Author Archives: Ted Rall

About Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the political cartoonist at ANewDomain.net, editor-in-chief of SkewedNews.net, a graphic novelist and author of many books of art and prose, and an occasional war correspondent. He is the author of the biography "Trump," to be published in July 2016.

10 Reasons I Won’t Vote for Biden

Joe Biden's Problematic Record On Racial Justice Explained

  1. My vote is a personal endorsement. It says, “I, citizen Ted Rall, approve of Joe Biden’s career in public office.” I do not. Voting for Biden would be a retroactive endorsement of his vote to invade Iraq, which killed over 1 million innocent people. Voting for Biden would be a retroactive endorsement of his long history of racism, beginning with his disgusting opposition to court-ordered busing.
  2. Biden has never apologized for his numerous right-wing policy positions, such as writing the fascist USA-Patriot Act and the 1994 crime bill that expanded mass incarceration of Black men. Biden’s refusal to apologize indicates that he still believes he did the right thing, and that he would do them again in the future. Why should I forgive him? He has never asked for forgiveness.
  3. Joe Biden lies a lot. He falsely claimed to hold three bachelor’s degrees and to have graduated at the top of his law school class with a full scholarship. He falsely claimed to have come from a family of coal miners in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He plagiarized in law school and when he wrote his speeches. He said he was arrested with Nelson Mandela; it didn’t happen. During his recent debate against Bernie Sanders, he looked Sanders and the American people in the eye and falsely claimed not to have repeatedly supported the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortion. One of the biggest reasons to despise Trump is that he lies so often. What’s the point of replacing one liar with another?
  4. Even in the middle of a viral pandemic, Biden says he would veto Medicare For All if a bipartisan Congress were to pass such a bill. 5 million Americans were without health insurance before COVID-19. That number has more than doubled due to coronavirus lockdown-related unemployment. I cannot vote for anyone who wants my fellow Americans to die of COVID-19, and that goes double when the murderer is motivated by corruption: of the approximately 20 candidates in the 2020 Democratic primaries, Joe Biden received the biggest contributions from the healthcare industry.
  5. Joe Biden wants to kill the planet. He still refuses to support a Green New Deal whose goal is zero net carbon emissions by 2030. He wants to do it by 2050. Way too late! Climate change experts say that human civilization may be extinct by then. I cannot vote for anyone who wants everyone on earth to die from climate apocalypse. Here too, Biden has been corrupted by giant contributions by oil and natural gas energy companies.
  6. Biden refuses to name his cabinet. Given his advanced age — he would be the oldest person ever elected president — his supporters say a cabinet of “best and brightest” department secretaries would pick up the slack as Biden’s mental abilities continue to fade. If that’s true, what are those names? Unless he proves otherwise, before the election, we have to assume a Biden Administration will be run by Obama-era corporate hacks, not one of whom was liberal. You shouldn’t hope for the best from someone who still has Laurence Summers, an idiot who thinks that women aren’t smart enough to be scientists, on speed dial.
  7. Whether or not you believe that the DNC conspired to install Joe Biden as the nominee, a vote for Biden is a vote for a conservative Democratic Party. Consider what will happen if Biden wins with substantial progressive support. Internal pollsters will conclude that there’s no need to kowtow to progressive voters because they will vote for a corporatist even if they don’t receive any ideological concessions. The argument is, get rid of Trump first and then push Biden to the left. As MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell has said, that’s ridiculous. “If you want to pull the major party that is closest to the way you’re thinking to what you’re thinking, you must show them you are capable of not voting for them. If you don’t show them you’re capable of not voting for them, they don’t have to listen to you.” Voting for Biden would actually resume the party’s push toward the right.
  8. America deserves more than two parties. Both major parties began small. They never would have grown had 19th century voters been unwilling to ignore the two-party trap and “waste” their votes and financial contributions on organizations that didn’t initially seem to stand a chance. If you don’t believe in either Donald Trump or Joe Biden, vote for and contribute to a smaller party. If you support the lesser of two evils in election after election, don’t complain that a better alternative never emerges.
  9. Joe Biden is mentally unfit for the presidency. He is clearly suffering from dementia, which is why his campaign is hiding him. Now they’re trying to come up with excuses for him not to debate Trump. If the electorate wants to hand over nuclear launch codes to a man who is senile, let them commit this madness without me.
  10. Biden’s team thinks that their guy can win without campaigning or articulating an affirmative platform of forward-looking ideas simply because so many of us are disgusted by Trump. They may be correct. But it’s dangerous. If Biden’s non-campaign campaign model is successful, it will be emulated. People will become president without being properly vetted, without the American people getting to know them. Nothing could be less democratic.

I anticipate the usual objection to this essay: but Trump! He’s so crazy and racist and stupid and evil!

All true. But none of Trump’s many shortcomings eclipse the sum total of the concerns raised above. Considering everything, in the aggregate Biden and Trump are equally awful. In some ways, Biden is worse. For me, the conclusion is obvious: don’t vote for either one.

Take to the streets.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “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.)

 

Like Trump, Biden Would Be a Right-Wing President

Opinion | Why is Strom Thurmond's name still on congressional ...

            What would President Joe Biden do? His supporters are making it hard to read the tealeaves.

            They say he’d appoint a great cabinet. But he won’t tell us who would be in it.

            They say he’d be progressive. Yet his “unity platform” doesn’t include a single major policy position endorsed by Bernie Sanders.

            As they warn in those investment company ads, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. But there’s a reason Wall Street analysts pour over historical data—past performance is a strong indicator of what a stock will do next. So if you want to know what kind of President Biden would be, it’s smart to study his record, which has been consistent over 44 years in public office.

            With a few exceptions, Biden has always positioned himself either at the center or to the right of the ideological 50-yard line of his party at any given time.­ When he has written or sponsored legislation with broad implications, it has been so reactionary that it could easily have been authored by a right-wing Republican, like the 1994 crime bill and the USA-Patriot Act. Biden has never been responsible for any major law that could be described as liberal.

            It’s impossible to know what was in Joe Biden’s heart as he considered policy decisions throughout his four decades in Washington. All we know is what he actually did. There were few acts of foresight, much less courage. Even when the choice between right and wrong was clear to many others, Biden was on the wrong side of history.

            Could this conservative Democrat, at age 78, suddenly reverse course and turn into a progressive? Anything is possible. But it isn’t likely.

            I was 12 years old in 1975, but I remember how people felt about court-ordered busing in order to desegregate public schools. Racists were against it; anti-racists were for it.

            Biden was against it. He was so against it that he cosponsored an amendment against busing with Senator Jesse Helms, the Republican far-right segregationist. “What it says is, in order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son. That’s racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?” Biden said in what ought to have been a career-killing rant.

            He has never apologized.

            As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee considering the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court, Biden failed to protect Professor Anita Hill from scurrilous attacks by Republican committee members during televised hearings. He seemed to value his working relationship with the GOP more than protecting a Democratic witness. Scandalously, Biden failed to call Sukari Hardnett, who corroborated Hill’s account. Thomas’ confirmation might not have survived her testimony.

            Over the past few decades, Americans have liberalized their views about drugs, coming to favor the legalization of marijuana and opposing the “war on drugs” that criminalized substance abuse rather than treating it as a medical condition. Biden is on the opposite side of that trend. He is still against legalizing pot. And he was an aggressive proponent of the war on drugs. In 1983 he joined far-right, racist, Republican senator Strom Thurmond in cosponsoring the legislation that launched the modern asset forfeiture program, which allows police to steal property belonging to people suspected of possessing drugs even if they are not ever charged, much less convicted, of a crime.

            Biden has been on the side of the angels a few times. He is fairly strong on LGBTQA rights. He voted against the 1991 Gulf War. Most of the time, however, he sides against oppressed people and in favor of military intervention.

            Many people reading this will ask: but what about Trump? Isn’t he so much worse that Biden has to be an improvement?

            Trump is terrible. His non-response to the coronavirus pandemic and his relentless racism and dogwhistling to neo-Nazis are execrable and impeachable. As awful and insane as he is, however, there’s no reason to think that he is any worse than Joe Biden would be.

            At the end of the next four years, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are more likely to be alive if Donald Trump is president rather than Joe Biden. Trump has resisted new wars and is bringing an end to the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan; Biden has repeatedly voted for new wars and backed policies that destroyed countries like Libya and Syria.

            Though he hasn’t gone nearly far enough, Trump seems to understand the need to direct stimulus money into the pockets of unemployed and underemployed Americans. Biden, on the other hand, is a devotee of austerity. He was an architect of President Barack Obama’s decision to ignore millions of unemployed and newly homeless workers while handing $7 trillion in federal aid to big banks. One can easily imagine Biden reprising the role of Bill Clinton, another Democrat who became a deficit hawk, at a time when the Treasury should be spending money like water. It took Nixon to go to China; it takes a Democrat to screw the working class.

            Vote for Joe Biden if you want to. But please don’t delude yourself. You’ll be voting for a change, not an improvement.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “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.)

On Foreign Policy, Joe Biden is Worse Than Trump

Joe Biden Addresses Iraq War Vote

            Trump is terrible. Biden is just as bad. In some ways the Democrat is worse.

            You shouldn’t vote for either one.

            Trump is erratic and unpredictable, which is dangerous. Even so, Biden is worse than Trump on international relations.

At the center of the president’s worldview is a deep, admirable and prescient skepticism about foreign interventionism. Trump began criticizing the Iraq War soon after it began, when the U.S. invasion was still popular. His critiques continued during the 2016 primaries—have you known of another Republican to campaign against militarism? As president-elect Trump told a room full of service members: “We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with.”

Trump signed the first peace agreement with the Taliban; he plans to bring home the last American troops in Afghanistan before Election Day—even sooner than required under the deal. He refuses to be goaded into a new Cold War against Russia, has met with the leader of North Korea and has offered direct talks with Iran—positions far to the left of hawkish pro-war Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Because most Americans are self-centered and unconcerned about brown people in other nations, it’s ridiculous yet necessary to remind you that the Afghans we bomb are real people like you and me, that Iraqis are scarred for life when their children are hobbled by American bullets, that Yemenis cry for their dead blown to bits by American missiles, that our insane decision to turn Libya from the most prosperous country in Africa into a failed state with 21st century slave auctions is an atrocity, that we have murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the last couple of decades for no reason that can be justified under common sense or international law.

The United States is the greatest exporter of death, oppression and exploitation on the planet. Every human being has the duty to oppose it. We who pour our taxes into the U.S. government have the biggest duty of all to fight the war machine. That begins with holding the murderers and their enablers accountable for their—there is no better word—evil.

Wars of choice are not horrors of happenstance, like a tornado. Political leaders vote to slaughter and maim men, women and children and ruin economies around the globe, leading to still more death. Some politicians are especially nefarious, convincing other politicians to vote for mass murder.

Politicians like Joe Biden.

Most recently, after Trump signaled his willingness to dump U.S.-backed rightist Juan Guaidó and meet with Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, a socialist, Biden called Maduro a “dictator” and pledged fealty to right-wing Venezuelan exiles in South Florida. It was the latest in a long line of foreign policy calls that we have come to expect from a right-wing Republican like George W. Bush—yet Biden plays a “Democrat” on TV.

“He’s registered some antiwar positions from time to time, as when he voted against the first Gulf War or opposed the funding of the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s. But overall, he’s racked up a track record of supporting overseas adventures,” observed Branko Marcetic, writing for Jacobin.

Biden, notes Marcetic, pushed for “the 1999 bombing of Serbia, which actually dissolved the local pro-democracy movement and rallied popular support around the country’s dictator.” Biden voted for the U.S. wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again,” Biden said in August 2003. Now he defends himself by saying he was so stupid that he fell for Bush’s lies about WMDs.

Biden was the guy who convinced Obama to ramp up Bush’s drone assassination program, which kills 50 innocent bystanders for every 1 targeted “militant”—who often gets away and is rarely a threat to the United States, just to our authoritarian allies. Someday soon Biden’s drone killings abroad will be used to justify killing Americans here at home.

Elsewhere Marcetic writes: “When Reagan invaded Grenada in 1983, bombing a hospital in the process, Biden said he ‘did the right thing.’ When he bombed Libya three years later, killing 36 civilians and dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s 15-month-old daughter, Biden said, ‘There can be no question that Gaddafi has asked for and deserves a strong response like this.’ And when George H. W. Bush invaded Panama three years after that, an outrageous war to depose a leader who had been a CIA asset and that saw dead civilians ‘buried like dogs,’ as one witness put it, Biden called it ‘appropriate and necessary.’”

A vote for Biden isn’t just a vote against Trump. It’s a vote in favor of Biden’s vote to kill one million Iraqis. If we elect Joe Biden, we will send a message to the world: America hates you, we’re glad we killed all those people and we plan to kill more.

It will also send a message to Biden: Heckuva job, Joe!

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “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 Data Is Clear: Progressives Should Boycott Biden

Good thing that he was surrounded by Secret Service': Joe Biden ...

            Once again the Democratic Party is asking progressives to vote for a presidential nominee who says he disagrees with them about every major issue. This is presented as an offer they cannot refuse. If they cast a protest vote for a third-party candidate like the unionist and environmentalist Howie Hawkins of the Greens or stay home on that key Tuesday in November, Donald Trump will win a second term—which would be worse than Biden’s first.

            Which is better for the progressive movement? Fall into the “two party trap” and vote for Biden, or refuse to be coopted and possibly increase Trump’s reelection chances?

            My new book Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party documents the last half-century of struggle between the party’s left-leaning voters and its right-leaning leadership class. History is clear. When progressive voters compromised their values by supporting corporatist candidates, they were ignored after the election. Only when they boycotted a general election did the DNC start to take them seriously.

            Throughout the 1980s party bigwigs manipulated the primaries in favor of establishment corporatist candidates over insurgent progressives: Jimmy Carter over Ted Kennedy in 1980, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis over Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. Democrats were united but unenthused; all three lost.

            Jimmy Carter won once, and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each won two terms, all three with progressive support. Democratic victories didn’t help progressives.

Most people have forgotten that Carter was the first of a string of conservative Democratic presidents. He brought back draft registration. The “Reagan” defense buildup actually began under Carter, as Reagan himself acknowledged. Carter provoked the Tehran hostage crisis by admitting the despotic Shah to the U.S., boycotted the Moscow Olympics and armed the Afghan mujahdeen who morphed into Al Qaeda.

            Carter became the first president since FDR not to propose an anti-poverty program. Instead, he pushed a right-wing idea, “workfare.”

            Progressives got nothing in return for their votes for Jimmy Carter.

            Like Carter, Clinton and Obama governed as foreign policy hawks while ignoring pressing domestic issues like rising income and wealth inequality. Clinton pushed through the now-disgraced 1994 crime bill that accelerated mass incarceration of people of color, signed the North American Free Trade Agreement that gutted the Rust Belt and sent hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas, and ended “welfare as we know it,” massively increasing homelessness. Obama bailed out Wall Street while ignoring Main Street, smashed the Occupy Wall Street movement and supported Al Qaeda affiliates that destroyed Libya and Syria.

            There was only one arguably progressive policy achievement over those 16 years: the Affordable Care Act, which originated in the bowels of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

            Progressives kept holding their noses and voting for Democrats. Democrats took them for granted. Democrats didn’t push to increase the minimum wage. They watched silently as generation after generation succumbed to student loan debt. As the earth kept burning, they hardly lifted a finger to help the environment except for symbolic actions like Obama’s fuel efficiency regulations, which required less than automakers were doing by themselves.

            Personnel, they say in D.C., is policy. Clinton had one progressive in his cabinet for his first term, Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Obama had none. Citigroup chose his cabinet.

            After the defeat of Bernie Sanders in 2016, progressives tried something new. Millions of disgruntled Sanders primary voters either stayed home, voted for Trump or cast votes for third-party candidates like Jill Stein. Hillary Clinton, who was so sure she could take progressives for granted that she put Sanders at 39th on her list of vice presidential picks, was denied her presumptive shoo-in victory. (Don’t blame Stein. Adding all of her votes to the Hillary Clinton column would not have changed the result.)

            Three years later, something remarkable happened. Most presidential hopefuls in the 2020 Democratic primary campaign emerged from the centrist corporatist wing of the Democratic Party yet felt pressured to endorse important progressive policy ideas. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and even Michael Bloomberg came out in favor of a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Most of the mainstream candidates proposed some sort of student loan forgiveness and Medicare For All. Nearly all support a Green New Deal.

            What forced the Democratic Party to shift left after decades of moving to the right? Fear that progressives will withhold their votes this coming November. After years of empty threats from progressives, the November 2016 voter boycott proved they wouldn’t sell their votes without getting something in return.

            The answer to the question, what should progressives do, is easy in the long term. Progressives should boycott Democratic candidates who don’t credibly pledge to support progressive policies. Biden says he would veto Medicare For All. He opposes a Green New Deal as well as student loan forgiveness. He is hawkish on Russia and Venezuela. He doesn’t want your vote. Why give it to him for free?

            The trouble is, every election is also about the short term. Progressive voters have to game out the next four years.

            If Trump wins, he may have the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court justice. He will certainly appoint more federal judges. He will continue to coddle hate groups and spew lies. Many of the weak and vulnerable will suffer. On the other hand, activism will be sustained. Resistance and possibly even revolutionary change may emerge. Trump will be a lame duck likely wallowing in scandal; very few presidents get much if anything done during their second terms.

            If Biden wins, his Supreme Court picks may not be significantly more to the left then Trump’s. He is likelier than Trump, who shows restraint on interventionism and ended the occupation of Afghanistan, to start a new war. Big problems will get small solutions or none at all. Streets will be quiet. If there are any demonstrations, for instance by Black Lives Matter, his Department of Homeland Security will suppress it as Obama did to Occupy. As under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the left will go back to sleep. Progressives will watch Biden appoint one corporatist cabinet member after another as their dreams of making the country a better place fade away.

            And in 2024, we will again face a choice between a rabid right-wing Republican and a wimpy sell-out Democrat. This election, Democrats will say as they always do, is too important for ideological purity. Progressives should wait until some future election when less hangs in the balance. Perhaps in 2028? Maybe 2032? 2036?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “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.)

 

Resist Evictions and Foreclosures

How to Stop Eviction — End Eviction

            COVID-19 has created the ideal medium for a summer of continuous protest.

Political protest demonstrations used to be weekend affairs in which angry leftists shouted at empty government offices before shuffling home Sunday afternoon to gear up for the workweek. With one out of four workers having filed for unemployment and many more working from home, tens of millions of Americans have free time to march in the streets. Sporting events, movie theaters, retail stores and even houses of worship are closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The usual distractions of a leap year are absent; the summer Olympics are canceled and presidential campaigning is so close to nonexistent as to be irrelevant. Politics is no longer about the politicians. Politics is in the street, where there’s nothing to do but gather, chant and dodge teargas cannisters.

            The vacuum created by the lockdown and the impotence of a political class that no longer pretends to lead during a staggering medico-economic crisis has been filled by Black Lives Matter following the murder of George Floyd. BLM has won important symbolic victories like the toppling of Confederate statues and a renewed push to remove the Stars and Bars from the Mississippi state flag. As the movement against police brutality and institutional racism continues, look for more substantive systemic reforms in policing.

            What comes next? The eviction and foreclosure resistance movement.

Thanks to Congress’ reluctance to pass another big stimulus package, protests in general will continue into the foreseeable future. But they won’t all be against evil cops. A looming eviction and foreclosure crisis could broaden the struggle from one centered around racial grievances into a class-based fight for economic justice.

            Courts are about to get flooded by eviction hearings. 30% of Americans missed their June housing payment. Supplemental $600-per-week unemployment checks expire July 31st.

“I think we will enter into a severe renter crisis and very quickly,” Columbia Law professor Emily Benfer, a housing expert who tracks eviction policies, told The New York Times May 30th. Without government action, she warned, “we will have an avalanche of evictions across the country.”

            There is no sign that the government will lift a finger to help people who lost their jobs and will soon face homelessness. Even Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the most progressive members of the U.S. Senate, refuse to consider a rent or mortgage payment holiday. They support a tepid “moratorium,” not a rent freeze. Under a moratorium back rent would pile up and all come due at once later on. Millions of people would be kicked outside this winter during a possible “second wave” of COVID-19. That’s the best scenario. Odds are, there won’t even be a moratorium. Congress will do little to nothing to help struggling tenants and homeowners.

            Millions of homeowners and renters displaced from their homes during the 2008-09 subprime mortgage meltdown received zero assistance from the government. There were no protests worth mentioning. This time will be different.

            First, there’s safety in numbers. The scale of this eviction crisis is much bigger. Three times more people have lost their jobs than during the Great Recession, during a much shorter period of time. Members of an eviction resistance movement can help one another block county sheriffs from kicking them out. Among those who are still working, the tenuous nature of the labor market has everyone in there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I mode. We are in this together.

            Second, this economic cataclysm wasn’t some act of God. People were ordered to shelter in place by the government. That’s why they lost their jobs, not a seemingly random stock market fluctuation. Targets of eviction and foreclosure won’t internalize any shame. They know they haven’t done anything wrong. They social distanced as asked; why should they sleep on the streets now because public health officials required them to go without income?

            Third, Black Lives Matter has demonstrated the efficacy of street protests and of grassroots solidarity. Cops are currently about as popular as an STD. How enthusiastically will police respond to a landlord’s request to fight their way through an angry crowd to throw a family onto the street? It depends on the municipality. Things will quickly turn ugly.

            Finally, memories of how the big banks squandered their Bush-Obama bailouts on exorbitant CEO salaries and renovating luxurious executive washrooms are still fresh. Even on the right, it will be tough to garner political support for banks trying to remove homeowners whose only crime was following stay-at-home orders.

            There is a long but now largely forgotten history of tenant resistance movements in this country, mostly led by the communist Left. Each 1st of the month between now and this fall brings us closer to a new radical struggle between people who ask nothing more than to keep a roof over their heads and a system that prioritizes the right to own and control property over the most basic of human needs.

            That movement will bring us closer to revolution.

(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.

Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party

Publication Date: June 23, 2020

Ted Rall’s latest is a no-holds-barred look at the civil war raging within the Democratic Party in the graphic style of his national bestseller, Bernie.

There’s a split in the Democratic Party. Progressives are surging with ideas and candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 72 percent of Democratic voters are progressives. But centrists like Tom Perez and the Clintons still run the DNC party apparatus–and they don’t want to compromise. Intraparty warfare exploded into the open in 2016. It’s even bigger now.

The struggle goes back decades, to the New Left and the election of Richard Nixon over George McGovern. It continued with the Democratic establishment’s quashing of insurgent progressives like Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader and Howard Dean. The vast scale of the DNC’s secret conspiracy to stop Bernie Sanders in 2016 nomination came out courtesy of WikiLeaks.

Will Democrats again become the party of the working person? Or will the corporatists win and continue their domination of electoral politics? Ted Rall gets to the bottom of the story neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want you to know: how the civil war in the Democratic Party poses an existential threat to the two-party system.

Current Events/Biography, 2020
Seven Stories Press Paperback, 5″x7″, 192 pp., $16.95

Click here to Order Online.

Our Politics Need a Culture of Atonement

George Clooney v Daily Mail, round 3 - SubScribe14

            Culturally informed by Roman Catholicism’s expectation that regret must prompt an apology as well as penance, Western European tradition calls for a rhetorical journey by politicians who claim to have changed course. A chastened leader should explain why and how he came to his previous belief, explain the circumstances that changed his mind and make the case for his new, different policy. He must expend political capital in order to get changes enacted.

Charles de Gaulle, who wanted France to retain control of Algeria, had observed the popularity and ferocity of the Algerian independence movement during his frequent visits to Algiers. In 1960 the French president admitted that he’d long been mistaken. “The Algerians will have the free choice of their destiny,” he informed a nation stunned by his dramatic reversal. Speaking of political capital, some military officers felt so betrayed they tried to assassinate him. But he brought the Algerian crisis in for a soft landing and regained support.

A rare American example occurred in 1987. President Ronald Reagan first denied negotiating with Iranian hostage takers. Then he apologized to the public for Iran-Contra. Taking “full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration,” Reagan then admitted to misleading the public. “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” Reagan’s admission was a low point for his presidency but bolstered his reputation in the long run.

            Atonement doesn’t play a frequent role in American politics.

Yet it works. After JFK accepted responsibility for the attempted overthrow of the Cuban government at the Bay of Pigs—he could have schluffed the fiasco off on Eisenhower, whose administration planned it—his popularity soared.

But it might not have worked for Ike. A study undertaken in 2017 in nine nations including the U.S. found that—especially in the U.S.—conservatives are less willing than liberals to apologize and that they’re less likely to accept an apology when one is offered.

            Conservatives mocked Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for “apology tours” expressing regret over America’s role in the slave trade and Middle East interventionism, respectively. Being Republican means never having to say you’re sorry.

            The fertile soil for a culture of atonement occurs on the left.

            Joe Biden needs to unify the Democratic Party. He has the center-left Hillary Clinton wing in the bag. He leads in the polls but has an enthusiasm gap in progressives who supported Sanders and Warren. Neither Black Lives Matter nor progressives have forgiven the former vice president for supporting the police-group-written 1994 crime bill, which contributed to mass incarceration. They’re angry that he voted for war against Iraq. A fulsome apology followed by substantial atonement—the way Sanders now says he shouldn’t have voted for the war against Afghanistan—could help Biden with activists.

So far, so tepid.

Biden hasn’t expressed regret, apologized or explained his change of heart, much less promised to do better when contemplating issues of law and order or wars of choice in the future. Why should the left forgive a man who hasn’t asked for it?

            Kamala Harris is on the short list for the vice presidency. Her prospects are clouded by her history as a pro-cop prosecutor. She might consider that confession is good for the soul as well as the polls—especially among the progressive Democrats Biden needs. Harris could renounce her “lock them up and throw away the key” past as a attorney general. She could urge the release of Kevin Cooper, now serving on death row for murders that he may not have committed because she opposed DNA testing. Harris said she felt “awful about this.” Never mind the pabulum. Write a check to the Innocence Project.

            Empty talk won’t save organizations either.

The NFL is trying to pivot away from its long-standing prohibitions against players expressing opposition to racism and police violence, a policy symbolized by blackballing Colin Kaepernick. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” commissioner Roger Goodell said.

Goodell’s statement “has rightfully been met with skepticism from the masses,” Vincent Frank wrote at Forbes. “But if [Colin] Kaepernick remains unemployed once the 2020 NFL season starts in September, it will have been proven that Goodell’s words were nothing more than an attempt to appease the masses through a well thought out PR stunt.”

Biden, Harris and the NFL need to atone for their sins. We don’t want their words. We need action.

 (Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Internal Affairs Is a Joke

Listening just now to NPR talking about internal affairs departments that “self investigate” the police, I naturally think about my now-notorious encounter with an LAPD motorcycle officer on October 3, 2001.

First and foremost, the cop watched me cross the street legally, with the signal, within the crosswalk, safely, without traffic. He arrested me for jaywalking. He knew it was false. He wrote me a bullshit ticket because he could. I assume he needed the numbers.

He roughed me up and handcuffed me for no reason. This was after I’d already voluntarily presented my ID. Obviously I wasn’t going to run away.

He was snotty and rude throughout the encounter, which culminated with him uncuffing me and throwing my driver’s license into the gutter after pretending to hand it back to me. I was scrupulously polite and cooperative the entire time.

I filed a complaint with the internal affairs department of the LAPD. They never contacted me. I called and left a message but they never got back to me. Finally they sent a letter saying that they had investigated and found my claim groundless. Of course, they never investigated. How could they? They never talked to me.

IA is a joke. That same year, the internal affairs division of the Los Angeles police department found that zero out of 1356 bias complaints were legitimate. At the same time, fewer than 2% of police officers are responsible for over 50% of complaints filed by citizens. That’s one hell of an interesting coincidence.

Numbers are similar elsewhere. In New York, internal affairs investigated 2495 reports of police bias over four years. IA agreed with citizens 0% of the time, cops 100% of the time.

A person well-connected with LAPD asked around the department about my cop. “A real asshole,” he reported back. “He has a terrible reputation.” That’s not surprising. The officer worked for the infamous West Traffic Division, where quotas were so rampant that police who refused to issue false tickets were retaliated against and discriminated against. The city ultimately had to pay out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits filed by good cops who were treated like shit by the LAPD because they followed the law.

(This was the cop the LA Times pretended to choose to believe over me when I related the above account in a blog for the LA Times. They fired me and labeled me. I sued. The LA Times has fought ferociously to avoid letting me have my day in court over this. Right now things look pretty bleak. Even though the LA Times knows for a fact that I told the truth, and have admitted as much in court, they continue to try to bankrupt me. So far it’s going  well. For them.)

To put it mildly, I have no respect and only contempt for the police. And I have even less respect and even more contempt for what pretends to pass as a system of justice. The whole system needs to be destroyed.

An Open Letter to Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine

Dear Mr. Pearlstine,

On June 5th you issued a statement acknowledging the role your newspaper has played in the racist oppression of people of color. “The Los Angeles Times has a long, well-documented history of fueling the racism and cruelty that accompanied our city’s becoming a metropolis,” you wrote. You promised reforms, including “addressing the concerns of people of color in the newsroom.”

You admitted that this is merely a start and asked for suggestions for how the Times can redeem itself and earn the trust of readers, especially people of color.

I will take you at your word.

To begin with, the Times should come clean about its longstanding, cozy relationship with the LAPD. And it should end this deep conflict of interest, which makes it impossible for your paper to report objectively about the police. When the media fails to hold the police accountable they are free to abuse the citizens they are supposed to protect.

My case shines a light on how the media censors critics and breeds self-censorship by journalists. I was the Times’ editorial cartoonist from 2009 to 2015. My cartoons often criticized police brutality and racist policing. Instead of stopping their abuse of minorities, however, the police repeatedly demanded that the papers that ran my cartoons fire me. Those requests fell on deaf ears until 2014, when the Times brought in a new publisher, Austin Beutner. Beutner, a hedge fund billionaire who is now superintendent of LA schools, midwifed a deal by which the $16.4 billion LAPD pension fund purchased #1 shareholder status in Tribune Publishing, which owned the Times and 14 other newspapers. (Yes, it’s legal for the cops to buy media companies.) Sealing the deal and in violation of the Times’ ethical guidelines, the LAPD police union gave an award to Beutner.

The LAPD police union has a history of buying newspaper stock. They don’t hide their motives. They seek to remove negative coverage of the police from “their” papers. “Since the very public employees they continually criticize are now their owners, we strongly believe that those who currently run the editorial pages should be replaced,” the union’s president explained in 2009, after it acquired interest in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Months after the LAPD-LA Times deal, then-LAPD police chief Charlie Beck arranged a secret meeting at Beutner’s office. Fire your cartoonist, Beck demanded. Beutner agreed.

But firing me was not enough for Beck. The LAPD also wanted to send a chilling message to journalists throughout the Southland: if you criticize the police, we will destroy you. So the Times published a smear job about me.

The Times’ article didn’t mention the meeting between Beck and Beutner. It didn’t talk about the LAPD pension fund’s ownership of the Times. To this day, those facts have never been revealed to Times readers. The piece relied upon faked evidence provided by Beck to characterize me as a liar (in a blog about jaywalking, of all things). I proved the evidence was bogus and that I had been truthful, yet editorial page editor Nick Goldberg—under orders from Beutner—ignored it.

Goldberg later admitted that the truth didn’t matter. The Times was determined to ruin me and didn’t care that I had done nothing wrong. Inexplicably, Goldberg still works at the Times.

My case is not just about me. It opens a window into why and how the Times’ relationship with the police corrupts its commentary and coverage.

It shows why and how victims of police brutality have been ignored or diminished.

It explains why and how police narratives are taken at face value, no matter how ridiculous. While I was being given the bum’s rush, reporter Paul Pringle, assigned to be the Times’ hatchet man, told me that he had verified that the bogus LAPD materials were authentic. How? I asked. “The LAPD told me,” he said. I laughed. He was serious, though. Pringle still works at the Times too. He recently won a Pulitzer Prize.

How can anyone read about what happened to me and still believe anything the Times has to say about cops?

Mr. Pearlstine, if this is not empty talk, if you are serious about turning over a new leaf, you should address my case. Hiring more people of color in the newsroom is overdue, important and necessary. But black reporters aren’t more likely than white journalists to go after the police if they’re equally afraid of getting fired. Everyone at the Times knows what the paper did to me; they know it can happen to them too if they go “too far” against the cops.

The LAPD got rid of their most irritating critic and a pundit who made going after police brutality a priority. The Times never replaced me.

The LAPD terrorized other journalists. They won.

Rehiring me would make a powerful symbolic statement that the Beutner era of corruption and complicity with the police is finished. It would demonstrate you do not edit a police propaganda rag. You could take down the two libel-filled articles about me that are still on your website. You could issue a retraction and an apology.

The LAPD has since divested itself of its Tribune stock. The Times’ current owner, Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong, should pledge not to enter into financial partnerships with law enforcement agencies.

Like many other papers, the Times relies on the police to tip off reporters about breaking local news. This relationship should be severed. Reporters ought not socialize with cops, much less rely upon them for stories. Refusing to be a police lapdog requires hiring more journalists—but Soon-Shiong is a biotech billionaire. He can easily afford them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Ted Rall

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. 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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