Saturday, February 06, 2021

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17, Page Four: The Rules for Right-wingers

The Rules for Right-wingers

To end the week, something I like to go back to from time to time. And with recent events, it seemed an appropriate time. It is my list of "The Rules for Right-wingers."

Flakes, nutcases, paranoids, and other assorted bozos are almost the totality of the present right-wing and almost the totality of the national Republican party. And for some time I had observed with varying degrees of annoyance and bemusement the predictable tactics of the wingers in debates - or rather, their tactics in avoiding actual debates. But I finally came to a point where I had had it with the evasions, the dodges, the schemes and slime that make up winger discussions and began assembling a list of those tactics.

So here it is, the latest always-subject-to-expansion-or-refinement list of wingnut arguing tactics and operating procedures, including a brand new one addition. They are listed simply in the order in which they got added.

Rule #1: Attack, attack, attack!
In fact, try to level so many attacks so fast that your opponent never gets to make a criticism of their own because they are so busy trying to catch up to your attacks. However, don't forget to be deeply shocked and offended if anyone on the left responds in kind.

Rule #2: Deny, deny, deny!
Doesn't matter if it's something undeniable, deny it anyway.

Rule #3: When facts are beyond even your ability to deny, change the subject.
This can be done in various ways, for example:
- Introduce irrelevant details on a tangential point.
- Pluck out from what your opponent said an individual phrase you think you can attack, even if it's one that was just tossed out offhandedly, and treat that as if it's the focus of the entire discussion.
- Tie up the discussion in piles of minutia to the point where everyone, including your opponent, loses track of the actual issue.

Rule #4: Issue a lengthy, ranting denunciation of "the left."
This often can be initiated with "whataboutism," responding to criticisms by ignoring them and going "Yeah? Well what about" whatever seems most useful at the moment. Try to include the words "hypocrites" and/or "hypocrisy," arguing that the left can't legitimately criticize the right (because any such criticism is by your definition hypocritical) while insisting that the right can continue to criticize the left. (Note: Where possible, include the phrase "you liberals" or better yet, "you libtards.")

Rule #5: Make the particular stand for the whole.
Find something offensive or silly some liberal or leftist, somewhere, sometime, said or did and label it as identifying the entire left half of the American political spectrum. Demand that your opponent spend their time denouncing that example rather than discussing the original topic.

Rule #6: Never answer a question.
When faced with one, ignore it and respond with a question, preferably on a different point. If possible, the question should be accusatory. If you do not get an answer, repeat the question and loudly demand it be answered while continuing to ignore the original question you were asked. If you do get an answer, ignore it. If necessary, drop the matter without acknowledging having gotten a reply; if possible, repeat the question, insisting it has not been answered, even if it has.

Rule #7: No amount of proof is enough.
Demand every remotely questionable assertion by your opponent be proved in every conceivable detail, right down to dates, times, and places, complete with signed affidavits. Refer to all factual assertions by your opponents as "just your opinion" even if the level of proof you demanded is supplied.

Rule #8: Assert unsourced statistics and facts with great assurance.
Or, more appropriately these days, assert "alternative facts." Reply to requests for proof by saying some version of "You can look it up." You thereby demand that your opponents do the work of proving your argument for you.

Rule #9: Frame the debate in false choices.
For example, "Do you support socialism or freedom?"

Rule #10: Accuse the accuser.
You could call this "I'm rubber and you're glue" method: Insist, even in the absence of any foundation, that any criticism of you actually applies to your opponent. For example, if someone notes you're avoiding a debate, insist "You're the one who won't debate!" Faced with examples of right-wingers lying, reply "That fits you lefties to a T!" If something you said is challenged as bigoted, say "You're being intolerant!" or better yet, "You're the real racist!"

Rule #11: When a claim has been debunked, continue to use it nonetheless.
When it has been debunked so thoroughly and completely that continuing to use it is counterproductive, stop claiming it for a time, after which assert it again as if the debunking had never happened. For numerous examples where this can be found, see climate change denialists.

Rule #12: Never accept responsibility.
Never, never, never admit any responsibility for the meaning or impact of your own words. If you want guidance, see almost any GOPper statement since January 6.

Rule #13: When all else has failed - and even when it hasn't - lie.
Just make crap up. Important: Keep repeating it. See Rule #11.

Specifically for use on TV discussions is

Rule #14: When you fear a contrary point may be raised, shout.
If that contrary point is a good one, shout very loudly. Your point may not get heard, but neither will your opponent's.

Rule #15: Seize control of the Clock of History.
Choose the period of time most advantageous to your argument and insist that any event outside that time frame, either before it or after it, is irrelevant and must not be considered. A recent example is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene saying how unfair it was for people to bring up things she said before she started running for Congress.

Rule #16: "Both Sides Now."
If the behavior of some among us is so undeniably bad that it can't be explained away, airily dismiss it with "both sides do it." Freely employ false equivalencies, such as the recent attempt to equate Marjorie Taylor Greene with Ilhan Omar.

Rule #17: All debate stops when you win - and only when you win.
Remember that there are only two responses to anything in contention: It's "up for debate" and "we won, the debate is over, shut up." Gun control provides a good example: In the 2008 Heller decision, the Supreme Court, for the first time in US history, held that owning a gun is an individual right. Even since then, we have been snickering "the Supreme Court has ruled. The debate is over." But for the 69 years preceding that, the controlling precedent was that the 2nd Amendment was about a collective right of collective self-defense, not an individual one. In all those years, we never said "the Supreme Court has ruled. The debate is over. We lost."

Which brings up

Rule #18: If you can't win by the rules, change them.
A great example of this is voter suppression. We know we can't win if the mass of the American public votes, so we have been engaged in a years-long effort to make it harder and harder for people we figure won't reliably vote our way to vote at all.

Rule #19: Intellectual consistency and honesty are for wusses and losers.
For a recent example, consider Mitch McConnell, who famously said his intent was to make Barack Obama a one-term president, proudly described the GOPper-run Senate as the place were progressive ideas "come to die," and changed the filibuster to get a string of reactionary judges onto the federal bench including the Supreme Court. Now he is complaining that if those mean ol' Democrats limit the filibuster it "would drain comity and consent" from the Senate.

But if you want an excellent example, consider that late in evening of election day, 2012, it looked for a time that Obama might lose the popular vote to that traitor Mitt Romney despite having won the electoral vote handily. In response, Our Lord Trump tweeted that such a result would be "a total sham and a travesty" and the electoral college is "a disaster for a democracy."

Rule #20: Sitzfleisch.
It's German for "sitting flesh" and it goes back to the days before chess clocks put time constraints on games and players would sometimes win by simply taking so long to move that their opponent would either give up or become so tired from the wait that they would make foolish moves and lose. More generally it can be taken to mean winning by virtue of sheer, unmitigated, stubbornness. We are past masters at this.

Finally for now, a new one that actually cuts across a number of others and truly sums up our worldview:

Rule #21: We are always the victim.
Whatever it is, we are the real victims. We are the ones facing discrimination. We are the ones being oppressed. We are the ones whose free speech is imperiled. We are the ones being called names. We are the ones who can't get a decent break.


Okay, that's all the rules for now. Scanning across all of them makes clear what the right wing actually is: a bunch of selfish, whining, crybabies. Which is why playing the victim comes so easily to them.

Okay, I'll wrap this up with an observation, one I've made before in discussing this: I frankly expect many of us have at some time or another been guilty of one or more of these sins in the course of a debate, especially if it got heated. But occasional sins in the heat of the moment is not what this is about. This is about a consistent pattern by the right of evasion and deceit. It is being an intellectual coward. It is about being a bully. It is about being a liar.

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17, Page Three: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [Outrages]

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17, Page Three: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [Outrages]

Now we turn to the Outrages, and this time we have just one. It's the Blahden administration.

Okay, it's more focused than that. A number of domestic moves have been encouraging, some even better than I expected. But on foreign and military policy, it's a disaster and an Outrage. Let me go through a few things in no particular order to illustrate.

For one thing, the Space Force, Tweetie-pie's vanity project, apparently is going to continue. Once established, it quickly developed institutional momentum, now preaching the Fear Merchants' classic line about "emerging threats," just now in space, and it seems he is of no mind to challenge that.

For another, take military spending in general. Despite the fact that during Tweetie-pie's regime, such spending rose 19%, Blahden is expected to resist calls from progressives to cut that budget in order to finance human needs, expected especially because even during the campaign, he said if elected he didn't foresee any significant reductions.

On Afghanistan, there are already indications that Blahden will keep US troops there past a May withdrawal deadline laid out in a deal with the Taliban. It appears the intention is to keep 2000-2500 troops there for "counterinsurgency" - apparently permanently, giving an interesting twist to the notion of "ending our forever wars."

Another forever war he is likely to continue is the drone wars. He's spoken very little on the topic, but as vice-president he advocated for what he called “counterterrorism plus,” in Afghanistan, a combination of special forces and aggressive drone bombing.

Now, I'm sure there are those who will praise his plans for Israel and the Palestinians, but they look good only by comparison to the horrendous Tweetie-pie years.

What he proposes is a return to the mushy, all-talk-no-action "support" for a two-state solution, a policy pursued by multiple previous administrations across parties, one marked primarily by tut-tutting and tsk-tsking about Israel's oppression of the Palestinians - including turning Gaza into what has been accurately described as the world's largest outdoor prison, building settlements, illegally seizing Palestinian land, and demolishing Palestinian homes - while at the same time providing Israel with billions in military support and deliberately refusing to use any of the leverage this gives the US to push for a political settlement.

One more case to mention is Venezuela, where the Blahden administration will continue to recognize Juan Guaido as president, part of a campaign to force out president Nicolas Maduro, a campaign marked by crushing economic sanctions that have cost the Venezuelan economy an estimated $194 billion, reduced import earnings by 99%, and killed tens of thousands from lack of medical supplies and medicines. And for those who would parrot the official line that the sanctions are because of Maduro's disputed 2018 re-election, I'd note that the first round of economic sanctions came in August 2017, nearly a year before that election took place.

There is a lot more to this; I had originally intended to do a whole segment about Venezuela but the time to explain it properly just kept expanding and expanding to more than I could properly present. But know this: There is a great deal to doubt and question about Nicolas Maduro but ultimately this is not and never was about him. The US has been trying to undermine or overthrow the government of Venezuela since 1998, when the people there committed the unforgivable sin of electing the socialist Hugo Chavez. Nicolas Maduro is not the cause, he is the current excuse.

Because ultimately, this is not about democracy or free elections. It is about dominance and the bipartisan foreign policy consensus which Joe Blahden embraces. Which is an Outrage.

Friday, February 05, 2021

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17, Page Two: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [Clowns]

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17, Page Two: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [Clowns]

Now it's time for Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages and we start, as we usually do, with the Clowns.

Our first Clown is the US Supreme Court.

On January 25, the Supreme Court simply and it appears without dissent threw out everything related to suits over Tweetie-pie having violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, that is, having profited off his presidency. Which he clearly did, maintaining an interest in his businesses and profiting off the numerous foreign and domestic officials who sought to buy his favor by staying at the Trump International Hotel.

But the Court just didn't care about that. The justices did three things: They threw out Trump’s challenge to lower court rulings that had allowed the two related lawsuits to go forward, plus they ordered those lower court rulings also be thrown out, plus they directed the two involved appeals courts to dismiss the suits completely.

Why? Because, the court said, Tweetie-pie is no longer in office so the whole matter is moot, there is no longer an issue in dispute, there is nothing for us to decide.

This is stupid.

According to Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, "Ordinarily, the Court pursues such a step only when the prevailing party moots a case while the appeal is pending." That is, it's usually done when the side which won in the lower court does something that removes the cause of the dispute. Which clearly is not what happened here.

What's more, there clearly is still is an issue in dispute. Walter Shaub, former chief of the Office of Government Ethics, who called the decision "insane," noted that Tweetie-pie still has the money, saying in a tweet that "When any other federal employee violates the emoluments clause they have to forfeit the money."

Calling this case moot because Tweetie-pie is out of office is like investigating a bank executive suspected of embezzling money and then saying you're going to drop the whole thing because they've taken a different job.

So why was it mooted? According to Vladeck, it shows that the court is "increasingly willing to invoke this doctrine to avoid highly charged political disputes." In other words, because they don't have the guts to make the decision.

What makes this even more idiotic is that there's another pending suit charging that Tweetie-pie violated the First Amendment right of people to petition the government by blocking them from his Twitter account and some experts are saying that the Court will not use mootness to wipe away a lower court ruling that went against Tweetie-pie because Blahden also has a Twitter account.

What, and no future president will have business interests? No future president can violate the emoluments clause? And those that do can just keep the money?

The Supreme Court has acted like a bunch of damn Clowns.


Next, on Janury 28, hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman, with an estimate net worth around $3 billion, reacted to the retail investors who banded together to drive up GameStop shares and so wreck a plan by short-selling hedge funds to profit by the company's expected failure by sneering at people "sitting at home, getting their checks from the government, trading for no commissions." In other words, those damn unwashed, non-elitist masses. How dare they mess up our game.

He also denounced a financial transaction tax and other measures to battle inequality, calling the idea of a "fair share" as "a bullshit concept" and "just a way of attacking wealthy people."

Yeah, well at least in going after a Clown like Leon Cooperman, they're aiming at the right target.


Meanwhile, the Stultifyingly Dense championship has been won by Jamie Allard, a member of the Alaska legislature who defended a license plate with the legend "3REICH."

In a Facebook post, Allard said "If you speak the language fluently, you would know" the the English translation is "realm." Actually, "empire" is a better in-context translation, but no matter, as she continued by saying "The progressives have put a spin on it and created their own definition."

Allard is a now former member of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights.

Allard insisted she was the victim of unfair attacks but agreed to resign in order to spend more time with her fam- I mean spend more time on her Assembly duties.

A trip to the Holocaust Museum might also be a good use of her time.


Finally, I had to include this one. Just last time, I cited Terry Jones, a GOPper member of the North Dakota legislature, who introduced a bill under which any state form that asks for racial information would be required to list "American" as the first choice. He claimed that would unite people, including black Americans, who are, he said, "glad their ancestors were brought here as slaves."

It turns out he's not a one-hit wonder.

He has also introduced a bill that pretty much rewrites the dictionary in order to control how the state deals with LGBTQ+ issues.

What the bill does, essentially, is to declare that the idea of LGBTQ+ rights is based on the supposed "religion" of secular humanism and therefore any assistance to or even acknowledgement of the existence of LGBTQ+ people in any way is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

It’s all just, as someone called it, a conservative Christian bigot’s fever dream - which is, admittedly, a natural product of a Clown.

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17, Page One: Good News

The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17, Page One: Good News

We start with some Good News coming out of the Blahden administration. Most of what has come out so far has ranged from encouraging to disappointing to ugly, but I wanted to mention something that has gotten somewhat less attention that qualifies as encouraging and with one change could become genuine Good News.

So: On January 26 Prez Blahden signed an Executive Order instructing the Justice Department not to renew any contracts with private prisons, with domestic policy adviser Susan Rice saying, quite accurately, that they “profiteer off of federal prisoners.” They've also been found to be less safe for prisoners and prison cops alike.

The downside is that the order only applies to the DOJ, not to the Department of Homeland Security, which uses such prisons to jail undocumented immigrants. Expand the order to include DHS, and you go from encouraging news to truly Good News.


Speaking of small changes, one could make 2021 a breakthrough year for women's rights.

Some of you may recall the Equal Rights Amendment, the ERA, which would amend the Constitution to ban discrimination on account of sex.

If you remember the amendment, you may also recall it failed, failed because unlike any previous amendment sent to the states, a time limit was set on ratification. In 1982 it ran out of time with 35 of the needed 38 states having approved it, having failed to overcome a rightwing campaign of lies and misinformation. If you don't remember that, just think back on the business a few years ago about the horrors would ensure if transgender people were able to use the restroom of their choice. It was the same kinda thing; in fact the claims actually included one that the amendment would require unisex bathrooms and locker rooms.

Around 2015, a new push started to get those three more states and a year ago, in January 2020, Virginia became state number 38.

In response, the House of Representatives passed an extension of the deadline that would mean the approval of the ERA. But Fishface McConnell refused to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote.

But whether you say "what a difference a year makes" or "elections have consequences," he no longer has that power and bipartisan bills to extend the deadline and thereby make the ERA part of the Constitution are being introduced in both the House and Senate.

Which means that 2021 looks like the best chance the ERA has had in 39 years. And if that works out, oh yeah, that would be Good News.


Next up, a case out of Alabama brings some encouraging news for transgender people.

Alabama driver's licenses, like that of all states, includes a statement of the license holder's sex. However, transgender people in Alabama cannot get a license reflecting their gender identity unless they can present proof of having had what the state calls "complete surgery," meaning both genital and top reconstruction surgery. Such surgeries not only carry risks, as does all surgery, but can be unavailable or unaffordable and may not even be necessary or desired - there is, after all, no reason that a, for example, biological male must have surgery in order to preof themselves as, be perceived as, present as, and live life as female.

In fact, in a 2015 survey on the topic, only 25 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming people reported having undergone some form of transition-related surgery.

The case at hand began in 2018 when three transgender people in Alabama sued the state after they were denied driver's licenses that reflected their genders.

It reached an important milestone on January 15 when Senior Judge Myron Thompson of the federal District Court for Middle Alabama declared that the policy was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

"By making the content of people's driver licenses depend on the nature of their genitalia, the policy classifies by sex," Thompson wrote. "Under Equal Protection Clause doctrine, it is subject to an intermediate form of heightened scrutiny," meaning that to treat people differently based on sex, in the words of the three folks' lawyer, "they have to have a very good reason for what they're doing, and they really did not."

With this decision, there are still eight states and two US territories that require proof of surgery to change a driver's license sex marker and a number more that place burdens short of surgery on those who don't fit a purely physical definition of male and female. On the other hand, there are 20 states that allow people to decide what marker is appropriate for them, nineteen of which include the option of X, for non-binary. Progress is being made.

I called this decision a milestone, a marker about markers if you will, rather than a conclusion. I used that term because the case isn't over; Alabama says it intends to appeal and being in the reactionary 11th Circuit, the outcome is by no means assured. But it is still a victory. And it is still a step forward.

And that is still Good News.


Finally for this time out, we go to Georgia, where the state legislature set a series of COVID-19 safety protocols for its 2021 session, including a requirement that members and staff get tested twice a week at a site established for that very purpose.

On January 26, GOPper David Clark was escorted out of the state Capitol chambers for refusing to take the test. He also lost his office space across the street from the Capitol until he agreed to "participate in safety protocols and not put other members and staff in harm's way."

Which means one of the flock of self-important "I don't wanna and you can't make me" jackasses has actually faced some consequences for being a self-important "I don't wanna and you can't make me" jackass.

Which yeah, is overdue Good News.

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17

Good News
private prisons
the ERA
LGBTQ+ rights
Georgia COVID protocols

Leon Cooperman
Jaime Allard
Terry Jones

Biden foreign/military policy

Rules for Rightwingers
personal observations over time
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