LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Bootlegging the Bootleggers (Apartment Edition)

Home Sweet Sign

Every year in Los Angeles, the city housing department learns that 600 to 700 enterprising urban homesteaders have built “bootleg apartments” without bothering to obtain permits. According to a Times piece by Emily Alpert Reyes, this activity has brought an “unusual alliance of landlords and tenants” who want the city to issue an amnesty for those units that conform to safety codes.

“Landlords argue that many of these nonconforming apartments are perfectly safe. And tenant advocates say they often provide rare patches of affordable housing in a city of whopping rents,” writes Reyes.

Current practice, Amos Hartson, chief counsel and director of legal services at Inner City Law Center, is to “evict tenants and rip out the unit” after they’re discovered. Both sides see this as a waste of perfectly good housing.

Reyes: “The details are still being worked out, but backers say the idea is simple: Landlords could come forwardand fix plumbing, wiring or other issues without enduring a lengthy, expensive process to comply with city codes. Tenants could avoid being displaced from decent apartments.”

Not everyone is cool with this. “If you follow this lawless path, you’d very quickly see the quality of life deteriorate for residents in lawful, permitted apartments,” said Steve Sann, chairman of the Westwood Community Council. “It’s a fiction to say you can cram more people in the same space and nobody loses out.”

Though seemingly novel, there are precedents for retroactively legitimizing living spaces that began outside the normal legal strictures. New York’s SoHo district, now a tony tourist neighborhood choking with high-end boutiques, was populated during the bad old 1980s days by artists roughing it in former industrial lofts, sometimes without running water, much less certificates of occupancy. A “Loft Law” allows people who can prove they’ve been in their now-seven-figure spaces since the “C.H.U.D.” period to keep them. Also in New York, squatters have occasionally been allowed to keep “their” homes — sometimes even collecting city loans to help them make improvements.

In Los Angeles, the police won’t arrest a squatter unless there’s proof a crime has been committed — and he can only be evicted as the result of a civil proceeding, which can take many months. But that’s an ad hoc, not a systemic, policy.

Which brings us to Sann’s point. If anyone can create a bootleg apartment anywhere he or she wants, aren’t those of us who pay rents and mortgages — not to mention real estate taxes — suckers to play by the rules? The median price of a three-bedroom house in L.A. county is $668,000. Wouldn’t it be smarter to set ourselves up anywhere we want, then get legal later?

For this cartoon, I fantasize about moving into the ultimate view, from the top of the Hollywood sign. Because the setting doesn’t have a lot of intrinsic detail, I worked a little harder than usual on the foliage.

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Because I Love You

My new book, “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Embedded in Afghanistan” comes out in two weeks! (I am SO going to regret choosing that long title.) I’m getting ready to do a series of discussions and book signings all over the United States during September, October and November, and in preparation I have been going through photos of my 2010 trip. That’s when I found this beauty:

Trippy

 

It’s the courtyard of the empty wedding banquet hall where we stayed in Taliban-controlled Taloqan, in Takhar Province near the Tajikistani border.

Freedom, you see isn’t free – there’s a terrible price to pay in terms of taste.

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Obama Says His Silly NGO Would Have Saved Michael Brown

This is an early release due to the timely nature of this cartoon:

President Obama suggested that My Brother’s Keeper, a broad coalition of backers of local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media that meets periodically at fancy resort hotels to discuss the challenges facing boys and young men of color, might have saved Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, from being shot to death by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.

My Brother's Keeper Scrambles Into Action

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: We Would Never Have Had a National Conversation on Racial Profiling if People Hadn’t Rioted in Ferguson

Ferguson, Missouri offers a lesson for those of us who are trying to make life more fair: if you want the powers that be to pay attention, violent protest is more effective than nonviolence.

At this writing, race riots following the shooting of an unarmed young black man by a white cop in a suburb of St. Louis are dominating newspaper headlines and network news coverage. Federal and state officials have taken the rare step of chastising local police authorities, with the second-guessing going so far as to include a do-over of the autopsy of the 18-year-old victim, Michael Brown.

Violent demonstrators have the attention of the attorney general and the president of the United States, the latter of whom broke away from his vacation to call for both “respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.” (After his administration’s coordination of the brutal crackdown against the peaceful Occupy Wall Street movement, and his decision to shunt marchers at the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions into distant, hidden, caged “free speech zones,” Obama’s defense of the right to protest is a startling 180° turn.)

After years of ignoring the problem, we are finally beginning a national conversation about police racial profiling of African-Americans, especially young men. “Driving while black,” “stop and frisk” and the militarization of local law enforcement that always seems to fall heaviest against black communities (c.f., New Orleans during Katrina) have gone on for decades — but no one besides blacks seemed to care.

Thanks to Ferguson’s rioters, mainstream (white, wealthy) America is questioning those oppressive tactics.

This is a political breakthrough. And it’s only happening because people are throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks, and breaking windows and looting, and coming out night after night to confront the police even though — arguably because — the police are shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at them.

Michael Brown’s death fits a standard narrative: White Policeman Shoots Unarmed Black Youth. Happens all the time. White cops who kill unarmed black people are rarely charged with a crime; those who get charged are rarely convicted.

As far as I can tell, no white policeman in the United States has ever received a lengthy prison term for killing an unarmed African-American civilian.

Police shootings provoke anger among the black community — and there it remains. This is because black political and religious leaders usually persuade citizens to limit their tactics to peaceful protest.

Peaceful marches don’t scare the ruling classes. Which is why they don’t lead to meaningful change.

Nonviolent protest was the reaction last month when a NYPD officer killed 43-year-old Eric Garner, suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes, using an illegal chokehold. “We’re not gonna start fighting and pushing each other and breaking windows, right?” Garner’s mother urged at a rally.

So far, the protesters’ decision to respect private property rights has had zero effect. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, yet the cop remains at work and uncharged.

Also in New York, another unarmed 18-year-old, Ramarley Graham, was shot to death by an undercover narcotics officer who broke into his apartment without a warrant in 2012. Protesters adhered to the usual nonviolent tactics. As usual, results were nil. From The Los Angeles Times: “A judge threw out a manslaughter indictment against the officer who shot Graham on a technicality. A second grand jury failed to indict the officer, saying there was insufficient evidence to charge him. Graham’s family and local lawmakers have called for the Justice Department to investigate.”

I’m a white guy, so I don’t have to worry about getting shot by cops if I’m in a car accident. As a black man, however, Manuel Loggins, Jr. wasn’t so lucky. After Loggins wrecked his SUV, an Orange County sheriff’s deputy shot him — he was unarmed — in front of his 9- and 14-year-old daughters because he had a “mean” expression. This was in 2012. Again, there were peaceful protests. As usual, the deputy was not charged.

This is how it always goes.

Ferguson’s protesters include old-school nonviolent civil rights types as well as younger activists who are fighting back against the police in kind. At a meeting, The New York Times reported, “clergy members despaired over the seemingly uncontrollable nature of the protest movement and the flare-ups of violence that older people in the group abhorred.” The paper quoted an older man from East St. Louis: “These kids do not understand why the nonviolence movement is the best way to get done what we need to get done.”

Given how quickly the young firebrands are getting results, the old folks are the ones who don’t understand.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out Sept. 2. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Finally, on a Saturday during the dog days of August, the truth can be told

For anyone thinking of following Robin Williams’ example and killing themselves, here is why I don’t ever want to do that. There is so much worth living for, so many laughs you never know that you’re going to have, and here is something I never would’ve expected I would ever see. Be prepared to laugh:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=BTZBpBYq-DI

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Killing My Metrics

Messing Up My Metrics

An investigation by Los Angeles Times reporters found that the “LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies.”

Like all police departments, the LAPD strives to reduce crime. The trouble is, it looks like the numerical targets are having an unintended result. Rather than actually reducing crime — perhaps an unrealistic goal given that the economy has been significantly less than stellar for the last six years — there’s substantial evidence that cops are gaming the system by painting a rosier picture than what’s really going on on the streets.

Retired and current LAPD officers complain that the department is encouraging cops to underreport crime and reduce the seriousness of charges in order to meet statistical goals for lower crime: “The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in the LAPD’s published statistics on serious crime that officials and the public use to judge the department’s performance,” wrote Ben Poston and Joel Rubin.

Interestingly, the alleged misconduct did not occur across the entire horizon of criminality: “Nearly all the misclassified crimes were actually aggravated assaults. If those incidents had been recorded correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period would have been almost 14% higher than the official figure, The Times found.” The effect was nevertheless significant: “The tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7% higher.”

The LAPD’s top-down target metrics approach is familiar to anyone who has worked for a major corporation in recent years. Do more with less resources, the directive goes, or else. Most of the time, of course, workers do less with less. Which may what happened here.

Like other government agencies, the police have suffered budget cuts that have hurt the ability of cops to do their jobs. Low starting salaries have made it difficult for the department to recruit new officers. With job growth in the “recovery” puttering along at 1.6% annual growth, long-term unemployment — either an indicator or a cause of crime, depending who you ask — remains high in the Southland.

For cops, it adds up to an impossible situation: harder job, less ability to do it, top brass in thrall to number crunchers insistent that what cops need is the pressure of higher standards. If some members of the force are cheating, you might be able to blame them — but you can’t be surprised.

It reminds me of the teaching test scandals, when California teachers helped their students cheat on the Academic Performance Index scores. It ain’t right. But neither is making impossible demands.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: “Ask the Pundit”: What Should the U.S. Do About ISIS?

http://img.rt.com/files/news/29/3d/40/00/isis-iraq-war-crimes.si.jpg

Reader Brian McManus asks:

“Just wondering if you can find time to post a piece on what the U.S. should do (or not do) regarding the current situation with ISIS in Iraq. Not so much on how the situation got to be where it is, but what the U.S. and/or other nations should do in situations like this. Would appreciate your thoughts on the issue.”

Thanks for writing, Brian.

Americans are “can do” people. Optimism is an appealing national personality trait but it comes with the unfortunate tendency to overestimate what can be done and its more dangerous corollary, the will to act when doing nothing would be preferable.

We saw the pitfalls of can-do following 9/11. Initial reactions to the attacks were shock and confusion. Traditional ideological divides were blurred, but in those early days one could still discern the pre-GWOT liberal tendency toward treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue, versus the old hawkish rightist desire to lash out militarily. Then the Right trotted out a line that resonated across the spectrum and caused the antiwar left to dissolve as into mist:

We have to do something.

In the United States, “something” means military action.

The thing we “have” to do “something” about always refers to foreign policy.

Americans don’t feel that “have to do something” about domestic problems. Poverty? No need to act. Corrupt bankers? Inaction is fine. But if a crisis flares up overseas (a civil war as in Syria or Libya, a siege of civilians as in Sarajevo or Iraqi Kurdistan, cross-border encroachment as in ex-Soviet Georgia or Crimea), and especially if it involves opponents the media categorizes as “bad guys” (regional economic rivals such as Iran, China or Russia, radical Islamists who may or may not have gotten their guns from us), “we” “have” “to” “do” “something” (military action).

This is not true.

There are always alternatives to military action. The success of the formerly Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria insurgency, which controls half of both countries, is no exception. Half-measures come in both military (money and weapons) and non-military (political advisors) forms.

We can do nothing.

Albania is doing nothing in Iraq. Cuba is doing nothing in Iraq. Vietnam is doing nothing in Iraq. These countries have not been harmed by their refusal to intervene militarily in Iraq.

As I see it, Brian, whatever appetite ordinary Americans have for Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS and other attempts to prop up the current regime in Baghdad stems from the investment of lives and treasure the U.S. has made since the 2003 invasion.

“To be sure, the cost was high,” then-Secretary of State Leon Panetta said when Obama ordered the main troop withdrawal from Iraq. “But those lives were not lost in vain. They gave birth to an independent, free, and sovereign Iraq.”

If ISIS captures Baghdad and establishes Taliban-style Sharia law throughout Iraq, complete with amputations of accused thieves and stonings of wayward women — leaving Iraq, already in worse shape than it was under Saddam, an unequivocal nightmare for its people and a base for radical jihadis out to overthrow U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia — Panetta’s statement will have been belied.

The war will have been exposed as a total waste.

Which it was. Every American who lost a life or a limb in Iraq was sacrificed stupidly, predictably, in a war that never could have been won even had the generals and politicians in charge of it weren’t idiots.

The attempt to salvage Iraq by saving the rump Iraqi state inside the Green Zone is a refusal to accept defeat. But that doesn’t change reality.

We lost the Iraq War years ago. The sooner we accept that there is nothing to be saved there and move on, the better off we’ll be.

Undeniably and regrettably, washing our hands of Iraq — aside from leaving ISIS alone, we ought to evacuate the embassy and other government personnel Obama says we need to “protect” — will result in awful consequences. Whether or not ISIS can close the deal by capturing Baghdad, the sectarian conflict will escalate. Areas within ISIS control will be lost for the foreseeable future. More civilians will die, many as the result of “ethnic cleansing.”

We know these things will happen because we’ve lost wars before. The U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam created the “boat people” crisis, opened space for wars between Vietnam and its neighbors China and Cambodia, and permitted a communist regime hostile to U.S. interests to consolidate power, and exclude American business for decades.

But consider the alternative.

Remaining in Vietnam would have required pouring more money and more soldiers down a hole, and slaughtering countless more Vietnamese. We still would have lost. All that post-withdrawal stuff — the civil conflicts, reprisals against our former local collaborators — would still have happened. It just would have happened later.

After we accepted defeat and walked away from Vietnam, on the other hand, things eventually worked out. Vietnam is now a major U.S. trading partner; nearly half a million American tourists visit Vietnam each year.

A guy named Barack Obama once summarized his foreign policy as “Don’t do stupid stuff” like invading Iraq in the first place. Hillary’s jibes and Obama’s actions aside, it’s good advice. To which I’ll add Ho Chi Minh’s legendary order to his general Vo Nguyen Giap, who was planning the decisive 1954 battle that would expel France from Indochina: “If victory is certain, then you are to attack. If victory is not certain, then you must resolutely refrain from attacking.”

            Victory against ISIS is anything but certain. Therefore, in this and similar situations, I would refrain from attacking.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out Sept. 2. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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Fall 2014 Book Tour

Just added some new events for the tour for the new Afghanistan book. Here’s what we have confirmed so far:

Sunday, August 31, 2014
2:30 PM
AJC Decatur Book Festival
Decatur, Georgia

September 3, 2014
7:00 PM

The Strand
828 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Monday, September 22, 2014
6:00 PM
Book Passage
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

Saturday, September 27, 2014
9:00 PM
The Seminary Co-op Bookstores
5751 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
6:30 PM

(with Economist editorial cartoonist KAL)
KramerBooks
1517 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

Thursday, October 2, 2014
7:00 PM
Books & Co.
4453 Walnut St
Beavercreek, OH 45440

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
5:30 PM – 8:30 PM

National Press Club Book Fair
529 14th Street NW
Ballroom
Washington, DC 20045

Would you like Ted to speak to your reading group,organization, rally, university, or local store? Click below!
BOOK TED RALL FOR YOUR EVENT

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