Constitutional rights here and passive submission by Palestinians, dreamy wishful thinking, blind trust in those who have proven their bad faith, or willful blindness and probably all three there.

Just know that if you try, you will fail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Heroes and Villains

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Heroes and Villains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

I wonder if any of them will be from Norway.


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

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

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

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Opening thoughts

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Opening thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

The Erickson Report for August 7 to 20

The Erickson Report for August 7 to 20

This week:

- Keep your "thoughts and prayers."

- Five Things Noted in Passing

- Heroes and Villains: Olga Misik and Vladimir Putin

- Following Up: school lunches

- A Longer Look: BDS and Israel

- Two Weeks of Stupid [the Clowns]

- Two Weeks of Stupid [the Outrages]
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