Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 5: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 5: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

For our outrages, we have two this time, the first of which involves a repeat offender: our major news media.

Okay, on October 19, as USPS carrier named Crystal Nicole Myrie was charged with embezzling mail which she was supposed to deliver.

When questioned on October 16, she admitted to stealing several prepaid debit cards and using them at retail stores. She also admitted she had been stealing mail sporadically for almost two years. She was taken to her car, where investigators found several postal service satchels containing nearly 200 pieces of mail - one of which, it turned out, was a mail-in ballot.

Okay, stealing mail for two years, stealing prepaid debit cards, found with 200 pieces of mail including one mail-in ballot.

Guess which part of that was the lede?  No, don't guess, you already know.

This is how AP opened its story: "A U.S. Postal Service carrier is accused of stealing a Miami-Dade County mail-in ballot, 10 gift cards and four prepaid debit cards earlier this month, federal authorities said."

The headline was "Postal carrier accused of stealing mail-in ballot in Miami."

This is just disgraceful. At a time when the right wing is doing its damnedest to undermine mail-in voting, at a time when they invoke "fraud" like they used to invoke "Benghazi," to deliberately emphasize that one item that clearly was there by coincidence, that one item having nothing to do with any intention on Myrie's part about the election, to emphasize that one item is outright journalistic malpractice.

It is offensive. It is an Outrage.


The other relates to the election but in a different way. It might seem a bit esoteric but it really struck me.

Texas is one of the states that uses signature matching for ballot security. It actually uses a somewhat better method than many: Apparently there are two panels, one of local election officials and one independent one, that make the comparison and if either one of them by simple majority vote accepts the ballot, it is accepted even if the other panel disagrees.

But the system has one major flaw: Voters must be notified that their ballots were rejected within 10 days after the election is already over. Which makes it impossible for voters to have any opportunity to correct what is a technical error.

In September, US District Judge for the Western District of Texas Orlando Garcia required election officials to notify voters whose ballots were rejected due to a signature mismatch issue and if they failed to set up a system to do that, they couldn't reject any ballots based on signature mismatch.

On October 19, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in a decision thoroughly immersed in right wing mythology about mail-in ballot fraud, going on and on about Texas "preserving the integrity of its elections" while ignoring the unknown thousands of legitimate voters disenfanchised by the state's use of an astonishingly error-prone method - remember that 97% figure - of doing so.

Okay, so why is this decision here with the Outrages rather than in my earlier voter suppression discussion?

Because a main part of the court's argument for tossing the earlier ruling is the finding that the plaintiffs in the case don’t have what's called a 14th Amendment liberty interest in the right to vote by mail. A "liberty interest" is defined as a right conferred on an individual by the Due Process clauses of the state and federal constitutions.

And they said the plaintiffs didn't have one.

In fact, the decision spent several pages upbraiding lower courts for having previously endorsed the idea that voting is protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of procedural due process.

And here is the Outrage: If this decision accurately reflects the facts, no federal court has determined that you have a right to vote. At all. Lots of decisions about regulating voting, lots of provisions in the US Constitution about how you can't be discriminated in voting if there is voting, but nothing that says that voting itself is a fundamental right. So if your state constitution does not have such a provision, you - or more correctly we as a people - have no constitutional right to vote.

That may not have a lot of practical impact, for now anyway, but I find it outrageous even if all it does is point up the fragility of our rights and freedoms and liberties and how much they are based on assumptions of things just working as they should and everyone accepting that. We are now or at least should be now, in the face of organized voting chaos and the possibility of a violent response to an election loss, recognizing that we can't take even what should be the most basic, obvious part of what is supposed to be a self-governing society for granted.

It's an Outrage.

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

Now for Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages, starting, as we commonly do, with the Clowns.

Madison Cawthorn and Moe Davis are in a tight race in North Carolina's 11th congressional district. You'll know which one is the GOPper and the Clown when I tell you that Cawthorn attacked Tom Fiedler, one of Davis's supporters, by saying Fiedler went "to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office" - and, when he was called out on his racism, blamed "poor syntax."

Know them by their fruits. Racist Clowns.


Speaking of racist clowns, we come to Jared Kushner, who described black Americans' issues with inequality and racism in the country as "complaining" and suggested that the reason for their disproportionate lack of wealth and job opportunities along with health disparities and other inequalities is because they just don't want to be successful.

On - naturally - Fox and Friends on October 26, he blathered that Tweetie-pie's policies can help the black community "break out of the problems that they're complaining about, but he can't want them to be successful more than that they want to be successful."


But finally for this time out, we have the return of a former champion.

Pat Robertson - and I know I could stop right there but there is more - said on his show "The 700 Club" last week everyone should be sure to vote because God had told him the Tweetie-pie is going to win and "it's going to lead to civil unrest and then, a war against Israel and so forth," as predicted in Ezekiel 38.

In other words, get out and vote for Tweetie-pie because that will help bring about the End Times, when Jesus comes back to Earth for the final judgement and the end of the world.

Which actually sounds like a good reason for GOPpers to stay home. Although admittedly, he's certainly not the only one who thinks of a second term for Tweetie-pie as the end of the world.

By the way, this is at least the third time he has predicted the apocalypse. In 1976 he predicted it would be in 1982. Then, in 1990, he said it would come in 2017. Now, Tweetie-pie's second term will initiate the events.

Pat Robertson: a Clown, but at least a persistent one.

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 3: LGBTQ rights again at risk

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 3: LGBTQ rights again at risk

Something we thought or at least should have been able to think was over and done with may again be in the line of fire: same-sex marriage.

The right wing bigots have never gotten over their fury at being on the losing side of history and still dream of undoing the historic gain of Obergefell v Hodges, the landmark 2015 case that found marriage equality to be a constitutional right.

Which is why Justices Clarabell Thomas and Sam the Sham Alito grabbed an opportunity to pretty much call for Obergefell to be overturned and invite challenges to it.

The occasion was the Supreme Court refusing to hear an appeal in the case of Kim Davis, a former county clerk in Kentucky who got national attention by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, claiming it violated her religion.

The Twisted Two agreed with the decision to decline the appeal, but took time to out to call Davis "one of the first victims" of the court's "cavalier treatment of religion" in the Obergefell decision but claimed "she will not be the last."

They wrote Obergefell "enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots, making their religious liberty concerns that much easier to dismiss."

The "petition provides a stark reminder of the consequences of Obergefell," they intoned.

First of all, those people are bigots and I recall an old saying that "calling things by their right names is the beginning of wisdom." And - here's something interesting for you - thirty years ago, in the case Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment's protection of the "free exercise" of religion does not allow a person to use a religious motivation as a reason not to obey generally applicable laws - such as, I would say, laws against discrimination. Quoting Antonin Skeletor, who wrote the decision, "To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself."

But that case involved the used of hallucinogenic peyote in Native American religious ceremonies and the right wing doesn't give a damn about Native American religion. Obergefell, on the other hand, was about something the right wing does care about: Their "religious freedom" to be bigots even in their official duties and commercial enterprises. Besides, as has long been established, intellectual or ethical consistency means nothing to them.

Which is illustrated by the fact that the Twisted Two declared that by recognizing the right to marriage equality, "the Court has created a problem that only it can fix. Until then, Obergefell will continue to have 'ruinous consequences for religious liberty.'"

Which Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal analyst and University of Texas law school professor, accurately called "a telling and ominous message."

According to Tim Holbrook, a professor at Emory University School of Law, Clarabell and Sam The Sham have sent "a signal to state legislatures to challenge Obergefell on religious liberty grounds." In an op-ed at CNN, he warned that "Such efforts could be successful."

This doesn't mean, Holbrook said, that marriage equality would be overruled. Which it quite possibly wouldn't; the reactionaries are too clever for that. Instead, look for the reactionary courts to keep carving out religious liberty exceptions to marriage equality, plus chipping away at attendant rights, like adoption and allowing same-sex couples to be named as parents on birth certificates - in other words, doing to marriage equality the same thing they've been doing to abortion rights, leaving the form intact while removing all the substance.

Worse, this comes at a time when Amy Bugs Bunny Barrett - who served for nearly three years on the board of the private Christian Trinity Schools run by a church of which she is part that openly discriminated against LGBTQ folks, even to the point of barring admission to children of same-sex parents - it comes at a time when she has created a 6-3 reactionary majority on the Supreme Court.

It also comes at a time when a peer-reviewed study released a month ago showed that LGBTQ people are nearly four times more likely to to be a victim of violent crimes than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts.

The study, by The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, was based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, data which wasn't released until 2019 and not even gathered until 2016.

There is one light in all this darkness: Pope Francis has restated his support for same-sex civil unions.

"Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God," he said in an interview. "What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered."

What's important here is that it's the first time he's done it as pope. The difference between saying it as a bishop, as he had, and saying it as pope, a role which requires him to be more careful in his language, is significant.

Which is also why I forgive him for saying "civil union" and not "marriage." The Catholic Church regards marriage as a sacrament, and calling for the sort of doctrinal change that Catholic marriage would entail was just too far to expect him to go.

We can entertain the notion that this will cause some right wingers, at least Catholic right wingers, to rethink their persistent denial of the reality same sex marriage since marriage in US law is a civil matter, not a religious ceremony, but I wouldn't hold out much hope.

Anyway, as a footnote to all this, relating to the typical cowardice of the bigots when called out on their bigotry: When AP asked Trinity Schools about its anti-LGBTQ policies, the answer was, quoting, "Trinity Schools does not unlawfully discriminate with respect to race, color, gender, national origin, age, disability, or other legally protected classifications under applicable law, with respect to the administration of its programs."

Um, that's not what you were asked. That's like being accused of robbing a store in Detroit and responding "I never robbed any store anywhere in Wisconsin."

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 2: Waiting

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 2: Waiting 

Okay, this show will be on shortly before election day so it's quite possible you are seeing it after November 3. If that's so, we may or may not have a good sense of the outcome by that time.

We probably won't: The Columbia Journalism Review notes that while in previous elections, in most places about 3-5% of votes were absentee or mail-in, in this one it could be top 30%. So it will take a while.

One thing to watch is Florida. Florida counts absentee and mail-in ballots as they arrive, so by late on the 3rd it might be possible to call it. If it goes for Tweetie-pie, there is a big and probably drawn-out fight in store - but if it goes for Blahden, Tweetie-pie is very likely toast.

Expect, too, that same-day results are expected to be more favorable for Tweetie-pie and there are predictions that the GOPpers will use that to claim victory and then use that claim as a basis to screech “fraud” when the counting of the mail-in votes flips those preliminary results. Which I expect you have heard but I wanted to remind you to be ready for it and be ready for the necessity of being as loud as they are.

Even if the best of what’s available to us happens, even if the White House and Senate both flip, all of my talking about voter suppression, intended to give you a sense of the status and the scope of the right wing campaign in that direction, will still matter because those efforts will not stop. One thing the left can learn from the right is sheer sitzfleisch - sheer stubbornness. As far as the right wing is concerned, even issues you'd think are settled are up for debate if they didn't win.

Which brings me to my next topic.

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 1: More on voter suppression

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 1: More on voter suppression

We start, as we have been doing, with more updates on the GOPper - that is, Republican, that is, fanatical right-wing - attempts to undermine elections through voter suppression. As before, some of the news is good, some of it is bad.

We do this because you need to be aware of at least some of the literally hundreds of court battles going on now on voting rights and procedures, almost every one of them pushed by the right-wing in an effort to limit, hinder, block, or otherwise interfere with the ability of people to vote - especially people of certain groups, particularly the elderly, the young, and non-whites, because those folks are expected to favor the other side, that is, the non-reactionaries.

You also need to understand that this is part of an on-going campaign by the rightwing to constrain voting to its preferred groups. This is not new, in fact trying to control who gets to vote is as old as the country, but it has intensified recently: Since 2014, 40 states have passed laws making it harder to vote and more than 17 million voters have been purged from - kicked off - voter rolls. But this blizzard of court cases is new. You have to figure they know that in the long run they are losing and think that they are running out of time to screw things up enough to prevent that.

So, starting with the bad news:

On October 5, the US Supreme Court upheld a South Carolina rule requiring state voters who vote absentee have a witness sign their ballot. Now, the rule itself is not new but it was suspended during the February primary because local judges found it put an undue burden on voters who were unable to have someone sign their ballot during the ongoing pandemic.

But apparently figuring hey, we've turned the corner on COVID, SCOTUS decided the tradition of the feds keeping out of state-level decisions about running their elections didn't count, and the witness requirement is back in force.

Capitalizing on that, just two days later on October 7, the South Carolina State Election Commission barred election officials from what's called ballot curing - that is, it blocked those officials from giving voters who submitted a ballot without a signature a change to remedy the issue.

The result could be any ballot received after October 7 without a signature could be tossed, potentially invalidating unknown thousands of votes and voters, doubtless making Lindsey Grahamcracker very happy. That ruling by the Election Committee as been challenged in federal court, but either way it is a case of election chaos deliberately created by the right wing.

On October 21, a double-punch: The US Supreme Court allowed Alabama to ban curbside voting for voters with disabilities and those who face a high risk of contracting COVID-19, and an Iowa court upheld a law that makes it harder to fix problems with absentee ballot requests; that is, hinders ballot curing.

And on October 26, SCOTUS blocked a lower court order that allowed Wisconsin to accept mailed ballots received within six days of the election provided they were postmarked by election day.

Speaking of slow mail, as I expect you know, Postmaster General Only Because He Was A Big Tweetie-pie Campaign Donor Louis DeJoy made numerous changes to US Postal Service operations in a transparent attempt to disrupt mail-in voting by interfering with timely mail delivery.

Despite multiple federal courts having issued orders blocking those changes, some USPS divisions still have not complied, with the result that election mail is still not being processed as fast as it had been before the changes.

Mail disruptions have been particularly pronounced in key swing states. The Postal System standard is to have first class mail delivered in no more than three days. Before DeJoy started his kill-the-vote campaign, about 92% or a little more of mail met that standard.

But now, in 17 postal districts across 10 swing states, on-time first-class mail arrival rates are just 84%: More than 15% does not meet the standard.

One place notable is Detroit, Michigan, with a significant minority population and a strong history of voting for Democrats: The rate of on-time mail delivery there has dropped from 92.2% in January to 71% in October.

News reports say that some major cities in North Carolina have experienced 10% drops in on-time arrival rates, while according to a report from the USPS Inspector General, "timeliness also varied widely in postal districts in Pennsylvania and Florida."

I can't help but notice that the places affected seem to be swing states and cities, the latter of which are often Democratic strongholds.

On top of that, Tweetie-pie's calls for voter intimidation appear to be bearing fruit.

For one example, in St. Petersburg, Florida, two armed men dressed as security guards set up a tent outside an early voting site and claimed they had been hired by Tweetie-pie's campaign. They hadn't been.

News accounts say that "at several sites across the country, including California and New Mexico, Trump supporters have gathered near polling sites," reportedly "worrying those waiting to vote," which does clearly mean they felt some degree of intimidation.

And even if you're able to dodge the lies and misinformation, even if you get through the bureaucratic mazes thrown your way, even if you run the gauntlet of people with guns hoping to scare you away from voting, the GOPpers still look for ways to throw out your vote. A sleazy one is signature matching - which could result in thousands of perfectly legitimate ballots being thrown out.

Signature matching involves comparing the signature on an absentee or mail-in ballot with the signature on the voter's original registration card. It is used in 31 states as a fraud-prevention measure, but placed in the hands of those wanting to suppress votes and just like voter purges, a seemingly innocent procedure becomes a useful tool to do just that. Signature matching has been described as "election phrenology" and "witchcraft" and depends on the subjective judgement of people not trained in the forensic principles and methods involved and using procedures that, according to Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, "would not stand up in a court of law."

The result, according to an analysis by Dr. Alexander Street, Associate Professor of Political Science at Carroll College in Helena, Montana and regarded as an expert in voting and ballot procedures, is that 97% of ballots that are rejected because of supposed signature mismatches are, in fact, valid.

Writing in the Atlantic recently, journalist David Graham said that "Even in normal election cycles, signature-matching requirements result in many ballots being rejected. Hundreds of thousands of such ballots were disqualified this way in 2016." More significantly, "Rejections disproportionately hit certain demographic groups - including elderly voters, young voters and voters of color." That is, the usual suspects.

For a specific example, exact match requirements in Georgia lead to Latinx and Asians being disqualified six times more often than whites, eight times more likely in the case of black voters.

By the way, two other groups adversely affected are immigrants and people with disabilities.

As a quick sidebar, you may be thinking "Yeah, but they'll  invalidate a lot of pro-GOPper votes, too." Which may be true, but they don't care. Remember that it is universally expected that same-day voting will favor the right, while mail-in voting will favor Democrats, so the right wing would be happy to have all mail-in ballots disqualified. Overall, they figure that any suppression of mail-in ballots is going to hurt Democrats more than GOPpers.

But we'll end this time by adding that even on this front there is some good news.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled on October 23 that, quoting "county boards of elections are prohibited from rejecting absentee or mail-in ballots based on signature comparison conducted by county election officials or employees, or as the result of third-party challenges based on signature analysis and comparisons." In other words, you can't do it.

And one other bit of good news: Earlier this month, Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court allowed officials to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day, even if the postmark was illegible.

Some state GOPpers filed an emergency appeal to the US Supreme Court, looking to block that decision. On October 19, SCOTUS refused to hear the appeal, which means the state decision stands.

One sort of amusing sidenote is that a part of the GOPpers argument to the Supreme Court was that the state court decision presents what they called an "open invitation" to voters to cast their ballots after November 3.

For that to work, a voter would have to choose to not vote until after November 3rd, then send their mail-in ballot - which wouldn't be picked up until the 4th, giving it just two days to arrive. And it would have to have an illegible postmark, because otherwise, it would be discarded as having been submitted too late. I wonder if anyone asked the GOPper lawyers how the voter would arrange for that last part.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10



The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10

This week:
- More on the right wing attempts to block or hinder voting
- Renewed threats to marriage equality
- Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages


Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Erickson Report for October 14 to 27, Page 5: Two Weeks of Stupid - the Outrages

And now we move on the the Outrages.

First, two former health officials have revealed that back in March, Vice President Mike NotWorthAFarthing ordered CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield to use the agency's emergency powers to effectively seal the US borders. Pence was overruling agency scientists who said there was no valid public health reason to issue the order and no evidence the action would slow the spread of the coronavirus. Which it hasn't.

Dr. Redfield, showing the spunk and spine for which he has been so notable, immediately capitulated and ordered his senior staff to get it done.

Until then, public health experts had urged the administration to focus on a national mask mandate, enforce social distancing, and increase the number of contact tracers to track down people exposed to the virus but the hammer came down and the message was "screw all that, seal the borders."

Why? Because while the CDC’s order covered the border with Canada, it has mostly affected the thousands of asylum seekers and immigrants arriving at the border with Mexico.

That is, this has nothing to do with public health and everything to do with blocking immigration. Indeed, the chief proponent of closing the borders was Stephen Miller, a top Tweetie-pie aide and notorious xenophobic bigot, who knew the order could be used to kick asylum seekers and immigrants out of the country with no due process.

And it has. Since the order went into effect on March 20, nearly 150,000 people - including at least 8,800 unaccompanied children who are normally afforded special legal protections under federal law - have been sent back to their countries of origin without normal due process. Many have been returned to dangerous and violent conditions in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, declared that “This is what the Trump administration has been trying to do for four years and they finally saw a window.”

A window they are keeping open: The order was supposed to be a month-long temporary measure, but has been renewed multiple times.

And the administration of course lied about it, claiming it was all about protecting Customs and Border Patrol agents, as NotWorthAFarthing claimed he had nothing to do with it and Tweetie-pie blathered that the order had originated at the CDC.

Dr. Josh Sharfstein, a former FDA deputy commissioner and a Johns Hopkins professor, said of Redfield "I don’t know how he could look another CDC scientist in the eye after doing this."

Hell, I don't know how anyone in that administration could look any honest person in the eye. But they do. Because they are a cabal of moral monsters and crawling cowards.

They are, collectively, an Outrage.


Our other Outrage is a repeat offender: it's our mainstream news media, by which we are malinformed, misinformed, and uninformed.

Understand, this is not the product of some conspiracy; the media does not have weekly phone calls to get their marching orders as to what will be covered and how. It is, rather, the product of a common mind-set, a common, almost universal way of thinking that leads to groupthink, to so-called pack journalism where everyone winds up pursuing the same story because, after all, everyone else is, a mind-set favors the powerful over the weak and "official" sources over unofficial ones, one that is jealous of protecting their "access," which becomes all important to them, and never forgets that they are in a business and drama makes for ratings. "If it bleeds, it leads" is not obsolete guidance.

The last point leads to examples like this:

After a grand jury declined to indict three white police officers in the death of Breonna Taylor, protest broke out in Louisville.

One night, 28 people were arrested, at least some of them as soon as a 9 p.m. curfew went into effect.

Now quoting a report from ABC News:

Just before the curfew started, orders were given for protesters to clear out of a park in downtown. Many protesters left, but a group sought sanctuary at a nearby First Unitarian Church.

Just before midnight, according to police, a small group of people left the church and began causing destruction in the area. Some windows at nearby schools were broken; one car was set on fire with an incendiary device.

Got it? A crowd was in a park. Most left when curfew came. Around midnight, a "small group" began causing trouble.

This is how the article was headlined:

28 arrests made during Breonna Taylor protests in Louisville; windows smashed, vehicle set ablaze
Police say the arrests followed a wave of destruction in the city
[note: the story is gone from the website]

Does the headline - which is what most people see and beyond which many do not read - reflect the story? No, it doesn't. It ignores the peaceful many in order to emphasize and sensationalize the violence, turning a "small group" of people who broke "some windows" and set one car on fire into "a wave of destruction."

Compare that sort of sensationalism with the pretty much ho-hum reaction to Tweetie-pie's September 23 refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power and suggestion that any election he lost would be by definition corrupt. That was treated as if most of the media said "well, it's an interesting story I suppose, but we can't get worked up about it." It got nothing like the "wave of destruction" treatment that some vandalism got in the Breonna Taylor coverage.

The New York Times, for example, pretty much buried the story. Peter Baker, the paper's chief White House correspondent, attempted to explain it away by citing print publication deadlines. But such deadlines didn't seem to be a problem when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died late in the evening, leading to a page one, above-the-fold feature in the next day's Times print edition.

Meanwhile, the evening network newscasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC on the day Tweetie-pie in effect threatened to refuse to leave office if he lost the election didn't even cover it, didn't even mention it. It apparently just wasn't important enough to them.

There was some decades ago a sort of "golden age" in journalism, when print newspapers were plentiful and radio and TV news was not expected to make a profit for station owners. But those days are long dead, their death notices signed when media became more and more corporate and those corporations realized that news, particularly broadcast news, could be a profit center. We continue to suffer the effects of that shift.

Make no mistake, there still is quality journalism and original reporting out there - the New York Times' recent reporting on Tweetie-pie's taxes being an example. But we should not and cannot content ourselves with celebrating the outliers. An informed populace is more important now than ever. And on that account, our major media, too focused on profit and too addicted to power, continue to fail us.

And that is an Outrage.

The Erickson Report for October 14 to 27, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid - the Clowns

Now for a regular feature, it's Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages and stating, as usual, with the Clowns.

So. Tweetie-pie engages in a pattern of risky behavior, such as packed campaign rallies and indoor events across the country while refusing to wear a mask and winds up catching COVID-19.

There was lots of commentary, but it took Rep. Matt Gaetz to see the real meaning of Tweetie-pie catching COVID, which is that it proves the protection guidelines put forth by the CDC, the ones Tweetie-pie persistently ignored, don't work.

"What I can tell you," he told Tucks Carlson on October 2, "is if this virus can get into the Oval, into the body of the president, there is no place where it could not possibly infect one of our fellow Americans" and therefore we should just go ahead and open everything up and let the disease run rampant because precautions are useless and, I guess, we all gotta get sick and die sometime.

Matt Gaetz: ghoulish Clown.


Speaking of Tucks Carlson, on that same day he equated criticizing Tweetie-pie’s behavior in contracting COVID with blaming the victim of a sexual assault.

Carlson claimed the media and the Democrats said Tweetie-pie "deserved what he got" and that their perspective on Trump was: “He asked for it. He was dressed provocatively.”

I guess then in Tucks' mind, if a drunk driver killed someone, you can't criticize them for getting behind the wheel drunk because that would be the same as blaming a rape victim for her rape.

Tucks is an old hand at winning Clown Awards. Nice to see he hasn't lost his touch.


Someone who used to be on top but has fallen by the wayside in the presence of Clowns more powerful than her is Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

But while she has dropped from the top tier, she still has her moments, as on October 5 when in response to Tweetie-pie leaving the hospital, she tweeted "President Trump has once again defeated China. Welcome home."

There's really nothing else to say Marsha Blackburn: once a clown, always a clown.


But our winner this time around easily outclassed the field. It was no contest. This time's winner of the Clown Award is Bill Maher, the most undeservedly self-important person in television.

On his September 23 show, he took time out from his usual self-indulgent pontificating to finger exactly who is responsible for everything bad that has happened for the last four years and everything bad that will happen under an even-more right-wing Supreme Court. Because just one group is responsible for it all.

Who? People who voted for Jill Stein. That's right, it's all the fault of people who voted for the Green Party in 2016.

Was it the fault of Hillary Clinton, who ran a crappy campaign based almost entirely around "I'm not Trump," didn't campaign at all in Wisconsin, and did worse among blacks, Latinos, Asians, and the young than Obama did four years earlier? No, it was Jill Stein voters.

Was it the fault of those black, Latino, Asian, and young voters who either switched parties or didn't vote at all? No, it was Jill Stein voters.

Was it the fault of James Comey, who, it was all but universally agreed, threw a monkey wrench into the Clinton campaign with his last-minute announcement of a re-opened investigation, one which, by the way, went nowhere? No, it was Jill Stein voters.

Was it the fault of the media and Democratic party establishments who, after the election, did their best to normalize Trump until they could no longer deny the reality? No, it was Jill Stein voters.

This is all based on the moth-eaten - better yet, dung-encrusted - notion that if only, oh lord, if only all of Stein's voters had instead voted for Hillary Clinton, oh what a wonderful world this would be because in three key states, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Stein's vote total exceeded the difference between Clinton and Tweetie-pie.

Except there are two things wrong here: One is that it turned out when all the votes were counted that Stein's vote in Pennsylvania did not exceed the margin. Even if Clinton had won Michigan and Wisconsin, losing Pennsylvania would still mean losing the election.

And two, exit polls found that had she not been on the ballot, some of her voters would have voted for Tweetie-pie and half or maybe more wouldn't have voted at all. If the Green Party wasn't on the ballot at all, the only difference it would have made is that the Democrats would have had one fewer excuse, one fewer target to blame, one fewer way to avoid blaming themselves for their own screw-ups.

Oh, and one final thing on this, you really want to know who to blame for Tweetie-pie? How about the 42% of eligible voters who didn't vote at all? Why were the Democrats incapable of bringing out more voters? If they had been able to rouse just one-tenth of those non-voters, they would have added more votes to their total than all third-party candidates combined. And they failed.

I don't know how it could be, but I'm sure that in light of this Bill Maher would tell us that those non-voters are the fault of Jill Stein voters.

Bill Maher: truly a Clown.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Erickson Report for Ocrober 14 to 27, Page 3: Voting footnotes

Oh, finally on this for now, two relevant footnotes.

First, there has indeed been voter fraud occurring in this year's election. And the source is exactly who you would expect.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the state's top election official, has announced his office is investigating reports that the state's Republican Party has set up illegal ballot drop boxes posing as "official" ones in several major counties. Only county election officials can set up ballot drop boxes and these phony ones could be a felony.

And second, we need to remember that GOPpers aren't the only ones whose declared devotion to free and open elections depends on what is to their benefit. So here's a reminder:

Again we go to Pennsylvania where on September 17, in response to a suit filed by a couple of connected Democrats, the State Supreme Court kicked the Green Party off the presidential ballot.

Why? Pennsylvania state law requires that third parties submit 5,000 signatures to appear on the ballot, together with an affidavit of candidacy. The Greens submitted the paperwork, by hand, in August - but they faxed the final affidavit so it was not turned in "together" with the signatures.

This seems like a remarkably trivial error, particularly since no one is disputing that the party gathered enough signatures, but it was enough to enable the Dems to get the party kicked off the ballot entirely with no opportunity to correct the error.

The Erickson Report for October 14 to 27, Page 2: Some Good News

On the other hand, I do have to say that not all the news is bad, in fact, there is some good news to be found.

For example, in Montana. In August, Governor Steve Bullock issued a directive allowing counties to accept voter-requested mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.

The Trump Campaign, the Republican National Committee and Montana Republican State Central Committee jointly filed a lawsuit to block mail-in voting.

On September 30, US District Dana Christensen dismissed the suit in its entirety, calling claims about widespread fraud in the 2020 election "fiction."

Also in August, Nevada passed legislation sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters. The T-P campaign, of course, sued. And lost. On September 21, in Nevada, U.S. District Judge James Mahan dismissed the case, saying the Trump campaign does not represent Nevada voters and does not have legal standing to bring the complaint, which he called “impermissibly generalized.”

Meanwhile, another group of right-wing vote-haters sued in state court over the same legislation. And also lost.

On October 7 the Nevada Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the suit, saying the GOPpers had not presented substantial evidence that the parts of the law being challenged “are not rationally related to the State’s interest in ensuring that all active registered voters have an opportunity to exercise their right to vote in a safe and secure manner during a pandemic” and that they had “presented no concrete evidence" that fraud would occur.

On October 6, US District Judge Michael Shipp rejected the attempt by the Trump campaign to block a plan approved by New Jersey lawmakers allowing election officials to begin counting mailed ballots 10 days before Election Day and accept mailed ballots up to two days after November 3 even if they lacked a postmark.

Shipp noted that while there have been real allegations of voter fraud in New Jersey in previous elections, none of them have anything to do with the issues at hand.

We go back to Pennsylvania, where Philadelphia recently opened seven satellite election offices, deemed legal by the state Supreme Court, where people can register to vote, apply for a mail-in ballot, fill it out and turn it in.

Trump campaign employees promptly showed up at the offices, demanding they be allowed to go in and watch what people were doing. City election officials prevented them. The Tweetie-pie campaign sued.

On October 9, Judge Gary Glazer threw them out of court, finding that Pennsylvania law does not allow such representatives to observe in election offices.

Also in Pennsylvania, the Tweetie-pie campaign and the Republican National Committee sued to block the state from having ballot drop boxes, to force it to do signature matches between voter registration records and ballots, which is a notoriously faulty way to confirm a voter's identity because it takes no account of how handwriting can change over time, and to enable the GOPpers to bring in an army of nonresident “poll watchers” to intimidate voters. They lost on all three issues.

In an opinion issued on October 10, US District Judge Nicholas Ranjan wrote that "While Plaintiffs may not need to prove actual voter fraud, they must at least prove that such fraud is ‘certainly impending.’ They haven’t met that burden. At most, they have pieced together a sequence of uncertain assumptions."

This is all Good News, but we need to bear in mind that all of them, with the possible exception of the one by the Nevada Supreme Court, are subject to appeal which means it's possible in each case for the Good News to turn bad. But unless it is done for consciously partisan and ideological reasons - which you have to admit is a possibility - it's unlikely any court would want to overturn one of these decisions just three weeks from Election Day.

But even if this Good News remains good, it still illustrates what has has been going on. It is all part of, the legal face of, a coordinated multi-million dollar, multi-state, campaign to block, hinder, and undermine access to voting for tens of millions of people. These suits are not separate from voter ID laws, not separate from voter purges, not separate from daily screeching about non-existent "fraud," not separate from the deliberate creation of hours-long lines. They are all one and the same, a campaign of deception, intimidation, lies, and deceit to denigrate and delegitimize voting and thorough that undermine the concept of voting as a means of seeking justice, undermine the very concept of self-government that could challenge the power of our social and economic elites.

The Erickson Report for October 14 to 27, Page 1: More on voter suppression

We start this time with some news on voter suppression. I think I said last time that I couldn't begin to catalog all the efforts in states across the country to block, limit, purge, and intimidate voters and voting, but I do want to note a few more.

First, quickly because I suspect you have heard about this, the GOPpers are spending $20 million to recruit 50,000 volunteers in 15 states to "observe" polling places on election day, with the expected targets being minority districts, taking advantage of the fact that the courts allowed a consent decree banning voter intimidation to expire in 2018.

Next, Republican Sen. Rick Scott - known to us here a Voldemort - has introduced legislation that would have the effect of having millions of mail-in votes not counted.

Under the proposal, counting of mail-in ballots could not start until the morning of Election Day and would have to be completed within 24 hours of when voting closes, with any state laws to the contrary being preempted.

That is, all mail-in ballots would have to be counted within one roughly 36-hour window, and any not counted in that time would just be dumped, the same as if they had arrived too late.

The bill won't pass if only because it won't get through the House - but it does show the lengths to which the GOPpers will go in their attempts to attack voting.

Meanwhile, telegraphing the GOPper plan, Lindsey Grahamcracker insists the GOPpers will allow for a peaceful transition of power - defined as accepting whatever decision the Supreme Court reaches, the voters, apparently, be damned. Which is why, he insisted, we just have to rush through to get Amy Bugs Bunny Barrett on the bench because we can't have a 4-4 tie. I wonder which of the reactionaries currently on the Court the GOppers are worried will not vote as they order.

They may not have to worry, considering that in July that reactionary majority approved of what amounts to a poll tax, supposedly banned by the Constitution.

In 2018, Florida voters approved an amendment to the state constitution giving convicted felons who had done their time the right to vote. The right wing state legislature immediately undermined the decision of the voters by requiring that ex-felons must also have paid all fines and fees - even though the state imposes a mind-boggling array of fees on defendants to the degree that at trial level in the case that followed it was revealed that the state has no idea how much those folks owe.

So it's "pay up or don't vote" - which is a poll tax by any reasonable standard - "even though even if you want to pay, we can't tell you how much you owe or for what."

The trial judge blocked the measure only to be over turned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, allowing this poll tax to go into effect. SCOTUS then refused to hear an appeal, in essence saying "Sure, go ahead, we're fine with that."

Next, you know, I'm sure, about the attacks on the US Postal Service. In late September, documents released in a court case revealed that despite their lies about it, top executives at the United States Postal Service were instrumental in pushing, were the ones driving, strategies that delayed mail delivery at a time when everyone was expecting an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, delays that could cause unknown thousands of such ballots to arrive too late to be counted.

On October 1, Texas Gov. Greg Abattoir issued an executive order that drop-off balloting locations must be limited to one per county - despite the enormous population differences among counties and despite the fact that Harris County, the state's most populous and a major Democratic stronghold, has an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. Actually, scratch "despite" amd substitute "because of."

Next: For at least 40 years, it has been policy at the Department of Injustice to make no announcements and take no public actions close to an election if the surrounding publicity could potentially affect the outcome.

On October 2, that was changed. Now if a US attorney’s office suspects election fraud, investigators will be allowed to take public actions before the polls close, even if those actions do risk affecting the outcome of the election.

Singled out in the announcement were cases involving postal workers and military employees - in other words, the people who might in some way be connected to mail-in ballots.

Last at least for now, GOPpers in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are proposing a GOPper-dominated special committee "to investigate, review, and make recommendations concerning the regulation and conduct of the 2020 general election," with powers including subpoenaing witnesses and documents - including, it would appear, as-yet uncounted ballots - and with a goal of recommending legislation even before the election.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Erickson Report for October 14 to 27


The Erickson Report for October 14 to 27

This time:

 - More on voter suppression, including some Good News where it has been blocked

- Clowns: Matt Gaetz, Tucker Carlson, Marsha Blackburn, Bill Maher

- Outrages: US borders were not sealed because of COVID-19 but to kick out asylum seekers; corporate news media continues to fail us

Saturday, October 03, 2020

The Erickson Report for September 30 to October 13, Page 4: A final thought

Look, I'm running out of time so I have to stop here. But I think that's more than enough to support my insistence that our right to vote and our right to seek justice are both under serious threat.

Maybe I can get back to a little more normal of a show next time.

I have time to stick in one last thought:

According to the US Crisis Monitor, a joint project between the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University. over 93% of this year's racial justice protests have been entirely peaceful.

But you wouldn't know that with all the right wing frothing over the violence that did occur, frothing eagerly abetted by a drama-addicted media.

So I want to re-emphasize what I said last time. We've known all along about the levels of anger, frustration, and despair in minority communities in our country, but we as a dominant white society have simply chosen to ignore it.

So yes, there has been some violence, some destruction. But what we've seen is nothing compared to events like Watts 1965, Newark 1967, Detroit 1967, three outbreaks which together ended with 103 dead, over 2400 wounded, and over $50 million in property damage. I say again: We should not have been surprised at the violence; we should have been surprised there wasn't more.

The Erickson Report for September 30 to October 13, Page 3: Dissenting

At the same time as our ability to vote is under attack, so is our ability to seek justice.

This attack has been on-going for some time, it's not a new thing, but it has really come to the fore during the on-going demonstrations over police brutality and murders of unarmed black people. That's because rather than addressing the injustices, the racism, the militarization of police, the white supremacy at the root of this, the right wing prefers to simply set about crushing the protests by means of increasing and in other cases outright creating criminal penalties with the idea of raising the risks and costs of protesting above what people can bear.

It's known as "rule by law," a relatively new idea to stand in contrast to the "rule of law," the abstract concept that all are equal in the eyes of the law - which of course isn't the reality, but we are talking about a concept. The point is, rule by law means those in power weaponize the law as a means to maintain that power - and that is exactly what is happening.

Again, this summer brought a new level of intensity. but it has been happening.

Just since 2015 - in the wake of protests set off by the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson - states have introduced at least 154 bills or executive orders to restrict peaceful protest. A number of them are not directly connected to the Black Lives Matter protests, in fact some, including three just this spring, are about protecting fossil fuel facilities. They want no more Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors.

But no matter the target, all such measures are threatening the same rights. So far, nearly 60 if not more of that 154 have become law, many of them since nationwide protests broke out over the murder - and honestly I don't know what else you could call it - the murder of George Floyd. As of June, more than two dozen such bills were pending. I don't know what's happened with all of them, but I know at least two have passed.

Here's one: After Floyd's murder, protesters in Tennessee started an around-the-clock protest on capitol grounds in Nashville. After two months of this, the GOPpers controlling the legislature and the governorship decided they'd had enough. Unable to buy off the protesters with mealy-mouthed promises to address “racial reconciliation” and unable to crush them with rounds of misdemeanor arrests and seizure of their equipment, they decided to make protesting on capital grounds a felony, punishable with six years in prison and loss of voting rights.

A number of places aren't even bothering to pass new laws, they are just re-purposing old ones. Prosecutors in states ranging from New York to Utah are using decades-old gang laws to go after protesters, treating protests as if they were actions by criminal gangs. In Utah, adding a "gang enhancement" to a charge carries a sentence of five years to life. And yes, a woman in Utah was charged just that way in August, although the enhancement was later dropped even as the underlying charge was not.
And there are more such "rule by law" measures coming. Recently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed a bill that would, among a number of other things, make it a felony to obstruct traffic while also allowing motorists to injure or kill protesters if they claim to be "fleeing a mob." It would make it a felony for anyone gathered in a group of seven or more people "to cause damage to property or injury to other persons" - that is, if you are in a group of seven or more and anyone in that group damages property or injures someone, you can be charged with a felony. It attaches Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, liability to "anyone who organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly" - treating protests as organized crime - and bars state grants to municipalities that reduce police budgets.

A few days later, Texas Gov. Greg Abattoir laid out legislative proposals to raise penalties and create new crimes that would require jail time for offenses committed at protests. This as Texas state cops are spending hundreds of hours to track down people suspected of misdemeanors during anti-brutality protests.

And, of course, don't think the feds are slouches in this regard.

In June, Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Injustice and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces would look at protests, “identify people in the crowd, pull them out and prosecute them.”

This past month, Sens. Rancid Paul and Tex Ooze called for the DOJ to pursue RICO charges against protesters and Black Lives Matter - and acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said that the department is looking into doing just that.

A couple of weeks ago, Barr told US attorneys to seek federal charges against protesters, including considering charging them with sedition, that is, with plotting to overthrow the government. The charge, which is in effect a step or two down from treason, carries a penalty of 20 years in prison. Shortly thereafter, deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen seconded the idea.

And of course the was the designation of New York, Portland, and Seattle as "anarchist jurisdictions" with an associated loss of federal funds, a designation created out of whole cloth by the White House on the grounds that, when you come right down to it, those cities have not harsh enough on protests, not doing enough to crush them out of existence - which to the right wing is the only acceptable goal.

A key to this, not sufficiently appreciated, is that it's not enough to punish dissent sufficiently to repress it. It has to be if you will the right sort of dissent. You want to keep your opponents off the streets, but you don't want to hinder your supporters, even if they do get let's call it a little rambunctious from time to time - that is, you want them free to act so long as they are of benefit to you. Succeed in suppressing left-wing dissent sufficiently, then gangs like the Proud Boys and Boogaloos are no longer useful, after which, they likely would - much to their shock, I would expect - become targets.

The point here is that for this to work, you need at least for now to redefine right-wing violence as "self-defense." Because the right wing cannot be violent, cannot be seen as violent, the better to use them as a tool.

Consider Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two protesters in  Kenosha. To the media voices of the right, with backing from the Whitest House, he's not an out-of-state - you know, an "outside agitator" - heavily-armed vigilante with visions of Rambo, he's a hero acting in self-defense.

The end of August, a group of right-wing thugs staged a pro-Tweetie-pie truck rally, with a number of them driving though central Portland in an obvious attempt at terrorizing. There is video of some of them shooting unarmed people with paint balls and pepper spray from back of pick-up trucks and driving through crowds. At a press conference, Tweetie-pie called it a "peaceful protest" and described paint as a "defensive mechanism."

The Erickson Report for September 30 to October 13, Page 2: Voting

We start with voting.

Last time I briefly mentioned the issue of voter suppression, the attempt to establish self-perpetuating reactionary control of government by controlling and limiting who is allowed to vote, who is able to vote.

That is how the racists, most particularly but not exclusively in the South, maintained their power for so long: by preventing black people from voting by means such as poll taxes, aimed at poor people in general but particularly poor blacks, literacy tests with the results judged by the very white racists using them to keep their power, and whenever those failed, there was always outright physical intimidation and murder.

The methods now are more subtle but also effective. A primary one, as again I noted last time, are voter ID laws, laws which by pure coincidence, of course, demand forms of ID that minorities and the poor and students - three main groups the right-wing wants to keep away from the voting booth - are less likely to have. In fact, for example in Texas, an NRA membership card is acceptable as ID but a student ID at a university in the state is not.

These laws, which could disenfranchise millions of people across the country, are, it's invariably claimed, to prevent in-person voter fraud, where someone pretends to be someone else at the polls - the incidence of which is so vanishingly small that it is literally hard to even measure. A study by Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola School of Law and an expert in constitutional law, looked at local, state, and federal elections between 2000 and 2014, covering more than a billion votes could find only 31 credible accusations - not convictions, not even prosecutions, but mere accusations - of such fraud.

That's not the only evidence that claims of widespread election fraud are totally false. The right-wing Heritage Foundation maintains an online database of election fraud cases in the US covering the last 20 years and even that shows fewer than 1,300 cases of voter fraud in all forms, resulting in 1,100 criminal convictions, over that time.

Revealingly, while playing up the number of cases, the Foundation provides no information about the number of votes involved. Which is probably because counting only presidential elections, not state or local or for other national office, but only votes for president, there were about 630,000,000 votes cast 2000-2016, so 1300 cases makes for a fraud rate of at most 0.0002% - that's 2/10,000 of one percent.

In fact, studies by various researchers have repeatedly, insistently, reliably, come to the same conclusion: Voter fraud in the US in all forms is so rare as to be essentially nonexistent. Even Tweetie-pie's hand-picked Election Integrity Commission failed spectacularly in 2018 at sniffing out the supposed "widespread fraud" and his own FBI director told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on September 24 that "we have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.”

That last bit is important because this year, mail-in balloting is going to be particularly important and the same claims about rampant fraud, claims that the right-wing has been peddling for decades without any proof or truth, are being loudly and daily made about mail-in voting in particular, with the same measure of truth.

Consider: Over the past 20 years, about 250 million votes have been cast by a mail ballot nationally. That same Heritage Foundation database shows merely 204 cases involving the fraudulent use of absentee ballots over that time, 143 of which resulted in criminal convictions. That is a fraud rate of at most 0.00008%.

Meanwhile, Oregon started mailing ballots to all voters in 2000. In the years since, there have been over 50 million ballots cast, leading to precisely two convictions for mail-ballot fraud. That is 0.000004%. Your chances of getting hit by lightning are five times greater.

But then again, bogus claims of "fraud" are just that - bogus and lies. Even those making the claims cannot believe them, cannot take them seriously. They may be fanatics but they are not stupid. The claims of fraud are just an excuse, just a tactic - or considering how long they've been at it, maybe strategy is the better word. It has nothing to with fraud, nothing to with "protecting the integrity of voting" and everything to do with undermining faith in the process of voting, everything to do with destroying the very concept that voting means anything, carries any value.

They - and by they I mean the political right wing in this country, including the associated concentrated wealth and economic power - they want you to think that fraud is so rampant that the results of elections simply cannot be trusted so why bother, want you to become so discouraged, so disenchanted with the very idea that self-governance can function, the very idea that you can have a say in governance, so discouraged that you will simply give up trying and leave the field to the reactionaries.

And if they can't discourage you that way, they'll block you with another, a different means of voter suppression, such as voter list purges.

Voter list purges are supposedly merely a bureaucratic exercise intended to keep voter rolls up to date by removing those who have died or moved out of the district. They are not intrinsically evil but are still something that has been weaponized as another means to suppress voting.

To see why, first realize that minorities are disproportionately poor and that poor people, compared to those richer, are more likely to be renters than homeowners and so they tend to move more often. So right at the start they are more likely to be the target of a purge.

In fact, these "purges" always make me think of "pograms," especially because minorities are so often the target of these attacks on their rights, purges which - oh my what a coincidence - primarily disenfranchise minorities and the poor.

The problem - more accurately the opportunity for the right - is that such purges or often riddled with errors affecting scores of thousands of voters who may not even know they have been purged until they get to the polls and are turned away.

For example, this year Wisconsin attempted to purge 129,000 voters from the rolls on the claim that they had moved away only to have an independent analysis show 38% of those people had moved within the county - which should not have removed them from the rolls - and another 26% hadn't moved at all!

Greg Palast is an investigative journalist who has been on the voter suppression beat for years. In fact, he was responsible for arranging for that independent analysis in Wisconsin. As part of his recent book How Trump Stole 2020, he goes into how and why voter purges became a favorite tool of the right wing, not even despite the numerous errors but because of them, because even if the voter can correct the errors, it likely will not be before election day and so their vote is lost anyway.

And even these are not all the means the right wing is using and is talking about using to deny people the right to vote, to - to be direct - steal the election for Tweetie-pie and institute what amounts to authoritarian rule.

Populist Jim Hightower list a number of ways the right wing is trying to undermine the right to vote - that is, steal the election this time and eviscerate the meaning of voting along with it. In addition to what I've mentioned, he has "unleash the lawyers," with the blizzard of lawsuits challenging every attempt to make it easier to vote, "advance thuggery," noting that a consent decree that blocked most forms of voter intimidation expired in 2018, "shut the doors," suppressing the vote by closing polling places and reducing the number of voting machines in minority precincts, "kill the post office," to screw up mail-in voting, and "supreme suppression," using the Supreme Court to disenfranchise undesired voters.

And to push these anti-democratic claims, to try to advance this fundamentally un-American line of crap, no lie is too big, no hypocrisy too much. You want an example? Here's one:

You likely heard about the "NINE TRUMP BALLOTS WERE THROWN OUT! OMG! THE DEMOCRATS ARE STEALING THE ELECTION!" hysteria generated by the right wing. If all you heard was the headline, your reaction was likely along the lines of "what's going on there?" - or, if you're a Trumpster "I told ya so!"

But go a little deeper, read past the headline, and this is what you get: First, it turned out there were nine ballots, but only seven were for Trump. It's "not known" who the other votes were for. Exactly how they can know that seven were for Tweetie-pie without knowing who the others were for I don't understand and I expect neither do you beyond the obvious conclusion that they do know but just didn't want to say his name because we certainly don't want to suggest that screwups could affect anyone other than Tweetie-pie, because that would hinder the spread of the "THEY'RE STEALING THE ELECTION!" meme.

Oh, quick sidebar: It was improper for the DOJ to announce such an investigation this close to election day. And it was improper to say what candidate was potentially effected. They don't care.

Okay. Absentee ballots usually involve two envelopes, an inner one with your actual vote and an outer one with your information. The idea is simple: The other envelope contains the proof that you are you and that you voted, while your actual vote remains anonymous, put in a pile to be opened with the rest of the pile of mail-in ballots on election day. By the way, I assume I do not have to explain that there is no difference between an absentee and a mail-in ballot, that they are the same thing.

What happened is that there were absentee or mail-in ballots coming in and there were also requests for such ballots coming in. The envelopes look similar and some of the ballots were opened my mistake, thinking they were requests. If a mail-in ballot envelope is opened and the vote card is not inside the inner envelope, it's called a "naked ballot."

The incident in question happened in a county in Pennsylvania. According to reports at this point, the ballots in questions were naked ballots and in accordance with the rules, not counted, because that's what was done with naked ballots. (It appears they should not have been discarded but preserved for later canvassing, but that does not affect the fact that they would not have been counted.)

Okay, and here's the punch line: Why were those the rules? Because the Tweetie-pie campaign and the Pennsylvania GOPpers had won a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court saying that naked ballots should not be counted! So the GOPpers are now claiming election fraud based on following the very rules they insisted on.

But again, they don't care. They are transparent hypocrites. They don't care. They are transparent liars. They don't care. They are a disgrace to what it means to have a free society. They don't care. Nothing means anything to them other than what maintains and increases their power.

But don't think mere hypocrisy or lying is as far as it goes. Don't think mere voter suppression or purges or any of the rest of it is enough. There has been open talk within the right about two ways to simply ignore the election and literally hand the election to Tweetie-pie.

One is based on the fact that the constitution leaves it to each state to determine how to choose their electors to the electoral college. The idea is that states with GOPper-controlled legislatures would scream about fraud spreading through the vote like wildfire to the point where the legislature claims that it is impossible to determine the will of the people so they are simply going to appoint electors to - guess what - go vote for His High Orangeness.

The other is to use the 12th Amendment. First, right-wing goons set about creating chaos on election day and the days leading up to it. Enough right-wing legislatures use that as an excuse to say there's so much disorder, the elections can be held of there or the ballots can't be accurately counted and so the election can't be certified, with the end result that no one gets 270 electoral votes. At that point, under the 12th Amendment, the issue goes to the House. Good? No - because in that case, each state gets one vote. Wyoming counts the same as California, Alaska the same as New York.

This does not mean that either of these two scenarios is likely but the very fact they are being seriously discussed, the very fact that the right wing feels comfortable considering them, feels safe openly discussing how to literally ignore the results of elections, shows how far gone things are, how wildly power-hungry the right wing has become as it senses true lasting dominance possibly within its grasp, show how great is the risk.

The battle, I need to emphasize now, is not lost. There are groups waging the fight in the courts, there are other groups doing public education and working on ways to make sure people can get to the polls.

As individuals, right now, the best thing we can do now is, bluntly, to vote. To not let them deter or discourage us. To vote and to make damn sure it counts. Which means if you're going to vote by mail, do at ASAP. Do not wait a single day.

And if you vote in person, either early or same-day, be prepared for a wait. Bring a folding chair. Bring a book. Bring a bottle of water. But don't be stopped.

The Erickson Report for September 30 to October 13, Page 1: The Threat

There have been any number of times when I have been distressed or depressed by the road our country, our society, our future, is on. At times I have been angry or frustrated - and yes, sometimes hopeful.

But now I am none of those things. I am frightened.

I am frightened because, as I said last time, our democracy is at risk. Quite literally. Our ability to govern ourselves, to have a government, to quote a line I'm sure you know, "of the people, by the people, for the people" is under serious threat.

There are two if you will categories of this threat which can be hard to disentangle because they overlap so much.  

One is attacks on voting, involving not just short term manipulation and suppression in search of immediate gain but a long term, on-going attack on the very concept of voting as a means of governing.

The other is an intensifying wave of attacks on our rights and civil liberties, specifically the ability to dissent from official stands and doctrines, to publicly question the status quo, to publicly seek change and justice. Attacks intended to delegitimize the notion of opposition, to make us afraid of raising our voices above the sort of private whispers found under the sorts of governments President Tweetie-pie so admires and wishes to emulate.

You may think all that is overstated, but I intend to prove my argument.

The Erickson Report for September 30 to October 13


The Erickson Report for September 30 to October 13

This episode of the Erickson Report focuses on "The Threat," the overlapping efforts that are creating a genuine threat to the US continuing as a democracy where voting means something and dissent is (at least in our philosophy) embraced as a means of finding our way to a more just society.

First is voter suppression and the campaign to denigrate and deligitimize elections in general.

Second is the moves to repress dissent by increasing the risks and costs of protest beyond what most people can bear, such as by making what had been lawful, criminal, and turning minor offenses into felonies.

The Erickson Report is news and commentary from the perspective of the radical nonviolent American left. Comments are welcome.

The Erickson Report for September 16 to 29, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages (the Outrages)

Moving on to the outrages, on September 3, the Tweetie-pie administration proposed rule changes to the Endangered Species Act, changes that Noah Greenwald, director of the endangered species program at the Center for Biological Diversity, called "a disaster for endangered species and the natural world."

One of the purposes of the Act is to protect endangered species by labeling certain areas "critical habitat," areas necessary for the species' well-being and continued survival.
The proposed changes would require the US Fish and Wildlife Service to "assign weight" to industry claims of an economic impact if a given area is to be declared critical habitat and to on that basis exclude federal lands essential to the recovery of species from protection of the Endangered Species Act. To make that clearer: Currently, areas may be excluded from protection of the Act if that exclusion would have no impact on the survival of the species; the changes, as I understand them, would allow for such exclusion even if there is such an impact, thus raising the economic interests of polluters and despoilers over the preservation of nature.

Even worse, according to Greenwald, the polluters and despoilers would not even have to prove the economic impacts they are claiming.

It's just another of the thousand cuts, the thousand outrages, the Tweetie-pie gang has inflicted on protection of the environment and those who live in it - including, yes, people - just to make sure their fat cats pals can afford to put another addition on their mansions.

As a footnote to that, I'll just mention there is a movement developing called Rights of Nature that looks to obtain for ecosystems legal status in our court system as rights-bearing entities. The idea is not, as sarcasm would have it, giving every tree a lawyer, but rather that an ecosystem is to be regarded in court as a party with legal interests. The big asset here is that this would enable organizations and even individuals to sue polluters on behalf of an ecosystem without having to prove that they themselves individually were injured and where, if successful, the damages involved and so the remediation  involved would be to the ecosystem rather than just to the particular individual. Toledo, Ohio actually tried it in 2019 but lost in trial court this spring and the city felt it didn't have the financial resources to push the matter further.

Suing on behalf of some third party is hardly new, even suing on behalf of some defined non-living entity is not new. So Rights of Nature at the very least isn't outside the reach of legal theory. But yes, it is radical. And for that reason it is worthy of respect and our attention.


Next is the Outrage that never seems to end. It's an asymptote - which, if you don't know, is a curve on a graph that keeps getting closer and closer to zero but never gets there. The value gets smaller and smaller but never actually disappears.

I am talking about the death penalty. Even as public support continues to decline, even as fewer states even have the death penalty on the books and most of those that have it use it less and less, still it persists like some noxious weed.

On August 28, Keith Dwayne Nelson became the fifth person the Trump administration has legally murdered this summer.

Before this summer, the federal government has not had an execution in 17 years. Since July there have now been five, with two more scheduled for late September and new dates rumored to be on their way. Even without those, our Killer-in-Chief has already carried out more federal executions in 2020 than his predecessors had in the previous 57 years combined.

The death penalty is notoriously ineffective in controlling crime and notoriously racist in its operation, not only in who is sentenced to death but in who is convicted: If you are a white person accused of killing someone and are claiming self-defense, you are 2.5 times more likely to succeed if your victim was black than if they were white.

I started to say that the death penalty is a lingering remnant of a barbarous age - but then I thought that we're really not that far removed from barbarity, are we? We just find politer ways to do it.

In any event, the death penalty remains what it always has been: an outrage.


Finally for this time out, on August 11, racist, anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic QAnon devotee Marjorie Taylor Greene won a GOPper primary for Georgia's 14th congressional district.

She won with the backing of GOPper megadonors along with such as the chair of the board of the Heritage Foundation and groups connected to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and his wife.

Her win makes her the odds-on favorite to fill the seat in the heavily-GOPper district come November. Despite the fact that she is, again, a racist, anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic QAnon devotee.

Perhaps to celebrate her victory, on her Facebook page, Greene recently posted an image of herself holding a gun alongside images of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar and wrote: "We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists."

That transparent incitement to murder was too much even for Facebook, which has bent over backwards to prove it is "fair" to the right wing but took this one down as a violation of terms of service.

The outrage here is even not so much at her victory and her bigotry and her violence-promoting fear-mongering but at how far the amorphous blob of conspiracy fables that is QAnon has penetrated the body of the GOPper party and how eager some among that body - including some megadonors - are to embrace it while others in that party sit in cowardly silence for fear of losing their position and their perks.

But an even deeper point here is that while almost any right-wing fever dream can be made to fit under the heading of QAnon, there is a core that reveals something older and more let's call it familiar.

Consider what QAnon claims, notes Gregory Stanton, an expert on genocide, writing at on September 9: A secret cabal is taking over the world. They kidnap children, slaughter, and eat them to gain power from their blood. They control high positions in government, finance, and the news media. They want to disarm the police. They promote homosexuality and pedophilia. They want to marginalize the white race so it will lose its power.

Except, wait. Yes, that is what QAnon claims - among other fantasies. But in the original, it was not "marginalize" but "mongrelize" and with that one change you now have the plot, if you can call it that, of the notorious anti-Semitic pamphlet "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a work fabricated around 1902 by piling together whatever anti-Jewish tropes were lying around.

The Nazis had their hero, Adolph Hitler, to rescue them from this "plot." QAnon fanatics have Tweetie-pie.

In short and despite, yes, some differences in the details of the fantasies, QAnon is nothing more than a rebranding of the most notorious anti-Semitic work in history, right down to Hitler's "storm troopers" that helped him come to power and QAnon's awaiting of "The Storm," the day when supporters of this fantastical cabal will be rounded up and executed. And it could well lead to the same bloody result.

Stanton's insight, drawn from his experience studying genocide and the conditions leading up to it, brought to mind the old saying that "nothing is as obvious as the truth - once someone has said it."

The targets may have moved from - or more properly expanded beyond - Jews to include "socialists," immigrants, and any other opponents of the dream of a lily-white society that never actually existed, but the meaning is the same and the threat just as real.

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