DMZ America Podcast #139: Mitch McConnell and the Biden Age Question, Death to the Death Penalty, Gen Z Hates Dating Apps

Award-winning political cartoonists Ted Rall and Scott Stantis take on the week’s news and current events on the DMZ America podcast.

The world of politics shifted dramatically with the announcement by longtime Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell that he would step aside from his position as minority leader, but stay in the Senate. A succession battle has already begun. What Ted and Scott are more interested in the message being sent by an 81-year-old politician, who has been seeing struggling with aging in public, to the president.

Idaho botched the attempted execution of a high-profile serial killer at the same time as Texas successfully executed an inmate who was probably innocent. Meanwhile, Alabama and Ohio say they will continue to use the bizarre and torturous nitrogen method to kill more inmates, despite the fiasco in Alabama a few weeks ago. How can it be, Ted and Scott ask, that the United States continues to deploy capital punishment? As an added bonus: a discussion of Christianity!

Finally, Bumble and other dating apps are having major financial issues as Generation Z turns against the idea of finding true love online in favor of doing it the old-fashioned way.

Watch the Video Version: here.

Social media, dating, love, romance, bumble, generation Z, Internet, Mitch McConnell, senate, aging, Joe Biden, succession, Idaho, Alabama, Ohio, Texas, capital punishment, death penalty, Christianity, crime and punishment, Ted Rall, Scott Stantis, DMZ America podcast, political podcast, politics podcast, cartoonist podcast, cartoon podcast, cartooning, political cartoon, political cartoonist

The Final Countdown – 2/28/24

On this episode of The Final Countdown, hosts Angie Wong and Ted Rall discuss current events from around the nation including Fani Willis’ ongoing legal saga. 
Dan Lazare – Independent journalist 
Steve Hayes – Tax Attorney
Scottie Nell Hughes – RT Host 
Tyler Nixon – Counselor-at-law 
The first hour starts with the hosts discussing the results of the Michigan primary with independent journalist Dan Lazare and the spread of “uncommitted” voters. 
Then, tax attorney Steve Hayes shares his perspective on the Congressional budget resolution. 
The second hour starts with RT Host Scottie Nell Hughes weighing in on the latest out of the Fani Willis saga.  
The show closes with counselor-at-law Tyler Nixon talking about New York City Mayor Eric Adams changing sanctuary city laws. 

The Final Countdown – 2/27/24 – Michigan Primary: Unveiling Biden’s Unpopularity?

On this episode of The Final Countdown, hosts Angie Wong and Ted Rall discuss current events worldwide, including the Michigan primary. 
Ajay Pallegar – Criminal and Civil Attorney and Political Analyst 
Aquiles Larrea – CEO of Larrea Wealth Management 
Mark Sleboda – International Relations and Security Analyst 
Jamie Finch – Former Director at the National Transportation Safety Board 
The first hour begins with attorney Ajay Pallegar sharing his analysis on the upcoming Michigan primary amid pro-ceasefire protests against Biden. 
Then, finance expert Aquiles Larrea weighs in on the Congressional budget debacle. 
The second hour starts with international relations and security analyst Mark Sleboda talking about the possibility of a ‘peace’ summit between Ukraine and Russia.
The show wraps up with former National Transportation Safety Board director Jamie Finch weighing in on the newly released Federal Aviation Administration report on Boeing. 

The Final Countdown – 2/26/24 – Haley Suffers Embarrassing Defeat in Home State; Vows to Stay in Race

On this episode of The Final Countdown, hosts Angie Wong and Ted Rall discuss a plethora of topics domestically and abroad, including Nikki Haley’s defeat in her home state of South Carolina. 
Ed Martin – Lawyer and Political Commentator
Steve Gill – Attorney 
Jeremy Kuzmarov – Managing Editor of Covert Action Magazine 
Michael Maloof – Former Pentagon Senior Security Policy Analyst 
The first hour starts with lawyer and political commentator Ed Martin, who shares his perspective on Nikki Haley’s loss in her home state’s primaries. 
Then, attorney Steve Gill joins to discuss the latest out of the Fani Willis saga, including requests for her to testify again. 
The second hour starts with Jeremy Kuzmarov, Managing Editor of Covert Action Magazine to share his perspective on the latest out of the Middle East, including more airstrikes in Yemen and Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah. 
The show closes with Michael Maloof, a former analyst at the Pentagon, to discuss the latest out of Ukraine. 

What’s Left 5: Let’s Declare War on Economic Insecurity

Ted Rall says it better than I can - The New York Times

            Wages high enough to cover basic expenses are only the beginning of the Left’s struggle to eliminate economic insecurity.

            We must also fight for workers’ rights on the job as well as a robust and sturdy social safety net to protect people when they find themselves out of work. Americans suffer the worst worker benefits of major developed countries; we are tied with Botswana, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan. Our safety net also comes in dead last.

            For as long as anyone can remember, the balance of power between labor and management has been radically tilted in favor of capital. While nine out of ten workers are not organized, employers not only form cartels to set prices for labor, they enjoy outsized influence in Washington and state capitals through campaign contributions to politicians.

            Globalization has exacerbated this imbalance; an apparel company like Nike may manufacture goods in low-wage, anti-union countries like Vietnam or Indonesia and ship them to high-income/high-price markets like Europe or the United States on container ships whose expenses are subsidized by taxpayers of the latter. As much as an ambitious worker might be willing to abandon her family and native culture to move to a higher-wage place like Norway or Qatar, however, it is nearly impossible to obtain the necessary working permits, much less citizenship. Capital is fluid; labor is stationary.

            The Left seeks to level the playing field between labor and management.

            U.S. labor laws are “at will,” meaning that you can be fired for any reason other than discrimination because of your race, sex, sexual orientation or other legally-protected class. At-will is a license for companies to overhire during booms and impose mass layoffs when the economy cools down, as we saw tech companies do after the COVID-19 pandemic. It enables bosses to vote themselves a raise at the same time they let workers go, many of whom disrupted their lives to take those jobs, lost other opportunities, and who have no responsibility for poor management decisions.

            At-will must go. An employer who wants to get rid of an employee should have to prove to the Department of Labor either that the move is required due to the company’s finances—and then only after upper management have absorbed pay cuts and stockholders lose their dividends—or that he did something wrong, in which case he should be entitled to a hearing before an impartial court system established to litigate labor-management disputes before a jury.

            Workers’ power relies first and foremost on the right and ability to withhold labor after contract negotiations break down. Therefore, every American worker in an enterprise with ten or more employees ought to be legally guaranteed the right to join a union—even if they are the only member of their company’s workforce who wants to sign a union card. Existing laws prohibiting employer retaliation against union organizers and members, which are weak and rarely enforced, must be strengthened to the point where it is nearly impossible to fire someone for standing up for higher wages and working conditions. Needless to say, state “right to work“ laws that allow workers in union shops to withhold union dues while receiving negotiated benefits, should be eliminated.

            Laws like the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which ban solidarity strikes and strikes by the military and other public-sector workers and have been expanded by courts and presidential executive orders to include “essential” workers like coal miners and rail workers, go far beyond regulations in other developed nations and must be abolished. If workers are truly essential to the functioning of the nation, like firefighters and postal workers, they should be remunerated accordingly. In the case of exceptional categories of workers deemed essential in matters of life and death, which should be highly limited, the loss of the right to strike should be compensated by guaranteed raises pegged to the inflation rate.

            U.S. workers are divided into arbitrary classifications designed to allow corporations to treat them like dirt. I work at least 40 hours a week as a cartoonist and columnist yet my syndicate misclassifies me as an “independent contractor.” Same for Uber and Lyft drivers, though there’s nothing independent about a job which specifies everything about your tasks down to the model of car you must drive, though you pay for it yourself.

            The system is random and arbitrary. When I lost my W-2 job as a syndicate executive, I qualified for unemployment even though I had only worked half-weeks. If my syndicate cans me as a cartoonist and writer, I do not.

            For the Left, all work is work, all work has value and all workers must be protected. The “independent contractor” loophole should be closed. A 20-hour-a-week job should come with at least half medical benefits. A third of U.S. citizens are self-employed; they should qualify for unemployment benefits when work dries up, just like people who work for other people.

            And work will dry up. Because boom-and-bust cycles are intrinsic to capitalism, until the Revolution comes the Left should agitate for a safety net that reflects this reality. Jobless benefits should be far more generous than they are now. They should expire when you find a new job, not after the six-month limit set by most state legislatures. By way of comparison, countries like Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain provide up to 24 months of unemployment payments. Iceland gives 30.

            As we’ve seen with robotics and are seeing with artificial intelligence, disruptive technologies destroy entire lines of business at once, rendering hard-earned education and experience worthless overnight. The heartland has plunged into despair and drug addiction after decades of deindustrialization fueled by pro-globalization policies. Surely we could use the lost productivity of these millions of fellow citizens who have filed for federal disability checks because they have no hope of ever being gainfully employed! Those who are willing to take classes to be retrained for positions that will be needed in the near future must currently bear all or most of the cost themselves. Retraining programs should be gratis, and the government should pay them a living stipend so people can focus on their studies.

            The ultimate manifestation of economic insecurity, the abject poverty that leads to homelessness, hunger and death, ought to be impossible in this wealthiest of all countries in history. Even if they “want” to do so, the Left should not allow people to sleep outside, for the freedom to die in the cold is no freedom whatsoever.

            Next: How to abolish homelessness.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

DMZ America Podcast #138: Alabamapalooza, Haley’s Last Stand, Two Years in Ukraine

Editorial cartoonists Ted Rall (from the political Left) and Scott Stantis (from the political Right) discuss the week’s biggest stories without the boring yell fests but with force and passion.

This week, Ted and Scott start with Alabamapalooza! Scott lives in Alabama, which happens to be the improbable center of the week’s news. After a botched execution using a novel Neue asphyxiation method, the state pronounces itself ready to do a lot more. At the same time, the State Supreme Court has declared that frozen embryos developed for in vitro fertilization are full human beings entitled to the full protection of the law, with devastating consequences for women.

In the 2024 election campaign, former ambassador Nikki Haley takes on Donald Trump in her home state of South Carolina with the polls showing her behind by about 65% to 35%. Ted and Scott wonder aloud why exactly she’s still in the race and what is her strategy. On Tuesday, the race moves to Michigan, where Muslim Americans angry about the Biden administration’s support of Israel against the people of Gaza are trying to organize a substantial protest vote against the incoming president.

Finally, it’s the beginning of the third year of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Clearly Russia has won the war. When, if ever, will American policy makers recognize the reality on the ground and reflect that with their funding decisions in Washington? What will a negotiated settlement look like? What should it look like?

Watch the Video Version: here.

The Final Countdown – 2/23/24 – Biden Faces Heavy Competition in Michigan Against ‘Uncommitted

On this episode of The Final Countdown, hosts Angie Wong and Ted Rall discuss top news domestically and abroad, including the Michigan primaries. 
Alan Grayson – Former U.S. Representative 
Paul Wright – Managing Editor, Prison Legal News 
Robert Fantina – Author, journalist, activist 
Tyler Nixon – Counselor-at-law 
The first hour begins with Former U.S. Representative Alan Grayson, who shares his perspective as a Democrat, on how Biden is expected to perform in the upcoming Michigan primary. 
Then, prison expert Paul Wright shares his analysis on Jan. 6 prisoners being moved to undisclosed locations. 
The second hour starts with author, journalist, and activist Robert Fantina discussing the latest out of Gaza, and Israeli PM Netanyahu’s plans for the region. 
The show closes with Tyler Nixon, counselor-at-law, sharing his perspective on former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov being rearrested. 

The Final Countdown – 2/22/24 – Former Informant Accused of Lying Suddenly Deemed Credible on Russia

On this episode of The Final Countdown, hosts Angie Wong and Ted Rall discuss current events worldwide, including a long-time FBI informant being charged with lying. 
Ajay Pallegar – Criminal and Civil Attorney and Political Analyst 
Tyler Nixon – Political Commentator
Jamie Finch – Former Director at the National Transportation Safety Board 
Armen Kurdian – Retired Navy Captain 
The first hour begins with criminal and civil attorney Ajay Pallegar about the ongoing legal drama surrounding the Biden family. 
Following that conversation, political commentator Tyler Nixon joined to discuss the case regarding the former FBI informant charged with lying about the Biden family’s business dealings. 
The second hour begins with Former Director at the National Transportation Safety Board, Jamie Finch, who breaks down the latest Boeing blunder, including the head of the 737 Max program stepping down. 
The show wraps up with Armen Kurdian, who shares his perspective about Biden’s crackdowns on migration at the Southern border.  

The Final Countdown – 2/21/24 – Biden’s Record Fundraising Fails to Sway U.S. Voters

On this episode of The Final Countdown, hosts Angie Wong and Ted Rall discuss top news worldwide, including Biden’s presidential campaign. 
Steve Gill – Attorney 
Daniel Lazare – Independent journalist 
Professor Francis Boyle – Human rights lawyer, professor of international law 
Mark Sleboda – International Relations and Security Analyst 
The first hour begins with attorney Steve Gill, who shares his perspective on Biden and Trump’s campaign strategies. 
Then, Daniel Lazare, an independent journalist, weighs in on the ongoing hearing for Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange who is facing U.S. extradition. 
The second hour begins with Professor Francis Boyle, who shares his perspective on the U.S. vetoing a United Nations resolution demanding a ceasefire. 
The show closes with international relations and security analyst Mark Sleboda, who breaks down Russia’s response to U.S. accusations over the country having capabilities to bring nuclear weapons to space. 

What’s Left 4: We Need a Real Minimum Wage

college tuition | Ted Rall's Rallblog

            When Gallup pollsters ask Americans what causes them the most stress and worry, personal economic concerns—the cost of living, lack of money, the gap between rich and poor, difficulty finding a job or, if they’re employed, low wages—consistently come in first, so much so that they can’t imagine saving for the future. General economic issues like poverty, hunger and homelessness come in next. In a capitalist country with decades of rising income inequality and a modest safety net, these findings come as little surprise.

            The rent is too damn high; buying a house gets more and more out of reach. We’re living paycheck to paycheck, expenses rise faster than salaries, and bosses, who can fire you at will even if you’ve been working hard and following the rules, have absolute power in a country where 10% of workers belong to a union. No wonder we’re worried sick.

            Economic insecurity is America’s biggest political issue. Yet neither of the major parties campaigns on it. At most, they’ll refer to it obliquely, as when nativists call for reduced immigration—sometimes they argue that new arrivals take away jobs from the native-born.

            Many of the other things that keep people up at night are partly or fully grounded in economic insecurity. Crime and violence are more pervasive in poor neighborhoods, courts are better-staffed and more efficient in wealthy areas. Patients worry about being able to afford to see a doctor and pay for medications at least as much as they do about the quality of healthcare. Racial tensions dissipate in places and periods of prosperity.

            The failure of bourgeois electoral democracy to address the nation’s biggest political issue, economic insecurity, is tailor-made for the agenda of the Left, which historically has been grounded in Marxist class analysis.

            Naturally, the ultimate goal of Leftists is the overthrow of capitalism, which centers inequality and monopoly as inevitable at best and laudable at worst, with a socialism that provides equal access to the basic necessities of life and equal opportunity to achieve more. But Revolution is not like a cake; there is no recipe to follow. All the conditions must be ripe and, frustratingly to the revolutionist, the determination that those conditions exist can only be affirmed after the fact of success.

            One predicate for revolution is a well-organized grassroots movement. There are few better ways to build such a structure than to consistently and relentlessly agitate for improvement in people’s economic living conditions—which are, after all, their biggest problem—in elections, street demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, sabotage and other militant actions centered around a Left programme that demands improvements in wages, benefits and government safety-net programs.

            Never has the public been more predisposed to the argument that government ought to intercede on behalf of those who are having trouble making ends meet, or fear that unemployment might put them into such a position. People’s buying power has been ravaged by inflation, corporations are again turning the screws after a brief period of liberalization driven by the post-pandemic labor shortage, and it has been 60 years since a major party proposed a federal anti-poverty program (LBJ’s Great Society).

            Some bourgeois political analysts, particularly the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, identify the vacuum in the dialogue space of economic injustice. But neither party can meaningfully address issues like poverty and homelessness for one simple reason: they are capitalist parties. Whatever room existed for the reformist impulse vanished after the postwar period yielded to the beginning of America’s late-capitalist decline. Admitting that capitalism leaves millions behind is unthinkable, let alone developing legislative attempts to fix the problem.

            We, the Left, have the signature issue of economic justice all to ourselves, provided that we do not obsess over identity politics to the exclusion of class divisions.

            Wages come first.

            A day’s work should pay enough to pay for rent, a car and other necessities. If the federal minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1970, it would currently be $30 an hour. The average worker is twice as productive as 1970, so make that $60. For a full-time worker, that’s $120,000 a year. But 1970 wasn’t a perfect time for workers. We deserve and demand better. The Left should think of $60 an hour as the bare minimum necessary to live decently in the United States, and push for more for skilled labor.

            Think that’s unrealistic? If so, you’ve been corrupted by capitalistic propaganda that devalues labor. Bernie Sanders and the Squad are still struggling to raise the federal minimum from $7.25 to $15.00—that’s what passes for progressive! What a joke! The bosses themselves consider $60 an hour to be the real minimum wage to subsist in the world we live in today; in New York, where I live, you can’t qualify for a rental apartment unless your annual salary is 40 times the monthly rent. You need $120,000 to be considered for a $3000 per month apartment; good luck finding anything for less than that. It’s not that landlords want to discriminate against working-class tenants. They’ve learned from experience that people who earn less than $120,000 are far likelier to fall behind on the rent until they have to be evicted, costing building owners and managers money.

            Be reasonable. Demand the impossible: $60 an hour minimum wage.

            Next: the Left’s programme for economic security.

 (Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)