Tag Archives: Book

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sheryl Sandberg is the World’s Most Annoying Person

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It’s that time of the year again: Sheryl Sandberg is telling us how to live our lives.

Invariably promoted as launching a “movement” — as opposed to shilling books — the Facebook executive’s publicity blitzes are impossible to avoid. There’s the inevitable, inevitably self-involved New York Times op-ed. (The words “I,” “me” and “my” appear 15 times in the first 143 words.) She’s in Time and Fortune and USA Today and The Washington Post and HuffPo, which tells us “Why Sheryl Sandberg Decided To Speak Openly About Losing Her Husband (uh, to sell books?).

As far as I can tell, the only media outlet not to be shilling Sandberg’s pabulum is ISIS’ online magazine, proving that terrorists aren’t all bad.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience” is the bestselling sequel to her bestselling 2013 tome “Lean In,” which is a bestseller because every media outlet is pushing it and advises women in the workplace to get ahead the same way she did: be born the child of a well-off medical specialist in a rich enclave, go to Harvard without having to take out a student loan, suck up to a future U.S. Treasury Secretary (who thinks women are dumb) while you’re there, snag an MBA, and become best friends with Facebook megabillionaire Mark Zuckerberg.

“Option B” is about her rich tech giant husband’s “unexpected” death, how she’s been coping and how she’s helped their kids cope.

First, a couple points of clarification.

Dude fell off a treadmill at age 47, possibly due to cardiac arrhythmia. He was overweight. If you’re fat and male and in your late 40s, you’re at risk of a heart attack. Obviously it sucks for Sandberg and their kids and especially for Dave Goldberg that he’s dead. But his passing is not “unexpected” and therefore tragic and shocking in the way that the passing of an 8-year-old girl who gets blown up by a drone after a different drone blew up her brother, or a boy shot by some cop while he’s playing outside his house, is so unexpected and tragic and shocking that, all by itself, it justifies overthrowing the entire United States government.

Goldberg was one of two or three million Americans who croak every year. He was the CEO of SurveyMonkey. Unlike Prince or Bowie, he did not touch our lives or make a difference or make the world a better place. Goldberg was not any more special than your deceased friends and family members or mine.

Second, Goldberg died just two years ago. Sandberg’s children are preteens. Even setting aside the fact that this spectacularly wealthy and powerful woman has access to top-notch psychologists and other experts to help her kids navigate their grief, it’s too early for Sandberg to claim success as a parent. (Given publishers’ lead times, she probably started writing the book less than a year after he died.)

Get back to us in a few decades, Sheryl.

Judging from the flood of negative comments posted to articles about Sandberg and her books, I’m one of many people who find Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer pompous, pedantic, pretentious and generally insufferable. Like them, I can’t hate people without moral standing, credentials or unimpeachable experience who rise, Cicero-like, to share wisdom that turns out to be a series of “like, duhs:”

“And every kid faces challenges.”

“We can start by showing children that they matter.”

“Giving children undivided attention — something we all know is important but often fail to do — is another of the key steps toward building their resilience.”

Just.

Shut.

Up.

Coming the same week I’m reading about the inner workings of Hillary Clinton’s dysfunctional, out-of-touch campaign in the book “Shattered,” I had to ask myself if, as a middle-aged white male, my annoyance at Sandberg (and Hillary) owes something to misogyny.

Perhaps. I hope not.

What I keep coming back to is not Sandberg’s gender but her habit of individualizing experiences that ought to be universal.

“Lean In” addressed the serious economic and social problem of patriarchy by sidestepping its root causes with the Big Lie that if she could overcome, so could Jane Everywoman. “Option B” ignores how capitalism and employers make the passing of a loved one harder than it needs or ought to be in favor of vacuous declamations that boil down to “love them, time heals all wounds, it’ll all be fine.”

Times commenter “L.F.” articulates how our economic system brutalizes survivors: “The death of a breadwinner would plunge most American families with children into terrifying poverty. Dear God, the medical bills alone from a spouse’s final illness…and the loss of health insurance, which stops when the employed person takes their last breath or can’t keep working… I’ve literally known a family that landed in a homeless shelter after one parent passed away. The mortgage bank doesn’t give a damn about your need to teach the kids coping skills, and your boss might give you a week of bereavement leave, if you’re very, very, very lucky. Most American families don’t have $400 for an emergency. When people in my circles lose someone, they have to ask around for help from family, friends and church just to see them buried.”

Sheryl Sandberg helps run a company that makes America immeasurably worse off. Facebook prefers to hire cheap foreigners than hire un- and underemployed American tech workers. Though staggering rich, Facebook is cheap and thus intentionally understaffed to the point that the Facebook Killer’s snuff video stayed online for hours, as have pornographic photos of children, because there’s no way to reach them by phone.

Facebook is worth eight times as much as General Motors — yet employs fewer than one-tenth (17,000) as many full-time employees (207,000). That proportional shortfall of more than 1.5 million jobs could easily include the 272,000 journalists out of work in significant part due to Facebook.

If Sheryl Sandberg wants to help American parents, she should hire some.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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Trump: A Graphic Biography

Publication Date: July 26, 2016

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Everyone in America thought they knew Donald Trump: the real estate magnate, reality TV star and bigger than life personality lived his life in the tabloids. Little did they know – though he hinted at it repeatedly – that he planned to take American politics by storm. This graphic biography explores the little-known episodes that helped form the man who shocked the U.S. media by launching the hostile takeover of the Republican Party, and whose wild political agenda could subvert representative democracy for years to come.

Current Events/Biography, 2016
Seven Stories Press Paperback, 5″x7″, 192 pp., $16.95

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Snowden

Publication Date: August 25, 2015

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As many as 1.4 million citizens with security clearance saw some or all of the same documents revealed by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Why did he, and no one else, decide to step forward and take on the risks associated with becoming a whistleblower and then a fugitive? Rall’s all-comic, full-color biography delves into Snowden’s early life and work experience, his personality, and the larger issues of privacy, surveys the new surveillance technologies being deployed against the American people, and the recent history of government intrusion. Rall describes Snowden’s political vision and hopes for the future. The book tells two stories: Snowden’s and a larger one that describes all of us on the threshold of tremendous technological upheaval and political change.

Snowden is a portrait of a brave young man standing up to the most powerful government in the world and, if not winning, at least reaching a stand-off, and in this way is an incitation to us all to measure our courage and listen to our consciences in asking ourselves what we might have done in his shoes.

Current Events/Biography, 2015
Seven Stories Press Paperback, 5″x7″, 224 pp., $16.95

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Autographed Copies Now for Sale! Revised/Updated 2014 Edition of “Silk Road to Ruin”

The expanded paperback 2nd edition of Silk Road to Ruin: Why Central Asia is the Next Middle East is OUT NOW. You can order it from Amazon or scroll below to order an autographed copy directly from me. Signed copies come with a personal sketch and can be dedicated to anyone you want. And most of the money goes to me, unlike Amazon, which pays authors about a buck a copy.

The new edition updates the politics and current events sections to the present. In addition, there is a bonus chapter about my expedition to Lake Sarez in Tajikistan — Central Asia’s “Sword of Damocles,” which could cause an epic flood that could kill millions of people at any time.

If you are a book critic or reviewer interested in a review copy, please contact NBM Publishing directly.

If you would like me to speak about Central Asia and the new book at an event, please contact me through the contact form here on the Rallblog.

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Silk Road to Ruin: 2nd paperback edition

The expanded paperback 2nd edition of Silk Road to Ruin: Why Central Asia is the Next Middle East comes out April 1, 2014. It is now available for pre-order from Amazon. The new edition updates the politics and current events sections to the present. In addition, there is a bonus chapter about my expedition to Lake Sarez in Tajikistan — Central Asia’s “Sword of Damocles,” which could cause an epic flood that could kill millions of people at any time.

I will sell personally signed copies of the book through my website. Please use the contact form if you’d like me to add you to the mailing list and I will get in touch as soon as I have copies to sell — probably around May 1st. (The Amazon copies will ship first, though.)

If you are a book critic or reviewer interested in a review copy, please contact NBM Publishing directly.

If you would like me to speak about Central Asia and the new book at an event, please contact me through the contact form here on the Rallblog.

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After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan

An independent account—in words and pictures—of America’s longest war from the beginning of the end to the end of the beginning.

I traveled deep into Afghanistan—without embedding myself with U.S. soldiers, without insulating myself with flak jackets or armored SUVs—where no one else would (except, of course, Afghans).

I made two trips, the first in the wake of 9/11, the next ten years later, to see what ten years of U.S. occupation had wrought. On the first trip, I was shouting his dispatches into a satellite phone provided by a Los Angeles radio station, attempting to explain that the booming in the background—and sometimes the foreground—were the sounds of an all-out war that no one at home would entirely own up to. Ten years later, the alternative newspapers and radio station that had funded my first trip could no longer afford to send me into harm’s way—so I turned to Kickstarter to fund a groundbreaking effort to publish online a real-time blog of graphic journalism (essentially, a nonfiction comic) documenting what’s really happening on the ground, filed daily by satellite.

The result of my reporting is After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan—an account of one graphic journalist’s effort to bring the realities of life in twenty-first century Afghanistan to the world the best ways I know how: a mix of travelogue, photography, and comics.

Political Analysis/History, 2014
Farrar Straus & Giroux Hill and Wang Hardback, 6″x8″, 272 pp., $18.99

To Order From Amazon: click here.

 

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Also, I Have a Goombah

Thanks to a new book by a member of SEAL Team Six, which was sent to assassinate him, the truth comes out about the death of Osama bin Laden: no chance to surrender, no dignified burial, just a cheap Mafia rubout before sleeping with the fishes.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Brave New Book

Political Scientist Argues the U.S. is a Police State

The United States is a police state.

Not in danger of becoming one.

Is.

And it’s too late to restore democracy.

That’s the stark message of Andrew Kolin’s brave, lucid and important book “State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush.”

Kolin comes out swinging like Joe Frazier. Illusions and delusions about America as a democracy, much less one that is benevolent, don’t stand a chance.

The U.S., Kolin says, shares all the major attributes of a Third World police state: a constant state of emergency in which security always trumps civil liberties; sidestepping of laws by the government; excessive secrecy; the use of preventative detention and holding enemies of the state without filing formal charges; the manufacturing of reasons to go to war.

“The expansion of state power over the course of U.S. history came at the expense of democracy,” Kolin begins. “As state power grew, there developed a disconnect between the theory and practice of democracy in the United States. Ever-greater state power meant it became more and more absolute. This resulted in a government that directed its energies and resources toward silencing those who dared question the state’s authority.”

Some will find Kolin’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger deadpan delivery disconcerting or depressing. I think it refreshingly honest. Notice his use of the past tense to describe this country?

The U.S. is over. It’s always been over.

Creeping authoritarianism, Kolin says, began “not long after the end of the Revolutionary War, starting with the conquest of North America and by the start of the twentieth century, continuing with the expansionism outside of North America.”

That’s halfway down the first page.

A hundred pages in, you’ll either be stuffing rags into Molotov cocktails or slitting your wrists. You’ll definitely check the expiration date on your passport.

I was surprised to learn that Kolin is a political science professor at Hilbert College in upstate New York. His methodical walk through U.S. history and the struggle between increased state repression and popular democratic movements, a tug-and-pull in which government and its big business allies won the important battles, feels like a tight legal brief.

As Kolin argues, the fix was in from the start.

“The framers [of the U.S. Constitution] needed to establish a government that could promote and protect property, regulate the economy, create an elaborate infrastructure, and acquire native Indian lands, adhering to the policy of North American expansion, while allowing the democratic surge from below to be both expressed and contained,” Kolin writes.

Obviously, the legal status of most Americans has improved since 1789. For example, “the Abolitionists prove that political movements can disrupt repressive state policies and advance democracy.” However: “The success of the Abolitionists suggests that the government can accommodate reformism, provided its core interests [namely, to enlarge state power] remain unaffected.”

Anyone who has read Zinn or Chomsky will be familiar with the long litany of criminality and ultraviolence which expose the claim of exceptionalism as a ridiculous hoax. These are all here: the Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, the Red Scare, dirty deals with dictators. Where the book becomes indispensable is its last third, focusing on the Clinton, Bush and early Obama administrations. This, the author argues beyond any sane ability to disagree, is when Americans citizens lost our basic freedoms and civil liberties once and for all. Habeas corpus, an 800-year-old right held by the citizens of all Western nations, gone without so much as a broken window. A president-king who orders the execution of American citizens without a trial—nay, without evidence of wrongdoing, with barely a harshly-worded newspaper editorial to complain.

For Kolin the USA-Patriot Act, passed in haste by a cowed and cowardly Congress that hadn’t had time to read it after 9/11, marks the final end of formal democracy in the United States. If nothing else, sneak into a bookstore (if you still have one in your town) and read pages 142 to 152.

Here you will find the most thorough and clear dissection of this horrible law in print. Describing Title I, for example, Kolin explains: “Due process is not mentioned in the part that grants the president the authority to freeze assets at the start of, or even prior to an investigation [into terrorism], instead of after it is completed. All property seized can be disposed of according to the president’s wishes. There is no legal requirement to have a court order prior to a seizure, creating the possibility that mistakes may be made and, in most cases, won’t be corrected.”

Unfair confiscation may seem like a minor concern for an innocent man or woman arrested, tortured or assassinated on the order of a president. For conservatives who believe property rights are sacrosanct, however, the symbolism is unmistakable: a government that can steal your stuff with impunity is the enemy of the people.

I can imagine one logical objection to Kolin’s thesis. The government may have the right to oppress. But it is not impelled to do so. So long as government officials are well-intentioned men and women, stout of heart and full of integrity, they will refrain from abusing the rights they claim against us.

However, recent history proves that our government is not run by such individuals. And even if it were—a purely theoretical supposition—who would want to live in a nation where the difference between democracy and dictatorship relies on the whims of a coterie of elites?

Though “a glimmer of hope seemed to appear after President Obama took office,” Kolin shows how the Democratic president “merely modified police state practices.” Furthermore, the transitional nature of the brutal authoritarian tactics enacted by Bush into the next presidency indicates that they are not anomalous but structural. “The Obama Administration’s position that amnesty should be granted to those who tortured [under Bush] as well as those who authored the torture memos, itself violates national and international law; it also ensures that such policies will likely be repeated.”

Attorney General Eric Holder said: “We don’t want to criminalize policy differences.” Kolin replies: “Since when is support for a police state a policy difference?”

If you’ve somehow managed to ignore Obama’s record over the last few years, and you’re still thinking of voting for him next November, this book will change your mind.

Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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Open Letter to Pro-Obama Liberals

At this time of the year I offer the Ted Rall Subscription
Service. For $30/year, you receive my cartoons and columns in your
in box before anyone else–sometimes days in advance of official
release. You also receive extras…for example, subscribers
received blog notices from Afghanistan and Iran last August.
Subscribers may purchase original art at heavily discounted rates,
and receive signed copies of my newest books at discounted rates as
well. To sign up, simply click
here
.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Death of the Moderates

Extreme Problems Require Extreme Solutions

Given his druthers, Obama will pursue the most left-leaning course that he can get away with.” So says Jennifer Rubin, a right-wing pundit at the neoconservative-leaning Washington Post. “Obama,” Rubin claims, “would have marched through his entire liberal agenda—if he had the votes.”

This, of course, assumes that Obama ever had a liberal agenda. There’s not much evidence of that. Moreover, Obama did have the votes in Congress to get almost everything that he wanted. But he chose not to even try.

It is also not true. He did have the votes. In recent years, for example, minority Republicans in the Senate have threatened filibusters on most major Democratic initiatives. When they have 60 or more votes, Democrats file a cloture motion to stop filibusters before they start. In practice, Democrats say—and the media has been repeating their meme—that it now takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate.

It isn’t true. Not now. Not ever.

What Dems fail to understand is that they are depriving themselves of a big political opportunity by embracing automated parliamentary procedure. If Republicans want to filibuster, let them drag out their District of Columbia white pages and start reading on C-Span. Footage of GOP senators stonewalling popular legislation—extensions of unemployment benefits, eliminating tax breaks for individuals who earn more than $1 million a year, or healthcare benefits for 9/11 first responders—would make for awesome attack ads in 2012.

When the Bush Administration enjoyed a razor-thin 50-vote majority in the Senate, it only needed a simple majority in order to pass major bills. Even though they should have, Democrats didn’t filibuster. Democrats lack nerve. And voters hate them for it.

There’s another factor at work: self-delusion. Much liberal disappointment with Obama stems from the fact that, on several issues, he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do during the campaign. He told us that we were going to go deeper in Afghanistan. Liberals simply chose to pretend that he was lying. It’s not Obama’s fault if people are in denial. At the same time, Obama failed to realize that the world had changed dramatically between September and November of 2008.

During the summer of the 2008 campaign, there was a plausible argument to be made that the American people were fundamentally moderate. But after the economic meltdown of September 2008, a crisis of capitalism and consumer confidence that continues today with no end in sight, the electorate moved decidedly to the left. Six months into Obama’s term, most Americans told pollsters they preferred socialism to capitalism. In early 2010 one in five Republicans said they have a positive view of socialism.

Meanwhile, the right became more radical too. This is what happens during a crisis when the “mainstream” system is unresponsive. Moderation? There are no more moderates.

As we have seen time and time again in American history, compromises usually mean no solution at all. From the status of Missouri as a slave state to last week’s tax deal between Democrats and Republicans, compromise usually means kicking the can down the road for another generation of people and politicians to contend with.

Yet the myth persists: moderation equals common sense. I don’t know about my fellow lefties, but I find more common ground with Tea Party types who are angry as hell and don’t want to take it anymore than I do with squishy soft liberals who think everything is fine as long as Barack Obama gets reelected in 2012.

Nothing is fine. The unemployment rate is over 9.8 percent officially and about 20 percent unofficially. Yet neither party has lifted a finger to even talk about proposing a jobs program. Tax cuts? Unemployed people don’t pay taxes. Depression-level joblessness is fiscal poison. If we don’t create tens of millions of new jobs soon, social and political unrest will increase dramatically.

Chris Hedges recently put out a book titled “The Death of the Liberal Class.” A better title might have been “The Death of Moderation.” No one better embodied the American brand of political moderation than traditional liberals. They supported income redistribution, but only through a slightly progressive income tax: not enough to make a difference, but plenty to make right-wingers spitting mad. They consistently voted for huge defense budgets and war after war, yet were successfully framed as wimps by Republicans whose rhetoric matched their similar bellicosity.

The smug and the complacent love moderation precisely because it can’t change the status quo.

Look at ObamaCare: that’s what happens when you compromise. The insurance companies get to soak even more Americans than usual—and charge those of us who are already in the system more. Like many other issues, the “extremes” work better than the centrist, “common sense” solution. If I can’t have full-fledged socialized medicine, give me free markets.

Moderates know their time has past. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently brought 1,000 people together to create a militant moderate organization called No Labels. Like Jon Stewart’s Million Moderate March, No Labels is meant “not to create a new party, but to forge a third way within the existing parties, one that permits debate on issues in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect,” say organizers.

Sweet.

Because, you know, you should always be civil and respectful to people who think torture and concentration camps are A-OK.

For those who despair of the rise of political extremism, I ask: From multi-trillion dollar deficits to endless war to mass die-offs of species and climate change, are the problems America face so trivial that they can be resolved with more half-assed compromises?

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL

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