DMZ America Podcast #45: Biden’s Racist Immigration Policy, Another Civil War in Afghanistan?, Johnny Depp’s Courage

Joe Biden is throwing America open to any Ukrainian who wants to come here, but even if you’ve been waiting for years to cross the southern border as a refugee because the United States overthrew and destroyed your home country’s democratically elected government, you need not apply. Simultaneous terrorist attacks throughout Afghanistan paint an ominous portrait of renewed civil conflict in a country that is suffering from 97% mass starvation due to White House policies. Johnny Depp’s extraordinary courage testifying to being abused by his mother and his ex-wife Amber Heard prompt a discussion about the hidden epidemic of American men abused by women. Check out this week’s DMZ America podcast with political cartoonists Ted Rall and Scott Stantis.

 

 

When It Cares, the U.S. Government Is Extremely Efficient

           As the COVID-19 pandemic has made painfully clear, our healthcare system is a disaster. 12% of Americans are uninsured and 21% are underinsured. Many counties have zero or just one healthcare plan on offer through their local ACA marketplace, so there is no price competition whatsoever. Due to the lack of competition, and price gouging, by for-profit insurers, the average family of four who buys insurance through Obamacare pays a whopping $25,000 a year in premiums and deductibles—more than a third of their income after taxes.

            More than 18,000 Americans die annually due to lack of medical insurance.

            This is very sad, especially for them and their families. But nothing can be done about it. Lame as it is, the Affordable Care Act is as good as it gets. Until the Republicans get back in charge, when they will try to get rid of it again. Political dysfunction, amirite?

            When they care about something, however, the U.S. government can be incredibly efficient.

The U.S. government really cares about war.

Just two days after Russia invaded, President Biden signed a memo authorizing the transfer of $350 million of weapons to Ukraine. Within three weeks, almost all the antitank weapons, kamikaze drones and other war materiel had arrived in Ukraine. That’s less time than it takes first-class mail to get to some places within the United States.

            If you are sick and uninsured, consider a move to Kyiv. As we saw in Afghanistan, U.S. weapons have a habit of disappearing and being sold for profit in war zones. If you still have enough energy and a little luck, you might be able to pilfer one of those American-made radar systems or a few boxes of grenade launchers to finance your chemotherapy. Even if not, Ukraine offers something the United States probably never will: a universal healthcare system.

            Out-of-control college tuition costs have pushed 9 million young borrowers and their families into default on $124 billion in student loans. 80% of these young men and women came from families with total incomes under $40,000; so they’re not deadbeats, they’re poor. The burden of student loan debt hobbles America’s best and brightest just as they are starting out their adult lives. They defer or never purchase homes and cars, and are unable to save for retirement. This hurts the real estate, automobile and durable-goods businesses and turns many talented people into future welfare recipients.

            This is highly unfortunate, especially for them and their families. But nothing can be done about it. Lame as it was, President Biden’s campaign promise to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt was as good as could be hoped for. And he never followed through. Responding to pressure from Republicans and right-wing Democrats, Biden’s latest federal budget, for 2022, doesn’t contain any provisions for student loan forgiveness. They said they were too worried about the deficit.

            Republicans and right-wing Democrats, on the other hand, only worry about the deficit sometimes. Liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans and every other strain of American House representative and Senator quickly approved an additional $13.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine less than a month after the first shipment of cash. There was strong bipartisan support for the measure, which was immediately signed into law by President Biden. Yay, America!

            So don’t despair if you are broke, defaulting on your student loans and unable to escape poverty because even under bankruptcy you can’t get rid of student debt. Scrape up whatever money you still have and hop a plane to Ukraine. Even for non-Ukrainian citizens, total cost of tuition, housing, food, books and other fees at colleges and universities in Ukraine rarely exceed $4000 a year — and they’re usually cheaper. Alternatively, you can try to pass yourself off as Ukrainian at Texas A&M or Hampton University in Virginia, both of which now offer free room, board and tuition to Ukrainian nationals. Americans, of course, need not apply.

            One out of six American children, 12 million total, officially live in poverty. Neither political party seems much to care, and child poverty has not been a major campaign issue in decades. So the problem continues to worsen.

            This is a total bummer, especially for the kids and their families. But nothing can be done about it. Republicans and right-wing Democrats vote against child tax credits, citing the need to balance the budget and concerns that some parents might not use the money to take care of their kids.

            But the budget doesn’t always matter. Nor is careful stewardship of public funds always a priority. When the need is great, both parties come together and overlook such trivialities. President Biden, with the support of Republicans, liberal Democrats and right-wing Democrats, just announced an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, bringing the total to more than $2.5 billion. Who cares if some of that gear winds up in the hands of neo-Nazis? In $100 bills, the cash would weigh 25 tons.

            Those who criticize the United States government as inefficient couldn’t possibly be more mistaken. Congress and the White House are lightning quick and incredibly generous—when it matters.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Order one today. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

DMZ America Podcast #44: Is This the End of the American Century? Sex Education in Schools and How Low in the Polls can President Biden and the Democrats Go?

Two of America’s best political commentators, cartoonists Ted Rall and Scott Stantis, discuss the sun setting on this last American century. The “Don’t Say ‘Gay'” policy in our public schools gets a closer look and the latest polls are in, and things are looking pretty bleak for the Biden Administration and the Democratic Party.

 

 

After Ukraine, Other Stupid Ideas for Virtue Signaling

            Team Politics has gone international! Who cares if you can’t find Ukraine on a map? Festoon your home with Ukrainian flags! Change your Twitter avatar to a heart-shaped Ukrainian flag! Tattoo your entire body blue and yellow! It’s all about Ukraine — until the next war or the Azov Battalion gets caught doing something awful, whichever comes first.

            But why limit yourself to the yellow-and-blue bicolor you never heard of before two months ago? The United States is directly involved in such a wide range of foreign conflicts, regime-change operations and proxy wars that there’s a shallow virtue signal for every wardrobe choice—including yours.

            You probably haven’t given much thought to the six years-and-counting civil war in Yemen. The American media hasn’t either. But your ignorance doesn’t stop you from pontificating about Ukraine—nor should it mean you shouldn’t rush to pick sides in this colorful blood-soaked extravaganza that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Wearing a T-shirt featuring the black, red and green flag of the Houthi rebel movement not only matches the color scheme of that of the Houthis’ hip Iranian backers, it may convince sporty members of the opposite sex that you’re on the national soccer team of yet some equatorial country no one has heard of. At cocktail receptions, pretend to be into the Yemeni-Welsh music scene and speak loudly about the need to boycott Yemeni oil.

Conversely, you can make a bold statement against the “fake news” by rocking the white-calligraphy-on-green of the Saudis who back the Sana’a-based government of President Rashad al-Alimi, and are themselves backed by the U.S. Donald Trump talks a good game about hating journalists; Saudi Arabia actually kills them in their own consulates. Show your support for Saudi Arabia; never let a woman drive.

            If your taste in vacuous politically-tinged fashion statements runs to the outré, try rocking the #IStandWithAfghanistan hashtag to show your thoughtless concern for the 95% of the population there that risks starving to death—or the thousands of newborn babies that already have—because President Joe Biden has imposed devastating economic sanctions on the new government there that could literally kill nearly the entire population of an entire country. You have two options: the black Shahada-on-white of the Taliban or the maroon, forest green and black of the recently-deposed American puppet regime. Taliban-white wardrobes work best for American virtue signalers based in the warmer climates of the South; if you dig designer clothing with logos, you may prefer the old Northern Alliance seal. Sample quote: “Those guys who fell off the planes were luckier than those who are slowly starving to death, huh?”

Alternatively, there’s always the jokester approach: support the United States and its theft of billions of dollars in Afghan government funds, money that could be used to feed millions of starving people we used to pretend to care about. Go on Instagram, post photos of every one of the six meals a day you consume with the hashtag #USAIStandWithMyOwnFatAssUSA. And vote for your local Democratic congressman this November.

            Avant-garde symbol-mongers can make boldly confusing statements about the U.S.-involved wars of the future. It’ll be hard to pass up the classic communist red-and-yellow scheme of the People’s Republic of China should the mainland decide to invade Taiwan, but those who want to avoid being canceled among the NPR-Smart set will need to rock the red white and blue of the island’s nationalist flag as they twist their brains into protesting the invasion of a country in the United States doesn’t recognize diplomatically as existing in the first place. Support Taiwanese independence by ordering dumplings from your local Chinese restaurant. Some of them are delicious!

            Next time: Recycling—virtue-signaling for the whole planet without doing anything.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Order one today. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Let’s talk about war crimes.

In the Dasht-i-Leili massacre in northern Afghanistan in late 2001, U.S.-backed Afghan soldiers murdered 7,500 Taliban POWs after the prisoners had surrendered and had been captured. The American military supervised and approved of the operation.
Some American troops tortured and murdered prisoners too. The thousands of murdered Afghans were dumped into a mass grave.
President Bush suppressed any efforts to investigate. President Obama made a half-hearted statement in favor of investigation that he never followed up. So great to see that the United States has suddenly taken interest in war crimes! Can’t wait to see Bush, Cheney and all U.S. military personnel involved in the murders and cover-up put on trial and jailed!
 
Watch Jamie Doran’s documentary “Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death”: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10153351374287663
 
Read my 2009 essay about the massacre:
https://www.sj-r.com/story/opinion/columns/2009/07/17/ted-rall-obama-is-ignoring/42942584007

Biden Is Making Fools Out Of Progressive Democrats

            Like a lepidopteran Charlie Brown drawn to Lucy van Pelt’s flaming football, Congressional progressives keep falling for corporate Democrats’ pathetically predictable, and transparently self-serving, pleas for unity. Support our priorities, the centrists keep urging, and we’ll get around to your stuff later.

How much later?

We’ll tell you later.

            “Progressives have grown increasingly accustomed to disappointment with the Biden administration,” the Daily Beast reports with the breaking-news tone of “sun rises in east,” “and now a proposed increase in Department of Defense and law enforcement spending are causing them to air their grievances anew with just months left before the 2022 election.” Insanely—remember, we just left Afghanistan so war spending should drop precipitously—President Biden’s latest budget proposes a record high of $813 billion in military spending, an increase of $30 billion from last year. He just sent $13 billion to Ukraine. Plus he wants $32 billion for cops.

            Refund the police.

            Whether working inside a system diametrically opposed to your values has ever been effective is historically debatable. Since Bill Clinton ditched the New Deal coalition of the working class, labor and Blacks in favor of Wall Street banks and other large corporate donors, it certainly has never worked for progressives inside the Democratic Party.

            Impotent and hopeless, members of the AOC-led House Squad and left-leaning Senators only have one option left to make a strong political statement: leave the Democratic Party and either join the Greens or form a new progressive party. But that would risk ridicule and marginalization by liberal media outlets like The New York Times and MSNBC, not to mention grassroots organizing, which requires hard work like talking to voters and getting rained upon.

            So the squeaky mice of the inside-the-Beltway progressive left are reduced to issuing sad little whines in response to once again getting the shaft.

            “If budgets are value statements, today’s White House proposal for Pentagon spending shows that we have a lot of work to do,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) wrote in a statement in response to Biden’s GOP-inspired budget.

            “It’s a mistake,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said.

            “You know, you want to say ‘fund the police,’ cool. But you also talk about police accountability,” added Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY).

            These quotes appeared in an article headlined “Left Seethes.”

I know from seething. Seething is a friend of mine.

“Work to do” is not seething. “Mistake” is not seething. “Police accountability” is not seething.

“I think this year’s number was too much,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Yes. By about 1000%.

Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure package, which incorporated some progressive priorities, died because the White House and its corporate Democratic allies in Congress didn’t go to the mat for it; in particular, they weren’t willing to punish DINO Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema by threatening to strip the traitors of their committee assignments.

Increasing the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, a progressive priority for the last decade, is dead under President Biden.

There’s been no movement on another key platform plank of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bids student loan forgiveness.

112 million Americans struggle to afford healthcare and we’ve lost nearly 1 million Americans to the COVID-19 pandemic yet Biden, satisfied with his former running mate’s wobbly Affordable Care Act, hasn’t spent a penny of political capital, or cash capital, on Medicare For All.

Besides lessons in humility and patience, what exactly do Congressional progressives gain by working inside the Democratic Party? Mainstream legitimacy. But to paraphrase LBJ, what the hell else is working inside the Democratic for, if it never pays off?

While the self-identified progressive congressional Democrats spin their wheels, their constituents get a defense budget that Donald Trump would be proud of, higher taxes to pay for more police and soaring prices chomping away at a $7.25 national minimum wage last increased in 2009. (Adjusted for inflation, that’s $5.48 today.)

            At this point, progressive voters can only draw one logical conclusion about the decision of AOC, the Squad and other supposedly left-wing congressmen and senators to remain inside the Democratic Party: their sole purpose is to legitimize and prop up an institution that’s working against them, their ideas and their supporters.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Order one today. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

The Left Must Continue to Avoid the Ukraine Trap

            “Find a way to be against the war in Ukraine, please.” That was the subject line of one of my recent hate emails. “If you look through Mr. Rall’s cartoons for the past month, there isn’t a single one condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” an anonymous online commentor chided. “There’s plenty of ones based around whataboutism condemning us for condemning them but not a single one that just comes right out and says what Russia is doing now is wrong.”

            The Right—in the U.S. that includes Republicans, Democrats and corporate media—has set a clever trap for the antiwar Left. The rhetoric in this essay’s first paragraph is an example. If the Left were to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Right would portray us as Russia-loving hypocrites who only oppose wars when the United States starts them. If the Left backed Ukraine, they’d be joining an unholy alliance with a government installed in a CIA-backed coup, that pointlessly provoked Russia by asking to join NATO and is so tolerant of neo-Nazism that it allows soldiers wearing Nazi insignia in its military and is seems to be trying to set some sort of record for building statues to World War II Nazi collaborators and anti-Semites. Plus they’d be helping the Right distract people from the murderous sins of American imperialism, which are ongoing.

            Stuck between these two unappetizing prospects, the Left has wisely chosen not to pick sides. Instead, we are pointing out that militarily-aggressive America is too hypocritical to criticize Russia—a stance the Right describes as “whataboutism.”

            So the Right is trying to force us to choose sides.

Free speech used to include the right not to speak. No more. New York’s Metropolitan Opera, wallowing in cheap post-9/11-style neo-McCarthyism, fired star soprano Anna Netrebko, a Russian national, because she refused to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin, and replaced her with a Ukrainian. This was after she criticized the invasion. A Canadian concert canceled an appearance by pianist Alexander Malofeev because the program’s artistic director claimed he could not “in good conscience present a concert by any Russian artist at this moment unless they are prepared to speak out publicly against this war.”

Cancel those who refuse to regurgitate the words we stuff down their throats! Cancel them all!

I refuse to be told what to think and what to say, particularly by the Right. That goes double when the matter involves a complicated foreign policy crisis. I need time to dig into the facts, double- and triple-check and consider where I stand. Whether a hard sell emanates from a realtor, car salesperson or editorial writer at a newspaper, anyone who tries to bully me into a quick decision in their favor gets my freezing-cold shoulder. Threats and ultimata get nowhere fast.

To the extent that anyone should care about Ukraine, they’re in good hands with the Right, which is covering up Ukraine’s neo-Nazis and their ethnic cleansing of the Roma, sending them billions of dollars in cash and weapons and risking thermonuclear war by threatening regime change against Russia. Ukraine doesn’t need the Left too.

We on the Left do not owe anything but ferocious opposition to the political and media establishment that gave us the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. These are the same scum who legalized torture, kneecapped Bernie Sanders and insist that only rich people should be allowed to see a doctor. The Right never helps us, or our overseas allies. If they want to festoon social media and office buildings with Ukrainian flags, let them do it without us.

Any leftist who publicly expresses support for Ukraine and/or criticizes Russia in the current media environment, awash in imperialist propaganda at a fever pitch, is a rube, a dupe, an idiot. A leftist who takes even a second of attention away from the U.S.-created famine in Afghanistan gives aid and comfort to gangster capitalists and allows the butchers of Guantánamo and Fallujah and the Salt Pit to get off scot-free. Jumping on the Ukraine war bandwagon would be the height of tactical foolishness and a betrayal of the fundamental values of the Left.

For the Left, change has to begin here at home.

American leftists are citizens of the wealthiest nation on earth, its biggest and most aggressive military power, backer of the most important currency and, since 1945, so influential that it unilaterally decides whether a place is to be internationally recognized as a nation-state and whether or not its government is legitimate. Whether directly in countries like Vietnam, Panama and Bosnia or by proxy in conflict as in Syria, Yemen and Somalia, the United States has been a key player in almost every major war in the world for decades. The total death count attributable to U.S. forces and proxies in illegal and unjustifiable wars is incalculable, but it numbers in many millions.

The United States starts and prolongs more wars of choice than any other country. Leftists who live in the United States therefore have a special responsibility to work to destroy our country’s cult of militarism.

This is not to say that the Left cannot or should not have opinions about distant conflicts and foreign policy dilemmas on the other side of the planet. It’s a matter of priorities — when you live in a country as powerful and influential as the United States, it makes more sense for the domestic Left to marshal its resources to protest and campaign against America’s own actions as an empire than to worry about, say, China possibly invading Taiwan.

At this writing the United States is backing Saudi Arabia in its brutal campaign in Yemen. The reprehensible torture and detention camp at Guantánamo Bay remains open. Palestinians in Gaza continue to suffer under occupation by Israel, a staunch U.S. ally. Afghans are starving to death in large part because the United States refuses to release Afghan government money to the new Taliban government. These atrocities are directly attributable to the United States.

The more we think and talk about Ukraine, the less we work on our own country, which we have a much better chance of changing.

Rallies and protests directed at your own country, from inside your own country, are infinitely more effective than those that take place overseas. Millions of people marched against invading Iraq in 2003 all over the world. Even though the Bush administration ultimately went to war, the Americans who stood up against their own government right here got far more attention in Washington. The Right’s warmongers didn’t care what the French or the Japanese thought, and why should they?

Conversely, there were hardly any major protests against the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the United States, though there were many overseas. The Afghan war probably would have ended sooner if we Americans had demonstrated in a sustained way.

The Left is concerned about many issues. So one of our biggest enemies is distraction. As the 1950s civil-rights song goes, keep your eye on the prize! Police violence, veterans committing suicide, healthcare, the income gap, climate change, homelessness, and a Congress that spends billions of dollars on weapons for Ukraine while kids go into debt to attend college are problems that no one but the Left is going to care about, much less try to fix. Russia’s actions in Ukraine are a big fat distraction on the other side of the planet at a time when we have a lot to do right here at home.

 (Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Order one today. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

 

 

DMZ America #41: Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings, Ukraine and Kinky Sex

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson appears almost certain to be headed towards Senate confirmation as soon as the next US Supreme Court justice. What does it say about America that she is taking heat for representing Guantánamo detainees? Ted is dismayed by Jackson stated acceptance of late Justice Antonin Scalia’s radical-right originalist theory of constitutional interpretation. Scott and Ted debate major talking points surrounding America’s involvement in the war between Russia and Ukraine. Finally, Scott comes out as the most sexually repugnant thing you can be in the age of libertinism: a prude. Christine Emba’s new book “Rethinking Sex: A Provocation” is the starting point of the discussion about how younger women feel pressured to do things in bed that they really don’t want to do.

 

 

 

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