SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary: It’s Political Malpractice, Stupid

Image result for Hillary: It's Political Malpractice, Stupid            Hillary Clinton supporters are freaking out. And rightfully so! Eight weeks from Election Day, she and Trump are basically neck and neck. And that’s before the three presidential debates, which I not only expect him to win but can’t imagine a scenario in which she does not lose.

Democrats are wallowing in the Anger stage of the Kübler-Ross model of grief. How on earth, they howl on op-ed pages and cable-news talking-head shows, can this be? Why doesn’t the electorate — that useless “basket of deplorables” — not see what is plain for all to see, that Hillary possesses more qualifications for the nation’s highest political office in her tiniest pinkie toe than The Donald has in his whole 267-pound body? For that matter, why isn’t the media holding him accountable for his lies?

“Donald Trump, who lies whenever he speaks and whose foundation is a Ponzi scheme compared to the Clintons’, is being graded on a ridiculously generous curve,” Michael Tomasky complained at The Daily Beast.

Hillary says she’s tired of watching the media treat Trump with kid gloves — but she’s happy that some people (her allies and surrogates) are finally paying attention: “I’ve been somewhat heartened by articles recently pointing out the disparate treatment of Trump and his campaign compared to ours — I don’t understand the reasons.”

And here we have it: the biggest reason Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be president. She is an atrocious politician.

Hillary’s political incompetence manifests itself in two ways.

First, she repeats her mistakes.

Everyone messes up. When smart people screw the pooch, however, they learn from their mistakes. When they make new mistakes, they make a whole new different kind of mistake. Not Hillary. Hillary keeps going back to the disaster well for another cup.

Take her vote to invade Iraq. It was unforgivable for a Democrat to support Bush. So Democrats didn’t forgive her. That vote, and her refusal to apologize, is the main reason she lost to Obama in 2008. An intelligent politician would have recognized that her party’s base is generally antiwar, and acted accordingly. Hillary pushed Obama to arm and fund radical Islamist insurgents in Libya and Syria, two of the Arab world’s most prosperous countries. Thanks in large part to her, both nations are embroiled in endless, brutal civil wars. As far as we can tell, she’s still a nasty George W. Bush-style interventionist — a stance that may well cost her 2016 too.

Then there’s the email thing.

Polls have consistently shown that voters don’t trust her. Why? Because she’s too secretive. Given that knowledge, you’d think Clinton and her advisers would act as transparently as possible. Straight and narrow! By the book!

But no. Not only does she illegally use a private email server for her State Department email, she deletes thousands of them. When she gets caught, she blames Colin Powell. Then she claims none of those emails were classified — but some were. The email thing never goes away — so what does she do next? She lies about catching pneumonia. (I’m fine. Just mild seasonal allergies. Wait, I was overheated/dehydrated. Actually, I have pneumonia. Had. Two days ago. Gonna be just fine now.)

Which is why the DNC may be asking themselves if it’s too late to bring back Bernie Sanders.

The second half of Hillarian political malpractice is her stubborn refusal to accept something that she can’t do anything about: the media, and the voters, really do give Trump a pass on a lot of stuff for which they hold her feet to the editorial fire.

And there’s a reason for that. People hold Clinton to a higher standard than Trump because she has a long record in government: eight years as First Lady, eight years as Senator, four years as Secretary of State. She has a record. So we know what she’ll do if she wins: suck up to corporations like Wal-Mart, push through the TPP and other unpopular “free trade” agreements and start another war or two in the Middle East.

Trump, on the other hand, is a novice. So they grade him on a curve. “People are willing to give him a pass because he doesn’t have a career in service,” said Lanhee Chen, an advisor to Romney in 2012. If he doesn’t know from Ouagadougou, people accept that. He’ll figure that stuff out, hire some people. No one knows what he’d do — which, in a change year, is at the core of his appeal.

It may not be fair. It certainly isn’t a good way to choose a president. “I think it’s the wrong approach because you should be assessing the candidate’s readiness to do the job,” Chen continued.

But that’s how it is. If Hillary Clinton were a talented politician, she’d get over the double standard, stop whining that we expect too much from her, and prove herself worthy of that high bar — by convincing voters that she has a big vision to address their concerns.

I won’t hold my breath.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

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Correction to Last Week’s Column

In last week’s column,”At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption,” I wrote that the charity rating agency Charity Navigator did not rate the Clinton Foundation due to its poor performance. While that was true in the past, and I relied on that previous information while researching my piece, at present the Clinton Foundation actually receives a fairly respectable rating from Charity Navigator.

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Pneumonia and Me

Hillary Clinton’s campaign was wallowing in lies of omission when they covered up the fact that she had pneumonia. This isn’t sort of thing that just sneaks up on you. If indeed it really is pneumonia, this is something she has known about for a while. And, frankly, it’s medically irresponsible of her to continue campaigning and fundraising at this intense rate.

I suffer from chronic respiratory problems. This has been the case since I was 12 years old, when a Boy Scout camping trip went wrong and I wound up with a case of asthmatic bronchitis that left me with scarring in my lungs.

I’ve had pneumonia a few times and let me tell you, it makes you feel like you are going to die. And in fact, it kills a lot of people. So no matter what, what’s going on with Hillary Clinton is very serious. Especially considering her advanced age: 68.

I was also one of those people who was laid low by swine flu. My doctor actually thought I was going to die. Even then, I never collapsed. It’s hard to understand, as someone who suffers from chronic bronchitis, repeated bouts of pneumonia and has had swine flu, oh and the worst seasonal allergies in the world, what could be so brutal that it could cause her to collapse like that.

I’m not a doctor – many commentators have pointed that out, and they are right – but I’m not going to ignore my common sense. Something is going on with Hillary Clinton, something is up, it’s serious, and they are lying about it.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Clinton Attacks Trump’s Lies…with Lies

Hillary Clinton’s strategists have identified Donald Trump’s innumerable lies as a major weakness in his campaign for president. They’re smart. Trump does lie a lot. He often gets caught lying. Voters want their next president to be trustworthy.

What the Clintonites and their allies in the media don’t seem to understand, however, is that if your attacks on your rival’s truthfulness are themselves based on lies, your efforts are doomed to failure.

In a recent op-ed column for the New York Times, Charles M. Blow wrote that Trump “is prone to making up his own set of false facts.” (Let’s leave aside the fact that, by definition, facts are true.)

“[Trump] wildly exaggerated the number of immigrants in this country illegally and ‘inner city’ crime rates,” Blow wrote. “He said President Obama founded ISIS and that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.”

I like Blow and often agree with him — though, for the life of me, I will never understand why he was so hard on Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries and so willing to excuse Hillary Clinton’s dismal record on issues of concern to African-Americans and LGBTQ people. Now he appears to have embraced the two-party trap, using his platform to bash Trump. That’s his right, of course. What I find fascinating is Blow’s willingness to resort to untruth to make his case for Hillary. Is it really so difficult to focus on Trump and his well-documented lies?

Consider the above quote, for example. It’s true that Trump said that there were 30 million illegal immigrants in the United States. (The real number is closer to 11 million.) Follow Blow’s link, however, and you find that he said that in July 2015 – well over a year ago. Nowadays, he acknowledges the widely accepted 11 million figure, albeit with the caveat that government statistics shouldn’t be trusted because they are compiled by incompetents. “Our government has no idea. It could be three million. It could be 30 million,” he said recently.

Trump is right. It’s impossible to know for sure, although the range is probably narrower than his example. The point is, the Times and Charles Blow willfully misrepresented Trump’s position by dragging up an ancient quote, since corrected. It’s the kind of thing Trump does, and it’s sleazy.

Similarly, it’s a stretch to say that Trump “wildly exaggerated” inner-city crime rates. Politifact has backed away from their previous assessment that he had lied about an uptick in urban crime. It’s pretty clear that Trump was referring to the widely reported rise in crime in cities like Chicago. The media has seized upon his use of the modifier “record” in the phrase “record high”; while crime has indeed been higher historically, shootings have spiked in places like Chicago.

The Islamic State claim is particularly unworthy of a storied newspaper like the New York Times. When Donald Trump called President Obama “the founder of ISIS,” it’s obvious to everyone what he meant. He was being colloquial. He was speaking like a normal person. Obviously Obama wasn’t literally at the founding of ISIS. Trump meant that Obama’s policies – namely his financing and arming of the radical Islamic fundamentalists in Syria’s civil war, a faction of which became ISIS, and the drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq which created a vacuum of power — effectively created the group as the monster that we know it as today. Many Middle East experts agree with this assessment, as do mainstream political observers, including some who oppose Trump. Blow’s nitpicking is unbecoming, inaccurate and so transparent as to be totally ineffectual.

Another Times columnist, Frank Bruni, recently repeated the oft-cited claim that Trump treasonously “encouraged” Russian hackers to steal U.S. government records and interfere with the election when he sarcastically suggested: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton State Department] emails that are missing.”

Give me a break. I’m not going to vote for The Donald. I think he’s dangerous. But everyone knows exactly what he meant. He wasn’t encouraging Russian hacking. He was making a point in a humorous way: that it’s ridiculous and frustrating that Secretary Clinton got away with deleting so many public records.

Why are Hillary’s people resorting to the exact same style of lying that they claim to criticize? I don’t know if it’s because the truth of some claim is of little concern to them compared to it possible effectiveness, or if it’s because they believe that the numerous legitimate criticisms of Trump — his breathtaking ignorance of history and politics, his glib encouragement of violence at his rallies, his inexperience in government, his authoritarian tendencies — are unlikely to get much traction.

What I do know is that, unlike Trump, they aren’t fooling anyone.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: What Obama Doesn’t Want You To Know About Uzbekistan

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Victims of the massacre at Andijon, Uzbekistan, 2005

Death is usually a sad event. The passing of a world leader, particularly one who brought stability to a tense part of the Muslim world for several decades, is typically cause for concern.

The death of Uzbekistani president Islam Karimov is not typical.

For the majority of the long-oppressed citizens of Uzbekistan, the end of one of the world’s bloodiest and most corrupt dictators — and, to our eternal shame, an American ally — is cause for joy and gleeful celebration.

The SOB died 82 years too late.

Except for the time Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain called it “a small, insignificant state…Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan,” the hell on earth created by Karimov doesn’t get much coverage in the news media. Few Americans could find this backwater on a map to save their lives. Yet Uzbekistan, once known as the underbelly of the USSR, is incredibly important. Which is why the rich and powerful – military generals, energy company executives, Hillary Clinton – know all about it.

Unfortunately for the Uzbeks, these American elites’ interest in their country has made their lives unspeakably miserable. And unless something unexpected takes place, that’s likely to continue. Which is why, during this presidential election season, American voters ought to ask the candidates most likely to win (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump) as well as those who should be most likely to win (Jill Stein and Gary Johnson) how they would change American foreign policy in obscure/important places like Uzbekistan.

American policymakers care about Uzbekistan because it is an energy giant: one of the largest producers of natural gas in the world, a significant supplier of oil, and the fourth-largest source of gold in the world. Sitting smack dab in the middle of Central Asia, the nation has undeniable strategic importance. Uzbekistan has the region’s largest population, its most sophisticated infrastructure and its biggest cities: Tashkent, a city of 2.3 million people, even has a subway. It also has the blockbuster tourist attractions: the Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand should be on any world traveler’s wish list.

Uzbekistan is the only Central Asian republic with common borders with all of the others, as well as with perpetually troubled Afghanistan. Oil and gas pipelines to and from the biggest source of fossil fuels on earth, the Caspian Sea, crisscross this blisteringly hot, dry nation.

Given Uzbekistan’s tremendous oil, gas and mineral wealth and its geographically and geopolitically strategic importance, its citizens ought to enjoy a high standard of living. Instead, the average Uzbek subsists on $3 to $8 per day. Where does all that energy wealth go? Karimov, his family and cronies steal it. Gulnara Karimova, the deceased despot’s flamboyant chanteuse daughter, is accused of raking in over $1 billion in bribes from telecommunications companies seeking permits to do business. Another daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, is linked to shell companies that own gaudy multimillion estates in the U.S.

Cultural and ethnic heirs to Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde, Uzbeks are neither stupid nor lazy. It requires and incredibly brutal an ruthless military and police apparatus to prevent them from rising up and overthrowing their oppressors. So this is exactly what the Karimov regime has delivered since the country became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. (Karimov kept his job as boss of the Uzbek SSR, which he scored from outgoing Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.)

Uzbekistan is routinely awarded the world’s “Worst of the Worst” status for its extreme corruption and violations of fundamental human rights. Phones are tapped and militsia goons shake down motorists at innumerable checkpoints. Print and broadcast media are completely state-controlled. There’s a zero tolerance policy toward political opposition.

In 1999, Karimov said: “I am ready to rip off the heads of 200 people, to sacrifice their lives, for the sake of peace and tranquility in the country.” By which he meant his peace and tranquility.

Four percent of the population are subjected to slavery. At least 10,000 political prisoners are rotting in the nation’s prisons. Torture is standard and endemic; Team Karimov landed a rare spot in the news for boiling dissidents to death. In 2005, President Karimov asked security forces confronting protesters in the southern city of Andijon to wait for his arrival from the capital of Tashkent so he could personally witness and coordinate their massacre. An estimated 700 to 1200 Uzbeks were slaughtered. “People have less freedom here than under Brezhnev,” a U.S. official admitted.

Every now and then, some naïve US State Department official has issued a toothless tisk-tisk report documenting human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. But the Americans who run the show are obsessed with maintaining the country’s role in the Northern Distribution Network, a crucial aerial and ground supply line between the US and its European allies and the endless war against Afghanistan and Pakistan. They’re willing to do pretty much anything to protect the NDN — including funneling weapons to one of the most disgusting regimes on the planet.

In 2012, the Obama administration quietly lifted a post-Andijon ban on weapon sales. One major shipment included a 2015 delivery of 320 armored personnel vehicles to Karimov – exactly the kind of equipment an authoritarian state uses to crush demonstrations. “Perhaps worse than equipping a government so well-known for abuses against its own people and for its defiance of international norms with such powerful military equipment,” said Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch, “is the message that the Obama administration is sending the people of Uzbekistan: that Islam Karimov has gotten away with it.”

American news accounts of Karimov’s death omitted America’s role propping him up.

It would be nice to hope that the flowers of democracy will sprout in the soil of the dictator’s grave. But years of suppression have destroyed the opposition groups that might have been able to step into power as part of a post-Karimov transition. The post-KGB security forces will continue to protect themselves and their kleptocratic bosses. Acting Uzbek president Nigmatulla Yuldashev will no doubt call for another of the country’s sham elections, which a hand-selected member of the ruling elite is predestined to win. And Obama will keep the military aid flowing.

This is the kind of thing that causes Muslims to hate us. It’s why we are a constant target of terrorism. But nothing is going to change there unless something changes at the top here.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption

Image result for clinton foundation

 

More than half of the people who managed to score a personal one on one meeting with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State donated money to the Clinton Foundation, either as an individual or through a company where they worked. “Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million,” the Associated Press reported.

Does that make Hillary corrupt?

Yes.
It does.

At this writing, there is no evidence that anyone received any special favors as a result of their special access to Clinton. Not that treats were not requested. They were. (The most amusing was Bono’s request to stream his band’s music into the international space station, which was mercifully rejected.)

That’s irrelevant. She’s still corrupt.

Clinton’s defenders like to point out that neither she nor her husband draw a salary from their foundation. But that’s a technicality.

The Clintons extract millions of dollars in travel expenditures, including luxurious airplane accommodations and hotel suites, from their purported do-gooder outfit. They exploit the foundation as a patronage mill, arranging for it to hire their loyalists at extravagant six-figure salaries. Only a low portion of money ($9 million out of $140 million in 2013) makes its way to someone who needs it.

“It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” says Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group.

As a measure of how institutionally bankrupt American politics is, all this crap is technically legal. But that doesn’t mean it’s not corrupt.

Public relations experts caution politicians like the Clintons that the appearance of impropriety is almost as bad as its actuality. If it looks bad, it will hurt you with the polls. True, but that’s not really the point.

The point is: access is corruption.

It doesn’t matter that the lead singer of U2 didn’t get to live out his rocker astronaut fantasy. It’s disgusting that he was ever in a position to have it considered. To put a finer point on it, ethics require that someone in Hillary Clinton’s position never, ever take a meeting or correspond by email or offer a job to someone who donated money to her and her husband’s foundation. Failure to build an unscalable wall between government and money necessarily creates a corrupt quid pro quo:

“Just got a call from the Clinton Foundation. They’re shaking us down for a donation. Should we cough up a few bucks?”

“Hillary could be president someday. Chelsea could end up in the Senate. It couldn’t hurt to be remembered as someone who threw them some money when they asked.”

This, I 100% guarantee you, was the calculus when Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hillary for a one- or two-hour speech. She doesn’t have anything new to say that everyone hasn’t already heard a million times before. It’s not like she shared any valuable stock tips during those talks. Wealthy individuals and corporations pay politicians for one thing: access.

“It’s not pay to play, unless somebody actually gave someone 50 cents to say I need a meeting,” counters DNC interim chair Donna Brazile. “No. In this great country, when you meet with constituents, when you meet with heads of states, when you meet like Bono, who I love, you meet with them because they want to bring a matter to your attention. That’s not pay to play.”

It ain’t 50 cents.

But it is pay to play. Absolutely.

Access is a zero-sum game. If I get a meeting with a senator, that’s a meeting someone else doesn’t get. I shouldn’t get a leg up over you because I donated to a politically connected, nominally charitable foundation. For that matter, I shouldn’t get a meeting you can’t get because I know someone, or because I’m famous, or whatever. Access should be, has to be in a democracy, determined solely by meritocratic criteria. Political leaders like Hillary Clinton need to be meeting with people who can offer them the best advice and who need the most help — not those who bought their way in.

Anyone who doesn’t understand that access always equals corruption, even when access doesn’t result in favors, doesn’t deserve to hold political office.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee.)

 

REVISED 9/13/16: In last week’s column,”At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption,” I wrote that the charity rating agency Charity Navigator did not rate the Clinton Foundation due to its poor performance. While that was true in the past, and I relied on that previous information while researching my piece, at present the Clinton Foundation actually receives a fairly respectable rating from Charity Navigator. This essay has been revised to reflect this changed information.

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In Court, LA Times Lawyer Floats “Superfluous Arguments” to Stall Justice

The LA Times was expecting good news yesterday: that, because I’d be unable to raise $75,000 cash bond to continue my lawsuit for defamation and wrongful termination, and defend myself from their perverted “anti-SLAPP” motion.

Sadly for them, they were informed that the bond had been filed and had been received by the court. Thanks to more than 750 contributions through my GoFundMe crowdfunding page, my case will move forward.

In the Times’ ongoing attempt to prevent a jury from hearing about their sleazy collusion with the Los Angeles Police Department and repeated lies to Times readers, attorney Kelli Sager, however, complained that the bond “had omitted several defendants who are part of the litigation” and “said she was concerned the omissions would prevent the defendants from enforcing the bond.” The space on the form doesn’t have enough room for all the defendants in the case.

The judge ordered Sager and my attorneys to confer in order to fix the bureaucratic detail.

My attorney Carney Shegerian Carney Shegerian called the Times’ anti-SLAPP motion “borderline frivolous.”

“The thinking behind it, unfortunately, is really you just scare plaintiffs because there’s a huge fee-shifting component to it that can be applied and so plaintiffs can get very scared,” Shegerian told Courthouse News Service. “It really just chills civil rights litigation and it chills defamation litigation like this one.”

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Trump vs. Clinton Will Come Down to the Debates

Conventional wisdom says Donald Trump is going to lose, and lose big.

You see it everywhere in corporate media. Republican Party insiders are bereft and in denial, simultaneously refusing to accept the reality that their party is facing the possibility of catastrophic defeats in races all over the country this fall; indeed, some pundits say Trump marks the beginning of the end of the GOP. The New York Times is running a 24-7 odds placement that puts Hillary Clinton’s chances of victory at 86% against his 14%.

Indeed, if the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would beat Trump by a sizable margin. But the election is in two months. Two months is a long time. Old scandals percolate; new ones emerge. Another terrorist attack could prompt voters to turn to the right.

By far the biggest potential game changer, however, is the presidential debates. Conventional wisdom says Hillary Clinton will use her superior command of the facts and her ability to namedrop world leaders to run circles around Trump. But conventional wisdom is often wrong – just ask unstoppable 2016 Republican presidential nominee Jeb Bush.

I think Donald will trounce Hillary in the debates.

In fact, I can’t imagine any scenario in which she doesn’t get destroyed.

We like to think that the presidential debates are about issues and facts. They aren’t. The winner is the candidate who unleashes the zingiest one-liners and putdowns.

There you go again.”

“Where’s the beef?”

“I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

You’ve watched Donald Trump. You’ve watched Hillary Clinton. Who do you think is better positioned to control the format?

I have no idea whether Hillary Clinton can be quick on her feet or sharp with a nasty one-liner. It doesn’t matter. Her brand is experience and competence. She can’t get down into the gutter with Trump without undermining her message that she’s the adult. She has to look serious and come across as – there’s no other word for it – boring. Remember what happened to Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush when they tried to out-Trump Trump: they wrecked whatever chances they still had to stop him during the primaries.

A more courtly candidate (Bernie Sanders) might have gone easy on Clinton for fear of being viewed as sexist. That concern won’t cross Trump’s mind. He’ll go after her with the ferocity of Black Friday shoppers chasing down a discount Xbox.

Does Trump have vulnerabilities? Obviously. Hillary’s aces in the hole are the temperament argument and his refusal to release his taxes. The secrecy surrounding his tax returns raises suspicions that risk unraveling the fundamental rationale of his candidacy: I’m rich and successful, and I can use the talents I used to get that way to benefit the country. But her vulnerabilities are more serious.

The problem for Hillary is that she has gotten a relatively free ride from journalists and pundits, most of whom will vote for her. Her hypocrisies and inconsistencies comparatively unexamined, she emerges from her primary campaign untested and untempered. The debates offer Trump a juicy opportunity to expose those weaknesses on what promises to be a national stage with record audiences.

If she asks him about his tax returns, he can deflect by demanding the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms, which she repeatedly refused to release while fending off Bernie. When she goes after him on ethics, he’ll pound away on the 30,000 deleted emails. Oh, and now there’s the latest Clinton Foundation sleaze too.

If Trump wants to go nuclear, he can slam her with the biggest unreported story of the year: the allegation that her husband President Bill was a frequent flyer on a convicted pedophile’s sexual tourism escapades overseas.

I understand why Secretary Clinton was reluctant to agree to any debates. Past performance suggests that she isn’t a strong debater to begin with. Going against a master reality TV and pro wrestling ringmaster like Donald Trump has got to feel like walking into the Coliseum with nothing but faith in God to protect you from the lion’s maw. Trump knows all the tricks: how to deploy comical facial expressions as well as Jim Carrey, how to dominate others using body language, a laser-like ability to identify an opponent’s weaknesses and reduce them to rubble via ridicule (“Little Marco”). In an American presidential debate, 15-point white papers don’t count for jack. The best entertainer always wins.

During a 2000 debate Al Gore walked right up to George W. Bush, looming over him in what many watchers interpreted as an attempt to intimidate the Texas governor. Bush merely looked up at Gore and nodded, a droll look on his face.           Bush was an idiot. Gore was a genius by comparison, a fact he proved by repeatedly drawing upon his superior knowledge of the issues and proposing infinitely more intelligent solutions to problems. But it didn’t matter. Voters thought Bush won.

Will Trump’s likely victories in the debates be enough to close the current gap between him and Clinton in the polls? Maybe. All I know is, anyone who says it’s all over is whistling past the graveyard.

It’s all about the debates.

[A side note and thank you: thanks to more than 750 generous contributors, we were able to successfully crowdfund the civil court bond required for me to continue my lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times to the tune of more than $75,000. The next major hearing in the case is currently scheduled for March 2017. I am humbled and gratified by the commitment of so many people to free speech and freedom of expression. I will keep you posted.]

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out this Tuesday, July 26th and is now available for pre-order.)

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You Did It! $75,000 Crowdfunding Effort Succeeds, LA Times Court Bond Filed

YOU DID IT!

746 people.

$75,390.

Thanks to you, we beat back the Times’ despicable attempt to deny me a chance to prove my case in court.

Thank you so much.

Below I am posting an image of the bond filed at LA Superior Court. Amazing that so much money buys you such a crappy piece of paper! I was expecting a wax seal and gold embossing.

Here’s what happens next:

Additional donations up to $80,000 will help cover the 5% GoFundMe fee of $75,000 x .05 = $3750, plus the $1250 bond company fee, for a total of $5000.

Donations over $80,000, if any, will be applied to legal expenses such as flying from New York to Los Angeles to consult with my attorneys and to attend hearings.

At a hearing on Tuesday, August 23, the judge will be informed that we filed the required bond. That means the case moves forward. Thank you!!!

The Times’ anti-SLAPP motion is currently scheduled to be heard in March 2017. (The court could change the hearing date.) We will use the months between now and then to draft our defense to their anti-SLAPP motion.

If the judge rules for the Times, I will be hit with a judgement for the Times’ legal fees, which are expected to reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. The $75,000 bond would be applied toward that balance. The Times will go after me for the rest.

If the judge rules in our favor, the Times has the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals. Given their contemptuous behavior so far, we expect them to do that. We don’t know how long it would take to get a hearing date.

Again, if the Court of Appeals rules in the Times’ favor on anti-SLAPP, the Times will go after me for their legal fees.

If the Court of Appeals rules for me, however, we move forward toward trial in LA Superior Court on the fundamental issues of this case: wrongful termination, blacklisting, defamation, etc. We begin discovery, depositions. Finally, there is a court date.

After a verdict, of course, the  system provides for appeals to higher courts.

I am prepared for a long fight against an intransigent and unrepentant adversary, a corporate conglomerate without a conscience. I am mentally and physically strong. I have stamina and a lot of energy. Most of all, I have the truth on my side.

I want two things:

Accountability for Austin Beutner, Nick Goldberg, Paul Pringle, Deirdre Edgar, the Times, and Tronc. No one should be allowed to get away with what they did.

Exposing the corrupt relationship between the Times and the LAPD, and more generally between the press and the police, and government. In our system, you have to be rich or have (as I do) a public platform in order to get justice. It’s incumbent upon those few Americans who have the chance to fight back to show people what the system is really about: cozy backroom deals by the elites, who are determined to protect their privilege at the expense of the rest of us.

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Here is the court filing document, filed Tuesday at LA Superior Court. When we realized that it would take 2-5 business days for GoFundMe to release funds and perhaps an additional full business day for the bond company to issue the bond and get it filed, a very generous friend of a friend stepped forward with a very short-term loan so we could get it filed by today’s deadline. He was certain that this fundraiser would succeed. He had blind faith — in you, in me, that justice would prevail.

He’ll be repaid by early next week, after the GoFundMe money hits my account.

Bond

BondStamp

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Corporations Are Abusing anti-SLAPP Laws to Screw Over Workers

“It’s a sadly familiar sight in courthouses around the country: A deep-pocketed corporation, developer or government official files a lawsuit whose real purpose is to silence a critic, punish a whistleblower or win a commercial dispute.”

Sounds awful, right?

Fortunately, according to The Los Angeles Times editorial board, “That’s why California enacted a law in 1992 to give people a preemptive legal strike against frivolous lawsuits that seek to muzzle them on public issues.” According to the Digital Media Law Project, 28 states, D.C., and one U.S. territory have enacted these so-called “anti-SLAPP statutes.” (SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” A classic example was when the cattle industry sued Oprah for dissing beef.)

At first glance, anti-SLAPP seems like a good solution to a serious problem.

In theory.

In the real world, however, well-meaning legislators have created a monster. In the hands of clever corporate lawyers, anti-SLAPP laws have become a loophole to libel laws and a catchall defense for disgusting behavior. What started as a good idea has become a menace to free speech, the ability to protect one’s reputation, and the right to redress in a court of law.

As I’ve discovered personally over the last year, California’s anti-SLAPP statute is at least as likely to be used by “a deep-pocketed corporation” against a “critic” as the way the legislature originally intended, which is to say the other way around.

In July 2015 The Los Angeles Times — yes, the same paper that published the above editorial — fired me as its staff editorial cartoonist. It has since come out that they did so as a favor to Charlie Beck, the $297,000-a-year chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Beck’s feelings were hurt because of the cartoons that I drew about him.

The cops weren’t satisfied with merely having me fired. They wanted me destroyed. So the Times also published a pair of articles that falsely portrayed me as a liar and a fabulist — death to a journalist’s reputation.

So I sued the Times for wrongful termination, blacklisting, retaliation and defamation, as well as other claims.

Initially I had trouble finding a lawyer willing to represent me on the defamation claim. California’s anti-SLAPP statute, attorneys told me, have gutted the practice of defamation law in the Golden State. Fortunately for me, as several of the state’s leading experts on defamation law told me, Times management’s behavior was so outrageous, reprehensible and ongoing that I stood a better chance of getting over the anti-SLAPP hurdle than most plaintiffs.

As most of the attorneys I consulted had predicted, one of the first things that the Times did was file an anti-SLAPP motion against me. So much for anti-SLAPP being used against “a deep-pocketed corporation…whose real purpose is to silence a critic.” The Times is owned by Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing), a $499 million mega-corporation. The Times paid me $300 a week.

Until that pretrial anti-SLAPP motion is decided, I can’t engage in “discovery,” the process of gathering information through subpoenas and depositions essential to forming a case. As Vikram David Amar writes, “oftentimes a plaintiff who may have a valid claim will not be able to prevail because s/he will not have had enough of an opportunity to gather the evidence (through legal discovery devices like depositions and document requests) needed to prove the case.”

Because of anti-SLAPP, I must convince a judge that I am likely to prevail at an eventual trial — before the first juror has been chosen or any evidence has been discovered.

If the judge decides that I will probably lose my case, I will have to pay all of the Times’ legal fees. According to papers that the defendants filed, they expect that to amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The case would be dismissed. I would go bankrupt.

Even if I convince the judge that I’ll win, my tormentors at the Times then get a second shot at destroying my financial well-being: they can go to the Court of Appeals. By that time, of course, their legal bills will be even higher. And it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that those fees will be highly padded. Many judges take defendants at their word when it comes to the validity of legal invoices.

We’re not done.

I live in New York. As an out-of-state plaintiff, California Code 1030 provides a defendant the right to move that I be required to post a bond in order to guarantee the payment of the Times’ attorney fees should they prevail on their anti-SLAPP motion. “The Times will defend itself vigorously against Mr. Rall’s claims,” a Times spokesperson said when I sued. They sure are. They filed a motion asking the judge to require me to post a whopping $300,000 bond.

The judge knocked it down to $75,000. Unlike criminal bonds that can be purchased for 10%, however, this civil bond must be 100% collateralized. In other words, I have to come up with $75,000 in “pay to play” money by Thursday, August 18, or my case will automatically be dismissed.

And you thought this was a free country.

Happily, there are signs that anti-SLAPP madness is finally coming to an end. Setting an important precedent, Justice Vance Raye of the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento denied an anti-SLAPP motion filed by UC Davis against a former employee who claims she was fired for whistleblowing.

“The cure [anti-SLAPP] has become the disease,” wrote Raye. UC’s argument was “ at odds with the purpose of the anti-SLAPP law, which was designed to ferret out meritless lawsuits intended to quell the free exercise of First Amendment rights, not to burden victims of discrimination and retaliation with an earlier and heavier burden of proof than other civil litigants and dissuade the exercise of their right to petition for fear of an onerous attorney fee award.”

Raye’s ruling is a good start. But what’s needed is for the 28 state legislatures in anti-SLAPP states to reform the law.

If you like to read more about the case and/or contribute to my fundraiser – I am not going down without a fight – please click here or go directly to http://gofundme.com/tedrall

(Ted Rall is the author of the graphic biography “Trump: A Graphic Biography.”)

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