If You Miss Donald Trump, You’ll Love Joe Biden

Joe Biden snaps at reporter asking about son Hunter

            From mainstream left to mainstream right, the media deluge of Trump postmortems share the assumption that 45 represented a departure, deviation or innovation from the comportment and policies of previous American heads of state. True, he was the first man elected president without political or military experience. And as I have previously observed, Trump revolutionized campaigning by relying on social media instead of big travel budget and ad-libbing rather than repeating a pre-packaged stump speech.

            But there was nothing new about the way he governed.

            In policy, even with his vicious tone, Trump was a typical Republican president.  Ford told New York City to drop dead, Reagan called Blacks “welfare queens” and dog-whistled to the Klan, Bush legalized torture—nothing Trump did was worse than those. In some respects, Trump wasn’t much worse from Democrats.

Trump’s low approval ratings following the second impeachment for his January 6th coup d’état attempt, and the revulsion most Americans currently feel for him give us a rare opportunity to acknowledge an ugly truth. Our nation’s political culture is toxic and has been for a long time; we tend to elevate politicians who reflect our basest and coarsest inclinations. In this respect, Trump was the perfect president for us.

During the 2016 campaign Trump shocked many of us by gleefully encouraging violence, as when he offered to pay the legal bills of a MAGAhead who beat up a liberal protester. He continued to spew bloodthirsty rhetoric throughout his four years in office (like when he implored cops “please don’t be too nice” to suspects), up to and including the day of the Capitol riot that left five people dead. The politics of degeneracy.

Yet Biden is no improvement. He’s a continuation.

You don’t get admitted to the ruling classes unless you pledge fealty to the might-makes-right politics of American empire. So when a technocrat in a nation with a smidge of respect for the rule of law might soft pedal or deny involvement in a brazenly illegal political assassination for which he ought to spend the rest of his life in prison, dirtbag American leaders brag about fomenting murder. “If you are looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple,” then-Vice President Biden smirked during Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”

That followed Secretary of Hillary Clinton’s disgusting reaction to the murder of Libyan ruler Moammar Ghaddafi. “We came, we saw, he died,” she cackled after viewing the dictator being sodomized by a bayonet wielded by a U.S. ally after his convoy was blown up by a U.S. drone missile.

At a September presidential debate Biden hypocritically accused Trump of using “racist…dog-whistle” language. The new President has a long history of spewing similar verbiage while arguing for right-wing legislation that destroyed Black lives. “We must take back the streets,” Biden said, sounding like Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” while fighting for his infamously racist 1994 crime bill. “It doesn’t matter whether or not the person that is accosting your son or daughter or my son or daughter, my wife, your husband, my mother, your parents, it doesn’t matter whether or not they were deprived as a youth. It doesn’t matter whether or not they had no background that enabled them to become socialized into the fabric of society. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re the victims of society. The end result is they’re about to knock my mother on the head with a lead pipe, shoot my sister, beat up my wife, take on my sons.” Everyone understood who “they” were: Blacks.

It might be reasonable to brush off this 26-year-old rant as the product of a political mind still in development—except for one thing. Biden has never apologized for either his racist dog-whistling or his racist legislation.

Until and unless you recant and make amends for your past, your past is your present.

One stain on Trump’s presidency was emoluments—using his office for personal financial gain. Biden’s actions on behalf of his son Hunter may not rise to the frequency of the Trump family’s rampant nepotism. Morally and ethically, however, selling access to the (vice) presidency is a distinction without a difference.

Trump’s worst sin was his repeated lying, even about such inconsequential matters as the attendance size at his inauguration. But Biden is a serial liar too. During a primary debate with Bernie Sanders, Biden looked right into an incredulous Sanders’ eyes and said he had never voted for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion. In fact, he had supported it repeatedly, for many years. Typically, he never admitted wrongdoing.

Biden lied about supporting civil rights. He even falsely claimed to have been arrested by police in apartheid-era Soweto, South Africa. His best-ever fib was smearing the man involved in the car wreck that killed his first wife and young daughter; he claimed the driver had “drunk his lunch” when, in fact, he was sober and the accident was his wife’s fault.

Again, you could dismiss Biden’s lies as youthful immaturity. After all, he was six months younger when he lied in Sanders’ face. The problem for us is, he’s still at it.

In December Biden said he wanted to send Americans a $2,000 stimulus check in order to prop up the economy. Congress approved and Trump signed a bill granting $600 instead. Now the Weasel-in-Chief says Trump’s $600 was a “downpayment”—so we’re only getting, assuming that Congress approves, $1,400. (Never mind that single payments are a joke compared to the 80% of salary, paid monthly, issued to victims of COVID-19 lockdown victims in the United Kingdom, 70% in South Korea, etc.)

Don’t be fooled by Biden’s tight-fitting suits, a distinct sartorial improvement over Trump’s glossy too-long red ties, or his phony aw-shucks grin, an aesthetic improvement over Trump’s ridiculous scowl. In the ways that matter most, back to normal is exactly the same as the weirdness of the last four years.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Congress Votes to Arm Violent Mobs That Storm through Capitols around the World

Kyrgyzstan's second tulip revolution | Kyrgyzstan | The Guardian

            Terrified political leaders watched the police who were assigned to protect them melt away. They fled as an angry mob of hooligans, riled up by sketchy allegations of rigged elections, stormed up the stairs of the government building that hosted the debates and deliberations of their venerable democracy. The rioters, reactionary right-wingers from the nation’s rural hinterlands, rampaged through the corridors of power, smashing windows, vandalizing offices and looting files and furniture.

            Political elites deplored the physical appearance and comportment of the protesters. “I’d like to believe and hope that the actions of a mob high on narcotic substances will not totally destabilize this republic,” remarked a top official of a neighboring country.

            This scene didn’t take place at the Capitol. It occurred at the “White House,” the seat of parliament and the presidential staff in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

In March 2005, the mob got its way. President Askar Akayev, the only leader of a former Soviet republic in Central Asia to have been democratically elected, fled into exile. The Tulip Revolution, as Western news media approvingly dubbed the coup, prompted the all-but-total collapse of the country’s economy and politics into chaos so intense that parts of the country have become a failed state where currency has stopped circulating. When I entered via Tajikistan in 2009, the illiterate border guards didn’t even have a stamp in order to mark my passport.

Stability remains elusive. Mobs similarly toppled Akayev’s successor Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2010 and, in a barely noticed bit of international drama eclipsed by the U.S. election, Bakiyev’s replacement in October 2020.

Those Kyrgyz mobs of Muslim young men from the conservative Ferghana Valley didn’t materialize by chance in 2005. They were trained and funded by you and me.

Scores of CIA agents permanently stationed in southern Kyrgyzstan trained a bunch of hicks to overthrow a northern-based secular government that had annoyed the Bush Administration. The Akayev regime’s real sin? Not fixing an election. It was their demand for higher rent payments from the U.S. to use Bishkek’s airport as a base for bombing runs into Afghanistan.

“It would have been absolutely impossible for [the overthrow of Akayev] to have happened without that help [from the U.S.],” said Edil Baisolov, who led an NGO financed by the U.S. government. Freedom House, a CIA cover operation masquerading as an NGO, published anti-Akayev newspapers. The U.S. Congress allocated $12 million a year under the Freedom Support Act toward undermining Central Asia’s sole democracy.

“Hundreds of thousands more filter into pro-democracy programs in the country from other United States government-financed institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy. That does not include the money for the Freedom House printing press or Kyrgyz-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a pro-democracy broadcaster,” reported The New York Times. Bakiyev, the president who took over after the coup forced Akayev to flee, was himself trained in the U.S.

American media outlets loved the Kyrgyz insurrection. They grouped it with other CIA-backed “color revolutions” against the governments of Ukraine and Georgia, spinning the overthrow of Akayev, an intellectual physicist, as the liberation of the people from an authoritarian despot.

So please excuse me if I don’t shed geysers of tears over the traumas endured by the pampered lobbyist-fattened members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate while idiots wearing horned Viking masks desecrated the hallowed hallways of the Capitol.

What happened on January 6th is infinitely less than chickens coming home to roost. A few hours of mayhem is but a tiny taste of the far greater violence and misery those 535 men and women vote to inflict on countries around the world. According to one study, the United States interfered overtly or covertly in the free elections of 81 foreign countries between 1946 and 2000. The U.S. tried to overthrow the president of Venezuela in 2002, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq where it replaced the local governments with puppet regimes, set off a war within the Palestinian Authority by trying to get rid of Hamas in 2006, and is currently trying to destroy Yemen, Syria, Iran and Libya, which thanks to the U.S. has become a failed state. This is by necessity a truncated list.

Here is true American exceptionalism. Our Congress throws billions of dollars a year at regime change operations around the globe but, with the exception of events like the 9/11 attacks, nothing happens here. Blowback is infrequent, relatively small-scale and never directly impacts the people who are responsible, i.e. the political class. Given that one of the few things Democrats and Republicans still agree upon is to finance the cash-bloated military, I don’t see that changing.

It would be nice, however, for the members of Congress who finance and arm the rampaging mobs that illegally overthrow the sovereign governments of other countries to take it on the chin when the same thing kind of, sort of, almost happens to them.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

The Coup I Predicted Has Begun

My regular readers know that I’ve been concerned about an attempt by outgoing president Donald Trump to stay in office via a violent coup.

Regardless of what happens at the Capitol, if the invasion ends, the coup attempt is underway and cannot be considered behind us until Biden is sworn in. Democrats have cornered Trump.

He is fighting for his life, to stay out of prison for the rest of his life. He will do anything to avoid that. If

Biden and the Democrats Could Change Everything. But They Won’t Try.

Man in hammock featuring hammock, woods, and forest | High-Quality People Images ~ Creative Market

            “When someone shows you who they are,” Maya Angelou said, “believe them the first time.” We’re about to be reminded who and what the corporate-owned Democratic Party is—something they showed us in 2009.

            A pair of upset victories in the widely-watched pair of Georgia senatorial runoff elections has handed Democrats what they said they needed to get big things done: control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. If they want, they have argued over the last year, Democrats will be able to push through a lot of important legislation on the liberal agenda: a dramatic increase in the minimum wage, student loan forgiveness, an eviction ban, Medicare For All, expanded economic stimulus and addressing the climate crisis come to mind.

            They don’t want to. They won’t try.

            And they’ll have an excuse. Democrats will still be 10 votes short of the supermajority needed to override Republican filibusters. The billion dollars spent to elect those two Democrats in Georgia created some interesting symbolism about the rising influence of Black voters and hopes for further Democratic inroads in the South, but it didn’t defang Mitch McConnell. Gridlock goes on.

            Not that Biden and his pet Democratic Congress have much of an agenda. He’ll reverse Trump’s executive orders on stuff like rejoining the Paris Agreement but he won’t move the policy meter left of where it stood under Obama—a guy who was so far right of progressives that they launched the Occupy Wall Street movement to oppose him. Biden campaigned tepidly on adding a “public option” to Obamacare, but McConnell will almost certainly block it and anything else that requires GOP votes. The exception, of course, will be the next bloated military spending bill. For six consecutive decades Americans have been able to count on death, taxes, rising income inequality and bipartisan support for blowing up brown people in countries we can’t find on a map with $640 toilet seats.

            But you shouldn’t let the filibuster get you down. Even if Nonexistent God were to smite 10 deserving GOP senators with the coronaplague and said smitten senators had represented states whose Democratic governors were to appoint their replacements thus giving the Bidenocrats a coveted 60-vote supermajority, nothing would get better.

            We know this because it happened 12 years ago, during the 111th Congress.

            Obama’s presidency began in the strongest power position of any Democrat since FDR. With the economy in a tailspin and shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month—back then we still thought that was a lot—voters were both desperate and optimistic that our young new leader would lead us out of the Great Recession. He had a 68% approval rating, indicating bipartisan support. Democrats had picked up 21 seats in the House, giving them a 257-to-178 majority. They had a 59-to-41 majority in the Senate. (This included two independents, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, who caucused with Democrats.) They were one tantalizing vote short of a supermajority.

            That changed on September 24, 2009, when the seat vacated by Ted Kennedy’s death was temporarily filled by a fellow Democrat, until February 4, 2010, when Scott Brown, a Republican, won the Kennedy spot in a special election.

            Democratic apologists explain away Obama’s lack of progress on progressive policy goals during that halcyon period by pointing out that total Democratic control of the White House and both houses of Congress “only” lasted four months, during which they passed the Affordable Care Act.

            Let’s temporarily set aside the question of how it is that Ronald Reagan rammed an agenda so far right that it still affects all of us today through a 243-to-191 Democratic House and “just” 53 GOP seats in the Senate. What about those four magic months during which Obama could have gone as far left as he and his fellow Democrats wanted?

            Well, Democrats did pass one of those 60 straight bloated defense bills. That would have happened under Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. They extended unemployment benefits by 14 to 20 weeks, depending on in which state the poor jobless schmuck lived. And the ACA. And that’s it.

            In order to secure the vote of Lieberman—who represented the insurance company-owned state of Connecticut—the ACA did not include the “public option” that Obama had promised during his campaign. DNC chairman Howard Dean, then in his pre-neutered state, called the deletion of the public option “the collapse of healthcare reform in the United States Senate. And, honestly, the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill and go back to the House and start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.” He was right, but Obama, his House and his supermajoritarian Senate didn’t bother. Like Lieberman, they cared about insurers, not patients.

            Four months isn’t that long. Yet Reagan used less time than that to crush his opponents and pass tax cuts for the rich that shredded the New Deal social safety net. “The president used the bully pulpit to overcome opposition among House Democrats, building support for the cuts,” recalled Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “He gave a speech on television, urging citizens to write their legislators and tell them to support the cuts. House Democrats, now the sole base for the party in Washington, joined in once they saw the public pressure.” LBJ took less time to “set Congress on the path to passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as a tax cut and Medicare,” wrote presidential scholar Jeffrey Tulis. FDR created modern liberalism in under three months. You can imagine what Trump would have done during four months of a GOP House and Senate supermajority.

            Republicans didn’t prevent Obama from taking on the minimum wage or student loan debt or poverty. Obama had four months to do those things. No one could have stopped him. He didn’t try.

            And neither would Biden if he had the chance.

CORRECTED 1/6/21 to reflect that Brown won a statewide special election. He was not appointed, as I wrote initially. I regret the error.

            (Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

My To-Do List for the first two-thirds of 2021, in Order:

January: Recover from Covid! Walk long, run short, bike, drink less, eat better, lose 30 extra Covid pounds (!) and beat my lungs like they’re a CEO begging for mercy after the Revolution.

February: Deep dive into my next book, a memoir about my mom’s life and her battle with Alzheimer’s.

April: Covid will be fading, so time for book tour! I’ll do it at private homes if stores aren’t ready yet. Indie bookstores preferred, though. “The Stringer” graphic novel with Pablo Callejo comes out April 21 and is SO AWESOME.

June: I’ve been working on a graphic novel parody of…I’ll say later…for 13 years. Time to finish that damn script.

July: Travel, goddammit. With the kid. Road trip across the US? Canada? Through Mexico? I don’t care where. Just. Travel.

August: Should be a long hot summer. Revolution, dammit!

Trump is Still Plotting a Possible Coup

Violence erupts in D.C. after the 'Million MAGA March' as protesters and Trump supporters brawl | Daily Mail Online

            Late last month I wrote that there was a strong chance–I called it 50-50—that Donald Trump would engineer a “self coup” in order to remain in power despite having lost the election.

            The president is a desperate cornered rat. Once he leaves office, he becomes vulnerable to several criminal investigations. By far, the one he has to worry about the most is being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney into his corrupt business practices, charges that could not be discharged by a presidential pardon if Joe Biden were to issue one. “[Trump] could spend the rest of his life in prison,” I wrote, “unless he declares martial law and becomes America’s first dictator.”

            I acknowledged that Trump “doesn’t have the support of the military—but he doesn’t need it.” Instead of a Latin American-style military coup, I said, “his would be a ‘police coup’ carried out by the numerous local police departments whose unions endorsed him for reelection, alongside federalized state police and deputized paramilitary MAGA goons.”

            It hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it won’t, but nothing has changed about Trump’s precarious legal situation. No human need trumps the motivation for personal survival. An intelligent assessment of Trump’s thinking must begin with the question: why wouldn’t he attempt a coup?

            Patriotism? Love of country? Respect for constitutional norms? I won’t go as far as many of the president’s other critics, who call him a narcissist who doesn’t care about anyone except himself. They don’t know that. Neither do I.

Here’s what I do know: whatever love of country and the craftwork of the Founding Fathers is in Trump’s soul cannot possibly weigh as heavily on his mind as the prospect of dying in prison, the first president in history to have faced prosecution and conviction. And that’s after months or years of humiliating hearings and trials and appeals where he has to sit quietly and watch his lawyers try to save his skin as prosecutors try to “flip” members of his family lest they, too, wind up inside the Graybar Hotel.

A more powerful reason to hesitate is the possibility of failure. If Trump’s “police coup” goes belly up, he goes to prison, possibly for treason, for life. Terrifying yet no worse than the New York charges that he’s so scared of. Anyway, what would you rather go to jail for, cheating on your taxes or trying to take over the government?

The only reason I can imagine that Trump would leave office peacefully on January 20th would be that he is psychologically broken. It’s theoretically possible. But the continuing rambunctiousness of his Twitter feed and recent public statements reveal zero evidence that he’s resigned to his fate.

Feel free to dismiss this column as the paranoid rant of a left-wing political cartoonist, albeit one who told you we would lose the Afghanistan war and predicted that Trump would win the 2016 election when everyone else was telling you something different. But you should probably consider this: The dean of Very Serious Journalist Persons, columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post—a foreign affairs writer so mainstream and respectable that he supported invading Iraq and argued that the CIA should not be held accountable for torture—now agrees with me. In doing so, he draws upon some interesting deep-state sourcing.

“Not to be alarmist,” Ignatius wrote on December 26th, “but we should recognize that the United States will be in the danger zone until the formal certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on Jan. 6, because potential domestic and foreign turmoil could give President Trump an excuse to cling to power.”

“Trump’s last-ditch campaign [for Republican members of the House and Senate to challenge the electoral college vote count certification on January 6th] will almost certainly fail in Congress,” Ignatius says. I agree.

“The greater danger is on the streets, where pro-Trump forces are already threatening chaos. A pro-Trump group called ‘Women for America First’ has requested a permit for a Jan. 6 rally in Washington, and Trump is already beating the drum: ‘Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!’” Ignatius worries. “Government officials fear that if violence spreads, Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize the military. Then Trump might use ‘military capabilities’ to rerun the Nov. 3 election in swing states, as suggested by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.”

Trump officials recently discussed martial law at the White House.

Ignatius continues: “The Pentagon would be the locus of any such action, and some unusual recent moves suggest pro-Trump officials might be mobilizing to secure levers of power.” If I were his editor, I would have reworded this because it wrongly implies that Trump is planning a coup with Pentagon support. What Trump really requires, as I wrote a month ago, is Pentagon neutrality. He needs troops to remain in their barracks. As long as the armed forces stay out of the way of local and state police, a coup may succeed.

Ignatius’ description of Trump’s latest behind-the-scenes maneuvers is worth quoting in its entirety:

Kash Patel, chief of staff to acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller, returned home ‘abruptly’ from an Asia trip in early December, according to Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin. Patel didn’t explain, but in mid-December Trump discussed with colleagues the possibility that Patel might replace Christopher A. Wray as FBI director, one official said. Wray remains in his job. Another strange Pentagon machination was the proposal Miller floated in mid-December to separate the code-breaking National Security Agency from U.S. Cyber Command, which are both currently headed by Gen. Paul Nakasone. That proposal collapsed because of bipartisan congressional opposition. But why did Trump loyalists suggest the NSA-Cyber Command split in the first place? Some officials speculate that the White House may have planned to install a new NSA chief, perhaps Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the young conservative recently installed to oversee Pentagon intelligence activities.

These moves follow the post-election firings of the Secretary of Defense and top officials at Homeland Security.

Ominous as hell, though I think Ignatius’ conclusion misses the point: “With firm control of the NSA and the FBI, the Trump team might then disclose highly sensitive information about the origins of the 2016 Trump Russia investigation.”

A more obvious motivation for hijacking direct control of the nation’s top foreign and domestic intelligence agencies is command and control during a coup. The NSA and FBI would monitor and disrupt resistance inside government as well as in the streets.

“Trump won’t succeed in subverting the Constitution,” Ignatius assures us. Maybe.

It’s going to be an eternity between now and January 20th.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

In a Crisis, a Compromise Solution Is Worse Than No Solution at All

LTC Plan Design: Half a Loaf is Better Than None - Financial Abundance

            The raging argument on the left between progressives who argue for radical change and centrists who advocate incrementalism is hardly new. Nearly a century ago, progressive titan and Wisconsin governor Robert La Follette and FDR were often at loggerheads over the same question.

Roosevelt, La Follette complained, was too quick to compromise with reactionaries. FDR insisted that “half a loaf is better than no bread.” While that might seem intuitively obvious, La Follette had a ready reply. “Half a loaf, as a rule, dulls the appetite, and destroys the keenness of interest in attaining the full loaf.” That can be dangerous. The average adult male requires approximately 2500 calories of nutrition per day. 1250 is better than 0, but 1250 is still malnutrition that would eventually kill him.

Even in a long-running crisis, the sustained agitation necessary to pressure the political classes into granting concessions doesn’t usually occur before people’s suffering has become acute. If the powers that be provide partial relief in the form of a half-measure that partly alleviates a problem, angry citizens can be persuaded to put down their pitchforks and go home peaceably. Yet the problem persists.

The Affordable Care Act is a perfect example. Obama became president at the peak of a major economic crisis, the subprime mortgage meltdown of 2007-09. With hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs every month, the need for government intervention in the healthcare system was obvious to most Americans. So Obama campaigned on major change that included a public option. Two out of three people, including many Republicans, favored a single-payer system similar to those in many other countries.

Instead, we got the watered-down ACA.

As COVID-19 has made clear, the for-profit American healthcare system is even more scandalously dysfunctional than it was prior to the passage of Obamacare. The ACA “marketplace” has collapsed; many places only offer one “take it or leave it” insurance plan. Nevertheless, healthcare is no longer a top political issue. Support for a public option or Medicare For All has dropped to about 50%. The Democratic Party chose to nominate someone who promised to veto Medicare For All even if both houses of Congress were to pass it.

Tens of thousands of people are still dying every year because they can’t afford to see a doctor. But in too many people’s minds, healthcare was partly solved. So they are no longer demanding improvements. Though it might seem counterintuitive, the politics of the healthcare crisis would be vastly improved had the compromise ACA never been enacted. More people would be suffering. But the absence of an existing, lame, plan would add urgency (and supporters) to the fight for a real, i.e. radical, solution.

Half a loaf is killing us.

As Joe Biden fills his cabinet with Obama-era centrists and corporatists, many Democrats say they are satisfied with the improvement over Trump: officials with government experience replacing crazies and cronies, pledges to reverse the outgoing administration’s attacks on the environment, fealty to science. They are falling into La Follette’s “half a loaf” trap. Especially on existential issues like climate change but also regarding the precarious state of the post-lockdown economy, compromise will sate the appetite for meaningful change without actually solving the problems. As with the ACA, voters will be deceived into thinking things are getting better when in fact they will still be getting worse, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower rate.

Climate scientists are divided between those who say we might be able to save human civilization if we achieve zero net carbon emissions within a decade (which is the goal of the Green New Deal pushed by progressives), and those who say it’s already too late. A widely reported study predicts that human civilization will collapse by 2050, yet that’s the year Biden is promising to begin zero net carbon emissions. So if we do what Biden wants, we are going to die.

Trump denied climate science, deregulated polluters and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord. Biden appears to be an improvement. He talks about the urgency of the problem, promises to restore Obama-era regulations and to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Pro-environment Democratic voters are breathing a sigh of relief.

But if the goal is to slow the rate of global warming as much as we reasonably can, both Obama’s regulations and the Paris Agreement are woefully inadequate. “Marginal cuts by the U.S. don’t have a long-term overall big effect on the climate,” Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, told Scientific American in 2014.

            A 2017 report by the United Nations Environment Program found that “if action to combat climate change is limited to just current pledges, the Earth will get at least 3°C (5.4°F) warmer by 2100 relative to preindustrial levels. This amount of warming would vastly exceed the Paris Agreement’s goal, which is to limit global warming by the end of the century to 2°C (3.6°F),”­ reported National Geographic.

            “[3°C increase] would bring mass extinctions and large parts of the planet would be uninhabitable,” the UNEP warned in 2019.

            If liberals head back to brunch in a month thinking that the Biden Administration will move the needle in the right direction, if they stop being terrified, we are doomed. For as bizarre as it sounds, Donald Trump provided a valuable service when he scared the living daylights out of us.

Consider a more modern analogy than the loaf of bread: if a two-pill dose of antibiotics is required to cure an illness, taking one instead doesn’t make you half better. It actually makes you worse because not only do you not get better, you destroy your immune system’s ability to fight the disease.

            This country is teetering on the verge of collapse. We can’t afford to settle for the single-pill solutions of incremental Bidenism.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

The Stringer

April 21, 2021

Ted Rall’s upcoming graphic novel is ripped from the headlines.

Suffering from budget cuts, layoffs, and a growing suspicion that his search for the truth has become obsolete, veteran war correspondent Mark Scribner is about to throw in the towel on journalism when he discovers that his hard-earned knowledge can save his career and make him wealthy and famous. All he has to do is pivot to social media and, with a few cynical twists, abandon everything he cares about most. Artwork is by Pablo “Bluesman” Callejo. Rall wrote the text.

Graphic Novel, 2021
NBM Publishing Hardback, 8.5″x11″, 152 pp., $24.99

Click here to Order Online.

Will the Media’s Newfound Stridency Continue under Biden? No.

            “In his first rally since losing the election last month, President Trump continued to spout conspiracy theories about voter fraud, falsely claiming that he had defeated President-elect Joe Biden.” That was the lede of a news story in the December 5thWashington Post.

            The Associated Press took a similar tack. “President Donald Trump flooded his first postelection political rally with debunked conspiracy theories and audacious falsehoods Saturday as he claimed victory in an election he decisively lost,” began the wire service’s coverage.

            You’ll find similarly opinionated news coverage about Donald Trump in almost every issue of many major newspapers over the last several years. It’s easy to see why many of the president’s supporters don’t trust the mainstream news media to be fair to conservatives.

            You may long for a return to the days when too many reporters played the role of government stenographers, striving for a neutral tone while dutifully regurgitating the most ridiculous nonsense spewing out of the maws of official propagandists. Not me. Busy news consumers rely on journalists to frame and explain current events, not just reorganize press releases. Skepticism of presidents and labeling of their obvious lies is long overdue.

            From Obama’s “if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it” to Dick Cheney’s “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” the public would have benefited from news accounts that emphasized that these claims not only were not true but could not be true. As reporters knew, Obamacare was structured in a way that made it impossible for many pre-existing health insurance plans to remain financially viable within the system. There is always doubt in the military intelligence business. The credulous tone of this reporting enabled the mass misleading of the American people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died as a result.

            So when it comes to Trump, better late than never. But will journalists’ newfound courage survive into the Biden years? Early indications are discouraging.

            Throughout the general election campaign journalists were unduly solicitous as the Democratic nominee generally shunned one-on-one interviews with major news organizations. In July, Biden only granted ten TV interviews, nine of which were with local outlets. Despite being the oldest major party candidate ever to run for president and repeated stumbles and verbal slips on the campaign trail, he faced few questions about his physical health or mental acuity. Liberal-leaning journalists largely dismissed Hunter Biden’s fiscal adventures in Ukraine as the product of the fevered imagination of far-right conspiracy theorists; Twitter and Facebook even censored a New York Post story about it. Now that a federal investigation into his taxes has been announced, Hunter is clearly a legitimate line of inquiry. Yet the issue is still not getting much coverage.

            Accounts of Biden’s cabinet choices appear to harken a return to the stenographer days. Many praise the president-elect’s effort to increase “diversity” in a cabinet Democrats say will “look like America” while ignoring one type of diversity: ideological. Though Biden’s top advisers will include many women and some people of color, there is no indication that a single progressive will be in the room while he decides the fate of the nation.

Stories about Pete Buttigieg’s nomination as secretary of transportation bury the elephant in the room. “President-elect Joe Biden will nominate former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to be Transportation secretary…” Politico began its story. “Buttigieg’s ascension to the top spot at DOT marks the culmination of a meteoric rise in politics over the last two years from the mayor of South Bend, Ind., to the first openly gay Cabinet secretary, if he is confirmed.” A reference to Buttigieg’s “thin transportation policy resume” appears in paragraph five.

Had the story been about Trump’s cabinet pick, it likely would have begun something like: “Overlooking experienced transit experts, President-elect Joe Biden instead turned to a young loyalist who helped hand him the nomination, former South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttigieg, to head the transportation department. South Bend, a city of 100,000, has a fleet of 60 buses.” Tone matters.

All presidents lie. Biden lies too, as when he denied voting for the Hyde amendment during a primary debate. One hopes that the media will treat him harshly when he does it again, both to be consistent with the more strident scrutiny they have directed at Trump the last four years and to better serve their readers and viewers. But it doesn’t look likely.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Why Didn’t the Xenophobe-in-Chief Close the Borders?

US-Canada border will remain closed to nonessential travel at least June 21 | CNN Travel

            The COVID-19 pandemic was a crisis tailormade for a xenophobe like Donald Trump. The coronavirus provided an ideal opportunity to turn the president’s biggest liability in early 2020 — the nativist bigotry that went so far as to lock babies in cages and then lose hundreds of them, and elicited disgust even among some of his supporters — into a strength. Trump’s inexplicable failure to knock this easy pitch out of the ballpark is my biggest single explanation for why he lost the election to a singularly lackluster opponent.

            My report card for Trump’s handling of COVID-19 after lockdowns began in late March is more nuanced than that of most people who share my political leanings.

Give the president his due. It’s not like he didn’t do anything. He hired Dr. Anthony Fauci. He didn’t fire him (though he thought about it). Aside from obnoxious tweets and dumb remarks at rallies, Trump mostly got out of the way while public health officials and local and state politicians shut down the economy to try to flatten the curve. That cannot have been an easy decision for an incumbent during an election year. A Columbia University study found that 130,000 fewer Americans (out of 220,000 at the time of the study) would have died had the United States enforced public-health protocols similar to those in other countries; that still means tens of thousands of people would have died no matter what. It’s not true that he eliminated Obama’s pandemic response unit.

            But Trump’s clownish messaging was morally inexcusable and politically inexplicable—and it contributed to the deaths of those 130,000-plus people. He equated mask-wearing with effeminacy, held mass rallies where social distancing was discouraged and virtually nonexistent and went months refusing to be seen in public wearing a mask. To the president’s many failures and unforced errors on the coronavirus I add: slandering the Chinese government whose cooperation we desperately needed, slashing the budget of the Centers for Disease Control, pulling out of the World Health Organization, failing to ramp up production and distribute masks to American households, allowing supplemental unemployment benefits to expire in the middle of the summer, failing to declare a rent and mortgage holiday, and refusing to pivot to a free healthcare system at least for COVID-related treatment and ancillary related illnesses.

            That’s quite a list. Yet not all of those crimes devolve exclusively to Donald Trump. Much of it is ideologically inherent to America’s system of gangster capitalism. Any whiff of government-supplied healthcare is vigorously opposed by both the Republican and Democratic parties, and that’s true of President-elect Joe Biden. The U.S. is exceptionally stingy when it’s time to cut checks to get citizens through hard times, no matter which party is in charge.

            What baffles me most is how Trump responded to, or did not respond to, the early days of the crisis during the first few months of this year. This was a man who had been elected in large part on a promise to build a big beautiful wall on the southern border, and somehow finagle a way to make Mexico pay for it. One of his first major policy moves was to ban people from Muslim countries from visiting the United States. He started a trade war with China. Once it became clear that a deadly virus was spreading across the globe — a disease that originated in China of all places — why didn’t he close the borders and suspend international air travel? The novel coronavirus fit his America-First narrative that foreigners were dangerous to a T. Why didn’t he respond and message accordingly to a bug that originated with that most bizarre and exotic of foreign creatures, the pangolin?

            Trump says he shut the borders early. He dawdled. “Forty-five nations imposed travel restrictions on China before the United States did,” reported The Washington Post. “The earliest of those restrictions went into effect Jan. 24, nine days before the U.S. travel ban went into effect on Feb. 2. The U.S. travel restriction came a month after China first announced its outbreak and at a point when the United States and more than 20 other countries had already reported coronavirus cases.”

Trump’s “ban,” such as it was, was full of holes. It “only prohibited U.S. entry to foreign nationals who had visited China in the last 14 days. Americans and U.S. permanent residents returning from Hubei Province were still allowed, subject to a 14-day quarantine. After these policies were enacted, hundreds of thousands of travelers continued to arrive in the United States via direct flights from China. Until Feb. 27, no other travelers to the United States faced such travel restrictions and quarantine requirements — even if they were arriving from other nations that were reporting coronavirus cases.”

            The economic impact of travel restrictions no doubt influenced Trump’s foot-dragging when it came to closing the U.S. to arrivals from overseas. Nevertheless, it ranks as one of this year’s great political ironies that the Nativist-in-Chief presided over one of the last nations on the planet to protect its borders. On a rare occasion when America needed an isolationist leader, it instead got a globalist.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Menu
css.php