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.)

 

Billionaires Who Promise to Save Journalism and Then Default: It Ought To Be a Crime.

Image result for first look media

Let’s talk about fraud: “a person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities,” the dictionary calls it.

Let’s also discuss breach of contract. “A breach of contract occurs when the promise of the contract is not kept, because one party has failed to fulfill their agreed-upon obligations, according to the terms of the contract. Breaching can occur when one party fails to deliver in the appropriate time frame, does not meet the terms of the agreement, or fails to perform at all,” says a random legal website I googled. Sounds right.

Pierre Omidyar cofounded eBay. He became a billionaire at age 31 when eBay went public. Forbes says he’s now worth $12.8 billion.

As you know, journalism is in trouble. So it sounded almost too good to be true when Omidyar lured Glenn Greenwald, who famously received the Edward Snowden stash of secret documents that proved the U.S. government is spying on us, away from the UK Guardian in order to helm a new, fearless, left-leaning journalism organization by the name of First Look Media.

Best of all, Omidyar promised to fix the biggest problem faced by 21st century journalists: shrinking budgets. First Look Media, Omidyar said, would get a whopping $250 million in order to support “independent journalists in a way that leverages their work to the greatest extent possible, all in support of the public interest.”

Geld macht frei.

Watch this crazy announcement video from 2013. No, really, watch.

First Look Media, Omidyar promises in his video, would feature a “flagship” online magazine—The Intercept, edited by Greenwald—that would “cover news and stories from entertainment and sports to politics and business.” In addition, he pledged, there would be “a family of digital magazines.” (Spoiler: the sports, business and entertainment stuff never materialized.)

One of First Look’s “verticals,” in publishing vernacular, was to be called Racket, “a hard-hitting, satirical magazine in the style of the old Spy” to be edited by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. (Disclosure: I met with Taibbi to discuss the possibility of working for him. Another disclosure: I talked to a reporter at The Intercept about covering my lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times. He was excited but went cold after he pitched it to his editors.)

According to Taibbi and also Greenwald, Taibbi chafed under Omidyar’s incessant micromanaging on everything from whom he could hire to where they would sit. Taibbi quit and returned to Rolling Stone. That was the end of Racket.

Then the fickle billionaire pulled the plug on his other playthings. “Omidyar made clear that there were no plans to launch any more digital magazines in the near term,” Greenwald wrote in 2014. First Look did pick up the cartoon site The Nib in 2016 and added the nonfiction storytelling publication Topic in 2017, only to cancel both and fire their staffs as part of “cost-cutting moves” in 2019.

Omidyar did not explain why an organization backed by a man worth $12.8 billion needs to cut costs, nor how he reconciles his fickleness with that I’ve-got-your-back video. Really, watch it! (To put this in terms a normal person can understand, if you’re worth $500,000, Omidyar’s $250 million pledge is equivalent to $9,000. If you have $500,000 and you can’t spare $9,000 you’re doing something wrong.)

Earlier this year, Omidyar decided to shut down First Look’s maintenance of the Snowden archive. Given that that trove was the company’s original raison d’être, alongside its dedication to investigative journalism, it left loyalists like First Look cofounder Laura Poitras scratching their heads. In March the company laid off its team of researchers.

The point of First Look, remember, was to give good reporters plenty of cash so they could focus on writing and research.

According to Columbia Journalism Review Omidyar has made good on just $90 million of his $250 million commitment. Which is still a lot of money, but it won’t last forever when you’re burning up cash paying exorbitant wages to editors like Greenwald. He collected $1.6 million between 2014 and 2017 while entry-level grunts are making do with $55,000 in a Manhattan where one-bedroom apartments go for $3,500 a month.

Left-leaning journalism types have been whispering about the shenanigans at First Look for years. But few are willing to speak out in public. Omidyar is powerful and wealthy. What if you might want to work for him someday?

Billionaires are purchasing social good will in the hope that they will be “credited with the accomplishments or qualities” of contributing to the “public good,” as Omidyar says in his over-the-top video.

And I’m fine with that—as long as they don’t breach their contract with the public. Omidyar promised us a passel of verticals/online magazines. Where are they? He promised journalists virtually unlimited freedom to investigate, travel, whatever it takes to do their jobs. Budget cuts and mass layoffs are a clear violation of that pledge. He cheated us. He should be held accountable.

Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong is another billionaire, this one from biotech, who has burnished his image as a savior of American journalism by purchasing The Los Angeles Times, the nation’s fourth-largest newspaper. Soon-Shiong is purportedly worth $7.1 billion.

But there’s already a stink, and I’m not talking about the smell of jet fuel raining down on the Times’ new low-budget office building in El Segundo, directly under the flight approach to LAX. The Times previous home was an art deco gem downtown on Times-Mirror Square. Why, one wonders, can’t a man worth $7.1 billion shell out the $50 million-ish cost of a downtown office building rather than move reporters a three-hour drive away from some parts of the city they’re supposed to be covering? (That’s $3,500 for someone worth $500,000.) Why do so many of his new hires skew so young, Millennial and thus so cheaply five-digit?

Despite slavishly sucking up to him in public statements, the union representing Times employees has been rewarded with contempt by Soon-Shiong, who refuses to negotiate in good faith.

Jeff Bezos, self-proclaimed savior of The Washington Post, has a similar attitude toward workers at his newspaper.

I don’t have a problem with derps derping, even when they’re running major news outlets. What seriously pisses me off is when those derps are billionaires who market themselves as saviors to be admired, when they’re anything but.

(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.)

 

Freedom of the Press? Not in the U.S.

Image result for reporter arrested

            The United States ranks 48th among nations for press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders. Since few other countries have the equivalent of our First Amendment, learning that we rank below Botswana and Slovenia may come as a surprise.

Mostly the organization pins this dismal state of affairs on Trump’s attacks on the news media. They reference the White House’s revocation of CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press card, the president’s “fake news” and “enemy of the people” jibes and his tacit approval of the grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by the government of Saudi Arabia. “At least one White House correspondent has hired private security for fear of their life after receiving death threats, and newsrooms throughout the country have been plagued by bomb threats and were the recipients of other potentially dangerous packages, prompting journalism organizations to reconsider the security of their staffs in a uniquely hostile environment,” reports RWB. (Cry me a river! I’ve received hundreds of death threats.)

Like most other mainstream analyses of the state of press, RWB focuses on how easy it is for large, corporate-owned media conglomerates with establishmentarian political orientations to do their jobs.

Independent journalists, especially those whose politics are left of the Democrats or right of the Republicans, have much bigger problems than deep-pocketed mega-conglomerates like CNN.

No consideration of freedom of the press in the U.S. is complete without a hard look at the case of Julian Assange. The founder and publisher of WikiLeaks is rotting in an English prison, awaiting extradition to the United States for possession and dissemination of classified information—exactly what The New York Times did when it published the Pentagon Papers and the Edward Snowden revelations. He is being “treated worse than a murderer, he is isolated, medicated,” says journalist John Pilger, who recently visited him. Incredibly, corporate media is siding with the Trump Administration, not merely ignoring Assange but mocking him and accusing him of treason (which is impossible, since he’s not American).

Censorship is insidious; readers and viewers can’t know what they’re not told. Almost as sinister as the persecution of Assange is the wholesale erasure of left-wing politics from U.S. news media. 43% of Americans tell pollsters they want the U.S. to become a socialist country. 36% of registered Democrats currently support self-described “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, whose campaign promises closely align to Sanders’.

The nation’s 1,000-plus newspapers employ countless Democrats and Republicans. But there isn’t a single staff columnist or editorial cartoonist who agrees with that 43% of the public that socialism would be better than capitalism. There isn’t a single one who says he or she supports Sanders or Warren.

Watch CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews and the other cable news outlets. Once in a very long while you might catch a token leftist joining a yakfest. You’ll never see socialist get a gig as a regular contributor, much less be asked to host a show. If you don’t think it’s weird that 43% of the country’s population is being censored, I don’t know what to tell you.

Pervasive among both corporate and independent journalists is self-censorship. Apologists say that freedom of the press doesn’t include the right to be published, and that’s true. Because journalists are like everyone else and can’t survive without earning money, however, the real-world practical effect of having to earn a living is that reporters and pundits have to watch what they say lest they become unemployable pariahs like I was after 9/11. “Sorry, man,” an editor I considered a friend told me after I asked him for work at his business magazine, “you’re radioactive.”

The Washington Post and other corporate news companies ridiculed Bernie Sanders’ recent assertion that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ownership of the Post influences its coverage. As Sanders noted, it’s not like Bezos calls Post editors to tell them what to print and what to censor.

Self-censorship is subtle. Post executive editor Marty Baron is technically correct when he retorts that “Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence.” But he’s dodging the meat of the matter. Baron and other Post editors know who their bosses are: Bezos and, more generally, his allies in the corporate ruling class. No matter how much they protest that they can follow any lead and print anything they want, that knowledge of who butters their bread informs every move they make. It’s why, when the editorial page editor sorts through the day’s nationally syndicated political cartoons, he never ever publishes one from a left-wing political orientation, no matter how well-written or well-drawn it is. It’s why, when they’re hiring new staffers, they never hire a leftie. They’re smart enough not to bite the hand that feeds them. It’s also why the person making that hiring decision is not himself or herself one of the 43%.

I’m more audacious. Yet I too know not to go too far.

I’ve learned that I can draw a cartoon or write a column criticizing “free trade” agreements without fear of getting fired or assassinated. There is also no fear that it will be published by a corporate newspaper—so why bother? Over the long run, I have to give editors material they want to publish; if I send out too much stuff about a verboten topic like free trade I’ll lose clients.

Most people who hear about my defamation lawsuit against the Los AngelesTimes support me. But most people don’t hear about it for a simple reason: when one member of the press is besieged—especially when it’s justified—the others circle the wagons. Reporters for The Washington Post, The New York Times and fake-left outfits like The Intercept contacted me eager to write about how the LAPD pension fund bought the Los Angeles Times in 2014 and then ordered the paper to fire me because I criticized the police in my cartoons. (It’s still legal for the the cops to buy a newspaper.) Invariably they went silent after talking to their editors.

Corporate gangsters stick together.

As I said, I’m not that brave. My editor didn’t tell me about the LAPD deal with the Times. I assume she didn’t know. If she had called and said “hey, lay off the police, they own us now, draw about something else,” I would have. I have to make a living.

48th? When it comes to press freedom, the U.S. is benefiting from grade inflation.

(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.)

As Long as Enemies of the State Keep Dying Before Trial, No One Should Trust the State

Image result for jeffrey epstein ambulance            There is no other way to say it: it was a political assassination.

Osama bin Laden was unarmed. SEALs captured him alive. Following brazenly illegal orders from Washington, they executed him. “The [Obama] administration had made clear to the military’s clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead,” The Atlantic reported on May 4, 2011.

State-controlled media outlets like The Atlantic claimed that Obama was desperate to avoid a trial that would give the Al Qaeda leader a “high-profile platform for spreading his extremist views.” Left unsaid, as so much is in the American steno-journalism reminiscent of the Soviet Union, was a more pressing reason to silence the Saudi scion.

As much as the families of 9/11 victims craved justice, it was infinitely more important to the U.S. political establishment to deny bin Laden an opportunity to publicly expound on his ties to the CIA and the CIA-funded Pakistani intelligence agency ISI when they were training and funding the “Afghan Arabs” who fought Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Letting people learn that 9/11 would likely never have happened if not for the CIA would have been…awkward.

Such is the fate of enemies of the state.

Last week, not so much an enemy but a man whose existence had become inconvenient, not exactly to the state but certainly to a cabal of powerful men including a former president as well as the sitting one, joined bin Laden in the kingdom of the dead.

The official narrative of billionaire accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s death shifted faster than a New York subway rider when a homeless guy plops down next to them on a hot day. First they said Epstein had been on suicide watch, then that he hadn’t. Prisons are full of cameras yet there’s still no video of Epstein’s death. Then, suicide watch or not, they claimed he’d been checked on every 30 minutes. Then more like every three hours. The medical examiner said his injuries were consistent with strangulation by a second person but then thought better of it and ruled Epstein’s convenient demise a suicide.

I tweeted the morning of Epstein’s passing: “Bill Clinton is the happiest man in America today.” Clinton flew on Epstein’s infamous “Lolita Express” private jet at least six times, including to such sex-tourism destinations as Thailand and Hong Kong. Perhaps he refrained from partaking of the underaged prostitutes and rape victims Epstein stands accused of procuring for his traveling companions. Whatever happened or didn’t, the Epstein-Clinton connection is sketchy as hell.

As is Epstein’s suicide—the first at the Manhattan Correctional Facility since 1998.

At this writing it seems unlikely that we’ll ever know who killed Epstein, whether it be himself or someone else. What we do know is that, if we take the government at its word, it was incompetent and negligent to an unfathomable extent. Being insanely stupid and lazy is its defense.

            Now we’re descending into the usual idiotic post-death-of-a-pain-in-the-ass debate between credulists (those who believe anything the government and its pet media say) and conspiracy theorists. Truth: no one knows anything. We weren’t there. The video was—but they deep-sixed that.

We don’t know how Epstein bit it but the fact of Epstein’s death tells us everything we need to know about America today. No matter what, Epstein died because the government let it happen. He was a ward of the state, the highest of high-profile prisoners, a man whose trial stood to expose extreme wrongdoing at the expense of numerous horribly violated victims, yet no one in charge took steps to make certain that he appeared at every hearing happy, healthy and alive.

The powers that be’s carelessness de minimis reflects their confidence that they shall never, ever, be held accountable for anything whatsoever.

So another man vanishes, few questions asked with many left unanswered—intentionally.

So it was with Moammar Khaddafi, the Libyan dictator who signed a deal with the U.S. to rid Libya of a nuclear program only to be blown up by one of Obama’s assassination drones lest he say too much about his relationship with the Bush administration.

So it was with Chris Dorner, the police officer who went on a shooting spree after he was fired by the LAPD, apparently in retaliation for reporting a fellow cop’s excessive force against a mentally-ill suspect, before being hunted down and killed in a cabin the police set ablaze with “pyrotechnic tear gas” cannisters.

So it was with Sandra Bland, the African-American woman beaten, jailed and supposedly suicided by the police for the crimes of failing to signal a lane change, sassiness and the likelihood she would have spoken out about being brutalized.

So it was with a bunch of Nazi war criminals who escaped judgment at Nuremberg.
So it was with Lee Harvey Oswald, whom the authorities couldn’t resist parading before reporters, without screening attendees like Jack Ruby for weapons.

More will die.

It’s better for those in charge.

(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.)