Rall v. LA Times: What’s Up

Anyone who has ever been involved in court proceedings knows that Bleak House wasn’t a novel, it was a documentary. legal stuff takes a long time.

Here’s what’s going on. (I’m assuming that you’ve been following the case so I’m not going to repeat everything you already know. If my assumption is faulty, I suggest that you go back to earlier posts and updates.)

You already know that the California Supreme Court ruled in my favor against the LA Times in a dramatic reversal of fortune.

  • As we expected and as is the normal procedure, they remanded — sent back — my case to the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. Essentially, the Supreme Court told the lower court: “We ruled in favor of Wilson in Wilson v. CNN. Please reconsider Rall in light of our ruling in Wilson.”
  • So here’s what happens next.
  • Both sides, us and the LA Times, prepare briefs for the court. They’re due in about a month.
  • Several months later, there will be oral arguments again.
  • At some point after that, could be a few weeks or it could be months, the court of appeal issues their decision.

    Whoever loses appeals to the supreme court again.

    If the LA Times loses, the Supreme Court probably won’t accept the case. That means I get to begin discovery in the case actually becomes and the sword of Damocles of the anti-SLAPP motion goes away.

    If I lose, there is still a chance that the Supreme Court would accept the case. If they do, I live on. If they don’t, I’m screwed and I owe the LA Times hundreds of thousands of dollars for their legal fees. Their lawyer charges $715 an hour.

    Thank you everyone for your incredible support. I’m feeling good and confident that we are going to win. I’ll keep you posted.

  • The First Thing We Do, Let’s Fire All the Cops

    Image result for militarized cops

                In the latest shooting of an innocent civilian by a trigger-happy police officer, a white Fort Worth cop blew away a 28-year-old African-American woman through her bedroom window as she played a video game with her eight-year-old nephew. Atatiana Jefferson’s neighbor had called a nonemergency police number to request that they check on her because her doors were wide open.

                “The officer did not announce that he was a police officer prior to shooting,” a spokesman said. Instead, he shouted through the window before killing Jefferson: “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!”

                This atrocity followed the recent conviction of a white officer in Dallas who claimed that she had entered the wrong apartment in her building before mistakenly shooting an African-American man. Botham Jean, 26, was eating ice cream in his own home, clearly not hers, when he was killed.

                Police shot and killed 689 people so far this year in the U.S. Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be shot to death by police officers than whites. Many victims were unarmed.

                Is it any surprise that only half of the public has confidence in Officer Not So Friendly? Public perception is worse among minorities and young people.

                It’s not a major political campaign issue but it ought to be: domestic policing in the United States needs to be reinvented from the ground up.

                “From their earliest days in the [police] academy, would-be officers are told that their prime objective, the proverbial ‘first rule of law enforcement,’ is to go home at the end of every shift,” Seth Stoughton noted in the Harvard Law Review. Policing experts call this me-first approach the Warrior mentality. “Officers learn to treat every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.”

                In the real world, America’s streets are not a war zone. 95% of police officers go through their entire career without ever having to fire their weapon. But many cops are military veterans—and vets are 23% more likely than non-vets to draw and shoot.

                Increasingly concerned about police shootings and the eroding of trust between cops and the people, some leaders are trying to promote a Guardian mentality instead. “The Guardian mindset prioritizes service over crime-fighting, and it values the dynamics of short-term encounters as a way to create long-term relationships,” writes Stoughton. “As a result, it instructs officers that their interactions with community members must be more than legally justified, they must also be empowering, fair, respectful, and considerate. The Guardian mindset emphasizes communication over commands, cooperation over compliance, and legitimacy over authority.”

                The priority for cops shouldn’t be that they get to go home at the end of every shift. They should make sure that the people they interact with are safe.

                This is common sense. It’s also an uphill battle.

                The militarization of domestic civilian policing is no longer a concern about a phenomenon in development. It is here. Police departments throughout the United States have acquired tanks, armored personnel carriers, automatic weapons and other military hardware transferred from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. SWAT teams, which originated in the military-style LAPD, are everywhere. Even little towns like Mt. Orab, Ohio (pop. 2,701) and Middleburg, Pennsylvania (pop. 1,363) have a SWAT outfit ready to take on bands of heavily-armed goons in case a 1980s action movie inexplicably comes to life there.

                For Americans of a certain age, cops no longer dress or look like cops. The police carry stun grenades and semiautomatic pistols and rifles and wear Kevlar vests. They’re bulked up, obviously on steroids and certainly no stranger to the weight room. Their hair is cropped short, military style. They’re scary and they mean to be.

                There’s a reason they look like that. One out of five police officers is a military veteran. Police brass love vets. So even cops recruited from the civilian population learn to emulate that military look and swagger.

                Federal programs encourage and even mandate preferential treatment of vets by police departments when looking for recruits. But this is exactly the wrong direction. Trained to have an authoritarian approach to interactions with civilians and frequently the victims of PTSD, veterans who become policemen are more likely to resort to force, less interested in deescalation and more likely to mentally deteriorate and even to commit suicide while on duty.

                As of this writing this story is still developing, but I would not be surprised to learn that the 35-year-old officer involved in the Fort Worth shooting was a vet.

                Police officers have the power of life and death over us. They have discretion to harm us through less dramatic interactions like issuing us traffic infractions that can cost us thousands of dollars. The potential for abuse or poor judgment requires that police officers be selected from among those members of our society who are least interested in pushing around their fellow citizens. Aggressiveness should be considered a negative quality in police recruiting.

                As with any position in which the holder is vested with power, the paradox is that those who most want the job are those who should least be permitted to hold it. It should almost be a reverse draft: the less you want to be a cop, the better qualified you are for the job.

                I would fire every single police officer in the United States and suggest that if they want to come back they reapply for their positions under completely different guidelines. I would take away guns from most policemen – they simply don’t need them – and replace semiautomatic pistols with traditional revolvers as the standard sidearm. No more military gear, no more bulletproof vests. Return the tanks to the Pentagon. And I would put an end to recruiting from the military.

                Warrior cops don’t make us safer. They’re loose cannons who need psychiatric counseling, not guns.

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

    The Impeachment of Trump Is a Deep-Democratic Coup Against Elizabeth Warren

    Is Nancy Pelosi using impeachment to mess up Elizabeth Warren?

    Some Republicans see the Ukraine/Biden impeachment inquiry as a deep-state coup attempt against President Trump. Some progressives are beginning to scratch the surface of an alternative, but equally cynical, analysis that I think leftists ought to consider:
    The impeachment of Donald Trump is a DNC/centrist coup attempt against progressives inside the Democratic Party.
    Democrats could have launched impeachment proceedings over any number of more compelling issues: Trump’s child separation policy at the border, the Muslim travel ban, emoluments, the president’s erratic behavior on social media. Why the Ukraine/Biden affair?
    The House inquiry is hardly ideal from a framing perspective. The only conceivable reason that the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma hired Vice President Biden’s screw-up drug addict alcoholic son, with zero experience in the energy sector, to sit on its board of directors for $50,000 a month was that he was the vice president’s son. Vox notes that “the situation constituted the kind of conflict of interest that was normally considered inappropriate in Washington.” Pre-impeachment, no one knew about this sleaze.
    Knowing that his worthless son was working a no-show “job” there for a company brazenly trying to buy his influence, Vice President Biden ought to have been the last Obama Administration official to call the president of Ukraine about anything. Democratic leaders, corporatists to a man and firmly on team Biden, nonetheless are aware that their impeachment inquiry risks exposing their preferred candidate to the kind of scrutiny that can lose an election.
    Biden apologists like the New York Times’ resident conservative columnist Ross Douthat are furiously spinning the argument that Americans should ignore Biden’s corruption to focus on Trump’s worse corruption. “Hypocrisy is better than naked vice, soft corruption is better than the more open sort, and what the president appears to have done in leaning on the Ukrainian government is much worse than Hunter Biden’s overseas arrangements,” argues the Dout. But impeachment is a political, not a legal (or legalistic) process. We knew what Trump was when we elected him; this point goes to the president.
    So why go after Trump over Ukraine/Biden and not, say, the fact that he’s nuts?
    Risks aside, the Democrats’ Ukraine investigation—not successfully, I think, but anyway, it tries—to rescue Biden’s flagging campaign by transforming him into a victim. Liberals love victim narratives.
    And now the crux: Elizabeth Warren. When Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry, the self-styled progressive from Massachusetts was rising in the polls so fast that many analysts, me included, believed that she had become the most likely nominee. I still do. That goes double following Bernie Sanders’ heart attack, which fuels concerns about his age.
    As impeachment proceedings do, the current effort to sanction Trump—remember, odds of getting 67 senators to vote to remove him from office are exceedingly long—will dominate news coverage as long as they go on. It’s going to be impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, 24-7.
    The drone of impeachment will eclipse Warren’s remarkably disciplined campaign. She has a plan for everything but the media won’t cover them. Warren trails Biden on name recognition; how will voters get to know her? I’d be spitting bullets if I were her campaign manager.
    As I’ve written for The Wall Street Journal, progressive ideas are dominating the current presidential campaign cycle on the Democratic side. Most of the top candidates have endorsed Bernie Sanders’ key 2016 promises: free college, Medicare for All, $15 minimum wage. Nearly three out of four Democratic voters self-identify as progressives.
    Bernie lost the Battle of 2016 to Hillary Clinton but he won the war. Corporatists still control the DNC but the vast majority of Democrats lean left. Before Biden entered the 2020 campaign it seemed clear that four decades of Third Way/Democratic Leadership Council/New Democrats/Clintonite rule of the party was coming to an end. A progressive, either Sanders or Warren, would almost certainly be the nominee.
    Biden’s campaign is about one thing: blocking progressives.
    Samuel Moyn, interviewed in Jacobin, sort of gets it. “[Democratic Congressman] Adam Schiff and many others are not concerned about saving the Democratic Party from its historical errors, including its own disaster in 2016,” Moyn says. “If impeachment becomes a distraction from that much more pressing campaign to save the Democratic Party for the Left, then it will have been a disaster.”
    What better way for moderates to recapture control of the Democratic party than by impeaching Donald Trump? The impeachment brigade has progressive allies like AOC’s “squad.” But the pro-impeachment Democrats who are getting airtime on MSNBC, unofficial broadcast organ of the Democratic Party, are the centrist/DNC “national security Democrats.” (Note the new/old branding. Scoop Jackson, call your office.)
    Impeaching Trump may not be a fiendishly clever conspiracy to recapture the Democratic Party from the left. It may simply work out that way—dumb luck for dumb corporatists. Regardless, pro-impeachment progressives are dupes.
    Why impeach Trump when it seems so unlikely to result in his removal from office? Why risk energizing and further unifying the Republican Party?
    As their backing of Hillary over the more popular Bernie in 2016 showed, the old DLC cabal is more interested in getting rid of the progressives in their own party than in defeating Donald Trump. Impeachment may not nominate, much less elect, Joe Biden. But it just might neutralize Elizabeth Warren.
    (Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

    The New York Times Called a Famous Cartoonist an Anti-Semite. Repeatedly. They Didn’t Ask Him for Comment.

    Image result for cartoonist antonio cartoon

    The cartoon by António Moreira Antunes that prompted the perpetual ban on political art in the New York Times.

                Earlier this year the Portuguese cartoonist António Moreira Antunes drew one of the most controversial political cartoons in history. His cartoon about U.S.-Israeli relations sparked so much controversy that The New York Times, whose international edition published it in April, decided to fire its two staff cartoonists, neither of whom had anything to do with it. Then the Times permanently banned all editorial cartooning.

                Antunes took the most flak from the Times itself, as it furiously backpedaled from its own editorial decision to publish his cartoon. In five news stories and editorials, the Newspaper of Record unreservedly described Antunes’ cartoon as anti-Semitic. American media outlets followed the Times’ lead.

                “I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m anti-Zionist,” Antunes told me. “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am in favor of two countries and I am against all annexations made by Israel.” The Times censored Antunes’ side of the story from its readers.

                Was Antunes’ cartoon, a metaphorical illustration depicting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog leading a blind President Trump, anti-Semitic? That question is both inherently subjective and eminently debatable. “The cartoon is not anti-Semitic, but many political and religious sectors classify any criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitic,” Antunes said in an interview.

                Pro-Israel groups disagreed. On the other hand, many cartoonists thought there was nothing wrong with it.

                But that’s not how the Times covered it. In article after article, Antunes’ cartoon was described as anti-Semitic. It was an objective truth. No one could doubt the cartoon’s anti-Semitism more than the fact that Washington is the capital of the United States.

                “Times Apologizes for Publishing Anti-Semitic Cartoon,” read the headline on April 28th.

                Not “allegedly anti-Semitic.”

                Not “cartoon criticized as anti-Semitic.”

                In an April 30th editorial, the paper called Antunes’ work “an appalling political cartoon” and “an obviously bigoted cartoon.” It explained: “The cartoon was chosen from a syndication service by a production editor who did not recognize its anti-Semitism.” Not “its possible anti-Semitism.”

                Two more articles on the subject appeared on May 1st: “Times Disciplines Editor and Cancels Cartoon Contract Over Anti-Semitic Drawing” (we don’t know what that discipline entailed, but unlike the cartoonist, the editor wasn’t fired) and “After the Publication of an Anti-Semitic Cartoon, Our Publisher Says We’re Committed to Making Changes.” The text of both pieces described the cartoon as self-evidently anti-Semitic.

                On June 10th a Times article announced the end of political cartooning in the Gray Lady. Antunes’ cartoon, the Times stated flatly, contained “anti-Semitic imagery.”

                Accusing a political cartoonist of anti-Semitism is as serious as it gets. So something jumped out at me as I read the Times’ repeated characterizations of Antunes’ cartoon as anti-Semitic, so devoid of mitigating language: where was his response?

                “The New York Times never contacted me at any time,” Antunes now says.

                I reached out to the Times about this; I asked why they didn’t talk to him and how the paper made the determination that Antunes’ cartoon was anti-Semitic. James Bennet, the editorial page editor who banned cartoons and presumably wrote the editorials, did not reply to my repeated queries. (I gave him nearly a week to do so.) Neither did two reporters who authored pieces about Antunes.

                I did hear back from Stacy Cowley, who wrote the April 28th piece. “I dug around online and was unable to find any contact information for Mr. Antunes,” Cowley explained. “He has no publicly posted contact information that I could find, and as of the date I wrote my article, he had not publicly commented to any other news outlets about his cartoon. (Had he done so, I would have linked to and quoted his comments.)” Cowley said she tried to reach the editors of Antunes’ home paper in Portugal. She noted that she was working on a tight deadline.

                I reached Antunes via Facebook; he replied via email.

                Contacting the subject of a news story for comment is Journalism 101, a basic ethos taught to students at high school newspapers. That goes double when the article is critical.

                “Few writers need to be reminded that we seek and publish a response from anyone criticized in our pages,” the Times says in its Guidelines on Integrity. “But when the criticism is serious, we have a special obligation to describe the scope of the accusation and let the subject respond in detail. No subject should be taken by surprise when the paper appears, or feel that there was no chance to respond.” Given the gravity of the criticism leveled against Antunes, the Times appears to have fallen woefully short of its own standards.

                OK, Cowley was on deadline. What about the other articles? They appeared days later. One ran six weeks later. Antunes isn’t a recluse—he’s one of the most prominent cartoonists in Europe. I found him. So did other newspapers.

                The Times could have contacted the New York-based syndicate from which it bought Antunes’ cartoon; the syndicate has his contact information, as they do of all their contributors.

                Though scarred by his experience, Antunes says that he has not lost business. “The U.S. media” he says, “are prisoners of political correctness, right-wing turning [sic] and social media.” Europe, he says, is more tolerant.

                What’s clear is that the Times threw its cartoonist under the bus in a shockingly cavalier fashion—a practice that has become so common that it’s contributing to the imminent extinction of political cartooning.

                The Times owes Antunes an apology. They owe the two fired cartoonists their jobs back, along with back pay. Political cartoons should resume their rightful place in the paper.

                Finally, the Times owes its readers an assurance that they will never again succumb to the siren call of “fake news” as part of an ethically-challenged witch hunt.

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

    Rall v LA Times Remanded to the Court of Appeal

    The California Supreme Court has remanded my defamation and wrongful termination lawsuit against the then-LAPD-owned LA Times to the Court of Appeal with instructions to reconsider their previous ruling against me in light of the new precedent set by Wilson v CNN.

    This is the usual course of action in these situations.

    Oral arguments are currently scheduled for February 8, 2020.

    The LA Times had requested the high court to dismiss my case. This is a setback for them.

    Left, Center and Right: We’re All in Denial About Climate Change

    main article image The political left, center and right do share something in common in today’s polarized America: we’re all in denial. The first step in 12-step programs begins with admitting that you have a problem for a reason: you can’t tackle a challenge whose existence you refuse to acknowledge. “From a psychoanalytical viewpoint, denial is a pathological, ineffective defense mechanism,” doctors M.S. Vos and J.C. de Haes observed in their 2006 study of cancer patients. A stunning 47% of the patients they polled denied that they had cancer! Denial reduced their chances of seeking treatment and then following through.

     “On the other hand,” Vos and de Haes observed, “according to the stress and coping model, denial can be seen as an adaptive strategy to protect against overwhelming events and feelings.” Denial lets you feel better.

     We think of climate change denial as a right-wing phenomenon. Indeed, only 56% of Republicans accept the scientific consensus that the earth is heating up; fewer still believe that humans are responsible, compared to 92% of Democrats who agree with scientists.

     Those who deny that climate change is real are engaging in what psychologists call “simple denial.” But those on the left aren’t much better. Liberals who think global warming is real often resort to “transference denial”: they blame the right and corporate polluters even though we’re all responsible. The scale of the climate crisis and the level of sacrifice and disruption that would be necessary to mitigate it feels overwhelming. A widely-reported analysis predicted that human civilization will collapse in 30 years. Others say it’s already too late to save ourselves.

     “We’re doomed,” predicts Mayer Hillman, a senior fellow emeritus at University of Westminster’s Policy Studies Institute. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

      He’s probably right.

     Bernie Sanders recently proposed the most ambitious assault on greenhouse gas emissions ever floated in U.S. politics, a $16.3 trillion plan to transition out of carbon-based fuels by 2050. By that time, though, we’ll be dead.

     As aggressive as Sanders’ plan is, it doesn’t go nearly far enough or fast enough. Yet Republicans and some Democrats say it’s too expensive. No one in corporate media is taking Sanders’ idea seriously. It’s stillborn.

     Liberals post their concern to social media. Some even attend protest marches. But they’re hardly acting like we face an existential crisis.

     The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told world leaders: “I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act.”

     Panic? Our “leaders” don’t give a crap. They’re too bought and too stupid to act.

     The bird population in the U.S. has collapsed by 29%—a total of 2.9 billion fewer birds—over the last 50 years. During that same period we lost half the world’s fish. Insects are on the way out too. “No insects equals no food, [which] equals no people,” says Dino Martins, an entomologist at Kenya’s Mpala Research Centre.

     None of this should come as a surprise. We were warned. “The oceans are in danger of dying,” Jacques Cousteau said in 1970. Life in the oceans had diminished by 40 percent in the previous 20 years.

     If you really believe that the planet is becoming uninhabitable, if you think you are about to die, you don’t march peacefully through the streets holding signs and chanting slogans begging the corrupt scoundrels who haven’t done a damn thing for decades to wake up and do something. You identify the politicians and corporate leaders who are killing us, you track them down and you use whatever force is necessary to make them stop. Nothing less than regime change stands a chance of doing the job.

     Nothing else—the struggle for income equality, gun control, abortion—matters as much as attacking pollution and climate change.

     Anything short of revolution and the abolition of consumer capitalism is “minimizational denial“: admitting the problem while downplaying its severity. Anything short of a radical retooling of the global political system that establishes state control of the economy with environmental impact as our first, second and third priorities is a waste of time that dooms the human race to extinction.

     There is no middle ground, no splitting the difference, no compromise. “Good enough” isn’t good enough. Mere progress won’t cut it. Human survival is a pass-fail class. The final exam is tomorrow morning—early tomorrow morning.

     Time to get serious, godammit.

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

     

    Will Clinton Democrats Vote for a Progressive Against Trump?

    George McGovern. (Associated Press) ** FILE **The campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination appears to be an exception. Once again the contest appears to be coming down to a choice between a “centrist” establishmentarian corporatist with institutional backing (Joe Biden) and a left-leaning populist progressive (Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders) preferred by Democrats, of whom three out of four voters self-identify as progressives. In 2016 the DNC smooshed their thumbs all over the scale, brazenly cheating the insurgent progressive Bernie Sanders so they could install their preferred choice, the right-leaning Hillary Clinton. They won the battle but lost the war. Fewer than 80% of Democrats who supported Bernie in the primaries voted for Hillary in the general election. Disgruntled progressive voters—especially those who sat at home on election day—cost her the race.

     Who’s to blame for President Trump? Democrats have been arguing about this ever since.

     Centrists call Bernie’s backers sore losers and say leftists are untrustworthy supporters of a man who never officially declared fealty to the Democratic Party, and myopic beyond understanding. Why didn’t progressives understand that nothing was more important than defeating the clear and present danger to the republic represented by Donald Trump?

     Progressives counter that after decades of dutifully falling in line after their candidates fell to primary-time centrist-favoring chicanery—Ted Kennedy to a sleazy last-minute change in delegate rules, Howard Dean to a media-engineered audio smear, John Edwards to censorship—the party’s sabotage of Bernie was one crushed leftie dream too far. Democrats, progressives say, had to be taught a lesson. The left isn’t a wing, it’s the base. Anyway, who’s to say that Trump is so much worse than Hillary would have been? At least Trump doesn’t seem to share her lust for war.

     The fight for the Democratic Party matters because it informs dynamics as well as the strategic logic of the current primary clash. At this writing pollsters are calling it a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders, but this campaign is really a repeat of 2016: Biden vs. {Warren or Sanders}.

     (If Warren or Sanders drops out it’s a safe bet that the surviving progressive receives the exiting contestant’s endorsement and his or her voters.)

     Democrats tell pollsters they care about electability, i.e. choosing a candidate with a strong chance of defeating Trump. But who is that, Biden or Warren/Sanders?

     In current theoretical head-to-head matchup polls, Biden beats Trump by 12 points, Warren wins by 5 and Sanders bests the president by 7. But it’s a long way to November 2020. At this point these numbers are meaningless except to say that there’s a credible case for any of the top three as viable challengers to Trump.

     2016 clearly illustrates the risk of nominating Biden: progressives probably won’t vote for him. Some might even defect to Trump, as did a substantial number of Bernie voters in 2016.

     If anything, Biden is even less appealing to the progressive base than Hillary was. Clinton offered the history-making potential of a first woman president and a sharp mind; Biden is another old white man, one whose repeated verbal stumbles are prompting pundits to wonder aloud whether he is suffering from dementia. Assuming he survives another 14 months without winding up in memory care, Biden will probably lose to Trump.

     If Biden secures the nomination, centrists will again argue that nothing matters more than beating Trump. I see no sign that progressives will agree.

    The real question is one that no one is asking: what if Warren or Sanders gets the nod? Will centrists honor their “blue no matter who” slogan if the shoe is finally on the other foot and the Democratic nominee hails from the left flank of the party?

     There isn’t enough data to say one way or the other.

     The party’s silent war on Bernie Sanders broke out into the open earlier this year. “I believe a gay Midwestern mayor can beat Trump. I believe an African-American senator can beat Trump. I believe a western governor, a female senator, a member of Congress, a Latino Texan or a former vice president can beat Trump,” said Jon Cowan, president of then right-wing Democratic organization Third Way, said in June. “But I don’t believe a self-described democratic socialist can win.” On the other hand, he is the “second choice” of most Biden supporters.

     As Sanders stalls at the 20% mark, self-described capitalist Elizabeth Warren continues to receive more media coverage and thus increasing popular support. But would Bidenites show up for her in November? No one knows.

     Progressives haven’t had a chance at the brass ring since November 1972 when George Mc Govern suffered one of the unfairest losses in American electoral history, to a warmongering sleazeball who was forced to resign less than three years later over a Watergate scandal that had already broken out. It was a bitter conclusion to a campaign that was in many ways ahead of its time. McGovern wanted universal healthcare. Like Andrew Yang, McGovern proposed a universal basic income to lift up the poor.

     Even after the party convention centrist Democratic leaders like John Connally formed Democrats for Nixon, an oxymoron if there ever was one, to try to undermine McGovern’s candidacy. It’s hard to imagine their modern-day counterparts resorting to such brazen treason. More likely, they would withhold their enthusiastic support for a progressive like Sanders or Warren.

     If Biden withdraws from the race—a real possibility given his obviously deteriorating mental state and the long arc to next summer’s nominating convention—centrists will have to choose between four more years of Donald Trump and atoning for the sins of 1972.

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

    Once Again in Afghanistan, the U.S. Proves It Can’t Be Trusted

    Image result for taliban talks

    The first draft of this column came not to bury but to praise Donald Trump. I planned to applaud the president’s peace initiative with the Taliban, his strategy of ignoring the corrupt and discredited puppet regime Bush installed in Kabul and his desire to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. This was a move I have been almost alone in promoting since the U.S. idiotically invaded the country in 2001 and I congratulate Trump for having the courage to unwind Bush and Obama’s mistakes. The Afghan people should be allowed to shape their future free of imperialist interference.

    But then, hours before representatives of the Taliban which controls about half of Afghanistan were set to board a plane to Washington where they were scheduled to meet with Trump at Camp David, the president canceled their visit and scuttled years of progress toward ending America’s longest war, which has killed more than 2,300 U.S. servicemen and at least 30,000 Afghans. “He claimed that it was because the Taliban had been behind a recent attack that killed an American soldier,” reported Politico.

    There is, of course, no requirement that combatants observe a ceasefire during peace negotiations. Richard Nixon’s “Christmas bombing” campaign in 1972, which killed 1,600 Vietnamese civilians, was a U.S. attempt to soften up North Vietnam at the upcoming Paris peace talks. The United States has killed numerous Taliban soldiers throughout 2019.

    “This [decision to scuttle peace talks] will lead to more losses to the U.S.,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman. “Its credibility will be affected, its anti-peace stance will be exposed to the world, losses to lives and assets will increase.” He is right.

    Few Americans pay attention to Afghanistan. Fewer still are aware of America’s history of proving itself an untrustworthy diplomatic partner in that war-torn country—a tradition that Trump’s fickleness continues. “The Taliban have never trusted American promises; [Trump’s] volte-face will only deepen that mistrust,” observes The Economist.

    In the late 1990s Afghanistan was the world’s leading producer of opium. The U.S. and its European allies were seeking to mitigate a heroin epidemic and the Clinton Administration was negotiating terms for a pipeline to carry oil and natural gas from Central Asia via Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean. So, even though the U.S. had imposed sanctions on the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and denied them diplomatic recognition, Clinton paid the Taliban $114 million in 2000 to encourage them to ban the farming of opium poppies. Bush followed up with $43 million in 2001.

    For the most part the Taliban held up their side of the bargain. Their ban on poppy cultivation reduced production of exported heroin by about 65%. Considering Afghanistan’s primitive infrastructure, poor communications and fractious political culture during an ongoing civil war, that was as much as the U.S. could have hoped for.

    But tensions grew between the Taliban and the U.S. over the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project. The U.S. tried to lowball the Taliban with below-market transit fees, the Taliban refused and American negotiators became angry. “Accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs,” a U.S. negotiator snapped at her Taliban counterparts at a meeting in Islamabad. It was August 2001, three months after Secretary of State Colin Powell paid the Taliban $43 million and weeks before 9/11.

    It’s impossible to know for certain why the U.S. chose to invade Afghanistan, which had nothing to do with the attacks. The hijackers were recruited from and funded by Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan, where the terrorists were trained. Central Asia watchers speculated that the U.S. was more interested in controlling the then-only pipeline carrying the world’s largest untapped energy reserves than catching bin Laden.

    We do know what the Taliban took away from the experience. They cut a deal, did their part and got bombed, invaded and occupied in return.

    Both sides say they are open to resuming talks. If and when they do, the Taliban—who, after all, didn’t invade anyone and are defending their territory from foreign aggression—hold the moral high ground over the United States.

    Heckuva job, Donnie.

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