Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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

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

Now we turn to our Outrages.

Here's an outrage for you: American hero Chelsea Manning is still in prison.

She's the former Army intelligence analyst-turned-whistleblower who was court-martialed and sentenced to 35 years in prison for telling the truth about the Iraq War and US foreign policy by leaking documents to Wikileaks. She was in prison for seven years, mored than a year of it in what amounted to solitary confinement and under continuing mental duress designed to break her and force her to testify against - and thus justify charges against - Julian Assange with the goal of destroying Wikileaks. Her sentence was commuted in January 2017.

The goal of destroying Wikileaks has not changed. On March 8 of this year she was arrested for contempt of court after she refused to testify before a grand jury about her association with WikiLeaks, testimony demanded even though it's unclear what it's imagined she could tell about Assange and Wikileaks that is not already known.

Manning says she refuses because of ethical and legal objections to the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, arguing, as many other activists have and do, that such proceedings are designed to be tools for prosecutors to engage in fishing expeditions against peaceful activists. Whether or not grand juries are inherently illegal can be argued, but that they have been used in that oppressive way can't be and yes I know from experience of cases in which I have been involved.

She was released on May 9, when the grand jury's term expired. She was immediately served with another subpoena to appear before a new grand jury on May 16. She again refused to testify and was immediately sent back to jail for what could be 18 months, the term of a grand jury. In addition, a fine was imposed of $500 for each day she spends in jail over 30 days and $1,000 for each day she spends in jail over 60 days, which could ultimately total $441,000.

On August 5, a federal judge denied a motion for a hearing to press the court to reconsider its sanctions, declaring she can just sit in jail until she cooperates.

Chelsea Manning
But not only should they be reconsidered because of their harshness but because they are improper and should not be imposed at all.

Y'see, imprisonment for refusal to testify is, in legal terms, non-punitive. That is, it's not for something she has done but to compel her to do something. Put simply, it's legalized coercion. Which also means that if the sanctions have proven to be ineffective, they should no longer be in place.

Chelsea Manning should be freed.

Chelsea Manning was in prison for seven years and the government didn't break her. They put her in jail for another three months this spring and she didn't back down. They've put her back in prison again for - so far - five more months and she still stands on her principles. What makes them think that some more months will do what the nearly eight years have not?

This is no longer if indeed it ever was about compelling her to testify. This is about making her grovel before the power of the state about proving that they can make her do what they want.

Chelsea Manning is still in prison - and it is an Outrage.


You may well have heard about this other one, maybe more than you wanted to, but it can't be allowed to slip away without getting the denunciation it deserves.

On October 17, in a conversation about the 2020 election with David Plouffe on his podcast, Hillary "It Wasn't My Fault" Clinton said this:
I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third party candidate. She's the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far, and that's assuming Jill Stein will give it up. Which she might not, 'cause she's also a Russian asset. I mean, totally.
Hillary Clinton
Okay. It was immediately clear to everyone that the candidate in question, the "favorite of the Russians" who is being "groomed" to be a third-party candidate, is Tulsi Gabbard. Ties to Russia have not been suggested about any other woman running. Indeed, when Clinton shill Nick Merrill was asked if Gabbard was the candidate Clinton was referring to, he said, "If the nesting doll fits."

That was in a Tweet at 11:58 am on October 18, shortly after the podcast was released that morning.

At 5:13 pm, over five hours later and after the negative reactions had started coming in from folks like Noah Schachtman, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, Krystal Ball of Hill.TV, Aaron Blake, a senior political reporter for the Washington Post, Van Jones of CNN, and journalist Glenn Greenwald, Merrill replied by going after the single point that some media had reported that Clinton had said it was the Russians who were "grooming" Gabbard, when in fact, he insisted, she meant the Republicans - the GOPpers.

After a few days of what I'm sure were a long string of furious phone calls from the Clinton people and the DNC to the owners and editors of various media outlets, those outlets started issuing "corrections" that, "yeah, okay, she was talking about the GOPpers there" and media bosses - and Clinton's people - happily dropped the whole thing.

Dropped it, that is, without addressing the fact, the central fact, the main fact, that while she may have been talking about the GOPpers as the ones "grooming" Gabbard, by focusing on that, they avoided having to address the real point, the "this is what matters"point, that she had called Tulsi Gabbard, and whatever you may think about her politics she is still a member of Congress, she had called her a Russian asset! Period. There is no disputing that. Doesn't make a damn bit of difference who is "grooming" her except to the extent it says that Clinton regards the GOPper presidential campaign and Russian propaganda as being the same thing.

Tulsi Gabbard
Do not give me any crap about "she didn't say that!" Of course she did! Note that she said Jill Stein is - quoting - "also a Russian asset." The only conceivable antecedent for that "also," both logically and grammatically, is Gabbard. So yes, she called Tulsi Gabbard "a Russian asset" and she called Jill Stein "totally" a "Russian asset."

Supposedly, US intelligence services make a distinction between the terms "asset" and "agent" in regard to foreign intelligence but that's a distinction that people in normal conversation do not.

So don't give me the crap nitpicking about the precise meaning of "asset," such as Merrill whining on Twitter that "we never said she" - that is, Gabbard - "is a spy." No, what you said - since you now apparently are wrapping youself and Ms. "Dont blame me" into a single package - what you said is that Gabbard is, as Glenn Greenwald put it, someone "who will act to serve the Kremlin's interest," someone who acts with the intent of being of benefit to Vladimir Putin. And you said the same thing - with the exclamation point of "totally" - about Jill Stein.

Jill Stein
That is at best sleazy, cowardly, innuendo and it's more accurately scummy, despicable, and McCarthyism in its purest form.

Worse than that in fact, because by talking about the whole thing in the context of a third-party candidacy, Clinton - along with those now spewing out nausea-inducing defenses of her - has smeared the very idea of a left third party campaign as one being run and operated for the benefit of, to advance the interests of, a foreign government, whoever the candidate might be.

This is beyond scummy, beyond despicable, beyond contemptible, so far beyond being an Outrage I won't even call it one.

Hill'o'crap Clinton, still desperately trying to weasel her way out of responsibility for incompetently losing an election to - as far as we know - the least popular major party presidential candidate in US history and now trying to connive her way back into the top ranks of the Democratic Party, should do two things, neither of which she will: One, apologize publicly and abjectly to Tulsi Gabbard and Jill Stein and two, immediately after that shut up and go away and take her sycophants with her.

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

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

Now for our regular feature, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages.

Turning first to the Clowns as we usually do, we start with a repeat winner: Sen. Lindsey Grahamcracker, who so frightened himself by coming perilously close to breaking with Tweetie-pie over the latter's abandonment of the Kurds in Syria, that within a couple of days he was in awe at The Great Orange One's leadership and wisdom.

Grahamcracker said Tweetie-pie plans to use US air power over a demilitarized zone occupied by international forces - after, that is, Turkey had completed its ethnic cleansing in northern Syria, creating a Turkish "safe zone," because we must "protect Turkey from elements of the Kurds that they consider to be terrorists," said the man who a couple of days earlier was calling for sanctions against Turkey.

What's more - oh yes, there's more -

You've heard how we are "protecting" the Syrian oil fields in the eastern part of the country, because of course we get to decide what happens to and with them. Grahamcracker says "we are on the verge of a joint venture between us and the Syrian democratic forces" - the very people we just betrayed - "to modernize the oil fields" and give the revenue from them to the Kurds.

"I'm increasingly optimistic," he said to laughter from the circus crowd. "This can turn out very well."

Meanwhile journalist and author Chris Hedges notes that "The withdrawal of Iraq from the northern Kurdish areas following the 1991 Gulf War created a de facto Kurdish state, the third this century. But Turkey remains determined to destroy it. If history is any guide, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq will be as short-lived as the other autonomous enclaves briefly carved out by the Kurds over the last century."

Oh and as a footnote: The Pentagon is planning to send tanks and armored vehicles into eastern Syria as part of "protecting" those oil fields, which will require troops to operate and maintain the vehicles, as well as more troops to protect the bases from which they operate. At least we have our priorities straight.


Next up and standing as a symbol of many others, we have James Bagnell of Edmonton, Alberta.

A painted portrait of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared on a section of a downtown "free wall" in the city, an area where people are encouraged to do art or make comments.

Bagnell's "comment" was to deface the portrait by spray painting the message "Stop the Lies. This is Oil Country!!!" over the teen's face.

He was seen by a CBC reporter, who asked him why. "We don't need foreigners coming in and telling us" what to do, was the answer.

Showing that he's up to date with his rightwing memes, Bagnell said climate activists are "intolerant" because they are calling for change and Thunberg is a child who is just "doing what she's told," and doesn't know better but who at the same time "should go back to her country and try to make her country better," where apparently she is a fully mature, informed, and independent agent.

Bagnell, who insisted that of course he's concerned about the environment - I bet some of his best friends are environmentalists - said Thunberg should "Just shut up until you have solutions."

Of course, we do have solutions, primary among which is stopping the use of fossil fuels. It's just that clowns like Bagnell don't want to hear about them.


Speaking of clowns, here's a collection of them: the Christian Right. That's an oxymoron if ever there was one and with the death of Elijah Cummings, some of them proved that the emphasis clearly should be on moron.

"Christian" fundamentalist Stacey Shiftlett insisted that Trump was sent by God himself to govern the US and that Cummings helped lead a “demonic attempt” to remove Trump from office. "I believe that God had had enough," Shiftlett said, "and God moved.”

Yeah, just like with Ananias and Sapphira.

Meanwhile, "Christian" fundamentalist Dave Daubenmire denounced Cummings as an “enemy of the cross” and went on to say, “I’m glad he’s gone. I bet he’s not pro-choice now. I bet he’s not pro-homo now.”

Radio host Jesse Lee Peterson declared “if you notice, John McCain, he dead. Charles Krauthammer, he dead. And Elijah Cummings, now he dead. They all didn’t like The Great White Hope" - which is how he refers to Tweetie-pie, no joke - "they went against him, they talked about him. Now, they all dead. That’s amazing.”

“Don’t mess with The Great White Hope," Peterson intoned. "You see what happens. Don’t mess with God’s children.”

I swear these people are genuinely sick. Clowns, but sick.


Mike Pence
I should be outraged by this but the image of it is just too comical.

On October 21, Vice President Mike Not-Worth-a-Farthing addressed the opening ceremony of the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington, DC.

He made no announcements about national space policy or international cooperation in his remarks, but he did say this:
Under President Donald Trump’s leadership, America is leading in space once again. He believes, as I do, that’s it’s America’s destiny to be the leader amongst nations in our adventure into the great unknown.
Graciously, as befits someone speaking from such a high perch, Not-worth-a-farthing added that our Glorious Leader of Great and Unmatched Wisdom would condescend to allow other "freedom-loving" nations to assist us - "freedom-loving" being defined as sufficiently pro-corporate.

He was reported to have gotten "a lukewarm reaction" from the diverse international audience.

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Ya Just Gotta Laugh

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Ya Just Gotta Laugh

Okay, so much of the news is so bad that sometimes, well, sometimes ya just gotta laugh. There's nothing else you can do.

It's well-known that Ambassador William Taylor testified before the House committees looking into impeachment that Tweetie-pie did withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to secure an "investigation" of Joe and Hunter Biden, that this was clearly conveyed to Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government understood what was being demand.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board jumped to The Great Orange One's defense, including among the usual talking points this intriguing argument: Quoting:
Mr. Taylor says in his statement that many people in the Administration opposed the Giuliani effort, including some in senior positions at the White House. This matters because it may turn out that while Mr. Trump wanted a quid-pro-quo policy ultimatum toward Ukraine, he was too inept to execute it. Impeachment for incompetence would disqualify most of the government, and most Presidents at some point or another in office.
That is, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal is saying that there may be no quid pro quo - and thus, they argue, no basis for impeachment - because Tweetie-pie was too incompetent to pull it off!

This is how you know that they know that they are in deep do-do. Sometimes ya just gotta laugh.

The Erickson Report, Page 3: We Are Not Alone

The Erickson Report, Page 3: We Are Not Alone

I'm going to go through a list of items very quickly. They are arranged in alphabetical order by location. At the end, I am going to ask you a question, so pay attention.

First: In Chile, a protest that began over a 3% hike in subway fares soon broadened to encompass the economic inequality in the country. After days of violent protests, tanks in the streets of Santiago, and a million people protesting in the capital, on October 27 President Sebastian Piñera announced a major reshuffle of his cabinet in an attempt to calm things down.


Second: On October 3, protests by indigenous groups broke out in Ecuador over President Lenin Moreno's plan to impose IMF-pushed austerity measures, including a significant cut in fuel subsidies. After a week of protests which saw seven killed by security forces, hundreds injured, and over 1,000 arrested, Moreno withdrew the plan and opened talks with indigenous leaders - who have now suspended them, accusing Moreno of using the end of violent protests as an opening to go after the movement's leaders.


Third: On October 9, a shooter in Halle, Germany, attempted to attack a synagogue with the idea of, quoting him, "Kill as many anti-Whites as possible, Jews preferred." He couldn't get into the synagogue, so he killed two bystanders instead. It was the second lethal far-right attack of the year.


Fourth: Hong Kong has seen 21 weeks of protests as a struggle against a now-withdrawn bill to allow extradition to mainland China has expanded into a broader pro-democracy movement that is facing increasing and increasingly violent repression from authorities.


Fifth: Since early October, Iraq has seen protests driven by economic desperation and the failure of the central government to act. Over 190 protesters have been killed by police and the military.


Sixth: Israel, in a technical sense, is lacking a government. On October 21, Benjamin Netanyahu gave up trying to form a coalition big enough to make up a majority of the Iraeli parliament, the Knesset. The task now falls to his principal rival, Benny Gantz, but it remains to be seen if he'll have any better luck than Netanyoyo did.


Seventh: In Lebanon, in what has been described a a joyous revolution, an anti-corruption movement has seen over a million people take to the streets in demonstrations against the government.


Eighth: On October 25, legislation went into effect in Northern Ireland decriminalizing abortion and legalizing same-sex marriages. The government has until April to establish the same sort of abortion services available in the rest of the UK and same-sex marriages can begin in February. Activists are preparing for the next round, which is getting the new laws enforced.


Okay, the question: How many of those things did you know about? I'm sure you heard of a couple, at least Hong Kong, But even of those, how much did you know?

Americans, even those of us on the left, tend to act as if we were alone in the world, as if nothing beyond our borders has any importance except - maybe - in how it affects us. We need to get over that sort of chauvinism.

So - unless some truly important domestic news breaks between now and then, the next show in two weeks is going to be all international news. We need to remember: We are not alone.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: On Privacy

The Erickson Report, Page 2: On Privacy

I used to talk a lot about privacy issues, about personal privacy and government and corporate intrusions into our personal space. I haven't done so recently. Consider this re-introducing the topic.

On October 21, a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from four US citizens’ for a fair process to get their names off the government’s No Fly List.

The No Fly List is a secret government database of people - many of whom have not been charged with a crime - that the government has barred from flying in or over the US. As of June 2016, there were about 81,000 people on the List, including about 1,000 American citizens or legal residents. The No Fly List is a subset of a larger terrorism watchlist, which as of 2017 had about 1.2 million people, of whom about 5,000 are American citizens or legal residents.

None of the four men in this particular case, Kashem v. Barr, have ever been charged with a crime; nonetheless, each has been barred from flying for more than nine years.

In an earlier ruling in the case, in 2014, the government’s procedures for someone to challenge their placement on the No Fly List were “wholly ineffective” and violated due process. The government had to revise those procedures, as a result of which several of the original plaintiffs were cleared to fly, which itself should give you an idea of how reliable the list is.

The four remaining plaintiffs, still barred from flying, argued that the changed procedures are still constitutionally inadequate, saying their ban was based on second-hand assertions and secret evidence they could not meaningfully contest and that the government’s criteria for placing people on the list are unconstitutionally vague.

Citing the "national security concerns at issue" - silly me, I thought it was Constitutional rights that were at issue - the court said, in effect, "better safe than sorry" and dismissed the challenge.

I didn't read the whole opinion (it was over 50 pages), but I did read the court's summary and was particularly struck by this passage:
The panel determined that the No Fly List criteria are not impermissibly vague merely because they require a prediction of future criminal conduct, or because they do not delineate what factors are relevant to that determination.
That is, the standards for declaring you too dangerous to be allowed on an airplane are based in part on predictions of your future behavior without even being able to lay out what lead to that prediction.

We are headed for "The Minority Report" territory.

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Five Things Noted in Passing

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Five Things Noted in Passing

We start this time with Five Things Noted in Passing. Every time I pull out five items I think worth noting but which aren’t going to get a lot of time. So let’s go.

A survey released in September by the Commonwealth Fund found that 58 percent of US small business owners, "small" being defined as fewer than 500 employees, support Medicare for All.

As the Commonwealth Fund pointed out in its overview, small businesses, which make up 99 percent of US employers and create 66 percent of new private-sector jobs, have been harder hit by rising health care costs than large corporations, because they don't have the same economic clout in negotiating with the private insurance industry. Which is likely why, when the survey asked small business owners which of eight issues was the biggest challenge facing their business, "Cost of providing health care coverage to employees" came out on top.

So despite the claims of the nanny-nanny naysayers, small businesses have much to gain from a single-payer system - and many of those owners know it.


Fun fact, from a calculation someone did: If you came to America in 1619 and made $1 million every day for the next 400 years, and put it in a chest in your backyard, today you would have a few hundred million dollars less than Jeff Bezos.


Here's something to brighten your day.

The UK's first Chick-fil-A is going to close just six months after it opened.

The Oracle, a shopping center located in Reading, England, decided not to extend Chick-fil-A’s lease beyond a six-month pilot period. A spokesperson for the mall said management had decided it was "the right thing to do," following community backlash against the fast food chain’s history of support of anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

Chick-fil-A tried some CYA, insisting that the company never intended for the Reading location to be open for more than a limited time and trying to imply the non-renewal was a mutual decision. The company claimed that having "pop-up locations" was part of a "long term strategy" to "expand our international presence" - but could not provide any plans for any future such "pop-up" sites.


In the wake of Tweetie-pie's abandonment of the Kurds in northern Syria, Frontier Alliance International, a nonprofit Christian organization that provides medical aid in the Middle East, planned to hold an event titled "A Night of Prayer for the Kurds."
However, the event was abruptly canceled by the hotel where it was scheduled to be held.

The administrator of Frontier Alliance International, Charlene Struebing, said hotel staff had said "they’ve gotten a lot of security concerns and they couldn’t accommodate enough security. I think it’s more related to people protesting our event than it was anything we were doing."

Considering that a DC police spokeswoman said that it had not "received any information regarding potential security threats or concerns with this event" and that who the hell would be protesting a prayer event makes me suspect there was another factor at play: the fact that the event to pray for the Kurds was to be at Tweetie-pie's DC hotel.


A bit late but still definitely worth noting. According to the US Energy Information Administration, in April, for the first time ever, utility-scale renewable energy generated more power than coal. Renewables - hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass - provided 23% of total generation, with coal at 20%.
That may not persist month after month because coal power generation varies seasonally, but the clear trend can't be denied.

The Erickson Report for October 30-November 12

The Erickson Report for October 30 - November 12

This time:
Five Things Noted in Passing
(no source given)


We Are Not Alone

Ya Gotta Laugh

Two Weeks of Stupid: the Clowns

Two Weeks of Stupid: the Outrages

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 4: A Longer Look at the US and the Kurds

The Erickson Report, Page 4: A Longer Look at the US and the Kurds

Last for this time out, we take A Longer Look at the US and the Kurds.

The big news of the week, of course, has been the Turkish invasion of northern Syria with the goal of genocide against the Kurds there, an invasion green-lighted by Tweetie-pie who told Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the US would get out his way.

Turkey wasted no time, attacking soon thereafter. Hundreds are dead, well over 100,000 have fled, and the carnage continues at this moment despite Tweetie-pie's risible proposal that he mediate a cease-fire.

But what we need to know now is that this is pretty much business as usual - not for Tweetie-pie but for the US. And I want you to know that in what follows I am very heavily indebted to John Schwartz at The Intercept, a news site I strongly encourage you to check out.

Okay. The morning after His High Orangeness said in effect "the Kurds? Who cares?" New York Times columnist Paul Krugman asked on Twitter why Tweetie-pie made this decision:
So did Trump just betray the Kurds because
(a) He has business interests in Turkey
(b) Erdogan, being a brutal autocrat, is his kind of guy
(c) His boss Vladimir Putin told him to
Remarkable that all three stories are perfectly plausible.
What Krugman left out, however, is the most likely explanation: (d)Trump is president of the United States. It is a repetition of an old and established pattern - because this is not the first time we betrayed the Kurds. In fact it is at least the eighth time since World War I.

The Kurds are an ethnic group of about 30 million people ranged across Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. They have lived in the region for over 1000 years and have long aspired to their own state. On a few occasions over the centuries there have been short-lived Kurdistans, but they have always been brutally repressed. Still, the desire for an independent state persists, something that the countries in which they live do not want to happen.

Which means that on the one hand, the Kurds are a perfect tool for US foreign policy because we can arm the Kurds in whichever of these countries is currently our enemy, to make trouble for that country’s government or for some other objective. But on the other hand, we don’t want the Kurds we’re exploiting to get too powerful. If that happens, the other Kurds - the ones living across the border in whichever of these countries are currently an ally - might get ideas about pursuing their own freedom and independence.

Here’s how that dynamic has played out, over and over and over again since World War I.

One: Like many other nationalisms, Kurdish nationalism blossomed during the late 1800s. At this point, all of the Kurdish homeland was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, centered in present day-Turkey. But the Ottoman Empire collapsed after fighting on the losing side of World War I. This, the Kurds understandably believed, was their moment.

The 1920 Treaty of Sèvres dismembered the Ottoman Empire, including most of what’s now Turkey, and allocated a section for a possible Kurdistan. But the Turks fought back, wanting as much as they could get, and making enough trouble that the US gave in and supported a new treaty in 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne. The Treaty of Lausanne allowed the British and French to carve off present-day Iraq and Syria, respectively, for themselves: Iraq for the UK, Syria for France. But it made no provision for the Kurds.

This was America’s first betrayal of the Kurds. However, at this point, the main Kurdish betrayals were handled by the British, who crushed the short-lived Kingdom of Kurdistan in Iraq during the early 1920s. A few years later, the British were happy to see the establishment of a Kurdish “Republic of Ararat,” because it was on Turkish territory. But it turned out that the Turks were more important to the British than the Kurds were, so the United Kingdom eventually let Turkey go ahead and extinguish the new country.

Two: After World War II, the U.S. gradually assumed the British role as main colonial power in the Mideast. We armed Iraqi Kurds during the rule of Abdel Karim Kassem, who governed Iraq from 1958 to 1963, because Kassem was failing to follow our orders.

We then supported a 1963 military coup that removed Kassem from power. We immediately cut off our aid to the Kurds and, in fact, provided the new Iraqi government with napalm to use against them.

Where the Kurds live
Three: By the 1970s, the Iraqi government had drifted into the orbit of the Soviet Union. The Nixon administration, led by war criminal Henry Kissinger, hatched a plan with Iran (then our ally, remember, ruled by the Shah) to arm Iraqi Kurds and urge them to rise up against Saddam.

The plan wasn’t for the Kurds in Iraq to win, since that might encourage the Kurds in Iran to rise up themselves. It was just to bleed the Iraqi government. But that's not what the Kurds were told; they were encouraged to continue fighting.

Then the US signed off on agreements between the Shah and Saddam that included the US severing aid to the Kurds. The Iraqi military moved north and slaughtered thousands, as the US stood by. When questioned, a blasé Kissinger said “covert action should not be confused with missionary work.”

Four: During the 1980s, the Iraqi government moved on to actual genocide against the Kurds, including the use of chemical weapons. The Reagan administration was well aware of Saddam’s use of nerve gas, but because they liked the damage Saddam was doing to Iran during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), it opposed congressional efforts to impose sanctions on Iraq.

Five: As the U.S. bombed Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991, George H.W. Bush famously called on “the Iraqi military and Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands, to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.” Both Iraqi Shias in southern Iraq and Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq heard this and tried to do exactly that.

It turned out that Bush was - of  course - lying. Bush never supported the Kurdish and Shiite rebellions or for that matter any democracy movement in Iraq. Saddam’s “iron fist" held Iraq together, much to the satisfaction of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. What the US wanted was for the Iraqi military, not regular people, to take charge. Then Washington would have what it regarded as the best of all worlds: the Saddam Hussein regime, just without Saddam Hussein. So having called on them to rise up, the US military stood down as Iraq massacred the rebels across the country.

Nevertheless, the dying Iraqi Kurds looked so bad on international television that the Bush administration was forced to do something. The US eventually supported what was started as a British effort to protect Kurds in northern Iraq.

Six: During the Clinton administration in the 1990s, these Kurds, the Iraqi Kurds, were the good Kurds. Because they were persecuted by Iraq, our enemy, they were worthy of US sympathy. But the Kurds a few miles north in Turkey had been getting uppity too, and since they were annoying our ally, they were the baaad Kurds. The US sent Turkey huge amounts of weaponry, which it used - with US knowledge - to murder tens of thousands of Kurds and destroy thousands of villages.

It's worth noting here that the Turkish constitution does not even acknowledge the existence of the Kurds, who make up 20% of the population, and from 1924 until 1991 it was illegal in Turkey to speak Kurdish and until 2012 it was illegal to teach it in schools. The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, the group that Turkey and the US claim is "terrorist," did not spring out of nowhere.

Seven: Before the Iraq War in 2003, right-wing pundits were saying we had to do it, had to got to war, to help the Kurds. But post-war, Kruds in northern Iraq gained some regional autonomy, which disturbed Turkey, so in 2007, the US allowed Turkey to carry out a heavy bombing campaign against Iraqi Kurds inside Iraq. By which time, the right wing was declaring that this betrayal was exactly what America should be doing.

With Trump’s thumbs-up for another slaughter of the Kurds, America is now on betrayal number eight. We are nothing if not consistent.

The Kurds have an old, famous adage that they “have no friends but the mountains.” Now more than ever, it’s hard to argue that that’s wrong.

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

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

Now for the Outrage and it's something I've noted a few times but there is a specific point I want to make. We start with three examples among many more which could have been chosen.

A policy known as expedited removal allows for undocumented immigrants found within 100 miles of the Mexican or Canadian borders and who entered the US in the last two weeks to be deported quickly without going through immigration courts.

The administration is trying to expand the application of the policy to the entire country and to any immigrant who entered the US without official papers in the previous two years.

Then there was ending "medical deferred action" and so beginning to deport people who previously had been protected because they were receiving treatment for serious medical issues.

More recently we have the vast expansion of who could be denied a green card on the grounds that they might be a “public charge,” going from someone who would be primarily dependent on the government to someone who might at some point in the future need government help such as food stamps or housing vouchers or subsidized health insurance, including Medicaid and using the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies when buying insurance on an exchange - a set of requirements that most American citizens could not meet. Could you pay for health insurance out of your own pocket? Neither could most of the rest of us.

The move could bar roughly 375,000 legal immigrants annually - that's 2/3 of the total of legal immigration.

And of course, the impact will not be random but will mostly affect those who enter through what Tweetie-pie sneers as "chain migration," where people enter to join family already here, and those coming in via the diversity lottery - mostly coming from those "shithole countries" full of nonwhite people that Tweetie-pie finds so disgusting.

So when they tell you that it's about "illegal immigration" and "securing our borders," that is utter bull. It's about immigration, period, immigration of non-white people.

People have often spoken of the cruelty of the collection of white supremicist racists populating the White House, have spoken of the cruelty of the cages, the family separations, the deportations of people who have been here decades, the cruelty of so many of the policies. What we need to recognize and always remember is that the cruelty is not a byproduct. The cruelty is the point.

It is an outrage.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clown]

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clown]

Now for one of our regular features, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

Our Clown this time out is the administration of Cape Elizabeth High School in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Sophomore Aela Mansmann felt that administrators hadn’t been doing enough to respond to allegations of sexual assault in the school, so on September 16 she wrote “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is” on yellow sticky notes and posted them on bathroom walls in the school.

No names were used and there was no identifying information.

She said she hoped to spark more of a conversation of sexual assault incidents. She may not have gotten that, but she did get a reaction.

Initially, school officials had assured her mother that there would be no punishment. But after the local paper ran a story on the students' concerns, Mansmann was pulled out of class and told she was being suspended for three days - for bullying. Bullying, that is, via a note containing no way to tell who it was aimed at - or even if it was aimed at a specific person. Bullying an unnamed rapist with a sticky note.

On October 7, dozens of students walked out of class to protest her punishment, along with that of two other students who were also suspended for helping to post the sticky notes.

The school, needless to say, whined that the sticky notes were not the proper way for students to voice their frustrations. Of course. They should have gone to the administration and then silently accepted being ignored.

Suspending students for "bullying" an unidentified someone - or someones - because you were embarrassed by a newspaper article about sexual assault on your watch? Practically defines "Clown."

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Noted in Passing

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Noted in Passing

We start the time with a feature called Noted in Passing, where we take a brief look at some news items that may not get a lot of attention here but were too important to lest pass without noting.

And we start that with something I can't say is significant in any way because it reveals nothing that was not long since clear, but it was a lovely little moment and worth noting.

Speaking with reporters on October 4, Tweetie-pie was asked, obviously, about the infamous phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine. His High Orangeness insisted that his concern had nothing to do with Joe Gaffe-machine Biden, it was all about corruption.

Then a reporter asked “Have you asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don’t involve your political opponent?”

Tweetie-pie was stumped. He just looked to the sky and blathered something about being against corruption.

I have an enjoyable image of that reporter getting some deserved high-fives once the cameras were off.


People my age may remember the song In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans. It predicts a rather dystopian future and in the last verse says "now it has been 10,000 years" and "now man's reign is through."

Well, on October 8, a controversial dam project was closed and the Tigris River began to rise and will continue to until its waters swallow Hasankeyf, a small city of about 3300 in southeastern Turkey.

So why do I bring up the song in this connection? Because in it, 10,000 years was presented as if it were an incredibly long time - while the city of Hasankeyf has been inhabited by various peoples for 12,000 years, perhaps longer. It is one of the oldest known human settlements, an historic crossroads of empires and cultures and one of the cradles of human civilization - and now it is about to be destroyed.

Ultimately, about 15,000 people in the region will be forced to move and 300 archaeological sites and settlements will be beneath the surface of the new reservoir.

There were attempts to protect the site by naming it a World Heritage Site, but they failed. The ancient city meets nine of the 10 required criteria, but the tenth is that the Turkish government must apply for a conservation listing - and since they are the very ones who want to be able to flood it, you know how far that got.

The dam project has proceeded despite fears it will spark water wars with countries such as Iraq that sit downstream of the new dam and depend on the Tigris, the flow of which now will be affected by decisions Turkey makes about maintaining its reservoir.

For my part, I can't help but wonder if Turkey's determination to go ahead with the project has anything to do with the fact that the population of the area is predominantly Kurdish.


It has been said that national cultural trends have a habit of starting in California. Two recent items make me hope that is true.

First, on October 2, California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the state’s public banking act, which allows city and county officials to sponsor public banks. Public, that is, as opposed to private, non-profit as opposed to profit, opening the prospect of low-interest loans for public projects. The LA City Council already has said they’re going to propose creating one.

There have been efforts to establish public banks in nearly two dozen other states. This year alone, four state legislatures beside California - New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts - have introduced bills to create or explore creating public banks. None, however, have passed. The only state- or municipally-owned bank now in existence is the Bank of North Dakota, which has been in operation since 1919.

Getting back to California, nine days later, Governor Newsom signed a bill that says that as of Jan. 1, 2020, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation won't be able to enter into or renew a contract with a private, for-profit prison to incarcerate people. The goal is to eliminate private, for-profit prisons in the state, including those used for immigration detention, by 2028.


It's well-established that the IRS audits the working poor at about the same rate as the wealthiest 1% even though it's obvious that the latter is where the money is. In April, Sen. Ron Wyden asked IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig for a plan to fix the imbalance. Rettig agreed.

Well, the "plan" came out in September and turns out the IRS isn't going to do anything about it until Congress agrees to restore the funding it slashed from the agency over the past nine years - something which GOPpers in the Senate have no intention of doing.

The IRS said it uses relatively low-level employees to audit returns for low-income taxpayers, audits are done by mail and don’t take too much staff time. Those people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, the EITC, alone account for 39% of all of the IRS audits last year.

On the other hand, the IRS whines, auditing the rich is hard. It takes senior auditors hours upon hours to complete an exam.

In other words, it's just easier and cheaper to audit the poor - especially considering that, in something this "plan" didn't address, the rich have the resources to fight back while the poor have to just pay up and shut up.

Ginger Baker

We have an RIP this time out.

On October 6, Ginger Baker, pioneer of double-bass drumming and drum solos in rock, died at the age of 80. The cause was complications from chronic-obstructive pulmonary disease.

For most of his life, Baker was a combative, mostly-unpleasant, often-nasty SOB - but his music helped to define rock music for a generation and establish the drums as an essential part of that music and I still can fantasize playing the drum solo on the Wheels of Fire version of Toad.

So thanks for the music: RIP, Ginger Baker.


Montgomery, Alabama, is 60% non-white. Despite that, in its 200-year history it has never had a black mayor. That is, it didn't until October 8, when Steven Reed received 67% of the vote in a run-off election.

Reed had gotten a plurality of the vote in the general election, but fell short of a majority, necessitating the run-off, which he won handily.

There's a special significance to achieving this in Montgomery. Before the Civil War, Montgomery was a center of the domestic slave trade. It was the birthplace and first capital of the Confederacy. It was the site of George Wallace’s “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” speech. It was a hub of violent resistance to the Civil Rights Movement, the site of a brutal attack on the Freedom Riders.

It's also where Rosa Parks made her stand and the year-long bus boycott that followed was an early major victory of the civil rights movement, and the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as a national leader.

Steven Reed
It's a sad thing that we still have to celebrate such firsts, that there are still so many firsts to achieve. Nonetheless, every such first is a victory, a step, a stair, and so should be celebrated.


I've included this here largely because of the twist it involves. Breast cancer in men is pretty rare; it makes up only about 1% of the total number of cases.

At the same time, the rate of breast cancer in men has increased by 50% since 1975 while the rate of breast cancer in women, while obviously much higher, has been declining for the past twenty years.

A study just published in JAMA Oncology reveals that in this case men have worse outcomes than women, have lower survival rates for breast cancer. And one of the reasons, it appears, is a difference in treatment: Women were far more likely to receive standard-of-care endocrine therapy for appropriate tumors. There’s one twist: Women getting the better care. Here's the other twist: Clinical trials for breast cancer treatments usually don't include any men.

It has become a scandal how women were often not included in clinical trials under the assumption that "women are just small men." The result was that, to cite one notorious example, heart disease and even heart attacks in women were often grossly misdiagnosed because the symptoms can be significantly different in women and all the research was done on men.

Here we have the twist, the opposite, where it was men excluded from the research, leading to men not receiving the best treatment. A good reminder of the fact that sexism and assumptions about gender hurt everyone.


Finally for now, according to a new study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, headquartered at California State University at Santa Barbara, hate crimes rose 9 percent in major U.S. cities in 2018, the fifth consecutive yearly increase.

The most common victims for hate crime reported to police in major cities in 2018 were African Americans, Jews, and LGBTQ people.

While extremist homicides decreased markedly in 2018, those committed by white nationalists and the far right rose by a third and were the most common, which, although the report did not say this, I'm prepared to connect to the fact that Jews were the direct target of half of the bias/extremist killings in 2018, in what was the worst year ever for anti-Semitic killings in the United States.

It's worthy of particular note that while there are politically motivated assaults attributed to Antifa and so-called "hard left extremists," they committed no homicides in 2018 or so far in 2019.

The Erickson Report for October 16-29

The Erickson Report for October 16-29, 2019

This episode:

Noted in Passing
   - Tweetie-pie stumped by reporter's question
   - Town inhabited for 12,000 years to be flooded by new dam
   - California allows public banks, bans private, for-profit prisons
   - IRS admits it's just easier and cheaper to audit the poor rather than the rich
   - RIP, Ginger Baker
   - Steven Reed is Montgomery, Alabama's, first black mayor.
   - In a twist, men with breast cancer excluded from clinical trials, get less care than women
   - Hate crimes rose 9% in major US cities in 2018, 5th yearly increase in a row

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages
   - The Clown: Cape Elizabeth High School in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
   - The Outrage: White House immigration policies show that cruelty is not the result of the policies, it is the point

A Longer Look: the US and the Kurds
   - Tweetie-pie's betrayal of the Kurds was at least the 8th US betrayal of them since WWI

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid - the Outrages

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid - the Outrages

Now we turn to the Outrages.

Late in September, the National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling making it impossible for graduate student workers to unionize.

How? By issuing a regulation "establishing that students who perform any services for compensation, including, but not limited to, teaching or research, at a private college or university in connection with their studies are not 'employees'" under the National Labor Relations Act. The rule, if it gains final approval after a public comment period, will overturn an earlier rule that said grad student workers could, in fact, unionize. I mean, yeah, they're workers, duh.

You see, the thing is, graduate student workers do much of the actual work of teaching undergrads - doing the backgrounds, gathering the materials, doing research, and conducting many of the classes. They do the work, they get paid for it - not enough, but they get paid - they have regular hours, they have a boss to who they report and who assigns their duties, but somehow, according to the now-rightwing NLRB, they still are not employees of the university that pays them.

In recent years, graduate student workers, along with another underpaid group, adjunct professors, have been very active in the labor movement, which may be why they were targeted here. And yes, since the Board didn't even wait for an actual case to come before it to try to strip these workers of their rights, it certainly looks like they were targeted for this Outrage.


Next, I earlier noted a case where a teacher was claiming that their religious belief - more honestly described as their religious bigotry - freed them from having to follow the rules, in that case their employer's requirement to use male pronouns in referring to a student transitioning to male.

Here is a more ominous application of the same idea.

Joshua Payne-Elliott is an educator fired in June from his job at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, a Catholic high school in the Indianapolis archdiocese.

He was fired because he is married to Layton Payne-Elliott and the Archbishop of Indianapolis, one Charles Thompson, demanded the school get rid of him because he regards all Catholic school teachers as “ministers” - no matter their actual beliefs - who are therefore required to uphold church teachings, which as we all know do not include same-sex marriage.

Layton and Joshua Payne-Elliot
The school was supportive of Payne-Elliott but faced serious repercussions, including losing its nonprofit status, its diocesan priests, and its ability to offer the Eucharist, a key Christian rite, if it resisted Thompson's demand.

In fact, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis was temporarily kicked out of the archdiocese for refusing to meet Thompson’s demands that it fire Layton Payne-Elliott. The Vatican has suspended the ouster pending an appeal of the move, but it shows the threat from the archbishop was very real.

Joshua had worked as a social studies and world language teacher at the school for 13 years and Cathedral had offered to renew his teaching contract for another year. But in June, the school told him it was terminating his employment “at the direction of the Archdiocese.”

But right there in those two sentences is the crux of the matter: Joshua did not work for the archdiocese. He worked for Cathedral High School. That's who his contract was with. The school, not the archdiocese, was his employer.

So he sued, charging that the archdiocese had illegally interfered in his employment contract with Cathedral, which it seems pretty clear it did.

Not, however, and here we come to the important point, not according to the US Dept. of Injustice, which has filed a statement of interest in the case defending the archdiocese on the grounds of - you got it - "religious freedom" and calling for the suit to be dismissed.

The brief argues that the First Amendment bars courts from interfering in how a religious group interprets and applies its teachings - even if, apparently, that application consists of bullying a school into firing what the brief itself calls "an excellent teacher" because that group, the Catholic church, doesn't like who he married.

Again, according to the Injustice Dept., claiming a religious belief is supposed to override all civil rights and all civil rights laws - even if means a religious group illegally interfering with a business contract to which it's not a party.

Vanita Gupta, who headed the DOJ’s civil rights division during the Obama administration, summed it up well on on Twitter, writing that "[The administration] is once again using religion as a shield against core anti-discrimination principles that protect LGBTQ people.”
Using bigotry to uphold bigotry. Which is truly an outrage.


Saving what is probably the worst for last.

In the summer of 2017, police in Southaven, Mississippi, were searching for a domestic violence suspect. They got the address wrong and went to a house on the other side of the street.

There, they shot and killed an innocent man, 41-year-old Ismael Lopez.

According to various news reports I found, police first alleged Lopez appeared at the front door with a handgun and then tried to run away. At another point, they claimed they saw a rifle poking though the now only partly open door. They also said a dog ran out which of course they immediately shot at and they then fired through the door - which in fact they did, killing Lopez with a shot to the back of his head.

Ismael Lopez
Despite the changing details, in July 2018, a local grand jury - surprise! - declined to indict the two officers involved in the fatal shooting, after which the prosecutor refused to release either the names of the cops involved or the investigative file, which attorneys for the family had to pry loose.

But that's not why this is here; cops getting away will killing brown and black people is old news. No, this one has an extra twist of the knife.

About a year after the failure of the grand jury, that is, this past summer, the family filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Southaven, the chief of Southaven police, and the officers involved in Lopez’s death.

In responding to the suit, the city declared in open court that it is their policy that if you are an undocumented immigrant, which Lopez was, if you have no “legally recognized relationship” with the US, you have no constitutional protections, you have no constitutional rights, not even the right to not be wrongfully killed.

Quoting attorney Katherine Kerby, arguing for the city,
If he ever had Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment civil rights they were lost by his own conduct and misconduct. He may have been a person on American soil but he was not one of the "We, the People"
and so lacked all protections.

Murray Wells, an attorney representing Lopez’s family, lambasted the city’s argument as both “chilling” and “insane” and said “We’re stunned that someone put this in writing.”

It's hard to grasp how totally demented, totally vicious, the city's position is. If accepted, it would turn all police into a version of the Tonton Macoute, able to abuse and even kill any undocumented person with total impunity.

Happily, it's also total crapola, as the Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that people on U.S. soil are guaranteed certain basic rights, no matter their immigration status, and the cases the city cites in support of its contention are grossly misapplied and have absolutely nothing to do with the case at hand.

As an illustration of how vacuous the city's position was, one case it cited involved courts finding that an undocumented immigrant did not have a Second Amendment right to a firearm - in a ruling that said in so many words that this did not impact Fourth Amendment rights.

But while that makes the city's attempt grounds for a Clown award, it is much too vile, much too appalling, for that. Even the term Outrage barely contains it.

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

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

Now for one of our regular features, it's Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages. And as we usually do, we start with the Clowns.

And we start with a return appearance by rightwing big brain Ben Shapiro, who, on his radio show a couple of weeks ago, praised America’s healthcare system by touting the country’s life expectancy - which according to the Centers for Disease Control has been declining for the past three years - as being “pretty good when you take out all the confounding factors” such as auto accidents, murders, and suicide. Note that gun deaths and suicides are both considered public health issues.

In other words, Shapiro was saying, our life expectancy is great - as long as you ignore a lot of the people who died.

I swear to you, Shapiro really is considered an intellectual by the right.


Next up, we have George Murdoch, a former pro-wrestler going under the names Brodus Clay and later Tyrus who now has a show on Fox. He considered the climate strike that involved millions of people around the world as being not of any significance because, to quote him, “If it's pre-planned, it's not really a protest.”

He didn't go on to explain what in that case it was.


Next up is Charles Payne, a host at Fox Business.

According to Payne, having to work multiple jobs to get by is not a problem, it's not a bad thing, it's an "opportunity," something to be "celebrated" as part of the gig economy - you know, that economy where no one has a regular job, no one has benefits, no one has job security and you have to scramble every day. You know. That thing Charles Payne thinks we should celebrate


And here ya go, there almost had to be an entry for Tweetie-pie. Reports are that during the first week of October, Tweetie-pie is planning to sign an executive order calling for further privatization of Medicare by expanding "plans offered through Medicare Advantage."

The purpose, it's said, is to "protect" the government-run program of Medicare from being subjected to "socialist destruction" under a Medicare for All program.

Remember the classic case of the woman who at a town meeting during the debate over Obamacare had a sign reading "Keep your government hands off my Medicare?" It seems she is now working at the White House.

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

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

Okay, moving to Five Things Noted in Passing, a collection of a few things I couldn't let pass without at least mentioning.

First up, a combination of bad and at least no-so-bad news on net neutrality.

On October 1, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the FCC's repeal of net neutrality. It was a cause for celebration among AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon and a hard blow for consumers - particularly because the main argument pushed by the corporations to eliminate the rule, that it stifled investment in broadband, has been shown to be a lie by multiple studies.

But there was victory for our side as well - and by the way, I do mean our side as against the Dark Lords: More than 85 percent of voters, including 82 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats, support net neutrality - we did get one true victory in that the court ruled the FCC could not block states from passing their own net neutrality rules, as at least nine states have done in the wake of the FCC's repeal of its rules.

Net neutrality could be restored and placed beyond the reach of the FCC if Congress passed the Save the Internet Act, which has already passed the House but which Fishface McConnell refuses to bring up in the Senate. So what we are more likely to see is a rush by corporations to fast-track legislation to give the FCC the authority block state-level net neutrality - but chances of such a bill passing the House right now seem pretty dim. So the fight is going to the state level.


Greta Thunberg
Next, just an observation: According to the right wing - these are all quotes - Greta Thunberg is an “annoying, foreign, communist propagandist” who "channeled Hitler In [a] Hate-Filled Rant” "instilling fear in millions of kids around the world" who should be “Tase[d] and arrest[ed].”

But at the same time, she is also "an obsessive, mentally troubled young girl" and a victim of "child abuse" who is a “creation of powerful Marxists, Soros-backed NGO's, Al Gore, and more" who is now “being exploited by her parents” and other adults.

Consider it an illustration of the old adage: If you can't attack the message, you attack the messenger.


Some good news here: On Tuesday, US District Judge Steve Jones blocked Georgia's restrictive new abortion law from taking effect. It was supposed to go into force on January 1.

The law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even realize they're pregnant.

It also declares that an embryo or fetus is a "natural person" once cardiac activity can be detected, giving the fetus the same legal standing as an actual born child, potentially making any woman or health provider involved in an abortion that is not state-approved liable to be charged with murder.

This so-called heartbeat law is one of a wave of such laws passed recently by GOPper-controlled legislatures in a coordinated attack on Roe v. Wade. Happily, none of the bans has taken effect: Some have already been blocked, the rest are under challenge. But the threat remains.


Then there's the fact that as of October 1, the second anniversary of the Las Vegas massacre, some teachers in Florida can enter classrooms armed with guns. In fact, Florida is one of eight states that allow some teachers and coaches to carry guns in schools.

Some 36 of the state’s 67 school districts are participating in the so-called Guardian Program, apparently operating under the notion that the more guns there are around the safer everyone is - no matter how many times that notion is knocked down, it rises like a zombie to walk again - and security is found in a vision of recreating the gunfight at the OK Corral.


Finally, here is a case to watch because of what its success - if it succeeds - will indicate.

Peter Vlaming was a teacher at West Point High School in West Point VA. He had in one of his classes a female student who was transitioning to male. Vlaming refused to use male pronouns such as "him" and "his" in referring to the student and was accused of using female pronouns when discussing him with other people.

When the school found out, administrators told Vlaming to either use male pronouns or risk losing his job. He refused and ultimately was fired for insubordination.

Now he is suing the school and the school board for $1million, accusing them of violating his religious conscience and requiring him to, in the words of the suit, "take sides in an ongoing public debate regarding gender dysphoria and" - here comes the tell - "use pronouns that express an objectively untrue ideological message."

That is, being transgender is "objectively untrue" and an "ideological message."

Again, and it is becoming a real trend, religion - and let's be blunt, every time of which I am aware it has been conservative Christianity - is being used as a weapon to justify bigotry.
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