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.)

 

December Will Be Very Dangerous

Reply to "“PPP crying like a cornered rat” – Bulkan says “the tide has  turned against them”" | Guyana Community Discussion Forums

            It’s too early to celebrate, back-to-brunch Democrats.

            Liberal voters are counting Biden’s corporatist cabinet picks. But we still don’t know for sure that Trump will let them hatch. There’s still a significant chance — I would put it at 50-50 — that the “outgoing” president will engineer a coup d’état in order to remain in power.

            Democratic-aligned media outlets are promulgating wishful thinking. They’re crowing about a routine, peaceful transfer of power. They’re making fun of the Trump campaign’s losses in court challenges to the election results and making light of the president’s hope that faithless electors will trigger the 12th Amendment scenario by causing Biden to fall short of 270. The mainstream pundit class points to the bureaucracy’s granting of access to Biden’s transition team and to excerpts from a recent Trump interview as evidence that he has accepted defeat. (In fact, Trump said that if the electoral college votes for Biden, they will have “made a mistake, ’cause this election was a fraud.”)

            But they are ignoring human motivation.

            Trump has every reason to use radical means to remain president, democracy and constitution be damned. If he leaves the White House on January 20, the former president loses executive immunity and becomes exposed to an array of fraud and corruption charges related to his businesses. The New York State charges are the most hazardous. He could well be convicted and sent to prison on those. Even if Biden were to issue a presidential pardon, a law specifically directed at Trump ensures that a federal pardon would not apply to New York’s state convictions. Trump is an old man, hardly in good health. He could spend the rest of his life in prison — unless he declares martial law and becomes America’s first dictator.

            Cynics, a group I usually identify with, believe that wealthy and powerful white guys like Donald Trump are never held accountable for their crimes, much less go to prison. For Trump, that has been the case so far. But there have been exceptions. As happened to Martin Shkreli, Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Epstein, everything indicates that Trump’s white privilege card has been revoked. The ruling classes are dying to see Trump humiliated, perp-walked, and mug-shot in a jumpsuit that matches his skin tone. The neoliberals never considered the master of crass to be one of their own. Now he is a full-fledged class traitor, our Huey Long. Populist and verbally skeptical of the militarism and job-exporting free trade agreements that line the capitalists’ Cayman accounts, Trump has proven that a sizable portion of the American public—on the right, no less!—agrees with him. The elites despise him for this. They will not save him.

            Trump’s lawsuits will fail. (He knows.) The electoral college will elect Biden.

Trump will then have five weeks to decide what to do. Await his fate at Mar-a-Lago? Trump isn’t passive, especially when he fears he’s going to lose. Fly to exile in Israel or Saudi Arabia? Netanyahu is too beholden to the U.S. to risk offending an incoming Biden Administration; Saudi Arabia is one of the most unpleasant places on earth.

Trump’s coup calculus is simple: what’s the worst-case scenario if he fails? Arrest and prison? He’ll be no worse off than if he didn’t try.

Trump has two major advantages that the usual coup plotter doesn’t. First is incumbency: he currently has his hands on the levers of power. He’s not looking to change anything; he’s trying to keep things the way they are. Second, he doesn’t have the support of the military—but he doesn’t need it. 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.

Leaders of the armed forces, the only institution that could stop Trump, would face an awful choice. If they remove the civilian head of government, even a rogue, they are carrying out a military coup. They would have to shoot at local police, many of whom are veterans. If the army were to stand down, they would be tacitly endorsing Trump’s police coup. My experience is, when people face two bad choices, they do nothing—which is why I don’t think Trump has to worry about the military.

History tells us how such a coup would go down. Newspapers will disappear, radio will go silent, television will go dark, the Internet will be turned off. Police checkpoints will spring up on city streets and along highways. After a short time, perhaps a few days, the president will inform us that it’s all for our own good, that he’s trying to protect America and democracy and everything beautiful, but that a state of emergency is necessary to preserve law and order. There will be curfews, martial law, a ban on political protests and gatherings. Communications will resume in a limited fashion. Even news media outlets that used to be critical of Trump will sing his praises.

In most other countries, a coup leader like Trump would face dogged resistance. But that usually requires socialists and communists; only a disciplined Marxist movement stands a chance at destabilizing an authoritarian regime. Fortunately for Trump, a century of ruthless oppression and right-wing propaganda has eliminated the actual left.

Trump set the stage for a coup by moving loyalists into key positions. After the election he fired the Secretary of Defense, a man notable because he refused to send the military to fight protesters on American streets, and replaced him with a toady. The Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence also got the axe. He did the same to the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at Homeland Security. The directors of the CIA and FBI reportedly have targets on their backs as well. Wishful-thinking Democrats speculate that the firings are mere retribution by a spiteful Trump. If so, it’s interesting that Trump’s revenge is limited to key national security figures. Didn’t anyone in the Department of Agriculture ever piss him off?

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free,” counsels Sun Tzu. “Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” The powers that be are ignoring this advice. If they were wise, they would approach Trump with a deal: go quietly, return to your real estate business, and you won’t be prosecuted. No more rallies. No more political campaigns.

Instead they have turned him into a cornered rat. Because the authorities are hell-bent on humiliating and destroying a sitting president, the American republic is about to go through one of its most dangerous months in history.

Trump might resign himself to months and years of court hearings, trials, prison for him and his family. But I wouldn’t count on it.

(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.)

 

Hey, Joe! These Are Our Demands

HISTORY on Twitter:

            Progressives and other leftists promise/threaten to pressure/take to the streets to make demands of Joe Biden if/when he falls short of our expectations. We on the left don’t want to be one of those bad bosses who tell you your work isn’t good enough but never say what they expect from you in the first place, so you’re reduced to fumbling around in the dark.

            Because there isn’t a political party or other formation that can credibly speak for a broad base of the American left, and because the left is divided between work-from-inside AOC-Bernie types and street-level activists, no one has defined a clear metric to judge the Biden Administration’s personnel, policy and legislative actions. As we saw under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, vague demands foment the unaccountability that allows Democrats to wiggle away and take us for granted.

            We need a clear set of demands.

          I think our demands should look something like the following, and that if and when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris let us down, we should point out their sins of omission and commission, and protest immediately in the streets, on issues which have a rapidly-ticking clock attached to them; eventually, as the voting cycle dictates, the protests must continue in voting booths.

            Planet Comes First. No other issue matters if the earth and the people on it are dead or the climate crisis has prompted the collapse of human civilization. In any classic trade-off between short-term economic growth and longer-term environmental prosperity, reducing carbon emissions to net zero as close to overnight as possible (2030 is too long) and taking every possible step to reduce air, water and other kinds of pollution must become any responsible political leader’s top priority. Biden’s campaign literature called the Green New Deal a mere “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Screw that watered-down pablum. AOC’s Green New Deal should be expanded and broadened, with a radically shortened timeline, and signed into law on January 20, 2021.

            Immediate Relief for COVID’s Economic Victims. No one should suffer economic ruin due to government-ordered lockdowns to stop the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone evicted for nonpayment of rent or whose home was foreclosed upon after March 15, 2020 should be given housing of equal or at higher quality government expense, zero rent, for at least one year. All back rent currently outstanding should be forgiven. All overdue mortgage payments should be forgiven. Banks and landlords should be made whole by applying to a new federal program funded by reductions in the defense budget. Not only should the $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefits that expired on June 30 be renewed, checks for that amount dating back to July 1 should be issued at once. Furthermore, any American who is currently underemployed or unemployed should qualify for those $600-per-week payments regardless of whether they previously used up their time-limited benefits. Going forward, there should be no time limit on collecting unemployment benefits.

            Fully Socialized Medicine. We tried for-profit medicine. It failed even before COVID. It’s time to join the modern world. Hospitals, labs, research centers and clinics should be nationalized into a fully socialized national healthcare system. Doctors and other healthcare workers should become federal employees. Health insurance companies, no longer needed, can shut down.

            Fully Socialized Higher Education. The college and university model no longer works. It doesn’t make sense to require young men and women to take on staggering student loan debt that entry-level salaries will never allow them to repay, much less settle down and buy a house. Private colleges and universities should be nationalized by the federal government, which also has the benefit of being a fair punishment for charging full tuition for virtual online education during COVID-19. State and local colleges and community colleges should be folded into a fully federalized system of higher education that is as free as primary and secondary public schools. After all, employers’ insistence on hypercredentialization has turned the bachelor of arts degree into the new high school diploma. Both should be cost-free.

            Restart the Police. It is painfully obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that American policing is an engine of oppression rather than protection. That means it needs to be reinvented from the ground up. Reform isn’t enough. Taking away military hardware and training recruits with a guardian rather than a warrior mentality are starts, but systematic racism and the fact that the police view us as threats rather than as employers require starting from scratch. Every policeman — local, state, federal, postal, transit, whatever — should be fired. They should not be allowed to reapply for their old jobs. The police should become like abortions: legal, safe and rare. We need fewer cops. Most should be unarmed. None should be in the business of issuing fines. No one should be rewarded simply because they arrest more people. We shouldn’t be recruiting cops out of the military. Cops should be peace officers, not an occupation force.

            Empty the Prisons. Many inmates represent no threat whatsoever to society. Prison causes deep-seated psychological problems for the prisoners themselves, their friends and families, and society in general. Close down jails and prisons.

            End the Wars. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and international law are clear: the only legitimate casus belli is in self-defense, either to an armed attack or the clear and imminent danger of such an attack, such as an army massing along another nation’s border. Any involvement in armed conflict that does not qualify as one of these must be discontinued. Drone assassinations are immoral and illegal, as are proxy wars like the U.S.-backed conflict in Yemen and wars of choice, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

            Throughout the campaign, centrist Democrats told progressives that they should vote for Joe Biden and then push him to the left after he won. They even said that they would march in the streets alongside leftists. Well, Biden won because progressives voted for him. Now it’s time for the centrists to make good on their promises. Pushing for these and other progressive goals would be a good start.

(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 Democrats Lost and Will Keep Losing Elections

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            Why, Democrats have been asking, do so many poor white people vote for a Republican Party that doesn’t care about or do anything for them? The most common reply is: Democrats are snobby coastal elites who talk down to them. Classic example, courtesy of Obama: “They [voters in the Rust Belt] get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

            Democrats know their arrogance pisses off the working-class whites they need to win national elections. Yet they persist.

Every day sees some op-ed Ivy-educated columnist opining that voting for Trump means you’re a Klansman and another DNC-fed talking head pontificating about the masklessness at the president’s rallies with the bloated tone of a Roman tribune announcing stunning news that no one had ever heard before.

            Now the Democrats are at it again, setting the stage for yet another surprise loss. Because, yes, they just lost again. When you expect a “blue wave,” when you’re running against a president who lost hundreds of thousands of citizens and tens of millions of jobs the year of the election, when you expected to pick up tons of seats in the House and take back the Senate, and none of that happens and you just barely win the presidency in a squeaker, you basically got your ass kicked.

            Humility is in order. But it’s not on the menu.

            “You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth … you ushered in a new day for America,” Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris told attendees at her victory party. And the 73 million Americans who voted for Trump? By inference they must have voted for hopelessness and division, indecency, superstition and, yes, lies.

            Biden had a similar message in his last pre-election closer. “This is our opportunity to leave the dark, angry politics of the last four years behind us,” Biden said. “To choose hope over fear, unity over division, science over fiction. I believe it’s time to unite the country, to come together as a nation.” Biden won. But 73 million people voted for those “dark, angry politics of the last four years.” Those voters thought Trump offered them more hope than Biden. They didn’t want to unify under the Democrats.

            We all have to live together in one country until there’s a second Civil War. We don’t have to think the same or look the same. But in order to function as a society we do have to understand one another. Liberals do not get Republicans or understand where they’re coming from. They don’t even care. Until that attitude changes, Democrats will keep losing elections they ought to have won and will find it impossible to achieve tolerance from half the populace, much less consensus.

            I’m a leftist. But I called the 2016 election for Trump early that year, not because I’m smart but because I’m from Dayton, Ohio. I watched my hometown devolve from an industrial powerhouse into a Rust Belt hellscape that eventually became Ground Zero for hopelessness and urban decay in the national opioid epidemic. International competition was inevitable. But deindustrialization powered by job-killing free trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO was federal policy dreamed up by Republicans and enacted into legislation by Democrats like Bill Clinton—and that’s how American politicians killed places like Dayton in the industrial Midwest and across the country.

            My blood boiled when Democrats admitted that NAFTA would kill American jobs but, hey, new jobs in Mexico would open new markets for American goods. Such an idiotic argument. After the factories closed in America, who would sell stuff to Mexico? China. But my rage paled next to those of men and women who lost six-figure salaries and wound up working as Walmart greeters—all because Democrats like Clinton were funded by contributions from corporations that wanted to sell to American consumers without hiring American workers in order to fatten their profits.

            Years passed. More factories shut down. The long-term unemployed went on disability. Those who could find jobs worked for tiny fractions of their previous pay. Tax revenues shrunk. Infrastructure crumbled. Cities entered their death spirals.

            No one cared except the people who lived there.

            Deindustrialization never became a political issue. Republicans and Democrats agreed that free trade was a good thing. The New York-based press ignored the rot and the misery in the country’s heartland. Only two politicians on the national scene acknowledged it: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. After the Democrats kneecapped Sanders, that left Trump as the only candidate who understood that the part of America that let working people send their kids to college had been pretty great but no longer was. He didn’t offer a credible reindustrialization policy. As president, he didn’t do much beyond provoke a trade war with China to address the issue. But he acknowledged the Rust Belt and for the people who lived there so long, ignored and dismissed and derided, that was enough.

            Democrats still don’t get it.

(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.)

 

Trump Tees Up a New Type of Coup: In Plain Sight

            Donald Trump revolutionized political campaigning. It was by accident. Because he was too lazy to prepare for or memorize a stump speech, he ad-libbed his rallies; TV networks gave him $2 billion worth of free airtime because something he said might prove newsworthy. Because he was cheap, he made appearances at any random dump that would have him for free; he used the money he saved on big data research that paid off handsomely.

            Now the president is attempting to revolutionize the art of the coup d’état.

            Leaders of broad-based movements who want to overthrow an existing government usually agitate for revolution in plain sight. The activism of a popular front attracts new recruits.

            A coup is the opposite of a revolution. Unlike revolutionaries, who need the masses to succeed, coup plotters require secrecy. A coup is usually carried out by a very small group of insiders. Coup schemers are not interested in, or have concluded that they cannot obtain popular support. They do not seek to transform society. They simply want power. It is an attempt by a minnow to swallow a whale.

Without the protection of millions of adherents and operating outside constitutional norms, politicians and/or military men who plot a coup must take over the government by surprise. Leaders of the outgoing regime have to be in prison or dead, and thus powerless, before their supporters realize that their nation has been seized by a small faction. A coup d’état is over before it begins in the event that some element of the conspiracy comes to light before the zero hour. The classic example of a failed coup is Operation Valkyrie, the 1944 attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler and overthrow of the Nazi government of Germany by a group of military officers. The plot unraveled when Hitler survived a bomb attack and went on the radio.

Successful coups include the 2004 overthrow of democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, whom the CIA kidnapped and spirited away to the Central African Republic, whose president Ange-Félix Patassé had himself been deposed in a coup a year earlier, the Taliban-supported takeover of Pakistan by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, and the bizarre 1993 self-coup by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who illegally shelled and dissolved parliament.

All of these events seemingly came out of nowhere. By contrast, Donald Trump is laying the groundwork for a coup attempt in plain sight.

Defying tradition, Trump is still refusing to concede the election since the Associated Press and other media organizations called the race in favor of Joe Biden on Saturday, November 7th. Without presenting evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing, he has filed several lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the vote count.

Most top Republicans are supporting Trump, or remaining silent and refusing to congratulate Biden. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the U.S. Senate. “President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” said McConnell. “Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election.”

Asked whether he planned to congratulate Biden, Ron Johnson (R-WI) replied: “Nothing to congratulate him about.” Even as world leaders called to acknowledge Biden’s win, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Roger Stone, the political adviser and loyalist pardoned by Trump, previewed the possibility of a post-election military takeover in September. If Trump lost, Stone said at the time, he ought to declare “martial law,” invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, nationalize state police forces and round up critics and political opponents including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “the Clintons,” and journalists because they’re involved in “seditious activities.” On November 2nd Stone said former CIA director John Brennan, former FBI director James Comey and other ex-officials who offended Trump “must be tried and convicted of treason” and then “they must be hung by the neck until dead.” Stone is still tight with Trump: news just broke that the president had the IRS wipe away Stone’s bill for back taxes, which totaled $1.5 million.

Attorney General William Barr, following Stone’s recommendation, ordered the Department of Justice to investigate irregularities and improprieties in the election.

In order to enforce martial law Trump would need, and has, widespread support among the police. He would also need the military. Though inherently reactionary, active-duty troops have moved away from the president in recent months. So he is replacing top Pentagon brass with compliant loyalists likelier to follow his illegal and unconstitutional orders.

On November 9th Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who refused to deploy troops against Black Lives Matters protesters in June. “In my experience, there would only be a few reasons to fire a Secretary of Defense with 72 days left in an administration,” Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and an official in Obama’s Pentagon, said. “[One] would be because the President wants to take actions that he believes his Secretary of Defense would refuse to take, which would be alarming.”

 “Two White House officials said later on Monday that Mr. Trump was not finished, and that Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, and Gina Haspel, the CIA director, could be next in line to be fired. Removing these senior officials — in effect decapitating the nation’s national security bureaucracy — would be without parallel by an outgoing president who has just lost re-election,” reported The New York Times.

In a major, unprecedented transition-period shakeup, policy chief James Anderson, intelligence boss Joseph Kernan and Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart have also been fired from the Pentagon. Anderson’s replacement is retired Army General Anthony Tata, a nutty far-right white nationalist who called Obama a “terrorist leader,” said Islam was the “most oppressive violent religion I know of” and used a racist slur against CNN host Don Lemon. He will do whatever Trump wants.

What’s going on? Stupid impetuous drama? Or a real coup?

If it turns out to be a coup, it may well prove that teeing it up in plain sight improves its chances of success. Trump’s supporters, disproportionately prone to violence and more heavily armed, are watching and waiting. They can only pitch in as paramilitaries or freelance goons if, like the rest of us, they see the dark days ahead.

Then Trump’s coup becomes a counterrevolution.

(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.)

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