SYNDICATED COLUMN: Working for the U.S. Government Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

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Harry Truman famously kept a sign on his desk that read: “The buck stops here.” (“Buck” is a disused term for “accountability,” not money.) What Truman’s phrase meant — it says a lot about the state of things that it needs to be explained — was that he, like the captain of a ship, accepted responsibility for everything that happened under his watch.

With Barack Obama, there’s nary a buck to be found. To paraphrase the 1970 movie “Love Story,” working for the United States government means never having to say you’re sorry.

Days before Obama took office in 2009, Obama signaled that federal workers who break the law would have nothing to worry about. During his campaign he’d promised to prosecute the CIA and military personnel who tortured Afghans, Iraqis and other Muslims under orders from Bush and Cheney. People who voted for him expected him to follow through. The CIA torturers were worried sick. Their victims looked forward to seeing justice served.

Breaking his pledge, Obama issued the monsters a “get out of jail free” card. There wouldn’t even be an investigation, much less indictments. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he said. The new president traveled to Langley to reassure the torturers everything would be cool. (“I will be as vigorous in protecting you as you are vigorous in protecting the American people.”) He even cooperated with the Republicans who approved of torture to pressure other countries not to file charges against U.S. torturers.

After 9/11, Americans asked themselves: why do they (Muslims in general, foreigners in particular) hate us?

No need to ask that one anymore.

One telltale sign that the government is engaged in a cover-up is timing: when it releases a report just before the weekend news blackout, you know something nasty is afoot. Obama’s latest whitewash, dumped online Friday, is the Administration’s attempt to drown its responsibility for one of the most heinous acts of mass murder in years in 3000 pages of spin, dissembling and circular logic.

On October 3rd, an AC-130 fixed-wing gunship — a fearsome array of high-caliber weaponry best described as a hovering battleship — unleashed an hour of hellfire on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, killing 42 doctors, staffers and patients, and wounding many others. The facility was completely destroyed. MSF (the French acronym for the group) pulled out. There is no longer any high-quality trauma care available in a major city in an active conflict zone.

It is now universally acknowledged that the attack was a mistake.

At the time, however, the Pentagon lied and denied. “Collateral damage,” they first said — they were aiming at something else. For an hour. Over and over. Then they said the Taliban were firing at U.S. forces from inside the hospital. (Never happened.) Next they blamed Afghan forces for calling in the airstrike. (They couldn’t have, and didn’t.) Finally, they admitted it was U.S. Special Forces.

Ultimately the new commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan issued an actual apology on March 22nd. “They hit us six months ago and are apologizing now?” spat Zabiullah Niazi, an OR nurse who lost his eye, one finger and the ability to use his hand, in the attack — and, like the other victims, has yet to receive compensation.

The heavily-redacted 3000-page report issued Friday by the Pentagon “describes a mission that went wrong from start to finish,” according to The New York Times. What stands out is the Americans’ obsession with protecting themselves at all cost, all others be damned — an attitude that has characterized the post-9/11 War of Terror.

“Even after Doctors Without Borders informed American commanders that a gunship was attacking a hospital, the airstrike was not immediately called off because, it appears, the Americans could not confirm themselves that the hospital was actually free of Taliban,” reports the Times. “‘Immediately calling for a cease-fire for a situation we have no SA’ — situational awareness, that is — ‘could put the ground force at risk,’ an American commander [said].” If you’re trying not to hurt innocent people, prudence dictates that you hold fire until your target is positively identified. Here, as usual in U.S. war zones, the default mode was to keep firing no matter what.

This is reckless disregard for human life writ large. So who will be held accountable?

“The punishments for the attack will be ‘administrative actions’ only, and none of those being disciplined will face criminal charges because the attack was determined to be unintentional… The punishments include suspension, removal from command and letters of reprimand, which can seriously damage or end a career.”

Reckless disregard for human life is a war crime. For example, former Rwandan official Clément Kayishema was convicted by an international tribunal for several counts of war crimes related to murder of Hutus in 1994, one of which was his reckless disregard for the possibility that his actions would lead to people’s deaths.

Forty-two people were murdered in Kunduz. So what if it’s just manslaughter or second-degree murder, rather than premeditated first-degree murder? Justice demands prison sentences, not letters added to personnel files.

I’d start with the guy who sits behind Harry Truman’s old desk.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: What’s Up with Black Voters?

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Thomas Frank made a splash a decade ago with a bestseller called “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” In his book Frank attempted to answer the question: why do so many Americans — working-class Americans — vote against their economic and social interests — i.e., Republican?

I’ve been thinking about Frank a lot lately. Beginning with the Southern states on Super Tuesday and continuing through Tuesday’s important New York primary, the crucial support of black voters has created a “firewall” for Hillary Clinton against the insurgent candidacy of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race for president. Yet Sanders is far more liberal than Clinton, and has a far better record on black issues than she does.

What’s going on? Why are so many black Americans voting against their own interests — i.e., for a Democrat in Name Only?

Sanders, the liberal radical, in the race, carries white states. Clinton, the conservative incrementalist, carries those that are more ethnically diverse. In New York this week, the pattern continued (though there’s strong evidence the primary was stolen by Clintonista-Cuomoite henchmen, but that’s another story). According to exit polls, Hillary carried 75% of African-Americans in New York, compared to 49% of whites. Because it’s uncomfortable for liberals to talk about, no one much does. But the data is clear.

There is a glaring racial divide within the Democratic Party.

This appears to be new. On November 7, 1984, posters went up in my old neighborhood, the Manhattan Valley section of upper Manhattan. They were printed by the city Democratic Party, thanking residents for voting for Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan at the highest rate in the United States. Then as now, the area was diverse: predominantly Latino, with many blacks and, due to nascent gentrification, a growing white presence. We were all — young white people like me, young people of color, middle-aged people of color, old people of color — on the same page politically: as far left as allowed by law. If there’d been a Bernie Sanders on the ballot in 1984, he would have gotten 99% of Manhattan Valley.

Things have changed over the last 32 years. It’s hard to tell when or how or why. Howard Dean and John Edwards (both insurgent liberals who had trouble attracting black votes) included, Democratic Party politics hasn’t seen any major candidate as left or progressive as Bernie Sanders during that period (really, since George McGovern in 1972). Until now, it’s been hard to clearly perceive the race gap.

Privately, many of Sanders’ supporters are paraphrasing Thomas Frank: what, they wonder, is going on with black people? If the Democratic primary campaign were based on the issues and the candidates’ personal histories, we’d expect blacks to be a key voting bloc for Bernie, not Hillary.

On racial justice issues, Bernie is a zillion times better than Hillary.

During the Civil Rights movement in 1963, Bernie Sanders got arrested to protest housing segregation and traveled to the March on Washington to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was an “active young Republican and, later, a Goldwater girl.” Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act.

Sanders has consistently championed racial equality and fought poverty and income disparity, two economic scourges that hurt blacks worse than anyone else. As First Lady, Clinton pushed her husband’s 1994 crime bill, which accelerated mass incarceration of blacks. (Though she and Bill now admit it went too far, neither have proposed actually doing something to fix it, like letting those sentenced under the law out of prison.) She also backed “welfare reform,” which drastically increased extreme poverty, especially among blacks. And while running for president in 2008, she was the only candidate who said she wouldn’t end the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Hillary is essentially a Republican.

Since when do blacks vote Republican?

One possible answer is name recognition. Hillary Clinton has been a boldface name in politics since 1993. As recently as September, 38% of all Americans had never heard of Bernie Sanders. But that doesn’t explain the race gap. Sanders was an obscure figure to whites and blacks alike.

Another is class. Influenced by Marx, Old Left Democrats like Sanders see racism, sexism and other forms of oppression as subsets of class warfare by ruling elites against the rest of us. Today’s Democrats have abandoned class analysis in favor of identity politics.

So even though she’s wealthy, devotees of identity politics see Hillary Clinton as a victim of oppression because she’s a woman. Even though he’s Jewish and middle-class, identitarians consider Bernie Sanders a privileged white male. Perhaps this is why some black voters relate to her more than the old guy.

Then there’s a factor so ugly that many of us on the left don’t like to discuss it: black anti-Semitism. According to Anti-Defamation League surveys, anti-Semitism is significantly more widespread among African-American and Latino voters than the population as a whole. Some black voters may be holding Bernie’s Jewishness against him.

Ageism may play a role too: in part thanks to obvious plastic surgery, Hillary, 68, looks younger than Bernie, 74. But are blacks more ageist than white millennials?

Interesting speculation. But let’s look at what we know about how Democrats chose their candidates in New York. Hillary voters told pollsters they prioritized (in order) experience, electability (though Bernie is actually more electable) and continuing Obama’s policies.

Bernie voters said the factors they most cared about were honesty and trustworthiness, and policies more liberal than Obama’s.

There’s more than a whiff of the identity politics explanation there. Obama has been weak on racial issues. Understandably, many black voters nevertheless value his historical import as the first black president and remain loyal to him, despite his inaction on things that matter to them. Hillary was, of course, Obama’s secretary of state. And she invokes him all the time.

The (false) belief that Hillary is more electable than Bernie is, I think, the most underappreciated factor driving black support for her. The Rev. Al Sharpton ran for president in 2004. After he got trounced in the South Carolina primary, people wondered why a state with so many blacks delivered so few votes for the one black candidate in the race. One answer was instructive:

“The black vote is looking for a winner and they are not looking to make a statement about race. John Kerry is one of the whitest guys, you know what I mean,” David Bositis, an analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, told The New York Times at the time. For blacks, beating Bush was job one.

Times columnist Charles M. Blow recently made a similar point, that in order to survive blacks (especially in the South) have had to be cautious. Black voters think Hillary is better known and thus, in their opinion, more electable.

This year, black Democrats may be trying to make a statement about race, while being cautious. They may instead wind up increasing the chances of a victory by Donald Trump.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Inside the Media Bubble, No One Can Hear Us Scream

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New York Times headline, April 12: “Donald Trump, Losing Ground, Tries to Blame the System.”

To normal people like you and me, it may seem strange that Trump might be denied the Republican nomination despite winning most of the primaries, and by sizable margins.

Not to the establishment.

Dripping with a what-a-whiny-baby tone, the Old Gray Lady argues that Trump has no one to blame for himself for losing states he, you know, won:

Donald J. Trump and his allies are engaged in an aggressive effort to undermine the Republican nominating process by framing it as rigged and corrupt, hoping to compensate for organizational deficiencies that have left Mr. Trump with an increasingly precarious path to the nomination.”

“Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal,” the Times quoted Trump, saying that he was “accusing party leaders of maneuvering to cut his supporters out of the process.”

“They wanted to keep people out,” Trump continued. “This is a dirty trick.”

Any normal person would agree. You win the most votes, you win the election. Especially when it’s not close. Which, in the case of Trump (8.2 million) vs. Cruz (6.3 million) vs. Kasich (3 million), it isn’t. But the big corporate news media outlets don’t hire normal people; they hire rich kids who can afford graduate degrees from journalism schools that don’t give financial aid…kids born on third base who think they constantly hit home runs because they’re so damn smart.

The system is working great for them. Why change it?

The Times goes on to accuse Trump of “seeking to cast a shadow of illegitimacy over the local and state contests to select delegates” and “blaming the process rather than his own inadequacies as a manager.” Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is praised because he cleverly “outmaneuvered him [Trump].”

Trump had complained — “whined,” many news outlets called it — that he won the popular vote in the Colorado primary, yet came away with zero pledged delegates. This was because Cruz and his forces flooded the zone at the Colorado State Republican Convention, enticed party officials with trips and other gifties, and came away with all 33 delegates pledged to him.

The same thing happened in Louisiana.

Trump even expressed sympathy for Bernie Sanders. Despite winning all the most recent dates, the Democrats’ “superdelegate” system let insider favorite Hillary Clinton start this marathon at mile 16. “Bernie wins, Bernie wins, Bernie wins,” Trump said. “And yet he’s not winning. I mean, it’s a rigged system.”

He’s right. It’s also convoluted, arcane and corrupt.

Normally, when a system is widely viewed as overly complicated, and when it yields results that don’t make sense, people roll up their sleeves and try to fix it. We saw that recently in Hollywood, when no actors of color were nominated for the Oscars. There was an outcry. And a boycott. Then there were reforms.

Not American politics. In politics, you can win and win and win — and they can still take it away from you. After you get screwed, for the good of the country, you’re supposed to shut up and try again later (c.f. Nixon 1960) or slink off and get fat (c.f. Gore 2000).

So when Trump complains about losing what he’s winning, journalists never for a second consider the possibility that he’s right.

“You call them ‘shenanigans,'” CNN’s Anderson Cooper ridiculed Trump. “Those are the rules. And didn’t you know those rules?”

“I know the rules very well,” Trump replied. “But I know that it’s stacked against me by the establishment. I fully understand it.”

“You could have had a better organization on the ground,” Cooper scolded. “Your critics say it says something about your leadership ability — for somebody who touts himself as somebody who’s an organizational genius, who’s created this amazing business organization, that you couldn’t create an organization on the ground that could beat Ted Cruz’s organization.”

Inside the bubble, no one can hear us scream.

Talk about blaming the victim! Sure, Trump could have hired teams of professional politicos to navigate the peculiarities of each state’s primaries. As a billionaire, he certainly could have afforded them. Why didn’t he? I have no idea.

But why should he have to? Why should Trump, or any other candidate, be subject to such a strange system? Democracy should be simple and straightforward: one person, one vote. All these crazy rules — the signatures required for ballot access, the polls used to determine who gets to debate on television, winner-take-all primaries, superdelegates, delegates secretly pledged to candidates other those they’re sent to the convention to represent, the electoral college — exist for one reason. They exist in order to dilute the influence of we the people so that They — the ruling class — continues to get its way.

When They win, we lose. We lose our jobs. Our standard of living. Our rights.

If you’re like me — on the left and generally unsympathetic to billionaires — you may be tempted to join the media when they dismiss Trump as a whiner. But this is different. In business, Trump is the consummate insider. But he’s a political naïf. When someone as sleazy and unprincipled as Donald Trump is shocked by how dirty politics are, you have to take note.

And if they can steal elections from someone as rich as Donald Trump, there is nothing left of American democracy.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: It Happened Here

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-NAOVCoxpJs8/UyYHJ_VHtwI/AAAAAAAAIzU/D66LKEzY3aU/s1600/Berlin+in+1945+4.jpgIt began with the global economic crisis.

All around the world, millions of people who had nothing to do with the stock market crash — who didn’t earn enough money to save, much less invest, that much less speculate — lost everything nevertheless. They lost their jobs, then, in short order, their homes. They were scared.

The failure of democratic governance transformed their completely understandable fear into savage, uncontrolled anger.

Presidents and parliaments dithered. Part of the blame lie with the Constitution. It provided for a strong executive branch. Rather than grease the skids of government, it prompted members of the congress to dig in their heels, blocking every initiative they could because it was the only way to stay relevant.

The politicians knew they had a terminal systemic crisis on their hands, but they couldn’t agree how to respond. So they didn’t. The misery deepened.

Gridlock reigned.

The economy recovered. A little. Not much. But almost all the gains fell into the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected. Almost everyone else felt left out. They seethed.

Seeing opportunity amid the armies of the alienated and dispossessed, the perennial almost-candidate of the nationalist, nativist far-right began campaigning in earnest. Breaking all the rules of conventional campaigning, he drew huge crowds with a simple message:

Believe me.

Trust me, he assured his audiences, and I will make the country great again.

He was short on specifics and liberal with insults. Idiots, he called the incumbent politicians. They were losers — losers whose stupidity had betrayed a once-great country.

“People from this country can’t find a job. They can’t earn a decent living,” he ranted. “Foreigners must be expelled so our people can work!”

Forward-looking leaders within the establishment parties worried about the growing popularity of this strongman in the making. His intentions, after all, were dangerously radical — and they’d been published years before in a bestselling book. He was, he said himself, a “militarist.” Wars, fragmentation, scapegoating were all in the cards if he were allowed to come to power. But the parties weren’t motivated to respond. The system couldn’t save itself.

Some establishment analysts thought he was a flash in the pan, a buffoon whose appeal would fade in good time of its own accord. “The ranting clown who bangs the drum outside the…circus,” The Guardian called him.

The future tyrant’s natural ideological opposition couldn’t get it together. During key elections, they split their votes between the socialist Left and moderate liberals. Ultimately, however, historians blamed the Right most of all, for failing to rein in one of their own.

Traditional conservatives had played a dangerous game for years, using political “dog whistles” to appeal to citizens’ bigoted views of foreigners and ethnic minorities. As the economy worsened, this approach became more effective. Conservatives doubled down, setting the stage for what came next.

What the old guard didn’t understand was, that given a choice between half-hearted racism and the genuine article, the electorate would choose the authentic candidate. “He tells it like it is, and we need that now in a president,” 44% of voters told a major newspaper.

The conservative establishment faced a choice too: support a candidate of the left, or forsake true conservatism in favor of a fascist. To a man, they went with the fascist.

A tone of increasing violence accompanied the demagogue’s rise in the polls. Not only did he personally condone violence against his movement’s political opponents, his party offered its lawyers to defend partisans arrested for beatings in its name. Even his close associates were implicated in violent assaults; when they were, the Leader stood by them. “I think it’s a very very sad day in this country when a man could be destroyed over something like that,” he said.

The aging president was reluctant to issue an outright condemnation. “Troubling,” he called the gathering storm clouds.

The Leader’s authoritarian movement attracted a plurality of the vote — yet he wasn’t popular enough to consolidate a simple majority. Had his opponents set aside their personal ambitions and ideological biases, and united in favor of the national good, he could have been denied the chancellorship.

Alas, twelve years later, all would be ruins.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Everyone But the Media Saw Trumpism Coming

  If you suck at your job, you’ll get fired.

If you suck because you’re lazy, you’ll definitely get fired.

Unless you’re a member of the political and economic establishment of a disintegrating superstate. If you’re incompetent and indolent but reliably loyal and unquestioning, your sinecure in the system that props up the powers that be is safe.

The New York Times, an institution so beholden to the establishment that it subjects a major presidential candidate to a media blackout and Orwellian post-publication memory-holing, is this week’s case study in establishmentarian unaccountability.

After effectively donating nearly half a billion dollars of free media coverage to the campaign of Donald Trump (or is it $1.9 billion? who can count?), corporate media is finally beginning to wonder whether teeing the country up for its first potential bona fide fascist dictatorship was a good idea.

In the Times, reliably mistaken op-ed columnist David Brooks allowed that, just maybe, opinion mongers like him ought to have noticed the building voter outrage over “free trade” deals like NAFTA and TPP — agreements supported by him and his paper’s editorial board — that gutted America’s industrial heartland and are driving the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump campaigns. “Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else,” Brooks wrote March 18th.

“Moreover,” continued the man who thought invading Iraq would be a cakewalk, “many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.”

This is a stunning admission.

Let’s set aside the question of how likely it is that Brooks really will make the effort to get out more. (My guess: not very.) Why should the Times ­— and, more to the point, the readers whose paid subscriptions pay Brooks’ salary — keep a man on staff who admits that he sucks at his job because he’s too lazy to interact with the American people?

Brooks deserves to have plenty of company as he walks the unemployment version of the Long Green Mile.

On March 28th fellow Timesman Nicholas Kristof, famous for taking young men and women to Third World nations devastated by U.S. foreign policy (though I doubt he tells them why those dumps look so dumpy), went even further, in a piece titled “My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump.”

“We were largely oblivious to the pain among working-class Americans and thus didn’t appreciate how much his message resonated,” Kristof wrote.

Most Americans are working-class. In other words, Kristof and his colleagues admit they don’t cover the problems that affect most Americans. Again: why does he still have a job?

Believe it or not, there are scores — maybe hundreds — of opinion writers who do know what’s going on in their own country. Who write well. Who get stories right. Pundits who saw the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders populist phenomena coming. But you won’t find any of them in the print pages of major newspapers like the Times, or even in the low-pay ghettos of their web-only content.

Because you can’t be a good journalist and a shill for a corporate media obsessed with access to the powers that be.

As usual in these moments of MSM navel-gazing, they almost get it right. Kristof continues: “Media elites rightly talk wabout our insufficient racial, ethnic and gender diversity, but we also lack economic diversity. We inhabit a middle-class world and don’t adequately cover the part of America that is struggling and seething. We spend too much time talking to senators, not enough to the jobless.”

Class diversity is a real thing. Newsrooms at stodgy institutions like the Times have their token women and people of color, but most are women and POC from well-off families. They attend expensive journalism schools that don’t offer scholarships, and thus don’t produce graduates from poor families and towns. As Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton prove, coming from a traditionally disadvantaged minority group is no guarantee that someone understands or cares about the troubles of the economically oppressed.

More to the point, we need a new class of intuitive journalists. Men and women with empathy. People who have a clue about what’s happening in their own country.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: It’ll Probably Be President Trump

http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/vhoAAOSwZd1VZs28/s-l300.jpgMy secret is contrarianism. Since the conventional wise men of the corporate mainstream media are almost always wrong, you’ll almost always be right if you bet against them.

The MSM take on Donald Trump is a rare exception to the rule. They’re scared and so am I. They’re right to be frightened. He’s an unconscious fascist, less like Hitler the careful schemer, more like Adolf’s mentor Mussolini, who cobbled together a little bit from the socialist left and a lot from the nationalist right, winged it as he noted which lines got the most applause, and repeated those.

The trouble with Trump isn’t his policies. He hardly has any. Those he has are so vague as to be laughable (see: the Mexican-financed border wall, mass deportations, etc.)

His temperament is the threat. Hillary Clinton hasn’t met a war she didn’t like, but it’s easy to imagine Trump starting one — maybe a big one — accidentally. Trump has so much contempt for the system, the job he’s running for, and the American people, that he hasn’t bothered to study up on the issues. If he took real estate this seriously, he would have gone bankrupt even more often.

Here’s some irony: America finally elects the magic businessman as president — which we’ve been told for years would be awesome — and securities markets tank in reaction to the uncertainty he creates.

Trump, used to getting his way all the time, is a bully. A president convinces. An authoritarian orders you. Do what he says, or else. This November, nothing less than the American political system is at stake.

So it’s time to get real.

The establishment types are still in denial. Wake up, idiots!

At this writing, Trump is my odds-on favorite to win in November. Things could change. But that’s where we’ve been for months and where we are now.

Because they didn’t think Trump could win the nomination, the party’s efforts to stop him have come way too little, way too late. Mitt Romney 2.0? Paul Ryan? Seriously?

Looking back, pressuring Trump and the other candidates promise to support the eventual nominee and forswear a third-party/independent candidacy rates as one of the stupidest political maneuvers of all time. Now the Republicans are stuck with the dude.

Not that the Democrats are blameless. Barring a miraculous EmailGate-related indictment or the eruption of some new scandal-in-waiting, Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democratic nominee. Thank you, DNC! And she’ll be a disaster. Head-to-head match-ups have consistently shown that she’s weaker against Trump than Bernie Sanders.

Trump is hardwired to find the weak spots in his opponents. He’ll have a field day demolishing Clinton’s candidacy, which is constructed on a pair of fantasies: that her long resume equals a list of impressive accomplishments, and that her record of supporting right-wing wars and trade agreements means she’s secretly a progressive longing to race out of the gate to keep “fighting for us.” Remember what he did to Little Marco Rubio.

Trump will blow up Hillary’s BS over and over and over. And there’s a lot of BS to blow up.

Hillary’s support is wide but shallow. Sure, some Bernie voters will dutifully Feel the Hill. But many Democrats, the ones who got into the Bern because they couldn’t abide Clinton, will not. DINO Hillary is to Trump’s right on war and trade and probably on Israel too. The #BernieorBust movement could leave enough progressives sitting home on election day or casting their votes for the Green Party’s Jill Stein to put Trump into the White House.

Should/can Trump be stopped? Yes, but not by the Republican Party. The GOP’s Stop Trump stampede — the anguished editorials, the cable-news rants, the pompous insider scolds, tens of millions of dollars in SuperPAC-funded attack ads that even smear his wife as a slut — is counterproductive, playing into the framing of a guy who sells himself as an establishment pissing-off outsider.

The Stop Trump movement within the GOP is undemocratic to the point of making me want to retch. Trump has a commanding lead against rival Ted Cruz (680 delegates to 424, 37% of the popular vote to 27%). Considering that Trump began the race against 18 other candidates, the establishmentarian talking point that he can’t get 50% of the vote is absurd. 37% is a commanding lead, and talk of pulling out some nothing guy who didn’t even run (Ryan, Romney) in second-round voting at the Republican convention is an insult to those who voted for Trump and to democracy itself.

The raison d’être for GOP anti-Trumpism is insane: he’s not a “real conservative” — this proto-fascist, they say, is too far left for their party.

If Republicans are serious about stopping Trump, they should pledge to support the Democratic nominee for president — with their votes, their PR machines, their SuperPACs and campaigning in person.

If the Democrats are serious about stopping Trump, they should Stop Hillary.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The First 100 Days: What Would Donald/Hillary/Bernie Do?

http://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/world/2015/07/20/what-was-donald-trump-up-to-while-john-mccain-was-a-prisoner-of-war/donald-trump.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox.jpg

If Donald wins the general election, who the heck knows what he’d do as president?” —Ted Cruz

March 15, 2017 — In the most devastating attack on American soil, a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile carrying at least two nuclear warheads struck downtown Seattle just after 8 am, killing tens of thousands of residents at the height of the morning commute. “There’s nothing left…the city is just gone,” a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced after hours of silence from the nation’s capital, which went on lockdown after the explosion. There has been no word from President Trump, who has presumably been taken to a safe location.

“The imperialist forces should now understand that Seattle is but the beginning, and the whole of the United States might turn into a sea of fire due to the foolhardy insults of the American tyrant,” Pyongyang announced in a statement released through its official Korean Central News Agency.

Tensions between the DPRK and the U.S. increased after Trump took office and began taunting North Korean leader Kim Jung-in as “Little Kim,” and threatened to “punch the little twerp in the face.”

January 20, 2017 — Derided as a carnival barker who can read a crowd but never reads a book, President Donald Trump defied the pundits at an inauguration ceremony observers from across the American political spectrum called artful, unifying and universally inspiring.

Taking the microphone on a chilly but beautiful Washington morning before a crowd of several hundred thousand spectators — all of whom were treated to a People’s Breakfast on the Washington Mall beforehand — Trump focused on bringing the nation together after last year’s brutal four-way race between him, Democrat Hillary Clinton and independents Bernie Sanders and Paul Ryan.

“We may disagree about how to make America great again,” he said, an open smile across his face, “but we all want to make her great — and we love her. Toward that end,” he said, citing presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Mine will be a team of rivals — a team of smart, talented, diverse people. And I will listen to them!” he said, drawing applause as he pointed to Vice President Clinton and new economic czars Sanders and Paul Krugman.

Referencing one of his key campaign promises, he pledged to “begin building the wall” along the border with Mexico, but allowed that “there’s no way we can or should ask Mexico to pay for it.” At the same time, Trump said, “I’ve been listening to my excellent brain and my conscience, both of which say the same thing: if you haven’t committed a serious crime, you’re welcome to stay here — in your new home — and citizenship is yours if you want it.”

December 24, 2016 — During her primary battle against Bernie Sanders, President-Elect Hillary Clinton co-opted many of Sanders’ campaign promises to alleviate poverty and income inequality, and to go after Wall Street. Analysts say tacking left helped her seal the deal with the progressive base of the Democratic party.

Today, however, the Clinton transition office released a list of her cabinet picks — which read like business as usual. “It’s as though the Bernie surge never happened,” approvingly editorialized The New York Times, which endorsed Clinton.

Clinton’s choices are drawn from familiar center-right figures who served in the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations. Private equity executive Timothy Geithner is returning to his former post as secretary of the treasury. Clinton plans to nominate controversial Harvard economist Lawrence Summers to replace Janet Yellen as the head of the Federal Reserve Bank. In a move sure to dispirit liberals, she plans to nominate Republicans like Senator Orrin Hatch — “best friend I ever had in the senate” — as secretary of state and, most controversially, nonagenarian Henry Kissinger as national security adviser and to a new position, Director of Unmanned Aerial Defense — running the nation’s drone program, which Clinton announced last week she plans to expand.

With all the major posts filled, liberal supporters are pushing for ex-Obamaite Van Jones to get a spot like deputy undersecretary of agriculture.

January 21, 2017 — As expected, newly inaugurated President Bernie Sanders threw down the gauntlet, telling a joint session of the Republican-dominated Congress, “Enough is enough. The American people elected me to carry out a political revolution and now, goddammit, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Decrying Republican intransigence — “the politics of saying no for its own sake, and for the sake of the top 1%” — Sanders warned congressmen and senators that they would pay a heavy price if they refuse to pass three pieces of legislation within the next 10 days: a $15 minimum wage, free public college tuition and Medicare for all.

“You can do this the easy way, and respect the mandate represented by my victory,” he said, “or you can make tens of millions of Americans come here to Washington, surround your offices and your homes, and refuse to leave until you do the right thing.”

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell struck a defiant tone following Sanders’ speech, calling it “blackmail” and “using democracy as a cudgel.” But GOP insiders say Sanders is likely to get much of what he wants.

“He ran on this income inequality stuff,” said a top-ranking party official who requested anonymity. “He’s been talking about it for decades. No one can claim there’s a bait and switch, or that they didn’t know exactly what he’d do if elected. How can we justify blocking the people’s will when it’s this clear?”

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

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I Am Suing The LA Times

I am suing The Los Angeles Times for defamation, blacklisting, wrongful termination and intentional distress, among other charges. I filed my lawsuit in Los Angeles’ State Superior Court on Monday, March 14, stating that I have been “recklessly and maliciously defamed” by two articles published by the newspaper last summer.

Named individually are Editor of the Editorial Pages Nicholas Goldberg and Times ombudsman Deirdre Edgar, who wrote the articles, as well as then-Publisher and Chief Executive Austin Beutner. I am also suing the Times’ parent company, Tribune Publishing. (Beutner himself was let go following my dismissal.)

Here is their article about it. (They did not contact me for comment.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: I Dunno If Hillary is Evil, But She Sure is Dumb

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To her enemies and many of her supporters, the brief on Hillary Clinton is that she’s evil but smart. “Smart leadership for the 21st century,” declares her website. Cynical and calculating she may be, people say. Sure, she’s an opportunist. But she knows the American political system inside and out — so she’ll be able to work her Machiavellian magic as president. Hopefully, on our behalf.

In this case, conventional wisdom is 100% wrong. Hillary’s intentions may or may not be purely self-serving. But she’s far from the political genius she’s being portrayed.

She may or may not be evil. But she certainly isn’t smart.

Look at the former senator’s vote in favor of the Iraq War. An evil decision? Maybe. While the results were catastrophic, there’s no way to see into her soul. Maybe she wanted to liberate Iraqis from dictatorship. Saddam was a tyrant. We’ll never know what she was really thinking.

What we know for sure is that that vote was political suicide. It caused her to lose the presidency to Barack Obama in 2008. It hobbled her in her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders.

This is not one of those hindsight-is-20/20 things. During the run-up to the war in late 2002/early 2003, many smart people expected the war to go badly exactly the way that it did. Leftist opinion columnists and editorial cartoonists (cough cough) repeatedly scoffed at Cheney’s claim that our invasion troops would be “welcomed as liberators.” Middle East experts correctly predicted the chaos, sectarian violence, regional destabilization and Islamist radicalization that would fill the power vacuum created by the overthrow of Saddam. Millions of citizens marched in the streets to oppose this optional war. It didn’t take a genius to see it coming — but she didn’t.

Only fools believed the Bush Administration’s nonexistent evidence (c.f. random metal tubes) and ridiculous rationale for war (“what if Saddam somehow built a nuke, then made friends with his mortal enemies, then gave those terrorist enemies his nukes as a gift, and then what if they figured out some way to ship them to the U.S.?”). Neocon fools. Republican fools. Fools like Hillary Clinton.

Hillary’s apologists say she had no choice. That, in the face of bloodthirsty voters’ lust for vengeance post-9/11, she had to act tough. But that’s nonsense. Senator Clinton represented liberal New York, where the war was unpopular from day one. She wouldn’t face reelection until 2006 or the presidential race until 2008 — three to five years after casting her vote. Just as the antiwar crowd predicted — yet Hillary was unable to — the Iraq War began going badly within months. By early 2005, most voters thought it was a mistake. A sharp politician would have anticipated that. A smart presidential aspirant, able to anticipate how things would play out in Mesopotamia, would have placed her chips on the antiwar side of the political betting table.

Then there’s her email scandal.

What was she thinking? Can she think?

When Clinton took over the State Department in 2009, she was already planning to run for president in 2016. She and her husband have come under GOP attack throughout their careers. Given the sharp scrutiny she was sure to come under seven years hence, why didn’t she order her staff to follow the government rules concerning email to the letter? A savvy political insider would have gone by the book, erring on the side of conservatism, rather than use a private email server for classified government correspondence. She was a moron. Now she faces a possible indictment.

Incident after incident indicates that the Smart Hillary construct is as much of a fantasy as her supposed record of progressivism.

It’s been obvious for a while now that 2016 was shaping up as the Year of the Political Outsider. Both parties are relying on their base to win, rather than the swing voters who were so important during the Clinton 1990s. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, and numerous polls, pointed to widespread disenchantment with the establishment. Yet Hillary acted like it was 1993, tacking center-right like the corporatist she is. She solicited the usual old big donors.

She even gave speeches to Goldman Sachs. In 2013!

Hillary radically underestimated the Bernie insurgency. Her messaging has been relentlessly tonedeaf, as when her aging surrogates Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem insultingly old-splained to young female voters that they owed her their votes. Less than a year ago, Hillary was still pimping every job-killing “free trade” deal she heard about — even though they were unpopular with voters. Now Hillary is running out of money and losing momentum to a socialist who is eating her lunch in primary states she took for granted.

Time after time, over and over, Hillary proves she doesn’t get it. She’s not intuitive. She has no sense of what people are/must be thinking. She’s incurious, failing to feel shifts in opinion or circumstance. She’s stuck in the past. She wallows in her bubble. Which, when you consider that even the wealthy patrician FDR had a strong sense of what voters cared about, is frightening.

In a Democratic debate, she brags about her bromance with Henry Kissinger, telling liberals — who consider him a war criminal — that she relies on Nixon’s deviant mad bomber for foreign policy advice.

At another debate, she conflates Bernie Sanders’ vote against the Wall Street bailout with a refusal to help the auto industry. Even in Michigan, no one is fooled. Does she think we’ve forgotten how gross that Bush-Obama bailout was?

After Nancy Reagan dies, she gives the Reagans credit for starting a “national conversation” about HIV/AIDS. The Reagans were disgusting homophobes, pleased as punch that gays were dying en masse. They refused to fund research to fight the disease. They started a national conversation about HIV/AIDS the way Hitler started a national conversation on Jews. Now she says she “misspoke,” that ultimate all-purpose meaningless verb.

Could this be similar to her amazing statement to a black voter that no one had ever asked her about her support for the 1994 Clinton crime bill, which sent millions of black people to prison for minor offenses? How is this possible? Did Hillary really not know about the Reagans’ antigay bigotry? Or was she lying but assumed no one would notice? Either way: idiotic.

Vote for Hillary if you want. But don’t vote for her because she’s smart.

She is many things.

Smart isn’t one of them.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Clinton Proves the Adage: The Best P.R. in the World Can’t Sell a Terrible Product

 

Democrats don’t fight over the size of their presidential candidate’s genitals. But that’s little reason for Democrats to gloat in 2016. If Democratic officials get their way — at this writing, that seems more likely than not — Hillary Clinton will win her party’s nomination partly due to the same reason as Donald Trump seems poised to win his: massive ignorance on the part of the voters.

The result will be a yuge disaster.

At a Democratic debate on February 4th, Hillary Clinton was asked about the three speeches for which Goldman Sachs infamously paid her $675,000 as recently as 2013. (Would she release the text of those talks, so the public could judge whether she had promised special favors to the corrupt Wall Street firm? “I’ll look into it,” she promised.

By the next morning, The New York Times reported, it was clear that the Clinton campaign planned to stonewall the people’s right to know: “it did not appear that much looking was underway.”

“I don’t think voters are interested in the transcripts of her speeches,” Clinton’s pollster told reporters. This, like many things that come out of the Clinton spin machine, was not true. Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary in a landslide in large part because Democrats in the Granite State believed she was covering up something shady in her Wall Street speeches.

More than a month later, at the Flint debate on March 6th, she was still taking flak for Speechgate. By then Hillary had settled on a line about as far removed from “I’ll look into it” as “stick it where the sun don’t shine”: “I have said,” she said through her plastic grin, “and I will say again, I will be happy to release anything I have as long as everybody else does too.” Which is nonsense: no one expects Republican candidates to yield to demands from a participant in a Democratic primary.

For an old guy, Bernie struck like a viper: “I’m your Democratic opponent. I release it. Here it is!” the senator scoffed, throwing invisible pieces of paper at the audience. “There ain’t nothing! I don’t give speeches to Wall Street for hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Bill and Hill have raked in $153 million in speaking fees since 2001. Which is more than the GDP of three countries. But how many Democratic primary voters know that she is one of the most personally corrupt leaders ever, or that the Clintons have probably sold more political access to corporations than all other American politicians in history combined? Based on tracking polls and her current delegate lead, roughly the same number of Democrats is aware of Hillary’s record as Republicans who believe in science.

Granted, the fix is in for Hillary. The DNC scheduled debates at times when no one would get to see Bernie. The wildly antidemocratic superdelegate system designed to prevent progressives from getting nominated has been working perfectly. Super Tuesday, another scheme to conservatize races by frontloading southern states, went to her. And corporate media doesn’t cover him. Given the obstacles, he’s kicking ass.

Nevertheless, watching Hillary’s tortured defense of her indefensible refusal to cough up her Wall Street transcripts the other night, I was struck by how easily a voter who comes to Clinton v. Sanders cold, ignorant of the two candidates’ records, could conclude that she’s more qualified for the presidency. She’s great — if you don’t know your stuff.

Judging from the results so far, many Democratic voters are voting based on vague impressions rather than the hard facts — which makes them no smarter than the conservative evangelists backing the vulgar, thrice-married, breast-ogling Trump.

Befitting her long tenure at the devil’s crossroads of big money and big government, the former First Lady and Secretary of State came off as far more polished than her rival, the independent socialist Senator from one of the nation’s tiniest states.

Hillary isn’t president yet, but she played one on TV. She namedropped and Beltway-wonked and reminded us that she “traveled around the world on your behalf as Secretary of State and went to 112 countries” (attending state dinners and sightseeing is what passes for a hardship). Hapless Bernie, arrested during the civil rights movement at the same time Hillary was campaigning for right-wing racist Barry Goldwater — why would any black voter support her against him? — swung and missed a slow, low pitch right across home plate, unable to summon up a good answer to what “racial blind spots” he had.

(Correct answer: “I’ll never be black. So I’ll never know what it’s like to be black. As president, I will be surrounded by black people and I will listen to them.”)

As usual, Hillary looked the part. She rocked her straight-out-of-central-casting first woman president look with an overpriced designer Dr. Evil jacket that evoked the catty, nasty dictator played by Kate Winslet in the dystopian “Insurgent” movies.

Thanks to HD TV, Bernie’s off-the-rack suit highlighted his dandruff.

            Hillary looks presidenty. She talks presidentish. A lot of voters don’t know how badly she screwed them, especially by pushing NAFTA and free trade. So she is favored to win the Democratic nomination. But she’s a terrible candidate. Tracking polls show that she has lower odds than Bernie of defeating Trump in November.

Just wait until Donald and his shiny new best friend the GOP establishment — who will fall in line, they always do! — start reminding voters of the colossally corrupt record Hillary has trying to run away from. Bernie has been too polite to call her out. Donald? He’ll be beyond brutal.

As they say in P.R., all the marketing in the world can’t compensate for a bad product.

Hello, President Trump.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

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