Order a Signed Copy of THE STRINGER Directly from Ted Rall

THE STRINGER is my new fiction graphic novel (“Breaking Bad” meets journalism). It’s getting a buzz and I’m pleasantly not surprised. I wrote a kickass story and Pablo Callejo’s artwork is awesome. The handsome full-color hardback book comes out April 21st. But my personal copies have arrived and I’m ready to sell autographed copies directly to you now. Simply click the link below and I’ll get your book out within days or a week or two! Thanks for your support!

A few things:

    1. Thanks to Trump’s idiot budget-slashing postmaster, the post office is fucked up. Expect delays in shipment. I use USPS Priority Mail within the United States.
    2. If you’re not in the U.S.: First, congrats. The US is fucked up too. Second: do NOT use the link below. Contact me directly. Include your address and I’ll quote a price for shipping. The book is big and heavy so it’s going to be expensive to send it overseas, especially countries other than Canada and Mexico.
    3. Shipping is expensive because the book is big and heavy.
    4. If you prefer not to use PayPal, there are two alternate forms of payment. You can mail me a check or money order, or if you’re JFK  on an atoll in the Pacific, you can write me an IOU on a coconut. Contact me directly for the mailing address. I also have Square, so we can arrange to text or talk on the phone and I’ll take your credit card number. (Visa, MC or Amex).
    5. Make sure to indicate to whom and how you’d like your book signed. I can’t read your mind! If you leave that question blank, I’ll just signed “To [You] —Best, Ted” or somesuch. Boring, but up to you.
    6. You will save money on shipping by ordering multiple copies. Contact me directly if you want more than one.

 Happy ordering and happy reading!

How would you like it signed?


What To Watch for in Biden’s First Press Conference Today

Joe Biden will be giving his first press conference as president today at 1:15 p.m. Eastern.  Though he has sometimes taken questions from reporters, he has not held a real press conference .

Here’s what I will be watching for.

First and foremost: mental acuity.

Will the president be able to remember the questions he was asked? At a CNN healthcare town hall last year, candidate Biden repeatedly forgot the numerous softball questions relayed by Anderson Cooper and babbled incoherently. The network purged this grim performance from its website so you can’t find it. While politicians routinely answer the questions they wish they were asked rather than the ones they actually were, forgetting softball questions seems to indicate that you are not all there.

Will he be spontaneous? One of the top signs of a politician’s mental acuity is the ability to roll with the punches, crack a joke when need be, deflect, turn on a dime. Joe Biden used to have this ability but it’s been a long time.

Why is this important? Throughout the campaign and since becoming president, Biden has not been subjected to the give-and-take of questioning in which he is not sure in advance what will be asked. That’s why, I suspect, he waited longer than any president in memory after taking office before holding his first presser. We know he can read a speech. But so could Reagan throughout his presidency, and we now know that he was probably suffering from Alzheimer’s by his second term.

Watch for flashes of anger. People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often, and understandably, feel frustrated by their inability to communicate clearly, and lash out with anger. We’ve seen that several times from the president.

In 2019 he called a voter on the campaign trail “a damned liar.” In 2020 he called a student “a lying dog-faced pony soldier.”

Later during the campaign he was asked by a journalist whether he had taken a cognitive test, a subject also posed to then-President Donald Trump. “No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man,” Biden yelled. “That’s like saying to you, before you got on this program if you had taken a test were you taking cocaine or not. What do you think, huh? Are you a junkie?”

Anger doesn’t equal dementia but these episodes raised eyebrows because remaining cool calm and collected is not only a requirement to be a successful politician in America, where the culture values a steady John Wayne form of masculinity, but also to govern successfully as president.

With much of the corporate media in the bag for Biden, I would expect reporters to act as usual, in other words not pushing for straightforward answers to their questions.

But this event isn’t about the journalists, it’s about the president and his ability to think on his feet.

I Am a Victim of Republican Cancel Culture

 
 

The debate over “cancel culture” centers around how Democratic Party, “woke” activists and politically-correct “social justice warriors” expel people from social acceptability or force them into joblessness because something they said or did provoked an online mob.

But Republicans have been canceling people for much longer.

I am living proof.

My career grew to national prominence during the 1990s. By the time Bill Clinton left office, my cartoons and columns regularly appeared in well over 100 American newspapers and such magazines as Time, Fortune and Bloomberg. My editor at the New York Times added up the paychecks and calculated that his newspaper had published more cartoons by yours truly than by any other artist throughout the decade. I had a talk show on KFI radio, a 50,000-watt megastation in Los Angeles. I won major journalism awards, including two RFKs and a Pulitzer finalistship.

Because my cartoons and columns criticized Bill Clinton and the Democrats, the right-wing censorship squads let me be. They didn’t notice that I attacked Democrats from the left. My editor at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a notorious right-wing rag owned by conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, loved my stuff even though I raged against NAFTA. “You sure know how to stick it to Bill and Hillary!” he beamed. Mm-hm.

I didn’t change my politics or my style after Bush became president. After 9/11, however, I went after Republicans because they were in power. So right-wing cancel culture goons targeted me for elimination.

My website contained a list of newspapers that ran my cartoons. GOP chatrooms and so-called “warbloggers” reproduced my client list, urging Republicans from around the country to pose as angry local subscribers. Fake subscribers demanded that my work be canceled via cut-and-paste complaint email forms the bloggers and their bots helpfully provided. I took my client list offline after my cartoon syndicate figured out their scheme. But many naïve editors kowtowed to the fake readers and canceled me.

Corporate cancel culture was relatively cold, ruthless and willing to overlook the profit motive in order to promote right-wing propaganda. Radio insiders said that high ratings guaranteed your freedom of expression. Despite my strong ratings, however, I was fired after KFI got acquired by Clear Channel Communications, the right-wing home of Rush Limbaugh. “They don’t want lefties on the air,” my program manager explained. “They’re willing to lose money. Anything to censor liberals.” My replacement was unpopular; they didn’t mind.

Even liberal media outlets yielded to cancellation campaigns orchestrated by the extreme Right. Yielding to a chorus of outrage ginned up by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity over a cartoon in which I lampooned the marketing of the war on terror, The New York Times canceled me in 2002. “We thought the subject matter was inappropriate, and do regret that it did run,” a sniveling spokesperson told the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post.

The Times’ regular subscribers hadn’t made a peep for a week before Hannity’s army of fools drowned the Grey Lady in cut-and-paste postcards mailed in from flyover country. But Times editors didn’t notice. Nor did they take responsibility for choosing to publish my work. I was memory-holed. The editor who approved my work remained.

In 2004 it was the Washington Post’s turn to throw me to the braying Republican hounds.

Throughout the Bush years my income shrank. No radio station would have me. I was no longer shortlisted for journalism prizes. It became increasingly difficult to get published. I received fewer invitations to speak in public.

You can easily check it out yourself, or you can take my word for it: it’s not like my work got worse. I write better now, I draw better, I speak better than I used to. What changed was that gatekeepers at American media outlets became gun-shy. They would rather publish bland material that doesn’t elicit a response than a strong opinion that generates controversy. Who can blame them? Right-wing cancel warriors, no longer content to get leftie content banned, harass and threaten editors who run it.

No account of a cartoonist’s shrinking client list over the past 20 years would be complete without noting the financial meltdown of print media in general, brutal budget cuts and a widespread practice of laying off the cartoonist first. That goes double for left-leaning commentators who have found themselves out in the cold as the 50-yard line of American politics steadily moved to the right under Republican and Democratic administrations alike.

The same thing happened on TV. ABC canceled Bill Maher; MSNBC fired Phil Donahue, Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, all for being too liberal.

Everyone in the media has suffered. But right-wing cancel culture accelerated both of those trends.

I have adjusted to the new media landscape. It’s tough going, but I still have a viable career.

But don’t let anyone think Republican cancel culture isn’t a thing. It is.

And it has won.

Even though there are more socialist voters than either Democrats or Republicans, the Left is out in the cold. 39% of American voters prefer socialism to capitalism. Bernie Sanders’ approval rating is 49%, which is ten points higher than Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. Yet no newspaper in the United States employs a columnist or a cartoonist who endorsed Sanders or admits to being a socialist. Nor does any cable news network employ such a host or frequent contributor. This is not normal or OK. A nation with a vibrant and free news media represents a diversity of opinion. In this respect American news outlets are more rigidly censored than those of authoritarian regimes with state-controlled media.

I oppose left-wing cancel culture. I spoke out against liberal boycotts of companies that advertised on Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlesinger. Censorship is toxic whether it comes from the left or the right.

Mostly, though, it comes from the right, and liberals go along with it.

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

There Are More Socialists Than Democrats or Republicans. We Should Act like It.

The Many, Tangled American Definitions of Socialism | The New Yorker

            American leftists find themselves at a tactical crossroad. Will the 39% of Americans (and more than half of those under 30) who steadily oppose capitalism stand up for themselves? Will socialists, progressives, communists, left anarchists and left libertarians boldly fight to build a movement, thus inspiring other allies of the working class to join the struggle to abolish the vicious and vacuous capitalist system?

Or will leftists continue to tolerate and support a corporate Democratic Party that exploits them for their votes, financial contributions and labor while it contemptuously promotes everything they deplore?

Two out of five voters is a plurality. If the other three out of five split their votes between the Democrats and the Republicans, the Left wins. But those big numbers cannot win if they remain scattered. Tragically for workers and the environment, the Left has no organization. No party. No media. No voice inside the establishment.

Progressives and other leftists are powerless. The only “major” left party in the U.S., the Greens, received 0.2% of the vote in 2020. Celebrity-oriented Internet formations like the fake-progressive Movement for a People’s Party suck energy away from those who want to build a real grassroots party.

There isn’t a single newspaper, or even an op-ed columnist, or a television network, or a single commentator on a television network, that/who is a leftist.

The streets, churning with Black Lives Matter protests last summer, emptied after the defeat of Donald Trump.

Biden marks a new low for the post-1960s Left. Two months in, the new president has already abandoned the few progressive promises he made in order to con supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren into supporting his regressive policies. The promised $15-an-hour minimum wage quickly plunged by a third to $9.50, scaling up to $15 over four years, and now appears to be a dead letter. Student loan forgiveness went from $50,000 to maybe $10,000. The administration has announced no plans to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act. The number of progressives in the Cabinet is zero.

Yet, even now at this darkest of bleak times, there is hope. Hope lies in the Left itself.

“The general sentiment of mankind,” Frederick Douglass observed, “is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just.”

The political gains of American women over the last century offer a lesson for down-and-out leftists. Women convinced men to support equal rights. But first, women had to convince themselves that they deserved equality and that their cause was viable—that they could win after sustained struggle. As Douglass (who also supported suffrage) observed about the requirement that oppressed people fight first for themselves, women’s self-assuredness attracted male allies to their movement.

            It is time for the 39% of American voters who hate capitalism to step up, speak up for themselves openly and repeatedly, and refuse to be shouted down.

            I collect political buttons. I have one with a red dot in the middle surrounded by the words “against woman suffrage.” Think about it: Just over 100 years ago, not that long, men walked the streets of American cities wearing a pin that said they didn’t think women should be allowed to vote—yet they weren’t worried about being physically assaulted. Try doing that now! Now a woman is Vice President of the United States to the oldest president ever to be inaugurated, making it likely that she will become President.

            Although a quick glance at a joint session of Congress reminds us that this country still has a long way to go when it comes to equal opportunity, that’s a lot of progress.

            Most historians who analyze this cultural shift look at how and why the dominant white male power structure evolved during the 20th and early 21st centuries toward support for suffrage, women’s mass entry into the workplace, sexual liberation, the role of liberalized divorce in personal and financial emancipation, reducing discrimination by institutions like the military and corporate boardrooms and, after decades of resistance, women becoming viable candidates for the nation’s highest political office.

            At least as important, however, is the change over the last century in the way that women view themselves. A 1903 article in The Atlantic documents the remarkable scale of opposition to American women’s own enfranchisement: “In 1895 the women of Massachusetts were asked by the state whether they wished the suffrage,” the magazine noted. “Of the 575,000 voting women in the state, only 22,204 cared for it enough to deposit in a ballot box an affirmative answer to this question. That is, in round numbers, less than 4% wished to vote; about 96% were opposed to woman [sic] suffrage or indifferent to it.” If a woman had wound up on the presidential ballot, most women would have voted against her because she was female.

            In the early 1970s, just 40% of women told pollsters that they “favor most of the efforts to strengthen and change women’s status in society today.” 76% of women and 70% of men now support the Equal Rights Amendment.

            Why were there so many, to reference the comedy troupe, Ladies Against Women? Some women were worried that the feminist movement would burden them with obligations traditionally saddled upon men, like becoming subject to the military draft and paying child support. Others thought equal rights would destroy the traditional family. Over time, however, the advantages of equal pay for equal work and the desire for respect swept those worries aside. Women know they can do anything that a man can do. Most men, all those who are not stupid, see it too.

            American Leftists are in the same diminished psychological state as the women of the 19th century. We are marginalized from “mainstream” political debate in corporate media, whitewashed out of official histories, have few victories to celebrate and heroes whose lives are unknown to us. We have no self-confidence; how can we overthrow capitalism without believing in ourselves, our ideas, and our potential? When I tell people, including leftists, that 39% of Americans are leftists, that there are more leftists than Democrats, and more leftists than Republicans, they think I must be lying or mistaken.

            Few women who lived at the time that my anti-suffrage political button was printed imagined how radically things would change in their favor over the next 100 years. Patriarchy was a seemingly impregnable colossus until it wasn’t.

Capitalism is weak. The system is in a classic crisis of overproduction, unemployment and underemployment are out of control, for-profit healthcare continues despite a pandemic and consumerism-caused environmental collapse is in full swing. Socialists, communists, progressives and other leftists should emulate the example of American women, take confidence in their numbers and the viability of their cause, and get organized.

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

In Praise of Bad Weather

A bright sunny day on the farm. | Sunrise photos, Background hd wallpaper,  Sunny pictures

            There is joy in the air. That joy is misplaced.

            For that joy might kill us.

            I set down these words on the 9th of March in Manhattan. Historically, the average temperature on this day of the year is 40°. If the weather forecast for today, March 9, 2021, is correct, and at this writing it looks like it will be, the temperature will hit 61°.

            “Today is going to be a beautiful day,” the radio said this morning.

            Everyone is happy. People are making plans to eat outside, go running, walking, whatever, everyone in New York who can break away from work or other obligations is determined to enjoy today’s “good weather.”

            I feel it too. I have a meeting after I finish writing this. The sun will feel sweet on my face. More people will be smiling; even if I have to surmise that from the twinkle in their eyes above a mask, their pleasure in this good weather will be infectious.

            We have got to stop thinking about warm, sunny, hotter-than-usual weather as positive. Weather isn’t climate. But hotter-than-usual weather multiplied out, repeated as it has been for years, reflects the existential threat of climate change. Hotter-than-usual weather repeated over time is killing coral and plants, extinguishing species of animals. It will ultimately kill us, and if not us, our children, and if not them, our grandchildren. I have not yet met my grandchild, but I don’t want my grandchild, or yours, to die before he or she has his or her own grandchildren.

            We’ve been greeting “beautiful days,” i.e. hotter-than-usual days, by pulling on tank tops, grabbing picnic baskets and heading to the park. This is understandable. This is insane.

            Celebrating a hotter-than-usual day makes as much sense as a Frenchman jumping for joy at the sight of invading German troops. Sparkling blue, cloudless skies are harbingers of doom. The soft scent of your own sweat under a gentle sun in mid-winter is a death sentence handed down by a judge whose rulings cannot be appealed. When you hear that it’s going to be 61° in Manhattan in March, you should be scared to death.

            There are, if you pay attention, signs that everything is wrong. Trees whose first buds appeared in late April now pop out in February, fresh leaves frozen off as the weather turns cold again, though not as cold nor for as long as it should. Asthmatics, those human canaries, suffer from “spring” allergies all “winter” long. There are so few birds.

            The proper response to one too many hotter-than-usual days in mid-winter — for that matter, it is also an appropriate way to greet a series of hotter-than-usual days in summer — is fear. We are on the way out. We are killing ourselves. This is seriously messed up.

            Anger follows fear. We should hate the ecocidal maniacs who are too greedy and stupid to see that their relentless quest for short-term corporate profits is murdering us. We should despise the politicians who sell us out to these psychos. We should be ashamed of ourselves for tolerating both sets of crazies.

            Unless we are idiots, action should come next, and damned soon. The truly great thing about a 61° day in New York City in March (in March!) is that it makes it more enticing for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers together in public spaces to protest and demand sanity from their overlords. There are no winter coats or cold-stiffened bones to stop demonstrators from hurling teargas canisters back at the cops.

            Saving ourselves must begin with a mental shift.

There is, as an older gentleman who drove me in his taxi told me a couple of years ago, no good weather or bad weather. There is only weather. To a farmer, rain is often welcome. To which I would add, given the context of global warming, there is only appropriate weather — appropriate to its time and place and based on the assumption, which needs to become true if we want to live, that the human race is no longer affecting that weather.

            An 80° day at the South Pole might be pleasant for sunbathing scientists. But it would be radically inappropriate regardless of the time of year. A 20° day in Bali might be fun for Indonesians who’ve never been in a snowball fight. But it would be wildly wrong, allowing for normal variations of high and low.

            I come to you in praise of “bad” weather. On the 9th of March, New Yorkers ought to be happy to see sleet. They should smile at their neighbors as they tiptoe through filthy slush puddles pooled at the street corners. Climate change has turned the world topsy-turvy; in a topsy-turvy world, good weather is bad and bad weather is good.

(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.)

 

 

Joe Biden Doesn’t Need More Time. He Needs Progressives to Demand an Ambitious Agenda

Minneapolis protesters seek focus on progressive priorities | Star Tribune

            “Give Joe Biden time.”

            “He just got there.”

            “Trump left him a hell of a mess. It’s unreasonable to expect him to turn things around in a month or two.”

            “Now is not the time to criticize him or the Democrats. When would be a good time? I don’t know, but certainly not now. Later.”

            These are talking points used by Biden and his defenders against progressive critics—progressives who, for the most part, voted for him—who attack the president for doing too little on COVID-19 stimulus, healthcare, the minimum wage, student loan debt forgiveness and other important issues.

            Though couched in an oh-so-reasonable-sounding tone, “give the man more time” makes zero sense.

            Asking the Left to be patient would be reasonable if President Biden had an ambitious agenda. But he doesn’t. Like fellow incrementalists Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Joe Biden isn’t proposing any big fixes or programs. His ideas are nips and tucks ranging in impact from the symbolic to a Band-Aid on a giant open wound. Which is why none of them will work.

            If Joe Biden wanted Congress to approve a $10 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that would put $2000 a month into the pocket of every American until the end of the lockdown Depression, as Bernie Sanders proposed and which would put a major dent into the pain felt by the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs over the last year, Democrats would have a strong case for asking their left base to hold their fire while the president fights with Congress and makes his case to the American people via the bully pulpit.

But he doesn’t.

Instead of actually trying to fix the problem, Biden is proposing a watered-down $1.9 trillion bill whose price tag would sound impressive if not for the fact that the American economy is teetering on the brink of collapse. It’s a weak proposal that contains what was originally promised to be $2,000 just one single time, then reduced to $1,400 one single time and now—after consultations with right-wing DINOs like Joe Manchin of West Virginia–will be radically curtailed by even less generous means testing than was used by the Trump administration. Even if passed as is, which is unlikely in a split 50-50 Senate, Biden’s so-called stimulus will fail. It cannot work.

It’s just too small.

So why should progressives shut up until some unspecified future before raising their voices? For progressives and anyone with half a brain, the issue isn’t that the stimulus is taking too long. The issue is that there isn’t enough stimulus. We can see that now. The passage of time isn’t going to help. Rather than waste time waiting for a wimpy solution to fail, leftists ought to take to the streets now to demand the big fix needed to save the unemployed and the working class from ruin.

            No one can say that the working class has been anything other than patient when it comes to the minimum wage. Full-time workers at some of the toughest jobs in the country still earn a pathetic $7.25 per hour, the same as 2009, the year Apple introduced the iPhone 3GS. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be well over $25 per hour.

            In large part to woo progressives who supported Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren during the primaries, Biden promised to support a $15 an hour minimum wage. He reneged. Under his proposed rider to his stimulus bill, the wage would only increase to $9.50 an hour, gradually scaling up to $15 an hour by the year 2025, with no allowance for a cost of living increase. Moreover, the House parliamentarian ruled the rider inappropriate—something Biden, who worked in the trenches of Capitol Hill for over four decades, surely expected.

            Why should workers and their allies stifle their outrage? Oppressed workers need more income now, not at some unspecified future point in time. It’s not like Biden was going big ($30 an hour would be about right), or was going anything at all, on the minimum wage, and needed our acquiescence to present a united front against reactionary bosses. At this point, he’s literally proposing nothing. Waiting for Biden to start caring about working people is an obviously doomed exercise in frustration, one that will only lead to more poverty.
            So it goes on almost every other issue. Biden has continued Trump’s policy of violently turning back political refugees from Central America at the border with Mexico. He has continued Trump’s brutal drone assassination bombings. The torture camp at Guantánamo Bay is still open, still torturing. The average American college student graduates with over $30,000 in loan debt; Biden won’t forgive more than $10,000.

            Wait?

Why?

For what?

            Waiting to speak out against Biden’s crimes of action and inaction accomplishes just one thing. It plays into the hands of the do-nothing Democrats until their next excuse to tell us to shut up: next year’s midterm elections.

(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.)

Don’t Hate Rush Limbaugh. Copy Him.

Rush Limbaugh died from lung cancer after denying smoking's risk. Why'd he believe his lie?

           My death will make some people giddy with joy. That’s cool. I like to make people happy.

            In the unlikely event that I’m  somehow able to witness the gleeful grins and chortles of those who savor the sweet news of my demise, I hope that whatever is left of me on the astral whatever will remain sufficiently objective to recognize the fundamental fairness of the celebrants’ reaction.

After all, criticizing the dead is one of my things. Rejecting the traditional maudlin obituary cartoon format that depicts every boldface name showing up at the pearly gates to check in with Saint Peter — why are American political cartoonists so certain that the next world will be configured in accordance with Christianity? — I have occasionally acquired notoriety by publishing critical observations about such dearly departed figures as Ronald Reagan, Jerry Garcia and other politicians and celebrities whose life stories I believed to have benefited from grade inflation.

I have my take on Jimmy Carter ready to go. Let everyone else dwell on Habitat for Humanity; I’ll remind mourning lefties of draft registration, Afghanistan, the Moscow Olympics and setting the stage for the 1980s defense buildup. Also, he was the first Democratic president not to propose an anti-poverty program because apparently no one is poor anymore.

I didn’t know Rush Limbaugh but I used to do talk radio so I know some people who did. Based on what I heard I have to think he would have held an analogous opinion on the clinking of champagne glasses in Berkeley and the Upper West Side that followed news of his passing. He would have been pleased. What he wanted, what we who express opinions for a living all want, was to be heard and reacted to.

They say Limbaugh was actually pretty sweet. He just said mean things on the radio. “What is sad is that such an imbecile and such an ignoramus ends up as a prominent cartoonist in major newspapers,” he said about me, and who knows? Maybe he was right. Perhaps he would have been courteous in person. I’m just happy he noticed my work.

            I speak ill of humans who are no longer breathing, famously and infamously so. The typical response to body-still-warm criticism is that it’s too soon, let the family and friends mourn, cold-blooded assessments of a life well-lived or not so much should await some unspecified future moment. That’s dumb. There will never be a more perfect time to judge a person’s achievements and failings than the hours following a man or woman’s demise. Years later, when it’s appropriate, who will care?

            Limbaugh gave as good as he got, usually better, and if anyone is above criticism it’s not him. But much of the ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead rhetoric on Twitter and various op-ed pages goes beyond celebrating the death of a formidable adversary, which Limbaugh surely was to anyone on the left. It conflates political disagreement with moral judgment.

            Declaring someone to be immoral because you don’t like their opinions is intellectually dishonest. Hate Limbaugh, hate Hillary Clinton, hate me, but judge our moral lives by the way we lived, not whether or not you agree with us. I hate it when readers tell me that I drew a good cartoon simply because they agree with its point of view; some of the best cartoons I have ever read expressed politics that I despise.

            What really galled liberals about Limbaugh was his success, his incredible effectiveness. Imagine, though it’s scarcely possible, the progressive analog of the man who singlehandedly revolutionized talk radio. You could drive hundreds of miles across highways where Limbaugh’s voice was the only one on the dial, only to reappear on the next local station as the old one faded out. He brilliantly exploited dead air and an unusual-for-radio voice with hilarious bombast with tongue planted firmly in cheek whether his dittoheads knew it or not.

Though he wound up his career as a fairly rote Trump Republican, Limbaugh first made his mark as a conservative who criticized the GOP for failing to live up to the right-wing values he articulated and held them to account. He mobilized an army. As much as Buchanan, Reagan and Trump, he defined the ideological and attitudinal contours of today’s emboldened Republican Party. Had Al Franken managed to guide the benighted Air America — take a sec to Google it — to similar heights, Democrats would have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and Bernie Sanders would be beginning his second term. Who knows how many economic sectors would be nationalized by now?

            What if Al Franken or Rachel Maddow (who got her start on Air America) dominated 15 hours a week of top-rated radio in every single market, and hundreds and hundreds of stations, for decades before succumbing to lung cancer? What if they had succeeded in pushing the 50-yard line of politics as far left as Limbaugh did to the right? It is a safe bet that, if such criticism could credibly apply, no Democrat would take note of Franken or Maddow’s marital problems, substance abuse, intemperate language, cigar danger denialism or alleged egotism. They might even pick up, as Limbaugh did from Trump in an episode that enraged liberals, a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Biden.

            About Limbaugh’s supposed egotism: I am endlessly amazed by Americans’ inability to recognize humor expressed by a partisan expressing an opposing political point of view. Limbaugh “once introduced himself with a pomposity and self-aggrandizement that, to this day, takes the breath away,” Colbert I. King writes in the Washington Post: “This is Rush Limbaugh, the most dangerous man in America, with the largest hypothalamus in North America, serving humanity simply by opening my mouth, destined for my own wing in the Museum of American Broadcasting, executing everything I do flawlessly with zero mistakes, doing this show with half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair, because I have talent on loan from God.”

Note to King: this is a joke. It’s so much of a joke that even if he meant every single word, it transcended the artist’s original meaning to become a joke he never intended. Seriously, though, take it from this leftist. It’s like that time Donald Trump asked the Russians to look for Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. It was a joke, everyone knew it was a joke, and Democrats looked stupid for pretending it wasn’t or, worse, not recognizing it.

            Go ahead, hate Rush. But it would be smarter for lefties to copy him.

(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.)

 

Biden Offers Moderate Solutions to Radical Problems

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“Radical problems require radical solutions,” I wrote in my 2010 book “The Anti-American Manifesto,” a polemic that calls upon us to save ourselves from imminent social, economic and political collapse by overthrowing the system and rebuilding society from the ground up. We currently face several radical problems. But we’re not likely to rise to the challenge, because the Biden Administration’s adherence to the Democratic Party’s cult of militant moderation ensures that their proposed solutions will mitigate these grave issues—at best—with zero chance of avoiding disaster.

There is a time and a place for tweaks and minor adjustments. You don’t amputate a leg to cure a sprained ankle. Extreme situations require going big; if your oncologist suggests removing half your tumor and then waiting to see how it goes, fire her.

Our planet has cancer. Exponentially increasing temperatures have killed most of the world’s reefs and threaten widespread food shortages and thus political stability. Garbage, toxins and other pollutants are clogging the oceans and poisoning the air. We can debate the specifics but when studies predict the possible collapse of human civilization within 30 years and “a ghastly future of mass extinction,” environmental degradation has obviously become a radical problem.

Despite calling climate change “the number one issue facing humanity,” Joe Biden clearly doesn’t grasp the seriousness of the situation. His plan aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the same year his plan calls for the elimination of fossil fuels. Grant him this: his plan is achievable. If human civilization vanishes, who in the hellscape will be left to burn fossil fuels?

Biden’s approach to the climate change crisis recalls my metaphorical oncologist, the one who counsels half-measures. Ban fracking on federal lands though most oil and gas comes from elsewhere. Improving fuel economy standards; Detroit is moving quickly to an all-electric car future anyway. Seal off leaking oil and gas wells. It’s good stuff. It moves in the right direction. But it’s like taking out half the tumor. Half of it is still inside you, multiplying.

You’re still going to die.

You could even argue that Biden is making things worse. Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief that Trump, a science denialist who wants to mine coal even though energy companies do not, has been replaced by a president who acknowledges the issue. But Biden’s half-measures are no likelier to fix the problem of rising temperatures fueled by greenhouse gas emissions than Trump’s overt sabotage. Catastrophe is inevitable either way.

From geoengineering to synthetic trees that absorb carbon dioxide more efficiently to whitening the surface area of the earth to reflect the sun’s rays to actively promoting algae blooms, science offers a number of Hail Mary passes that might stave off environmental apocalypse. Many sound wacky. They might be counterproductive. But at least they’re radical. Which means that, unlike tweaking MPGs, they might work.

The COVID-19 pandemic reiterated what anyone who ever gets sick has long known: America’s healthcare system is hobbled by rapacious for-profit insurance companies. I have a “silver plan” (Anthem BlueCross BlueShield) purchased via New York State’s Affordable Care Act marketplace. When I arrived at the hospital two weeks ago for a hernia repair operation that I definitely needed—I was losing feeling in my upper legs—I was informed hours before surgery that I would have to cough up $6500 between the deductible and the co-pay. I am due for a colonoscopy but now I can’t afford one. And I’m relatively lucky; I’m not one of the one out of four Americans who routinely skip seeing a doctor because they are too poor.

As with climate change, healthcare in the United States is a radical problem in need of a radical solution. Studies consistently show that Americans rank last or close to last among industrialized nations in terms of access to medical care, quality of care and cost. Average life expectancy in the United States has been falling over the last three years — a radical reversal of 20th century trends that recalls Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nothing Biden has in mind would put us where we belong: number one.

Biden’s moderate sales pitch famously defeated Bernie Sanders, for whom a major platform plank was Medicare for All. During the campaign Biden repeated Obama’s 2008 pledge to add “a public option” to Obamacare (Obama reneged). But the scheme recently unveiled by the White House downplays the public option and would allow Americans to spend up to 8.5% of their annual income on healthcare.

The new president is inheriting big, long-neglected problems that require big dramatic solutions.

The average young college graduate leaves with over $32,000 in student loan debt. Default rates hover around 10%; even bankruptcy doesn’t allow people to discharge these debts. Hobbling our best and brightest minds shrinks the consumer economy and discourages entrepreneurship. Yet Biden only wants to forgive up to $10,000 — and it doesn’t seem to be a top legislative priority. Even if he gets what he wants, the problem will remain extreme.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. labor market is 9.9 million jobs smaller than pre-pandemic levels. New York City alone lost 1 million jobs to the COVID-19 lockdown. Millions of families face destitution, eviction or foreclosure. By any measure, this is a huge problem that could slow recovery for a long time. Biden’s solution is a one-time payment of $1400. Better than nothing but a rounding error compared to what would be required to keep people in their homes while they’re waiting for employment opportunities to return.

As Democrats bask in the glow of impeaching Donald Trump for a second time with some bipartisan support, they may want to consider how he got elected. Desperate workers in flyover country suffered from deindustrialization for years. It was a radical disruption. But Democrats ignored them, exacerbated the problem with poorly-written free trade agreements or satisfied themselves with half-measures.

Here we go again.

(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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