Friday, November 27, 2020

026 The Erickson Report for November 25 to December 8, Page 3: A last thought

The Erickson Report for November 25 to December 8, Page 3: A last thought

Okay, I have just a minute left,  just enough time to get to one of those pieces of news I skipped to tell the Thanksgiving story.

According to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll from mid-November, over half of all Republicans believe Tweetie-pie "rightfully won" the US election but that it was stolen from him by widespread voter fraud, while a Monmouth University Poll from the same time frame said that 32% of all voters and 77% of GOPpers say Blahden only won due to fraud.

Listen Up, people! Getting Blahden into the White House does not mean it's over and we have to be prepared for that. Ronald Reagan came into office with less than 51% of the vote and claimed a mandate. George Bush the Lesser came into office off a 530-vote win in one state and claimed a mandate despite losing the popular vote. Tweetie-pie came into office claiming a mandate despite losing the popular vote by nearly three million.

It is vital that Joe Blahden come into office claiming a mandate! But I greatly fear that instead he will come into office pledging to make nice with Fishface McConnell. That will not work. So I fear that, as always, we are on our own.

026 The Erickson Report for November 25 to December 8, Page 2: Listen Up!

The Erickson Report for November 25 to December 8, Page 2: Listen Up!

I only have a few minutes left and I'm going to spend them expanding on a rant from last time on the efforts of the establishment Democratic Party to use progressives for voter turnout but otherwise dismiss them.

And just to be clear: The term "establishment Democratic Party" refers to the DNC, the party leadership in the House and Senate, and the party's Congressional and Senate Campaign Committees

Okay. I said last time that the establishment Dem Par was looking to blame progressives and progressive causes for the party's down-ballot failures - that is, in the House and Senate - rather than even considering their own roles. That hasn't let up, it wasn't just that one notorious post-election conference call. AP has joined the fray with an article which could barely get past one tepid criticism of party strategy before rushing on blame Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and criticisms of police racism and violence.

You want to know how unpopular Medicare for All is? According to a November 3 exit poll by Fox News, 72% of voters favored a "change to a government-run health care plan." 112 co-sponsors of Medicare for All were on the ballot in November. All of them won.

You want to know how unpopular the Green New Deal is? That same Fox poll found 70% of voters supporting “increasing government spending on green and renewable energy.” There were 98 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal on the ballot in November. 97 of them won.

Bernie Sanders said it well:

The lesson is not to abandon popular policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, living wage jobs, criminal justice reform and universal child care, but to enact an agenda that speaks to the economic desperation being felt by the working class - Black, white, Latino, Asian American and Native American.

That is a desperation to which the establishment Democratic Party did not speak in its campaign. Yes, I know all about the Heroes Act and I know all about the intransigence of Fishface McConnell and the rest. But the establishment Democratic party figured that the public distaste for Tweetie-pie so great that laying real hardball on COVID economic relief was a good political course. They were wrong. And instead of recognizing their failing to make that very GOPper intransigence a centerpiece of their campaign, their answer is to blame progressives - and to do as much as they can to shut them out from decision-making roles.

Which brings me to what really prompted this renewed rant. News is emerging of who Joe Blahden wants in his administration and the trend is not encouraging.

Michael McCabe is a former consultant to DuPont who lead its successful campaign to head off regulation of a highly toxic chemical called PFOA. He's been appointed by the Blahden transition to its review team for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rep Cedric Richmond is joining the administration as a senior adviser to serve as a liaison with the business community and climate change activists. Richmond is a darling of the oil and gas industries, having gotten more donations from them than nearly any other Democrat.

Blahden is nominating Antony Blinken as secretary of state. Blinken supported the invasion of Iraq and the assault on Libya and has spent his recent years as a partner in a consulting firm with a secret client list drawn from the tech, finance, and arms industries.

A leading candidate for defense secretary is Michèle Flournoy, Blinken's partner in that consulting firm. Among his other achievement, Flournoy supported the wars in Iraq and Libya, thought Obama wasn't tough enough on Syria, and helped craft the surge in Afghanistan.

Those two are likely why defense executives have been boasting about their close relationship with Biden and expressing confidence that there will not be much change in Pentagon policy.

Perhaps worst of all, it's reported that Blahden is considering Bruce Reed for director of the Office of Management and Budget. Reed is a deficit hawk who was a lead architect of the destructive 1996 welfare "reform" law and was executive director of the Obama-appointed Bowles-Simpson Commission, which became known as the Cat Food Commission because its central proposal was to slash Social Security. Appointing someone like that to direct OMB in the midst of an economy-wrecking pandemic is just insane.

So far, I am neither impressed nor encouraged.

But in closing I will say there is one thing on which I agree with the critics of progressives: The slogan "defund the police" - which has got to be the worst political slogan in the history of campaigning. My central principle for effective communication is that what you say is not as important as what the other person hears. On that score, "defund the police" is a miserable, abject failure. Not only does it not express what supporters want it to, it positively invites people to misunderstand it.

The idea of "defund the police" in a nutshell is to stop expecting police to deal with things for which they have neither the training nor the competence- such as mental health crises and drug issues - cases where their intervention so often leads to tragedy, and instead direct those resources to agencies and personnel which do have the training and competence. But if people hear "defund the police," they think - reasonably - that you want to zero out the budgets, to dispense with police altogether. An effective slogan depends on a previously-existing, widespread understanding of its meaning. "Defund the police" doesn't have that - which is why it's a failure.

I don't have a devastatingly better alternative, but I will say that my preference would be for "demilitarize the police" which I think would not only cover what "defund the police" means to address, it would expand on it and without making it so easy to misunderstand or willfully distort.

Footnotes to the Thanksgiving story

Footnotes to the Thanksgiving story 

A few quick sidebars for which there was not time in the show, a few details surrounding that first year you might think worth noting.

- You often hear the Mayflower referred to as a "small" ship. To our eyes it is, but at 180 tun, it was somewhat larger than an average merchant ship of the period, which went around 140-160 tun, a tun being a large cask that became used as a standard measure of the capacity of a ship's hold.

- You also often hear it said the passengers came for "religious freedom." They did not. Not only did they not believe in religious freedom as we understand the term, "freedom" being equated with anarchy, to the degree they sought what they would call "liberty of conscience," those who had been to Holland - which was actually a minority of those on the Mayflower - had it there. In fact, that's why they went to Holland in the first place: Because they refused to be part of "the King's Church" (the Church of England), they were held to be criminals.. Unfortunately for them, they not only found such liberty there, they also found poverty of a degree that threatened to fracture their community. That's why they came to this continent.

- It has also been asserted that the first winter was marked by starvation; I've even heard it claimed that they all would have starved to death but for the corn they stole from a cache while exploring Cape Cod. Again, not true - or, more exactly, half true. The deaths came from disease, likely pneumonia, spread by the necessity of living in close quarters until housing could be built. Starvation was not an issue: The ship's stores provided food for the winter, which could be supplemented by fishing. What is true is that they stole some corn, but that was for seed corn for the following spring, which makes it rather silly to imagine it was a quantity sufficient to feed the entire group for the winter. And in fairness it must be noted that they made good for what they took when they were able to contact those natives - the Nauset - after the winter was over.

- Finally, they were not "greeted by the indigenous people." In fact, they didn't speak to a native until March and that was to Samoset, an Abenaki from what's now Maine. It wasn't until a couple of weeks after that when they first spoke to a local (Squanto, aka Tisquantum).

026 The Erickson Report for November 25 to December 8, Page 1: The "First Thanksgiving"

The Erickson Report for November 25 to December 8, Page 1: The "First Thanksgiving"

There is a great deal of news I will not get to this time out because I decided that, what with 2020 being how it's been and all, we could use a time out for what is for us a sort of a holiday tradition.

This show will be first on just before Thanksgiving, so it seemed the right time to engage in that tradition, which is to say gather 'round, kiddies, I'm going to tell you the real story, the based-on-actual-historical-sources story, of the "First Thanksgiving."

By which, of course, I mean the event that occurred in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts in the fall of 1621 which is the basis of our now-traditional Thanksgiving holiday.

One of the reasons I do this almost every year is that it is truly amazing just how much misinformation, mythology, and general muddle-headedness there is out there on this topic. In fact, it seems that what can fairly be called revisionist history about the events have become almost as traditional as turkey and pumpkin pie.

I like to try to bring some hard historical reality to the discussion.

So to start our Thanksgiving tale, consider this:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.

At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.

And though it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

That comes from a letter dated December 11, 1621. It was written to an otherwise-unidentified "loving and old friend" in England by Edward Winslow, a Mayflower passenger and a leader in the early years of the colony. 

By the way, the portrait of Edward Winslow seen below was done in 1651, 30 years later, after he had returned to England. It is the only verified picture of a Mayflower passenger known to exist.

As for the rest of them, we have no idea what they looked like beyond the traditional description of Myles Standish as short with red hair, a description given some backing by the fact that in a book called The New English Canaan, a nasty satire of the Plimoth settlement written in 1637 by Thomas Morton, Standish is identified by the name "Captain Shrimpe."

Winslow's letter was contained in a book published in England in 1622 under the rather ponderous title of A Relation or Journal of the beginning and proceedings of the English Plantation settled at Plimoth in New England, by certain English Adventurers both Merchants and others.

The book is popularly known today by the less cumbersome name of Mourt's Relation and consists of eyewitness accounts of various events during the first year of the settlement.

Here's why that letter is important here: It is the only contemporaneous account of what we know as the "First Thanksgiving" which is known to exist. The only other even near-contemporaneous account comes from William Bradford, long-time governor of the settlement, who wrote about it in his journal at least 10 to 12 years later. Even there he just sort of brushes by it, endorsing Winslow by referring to "not feigned but true reports." Quoting:

They now began to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses against the winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty.
 For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took in good store, of which every family had its portion.

All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.

Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion. Which made many afterwards write so large of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.
That's it. That's all of it. That's what the entire "First Thanksgiving" story is built on. Everything else is speculation, interpretation, some questionable third- and fourth-hand accounts, and guesswork, some of it informed, all too much of it not.

Edward Winslow
Some things we can tell from the accounts: For one thing, based on other references in those same sources, we know that the event took place after September 18 and before November 9. Mostly likely, it was in late September or the beginning of October, as that would have been shortly after harvest.

In considering the event, the first thing to realize is that this was not a "thanksgiving." To someone of the period, a thanksgiving was a religious occasion, a day set aside for prayer to give thanks to God for some special and unexpected blessing.

The first public day of thanksgiving in the town actually came in the summer of 1623: A six-week crop-threatening drought had lead to a day of "humiliation," a day of fasting and prayer to beg forgiveness for whatever they had done to cause God to bring this on them. Literally that same evening, the rains came - and not a storm, a gentle soaking rain which saved the crops and so a day of thanksgiving seemed appropriate.

So no, this was not a thanksgiving. Such days would occur occasionally as the cause arose; to plan for one in advance, much less to plan for one every year as we do now, would be regarded as a gross presumption on God's will and intentions.

What this was instead was a very traditional English harvest feast, a celebration of a good harvest to which it was customary to invite those who had been helpful to you over the course of the year  - which is surely why the natives were there: They had indeed been helpful, so they were invited. True, the settlers didn't have a good harvest - note that Bradford describes it as "small" - but they had a harvest. That surely raised everyone's spirits: It indicated they were going to make it. Reason enough for a celebration, especially considering what they had been through to get to that point, including the death by disease - probably pneumonia - of half their numbers in the first months.

I want to make a quick aside to explain a rather subtle point more clearly: Europeans of the 17th century - especially the more religiously-conservative sorts, such as those that lead the Plimoth (as it was often spelled at the time) settlement - did not make the sort of clear distinctions between what is "religious" and what is "secular" that we do today. The sense of, a feeling of, an awareness of, the "hand of God" or the "will of God" was much more central to their lives than it is to the vast majority of us now.

What that means here is that the 1621 harvest feast would surely have included prayers of thanks to God and perhaps a sermon from their religious leader, Elder William Brewster, as significant features of the event, just as prayer would have been a frequent feature of their everyday lives, from meals to musket drills to mucking about in their fields, tending the crops.

However, they would not have regarded this as "a day of thanksgiving" as they understood the term: While the prayers would have been significant features of the event, they would not have been the central features; not the purpose, not the point, not the driver behind it. Celebration was, feasting was.

Put another way, had we been able to witness the 1621 feast, to our modern eyes there would very likely have been more than enough praying, giving thanks, and singing of psalms and hymns to make it look like a religious or at least religiously-inspired event, but to a person of the 17th century it would have looked about as (for lack of a better term) secular as such a thing got.

Anyway, back to our story. As for the eternal question of what they ate, we can confident they had fowl such as duck or goose (as the governor "sent four men on fowling" in preparation) and yes, quite possibly turkey ("of which they took many," Bradford said). They very likely also had fish, specifically cod and bass, which are mentioned in the sources, and quite possibly deer.

Another aside: I say "quite possibly" to raise the issue of using historical sources without running too far ahead of them, a sin of which too many of the revisionist accounts are guilty, making too much out of too little. Even though Winslow says the natives "went out and killed five deer," he also says "which they bestowed on our governor" - that being William Bradford - "and upon the captain" - that being Myles Standish - "and others." In other words, they were given to various leaders of the community, not to the community as a whole. More to the point, we can't tell if those deer were brought soon enough to be butchered, dressed, cooked, and presented as part of the feast or if they were brought afterward as a sort of thank you, a reciprocal gift in return for having been "feasted" for three days.

Bradford's mention of venison doesn't resolve things because in the period, "venison" meant "hunted meat," which obviously includes deer but isn't limited to it. So while they quite probably had deer, either from the natives or their own hunting or both, we can't say it definitively.

Getting back to the menu, lobster and other shellfish is another real possibility; elsewhere in the letter that I quoted Winslow mentions that they are abundant in the area - as are eels, of which, he claims, they could take "a hogshead in a night." If you think "eels, eew," know that an English person of the period would have responded "They're just another sort of fish." (A hogshead is a cask holding about 63 gallons of liquid. Yeah, Winslow was likely exaggerating; he was like that.)

Beyond that, we can reasonably argue for some others foods such as a sort of pie made from squash from their gardens, sweetened with dried fruit which they would have brought with them from England, salad from other stuff from their gardens, and a sort of coarse corn bread.

Water would have been the major and perhaps the only beverage: Their supply of barley would be limited (Winslow says the "English grains," which would mean such as wheat, rye, and oats as well as barley, "grew indifferent good") and there is no mention of hops. No hops, no beer; no much barley, not much ale. Even if they did have some barley, there may well would not have been enough time for brewing since harvest. And while they did bring beer with them on the voyage, it is highly unlikely that there was any significant amount of that left nearly a year later. So they might have had a little ale or even maybe a little wine brought from England and reserved for a special occasion, but again is was likely mostly, and possibly only, water.

So that is pretty much it, pretty much everything we know or can reasonably assume about the event itself. Not much to build a whole mythology on, is it?

Even so, it drove the pap we got fed as children, marked by images of picnic tables laden with turkey, mashed potatoes, and apple pies surrounded by natives dressed like they just came from the great plains and smiling "Pilgrims" dressed in the fashions of the 1690s.

And that same sparseness of detail - and one of the reasons I go through this almost every year - is probably a good part of the reason the event provides so much latitude to those who want to replace the childhood (and childish) image of noble settlers and savage natives with one of noble natives and savage settlers, who every year, regular as clockwork, treat us to the historical revisionism that has, again, become as traditional as turkey and cranberry sauce.

In place of the happy talk mythologies of peace, love, and harmony we were spoon-fed as children we find people snarling out dark tales of drunken, murderous, bloodthirsty settlers facing off with natives "crashing the party" at the feast and doing it in such numbers because Massasoit feared he'd be kidnapped or killed otherwise. It is a vision that, as much as the earlier one, is an attempt to overwrite history with ideology. It is, in other words, pure bunk.

In point of historical fact, relations between Plymouth and the neighboring natives were reasonably good for several decades. There were stresses and strains and disruptions, yes, but for the most part they managed to keep intact the peace agreement-mutual defense pact they made in the spring of 1621.

Things gradually got worse and I won't go into all the reasons why but the biggest two were population pressure and disputes over land that were rooted in vast cultural differences between the natives and the English.

For one specific, the native culture had no concept of land ownership. Not just they didn't own the land, or that everyone owned the land, or the Great Spirit owned the land; no, the idea of land as something you could possess just didn't exist. To own something, for the natives, meant you could pick it up and carry it away with you. How could you own something if you have to leave it behind anytime you go anywhere? Which makes real sense, especially for a semi-nomadic people who live in one area for part of the year and another area the rest of the year.

But for the settlers, for any European, land ownership, which by its nature includes the concept of exclusive use, was an everyday notion. That cultural chasm was a source of repeated conflict.

The peace finally, irrevocably, completely broke down - but that was in 1675, more than 50 years after the so-called "First Thanksgiving." The point here is that at that time, in the fall of 1621, native-settler relations were good.

In fact, the very next sentences of the Winslow letter I quoted above are these:
We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us; very loving and ready to pleasure us. We often go to them, and they come to us; some of us have been fifty miles by land in the country with them.
Winslow also says that all the other native leaders in the vicinity have made peace with Plymouth on the same terms as Massasoit, as a result of which, he asserts, "there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was not formerly." He goes on to say that:
We for our parts walk as peaceably and safely in the wood as in the highways in England. We entertain them familiarly in our houses, and they as friendly bestowing their venison on us. They are a people without any religion or knowledge of God, yet very trusty, quick of apprehension, ripe-witted, just.
Just to be certain you know, "trusty" means trustworthy, not trusting, and "quick of apprehension" does not mean quick to be apprehensive. It means quick to understand, quick to grasp the meaning of something.

As for "religion," in his later book Good News from New England Winslow says "therein I erred" and goes on the describe the native religion, as least as he understands it.

That does not sound either like bloodthirsty settlers eager to kill natives or like natives who feared contact with those same settlers or felt they had to display mass force to avoid being kidnapped or killed.

If you're still not convinced, consider that in June 1621, three or four months earlier, the town felt it necessary to send a message to Massasoit requesting that he restrain his people from coming to the settlement in such numbers. This is from Mourt's Relation, this is the heart of the message they sent to Massasoit:
But whereas his people came very often, and very many together unto us, bringing for the most part their wives and children with them, they were welcome; yet we being but strangers as yet at Patuxet, alias New Plymouth, and not knowing how our corn might prosper, we could no longer give them such entertainment as we had done, and as we desired still to do.
That's how "afraid" the natives were of the settlers, so "afraid" the town had to ask them not to come around so much.

Assigning the role of angel or demon to either side is trash: Neither of these peoples were either. Neither were saints, neither were devils.

So I reject the revisionist history, indeed I resent the revisionist history. I resent it first because it’s lousy history. It's based on ideology, not information; it looks to satisfy demands of politics, not of scholarship, and it is every bit as full of false tales and mythology as the nonsense and pap that we got fed as schoolchildren.

Plymouth in the fall of 1621 genuinely was a scene of peaceful and friendly relations, of good feeling, between English settlers and their nearest native neighbors. The "First Thanksgiving" was a moment of celebration when everyone on both sides, even if they were still wary each of the other, believed that yes, this was going to work out.

That wasn’t going to happen; it was a false hope, even a foolish hope. It was brief enough moment, lasting by even a generous understanding no more than a few decades, and a rare enough moment in our nation's history of cruelty toward and genocide of the native peoples of this continent such that while "the First Thanksgiving" shouldn't be a source of happily-ever-after "why can't we all just get along" fairy stories, neither is there any need to co-opt it into the service of ideology-driven revisionism.

Because that moment of hope did exist. And frankly, I resent the attempts to strip away that one moment of hope in pursuit of a modern political agenda.

I remember a friend of mine some years ago talking about “the urge to find angelic forces in the world,” that is, the seeming need many of us have to fix on some group, some movement, some something that we can convince ourselves is utterly pure in its motives and behavior. In our attempts to find some better balance in our understanding of what was done to the natives of North America, the cruelties inflicted on them, the racism and bigotry which targeted them, too many of us in considering the “Pilgrims” of Plymouth have chosen to simply swap one mythology for a perhaps more satisfying but equally false one.

Balance, it seems, is still a long way off.

So anyway, I hope you enjoyed your Turkey Day, I hope you had time to spend with your family or friends - while staying safe, staying in your bubble - and I hope you can understand why I celebrate the day as an expression less of thankfulness for the past (or even the present) than as an expression of hope for the future. That hope, too, may prove as foolish as that of 1621, indeed these days I often think it is - but the blunt fact is, hope is also the one absolute, indispensable requirement for any effort to make that future a better one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

026 The Erickson Report for November 25 to December 8


The Erickson Report for November 25 to December 8

This time:

The historically-based story of the "First Thanksgiving"

Listen Up! Blaming progressives, limiting their influence

A final thought

Friday, November 20, 2020

Read This!

Read This!

So here I was tonight watching MS-DNC with hosts going on about Tweetie-pie's latest efforts to overturn the election, this time by pressuring GOPper election officials to refuse to certify the results, thus leaving it to their legislstures to choose (of course pro-Trump) electors for the Electoral College.

The reactions varied between the shock of "He can't do that, can he?" to the shock of  "That's outrageous!" The common denominator was the shock.

Why are they shocked? Not only can this be happening, it was predicted!

The following is from The Erickson Report for September 30 to October 13:

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.
This wasn't my insight, it was from the work of a number of others, including two cited in the same post: investigative reporter Greg Palast, who has been on the voter suppression beat for a long time, and progressive populist Jim Hightower. The idea of one way or another blocking the certification of the election in order to install King Tweetie-pie I on the throne was no secret, it was being openly discussed - and yet our mainstream media, including that supposedly progressive part of it, remained blissfully unaware.

The inability of that mainstream media to consider the perspective or the insights of those outside their centrist bubble has left them constantly running behind, constantly taken aback by, what the reactionaries who now define the right wing are prepared to do. And I fear that they will continue to do so.

Put it this way: If (When?) push comes to shove and we need to fill the streets and the jails, do not expect them to be out there with us.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 6: RIP

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 6: RIP

We have a quick RIP here.

Alex Trebek, host of "Jeopardy" for over 30 years, died on November 1, losing a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Trebek revealed his condition in March 2019, but was determined to keep working as long as he could.

During a second round of chemotherapy in October, Trebek joked that “One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral, as a part of a eulogy, is, ‘He was taken from us too soon.’”

Yeah, he was.

RIP, Alex Trebek.

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 5: The election and the Democrats

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 5: The election and the Democrats

Okay, the election. Right at the top, my reaction to Joe Blahden's victory is not joy or excitement. It is relief. The very fact that I refer to him as Joe Blahden should give you a sense of how excited I am by his becoming president, but the prospect of, the threat to our very continuance as a democracy presented by, a second term for Tweetie-pie was too frightening to countenance. So I am tremendously relieved by the result.

But I also fear that just like what happened in 2008, we will decide that the arrival of a Democrat in the White House means the work is done and just like we did then, we will tie our star to the new administration and embrace the idea that their policies mark the outside limit not only of what is politically possible but what is politically acceptable, what is open for discussion, what can even be on the table.

And that is exactly what will happen if we don't push back hard.

Forget the presidency for a moment. After getting the candidate they wanted an running the races they wanted, in both the Senate and House, the Democrats did worse than predicted. Not only did they not win the Senate - unless, that is, they pull off a long-shot double win in the Georgia run-offs on January 5 and reach a 50-50 break - they actually lost six or more seats in the House after thinking they could flip up to a dozen.

So what happened during a conference call of the House Democratic caucus two days after the election? Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants along with so-called "centrists" knew exactly who to blame: progressives.

It wasn't that they themselves did anything wrong, it wasn't that the DNC did anything wrong, it couldn't have been their campaigns were screwed up or poorly run or didn't address the actual concerns of their constituents or ignored widely popular proposals in favor of pleasing party bigwigs and big donors, oh, no. It was all because some candidates dared breathe the word "socialism" and because some people, not even candidates but some other people out there somewhere, used the phrase "defund the police" and those became the basis for GOPper attack ads which, apparently, neither those "centrists" nor the entire structure of the national Democratic party were capable of refuting or countering.

So no, they didn't do anything wrong. It was all the progressives' fault. Not just progressive candidates, but progressives in general. All of who, apparently, should just shut up.

Listen Up, people!
Get it through your heads: The Democratic party establishment is not on our side. Not on the side of average working people, or of the unemployed, or of the poor, or of the struggling, or of the victims of discrimination and bigotry, or even of the future of this plant.

Yes, certainly there are individuals in the party who have been and are fighting and will continue to fight the good fight and certainly, there are individuals who were or are on our side on specific issues. But as a group, as a whole, the establishment Democratic party is not. They are on our side insofar as and only insofar as its necessary to protect their power, their positions, and their perquisites.

They'll ignore us, fight us, resist us, and then for the sake of their own benefit, they'll try to take credit for what we gained by our efforts.

After his victory in the 2020 Nevada caucuses, Bernie Sanders tweeted of the Republican and Democratic party establishments "They can't stop us." In response, longtime Democratic party strategist Joe Lockhart tweeted "The Democratic establishment gave us civil rights, voting rights, the assault weapons ban, social security and Medicare. What have you done Senator?"

Hey Lockhart: You didn't "give" us anything! We won it. All of it. Every one of those things came as the result of years, usually decades, of organizing, marching, protesting, lobbying, petitions, letters, phone calls, court suits, civil disobedience, and yes, voting. We did it. Not you. So I turn the question around: Can you, can anyone in the establishment Democratic party, name one gain that has come without significant outside pressure? Can you name one advance that genuinely originated in the upper echelons of the establishment Democratic party? You can't because you didn't "give" us squat.

And you're not going to "give" us single-payer health insurance, a living wage, or a livable future for ourselves and our children. Remember Nancy Pelosi snidely calling the Green New Deal "The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they're for it, right?" Remember that? None of that will happen, none of those gains will be made, without us constantly, constantly, pushing you, taking what we gain and coming back again and again for more.

They are not on our side.

They are not on the side of the underdogs, the victims, the outsiders, the have-nots, the oppressed the hungry the landless. And they never will be.

They are not on our side. And they will continue to not be on our side, to ignore us, to dismiss us, to deny us, to deny us even when we represent the majority, as we do on a whole laundry list of issues from health care to the environment to the economy and back again. It will go on until we make it impossible for them to continue to do so.

There is yet much to be gained, much to strive for, allies and alliances to be made and lost, and undoubtedly many unhappy compromises to be made along the way.

So can they - at least some of them - be useful allies on particular causes at particular times? Yes, surely. So they still should be lobbied, petitioned, pressured. But do it knowing that when those causes are pushed to the point where they really impact the prerogatives of the powerful, you will suddenly find your assistance is no longer required, your counsel is no longer desired, your opinions are no longer regarded as having merit.

Can sufficient political and social pressure move them beyond that point, move in ways and to extents they would prefer to avoid? Absolutely. But again, know going in what will be required. Because never forget: They are not on our side.

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 4: Five things noted in passing

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 4: Five things noted in passing

Next up, an occasional feature called Five Things Noted in Passing, five things on which I'm only going to spend a minute or two each but I wanted to make sure got mentioned.

First, I have a prediction for you.

There is some speculation circulating around that Tweetie-pie will either pardon himself before he's kicked out of office or that he will resign before the Inauguration and let then-President Mike NotWorthAFarthing do the job.

I don't know if either of those will happen but I do say that there is no need for him to do either. Because I predict that a Joe Blahden administration, a Blahden DOJ, will not prosecute Tweetie-pie for any of his crimes, for any of his corruption.

Instead, Blahden will grandly say, just as the Amazing Mr. O said, coming into office faced with clear evidence of Bush the Lesser's war crimes, some version of "We must look forward, not backward, we must unite as one nation moving into a better future." And Tweetie-pie will walk.

Either way, Tweetie-pie may still not be off the hook, because Presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes, so any state-level prosecution, such as New York's case about taxes, would be unaffected.

But prosecuted by the Blahden administration? Not a chance.


Next, filed under the heading "All Your Data is Belonging to US," Facebook is demanding that a team of New York University researchers stop their work analyzing the micro-targeting of political ads on the platform.

The researchers have a team of 6500 volunteers across the US using a browser plug-in allowing the researchers to see what political ads are being shown to what viewers, enabling them to study how Facebook has been used for disinformation and manipulation.

But on October 16, Facebook demanded that the team disable the  plug-in and destroy all data gathered, threatening "additional enforcement action" if this is not done by November 30. The claim is that the tool violates the site's rule against automated bulk collection of data - the very thing Facebook itself does all the time in order to have the very demographic data it can use to - for its own considerable profit - enable advertisers to micro-target users.

It should be noted that the threatening demand, first reported a week after it was sent, has gotten heavy pushback from journalists, academics, and First Amendment lawyers.


Another fallout of the COVID pandemic is that the United Nations is facing a financial crisis. As of November 2, nearly one-third of the 193 member states have not paid up their yearly assessments, leading to a shortfall of $5.1 billion, which in the context of the UN budget is enough to threaten to undermine the world-wide operations of the organization.

The UN has never actually lived up to its promise but it's still a valuable organization, particularly in its international agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, the Relief and Works Agency, and the World Health Organization. (You did know that the WHO is part of the UN, yes?)

By the way, over half the shortfall is due to the failure of one nation to pay what it owes. Guess who.


Speaking of the WHO brings me to some news I have been wanting to share since I heard it, so forgive me for referring to an announcement made back on August 25. That was the day that the WHO declared that polio has been eradicated from the entire continent of Africa.

Polio, for those of you too young to remember it, is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system, leading to paralysis. As recently at the 1980s, polio - also known as infantile paralysis - was a dread disease, endemic in 125 nations and claiming 350,000 children a year.

Now, it is endemic in just two, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which have seen a combined total of 102 cases so far in 2020. That is a reduction of over 99.9% from the 1980s.

This the result of a campaign sparked in 1988 by Rotary International, which gained powerful partners in the form of UNICEF, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), and the WHO, among others. The campaign was to bring polio vaccines, which had been available in the industrialized world for decades, to those still in need.

The goal of making polio join smallpox in the dustbin of history is obviously not achieved, but it is in sight.


Finally, under the heading "this just in," it appears that the Affordable Care Act will for the third time survive a challenge at the Supreme Court.

At oral arguments on November 10 on the right wing's latest attempt to have the law struck down, two of the right-wing judges - John "The Smirk" Roberts and Brett "The Rapist" Kavanaugh - appeared ready to agree that the law's mandate to have insurance, the penalty for which was eliminated by Congress in 2017, should be thrown out but at the same time seemed prepared to have the rest of the law stand.

For his part, Roberts wondered aloud why, if Congress wanted the ACA to be dependent on the mandate, it didn't revoke the law when it eliminated the penalties while Kavahaugh said that precedent pointed in the direction of striking down the mandate but leaving the rest of the law intact.

Add the three judges considered liberal and you have a 5-4 majority.

Not a sure thing and clearly the whole issue of health care is something we'll be talking about a lot more, but for right now there is cause to be optimistic that we will at least not lose what has been gained.

A decision is expected by late spring.

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 3: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 3: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

For the Outrages, we need to be looking to the future and expecting that, as dangerous as a second term for Tweetie-pie would have been, he still has something around 10 weeks to do as much damage as he can.

And we should expect him to try to punish the nation - or at least the states that voted for Biden.

He said it himself. Writing at Raw Story, journalist David Cay Johnston notes that in Tweetie-pie's book Think Big he summed up his life philosophy in a single word: revenge.

"Then," quoting Johnston now, "he went on for 16 pages about how what gives him pleasure is ruining the lives of anyone who does not do as he asks. His long diatribe was intermingled with observations about his desires to do violence, especially against women."

In Tweetie-pie's own words, "If you don't get even you are just a schmuck!"

So for our Outrages we have four examples of Tweetie-pie trying to deny the truth that he is a thoroughgoing schmuck and a loser.

In chronological order:

On October 27, before the election but with the ultimate outcome clearly in sight, the EPA relinquished its oversight of a number of environmental issues across 38 federally recognized tribes’ lands in Oklahoma. Federal authorities mandated under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act, among others, will now be overseen by the state of Oklahoma.

The move means that fossil fuel and agriculture corporations will no longer have to consult with tribal governments about environmental issues related to, among others, fracking, the dumping of hazardous waste, and factory farm pollution runoff.

Those living on tribal lands are now subject to the by no means tender mercies of the state government of Oklahoma, whose fawning over the dirty fuelers and polluters leaves little doubt about the effect on native communities, which will become dumping grounds for toxic waste and a long list of other poisons and pollutants.

Next, for nearly 20 years, the "roadless rule" has protected wilderness by prohibiting timber harvesting and road construction in designated areas.

On October 28, the Tweetie-pie gang announced an intention to strip the protection of the roadless rule from Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

Tongass is our largest national forest, covering 26,000 square miles (68,000 square kilometers) of southeast Alaska, and is called the nation’s "crown jewel” by the US Forest Service. It is a pristine and rare temperate zone rainforest whose ecosystems provide critical habitat for grizzly bears, wolves, bald eagles all five species of Pacific salmon, and numerous other species.

I picked one picture to show the Tongass, but one picture can't do it justice, not when its ecosystems include ice fields, glaciers, old-growth forests, and islands facing the Pacific Ocean.

As a result of that rule change - done in the face of the fact that 96% of public comment on the change was against it - more than half of the Tongass can be opened to logging and mineral exploration.

Getting in one more kick to the national groin before the election, on November 1, the beginning of the 2021 open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, the Whitest House announced a waiver for the state of Georgia, allowing it to avoid using website, the marketplace for plans under the ACA, in the state.

Over a dozen states have gotten such waivers because they had developed either their own state-based exchanges or some other mechanism that provides coverage at least equal to that mandated under the ACS. Georgia - which didn't expand Medicaid - doesn't have its own online marketplace or any similar mechanism, so for practical purposes no one in Georgia will be able to sign up for Obamacare. Instead, people will have to go through brokers or do their own research on private websites. In other words, any Georgian in need of health insurance has just been dumped into the individual market. And good luck to them.

But don't worry, according to Seema Verma, director of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, the waiver will "usher in a groundswell of healthcare innovation that will deliver lower costs, better care, and more choice to Georgians" - just like the individual market always did in the past.

That could have been a good for a Clown Award - but considering that it's estimated that tens of thousands of people in Georgia will lose coverage because of this and so it can be reasonably said that people will die as a result, it's too serious for that.

Finally, one from after the election. It came out on November 9 that Tweetie-pie has removed the director of the National Climate Assessment, the federal government’s definitive report on climate change, which is updated every four years. The fifth one is due in 2022.

Michael Kuperberg, a climatologist who has held the post since 2015, was abruptly replaced by David Legates, who was first appointed by Tweetie-pie to a post as a deputy assistant secretary at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is - you won't be surprised - someone who has claimed, among other things, that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in fact are good for the planet and has dismissed his critics in the scientific community as “a bunch of thugs.”

Last month, it was reported that the Trump administration was delaying work on the Fifth National Climate Assessment. It looks now that delaying it has been upgraded to wrecking it.

Remember: Three of these examples are from before the election, when Tweetie-pie was only scared of losing. The tantrums he will throw now that he has lost - and make no mistake, he doesn't believe a word of the crap he's throwing around, he's just trying to avoid admitting that his presidency is as bankrupt as most of his businesses - can be expected to be much worse.

Revenge. It's what the next weeks will all be about. And that is an Outrage.

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 2: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

The Erickson Report for November 11 to 24, Page 2: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

And now for a special election-related edition of our regular feature, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

Clowns first. I like to think of at least some of the Clown Awards as somewhat light-hearted, things that even though they may be serious to the people directly involved, still involve such utter stupidity on someone's part as to make you laugh. I haven't really found a lot of that material recently. So this time I have as Clowns people who are being utterly nonsensical but who are not stupid. They know exactly what they are doing and they are doing it consciously.

So our Clowns this week are every single GOPper who has blathered and bloviated about how "the election isn't over" and "the media doesn't decide the election" - even though relying on media projections has never been a problem for them when they win.

Two examples will stand for the rest.

Sen. Lindsey Grahamcracker has been burbling about “a lot of shenanigans” supposedly taking place in the election - needless to say, without presenting a shred of evidence.

Tweetie-pie should not concede, he proclaimed, insisting "This is a contested election. The media doesn’t decide who becomes president. If they did, you would never have a Republican president forever. So we’re discounting them."

I would note that neither he nor any other GOPper was unwilling to accept media projections of Tweetie-pie's win in 2016, nor did he, as far as I can find, express any reservations about projections of his own win in his Senate race this time.

Then there is Ted Ooze, who claimed "We do not know who has prevailed in the election" because the results have not been certified yet. They never are at this point, it usually takes a couple of weeks, which again didn't matter to him in 2016 nor did he care when Tweetie-pie falsely claimed victory election night.

Final thought: Grahamcracker also said "If we don’t fight back in 2020, we’re never going to win again presidentially." Your mouth to God's ear, you Clown.

The Erickson Report for November 11-24, Page 1: Heroes and Villains

The Erickson Report for November 11-24, Page 1: Heroes and Villains

We start this time with an occasional feature we call Heroes and Villains

The Heroes this time are the voters of Nevada.

In 2002 a referendum amended the Nevada state constitution to define marriage as between “a male and female person.”

But this year, that amendment was overturned in favor of an amendment recognizing marriage “as between couples regardless of gender.” It makes Nevada the first state to put the right to same-sex marriage in its constitution.

It wasn't even close; the proposal passed 62 to 38.

That state already had a domestic partnership law since 2009 and of course the historic Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015 invalidated same-sex marriage bans nationwide, but this is still more than a mere formality both for symbolic and legal reasons.

Between 1998 and 2012 at least 30 states passed a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Obergefell obviated all those provisions, but they still exist. This way, the people of Nevada are protected even if Obergefell is overturned - and even though public acceptance of same-sex marriage now stands at 70%, according to an October poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, that event would mean having to re-fight those battles state by state. But not in Nevada.

Which brings me to the Villains.

As I mentioned last time at least two members of the federal Supreme Court - Clarabell Thomas and Sam the Sham Alito, doubtless eagerly looking forward to the addition of Amy Bugs Bunny Barret, are itching for a chance to take a second shot at making anti-LGBTQ bigotry constitutional by overturning Obergefell.

But again as I said last time, it's doubtful that ruling would be directly overturned; it's more likely that rights attendant to same-sex marriage would be chipped away until the right is just a shell of what it was.

And we are seeing the first signs of that.

On November 4, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.

The city of Philadelphia contracts with various agencies to arrange for foster care for children who need it. As part of that contact, it requires those agencies not to discriminate.

Now comes Catholic Social Services, which is affiliated with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, saying its religious views keep it from certifying same-sex couples as foster parents - while at the same time arguing that it can't be locked out of more foster care contracts with the city. In short, they are arguing that they must be free to actively discriminate against same-sex couples while still getting the money they get from the city for foster care services.

Catholic Social Services lost at both the district and appellate levels - but according to court observers, the right wing majority of the Supreme Court seems likely to agree - likely to agree, that is, that the city of Philadelphia can be required to accept bigotry.

It would seem to me that even though this involves a contract not a law, the principle that religious beliefs do not exempt you from "laws of general applicability," something else I mentioned last time, should apply here. But apparently not when it's the religious beliefs of the justices - seven of the nine are either Catholic or went to Catholic school or both - are involved.

A few of the justices got near but never actually got to the sort of questions I kept thinking: What if the agency refused to deal with previously divorced people? Catholic doctrine says marriage is indissoluble. If you divorced and remarried, could Catholic Social Services say "your relationship is contrary to our religion, we refuse to deal with you?"

What if it was an interracial couple? It wasn't until 1967 that US laws against that were finally all struck down, but you still find ultra-conservative churches saying it's against God's law. Would the city have to say that's no bar to a contract?

What if a conservative Jewish organization refused to deal with a couple because one was Jewish and the other not? Would the city have to contract with them if they applied?

Or does only Christianity or more specifically Catholicism get the pass?

This circumscribing of rights of same-sex couples beyond the marriage itself - in this case hindering their ability to be foster parents - is exactly the sort of concern that Clarabell and Sam the Sham have provoked. I guarantee this will not be the last example.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

025 The Erickson Report for November 11-24


The Erickson Report for November 11-24
This time:
Heroes and Villains
Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages
Five Things Noted in Passing
Some post-election commentary
A very brief RIP for Alex Trebek

Sources to follow shortly

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Watch this!


This at a time when right-wing judges, in their positions due to a decades-long campaign by reactionaries to deny the court system as a means of obtaining justice, are arguing that anything done to assist voting in the midst of a pandemic which has not been explicitly authorized by a state legislature is against the US constitution and the Supreme Court seems inclined to agree.

This typically bizarre "originalist" construction relies on Article 1 Section 4 and Article 2, Section 1, which give state legislatures the power to conduct federal elections in their states. The argument is that because no other body is specifically mentioned, no other body or office has any authority to act with regard to voting - even, it would seem, a state election board, specifically created to oversee the conduct of elections.

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