Everyone agrees that President Trump seems to have been exposed as unfit for office in the week of his rash assassination of a top Iranian general. But who is going to act? The public is scared because they know that protest doesn’t work and that it often turns protesters into targets of surveillance. Congress won’t act because they are cowards and are owned by major corporations. And the media won’t do anything for the same reason.
Democratic and many Republican voters share the same priorities in their lives. They want to live in a safer world. They want a real healthcare system, a cleaner planet, jobs that pay well, less poverty all around. So why is the Democratic Party singularly focused on impeaching President Trump over his attempt to influence the president of Ukraine?
The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is in its 17th year with no end in sight. The U.S. has killed a million Iraqis over the last 15 years. We’re killing Syrians, Yemenis and Somalis. None of the victims threatened us. We murdered them for fun and profit.
Some of the killers feel guilty. Twenty military veterans and active-duty personnel commit suicide each day.
Militarism is a gruesome sickness. Some people are trying to cure our country of this cancer. But pacifists are fighting an uphill battle.
On Sunday, October 23rd “About 1,500 women and allied men marched on the Pentagon on Sunday to demand an end to perpetual war and the funding of education, health care and other social needs instead,” reported Joe Lauria of the progressive website Consortium News.
Mainstream/corporate journalistic outlets memory-holed the event with a total media blackout.
One commenter on Facebook bemoaned national priorities: what does it say that so few attended the Women’s March on the Pentagon? More than 200,000 people crowded the Washington Mall for comedian Jon Stewart’s inane 2010 “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” a piss-take parody of protest, literally and by the definition of its organizers an apolitical march for nothing!
Cindy Sheehan, an activist who made national news by protesting her son’s death in the Iraq War at George W. Bush’s Texas ranch, responded on Facebook that people should show up rather than sit at home criticizing those who did on their computers.
Cindy is right. She usually is.
But apathy and laziness aren’t the main causes of low attendance at real, bona-fide Left protests and demonstrations (as opposed to coopted-by-the-Democratic Party marches like the annual January 20th Women’s Marches against Trump).
Our real problem is that there isn’t a real, bona-fide Left journalism outlet in the United States.
One that’s smart, i.e., well-managed. Not in the derpy leaderless consensus style that destroyed the Occupy movement, but top-down by brilliant Machiavellian can’t-be-bought leftist schemers who know how to motivate and build an organization.
One that’s well-funded. Not by some control-freak billionaire who can petulantly renege on his big promises after he loses interest or gets corrupted, but by generous ongoing crowdsourcing that guarantees editorial independence to an uncompromisingly left-wing team of editors with big budgets to hire kickass investigative reporters, back out-of-the-box journalists, humorists and editorialists. Give me $50 million a year (wonder if the person who won the $1.6 billion MegaMillions lottery is progressive?) and I could build and run an operation that could change the world. It’s not impossible: Bernie Sanders raised $100 million from small donors in one year.
One that’s entertaining. The way FoxNews and Rush Limbaugh are entertaining but MSNBC and Air America aren’t/weren’t. Because humor and entertainment are what attract new readers/listeners/watchers and keep loyalists coming back.
I only heard about the Women’s March on the Pentagon one day before. It was by happenstance. (I live in New York, six hours from DC, but like most people I can’t just drop everything and skip town with a night’s notice.)
I’ve been a leftie cartoonist and columnist for nearly three decades. Yet I have hardly ever received an email from a left-leaning organization inviting me to publicize or attend or cover a protest demonstration, or a press release explaining that one was about to occur. I’ve asked other pundits; they never hear from the Left either.
Meanwhile I’m constantly getting talking point lists, action memos, press releases and all sorts of sundry propaganda from right-wing organizations as well as the mainline Republican and Democratic party apparatuses. Which is all redundant because all that crap gets ample coverage on cable news, network news, talk radio, NPR, newspapers and news websites, not to mention social media.
I don’t need more junk email. Point is, my leftism-free inbox is a barometer of the state of the Left: disorganized and disconnected and incapable of broadcasting its message. If a protest march falls in the woods—or on the Washington Mall—does it make a sound? Not if the word doesn’t get out. Not if no one reports it after the fact.
Speaking for myself, I would push out events like the Women’s March on the Pentagon via my social media feeds if I knew about them in advance. I would attend some. I would cover some. I’m sure my left-leaning colleagues feel the same.
Grassroots organizing will never build into 1960s-level mass demonstrations without big, rich, smart, cool media distribution channels to give it space to breathe and expand.
First, we need a big-ass left-wing media group to educate people about what’s going on. You can’t expect people to get riled up about what the U.S. is doing in Yemen if they don’t know what’s going on there. Mainstream corporate media doesn’t cover the U.S. role in the proxy civil war.
Second, to redefine what’s “normal.” In the current media landscape, opposing war is abnormal. That message is subliminal: when’s the last time, during a foreign policy crisis, that a mainstream pundit suggested the U.S. simply stay out of it? A smart, well-funded, entertaining-as-hell media organization would provide an alternative to the establishment narrative. You can’t dream of peace if it’s not in your brain as a possibility in the first place.
Third, to showcase activism and direct action as feasible, fun and effective. 1,500 people is a good turnout for a wedding but a bit depressing if you drove hundreds of miles to attend a national protest demonstration. Movement-based media could get more people to rallies. It could frame such gatherings as exciting, fun and important. That framing would create real political pressure on the powers that be.
In the 1960s the corporate mainstream media allowed antiwar, pro-civil rights and other antiestablishment journalists and pundits to disseminate their views on TV (Cronkite criticizing the Vietnam War), on the opinion pages of major newspapers and in bestselling books. And they covered protests.
No more. The Left has been ruthlessly purged.
Not one single opinion writer or staff columnist or cartoonist employed by an American newspaper is a real, bonafide leftist—not a single one even supported Bernie Sanders (whose politics are basically McGovern in 1972 and was supported by half of Democrats) during the 2016 primaries.
Not one single TV or major radio talk show host is a real, bonafide leftist. None supported Bernie.
The same goes for “liberal” outlets like The Atlantic, Salon, Slate, etc.
It’s censorship. It’s systemic. It’s killing the Left.
Considering that it’s impossible for the Left to get coverage for anything, it’s a miracle that 1,500 people showed up for the Women’s March on the Pentagon.
If we had a real, smart, well-funded, organized media organization to publicize the news and the world from a socialist or communist viewpoint—an ideology shared by at least one out of three American voters overall and 57% of Democrats—there could easily have been 150,000 or 1,500,000.
(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.)
Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:
Next month Angelenos will head to the polls to pick close to half of the 15-member City Council that governs much of their day-to-day life.
Well, that’s a bit of a stretch.
Not all Angelenos will be showing up at the polls. Not even most of those registered to vote. Among that elite subset of Southern California residents, it would be surprising if even 1 out of 7 shows up to exercise the franchise that previous generations of Americans fought and died to obtain and retain.
“Some City Hall watchers expect another weak election turnout next month, perhaps establishing a new modern-day low. In the mayoral primary election in 2013, only about 1 in 5 registered city voters went to the polls. In the last non-mayoral City Council election — the most comparable to this year’s campaign cycle — turnout was a third less, about 14%,” reports Soumya Karlamangla of The Times.
As a better-educated, smarter friend of mine likes to point out, voting doesn’t make any difference. Literally. It’s simple logic: The only vote you can control is your own. (Insert joke here about Chicago, the Daley machine and the ability to summon the dead to key elections.) Since you only have one vote to cast, and the chance of an election being decided by a single vote is close to nil, your vote rarely affects the outcome.
Voting, if you do it, is a civic ritual. Like praying, you know that it really doesn’t work, but the act of participating in the ritual connects you to, in the case of voting, the government that purports to represent you. So when the candidate you voted for wins, you feel as if she really is there for you. Conversely, you can always point out that you voted for the other guy if the one who won does a terrible job.
Los Angeles’ amazing shrinking voter turnouts, however, could make every vote count to an extent that neither I nor my pal has previously had to consider. It’s simple math: The fewer people show up to vote, the more your vote matters. In a real, although undeniably weird way, it is in your individual interest – if you are a voter – for no one else to vote.
Behold a paradox of democracy: The fewer people participate, the more powerful the ballot box becomes for those who do.
Obama and Romney Ignore the #1 Issue
Don’t be apathetic, they tell us. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. But how can people get excited about a political campaign that doesn’t address the issues we care about most?
Polls show that Americans are more concerned about the economy than any other issue. That has been the case since Obama became president in 2009.
Ignoring the elephant in the room, neither Obama nor Romney have put forth credible plans for getting the unemployed back to work or getting raises for those who still have jobs—and forget about underemployment. (In the long run, America’s biggest jobs problem isn’t that workers don’t have enough skills, but that millions are working beneath their level of intelligence and educational attainment.)
Obama says he inherited a mess. He’s right. His supporters say climbing out of the hole created by the 2008 meltdown and Bush’s deficit spending will take time. Which is true. But Obama never proposed a jobs program—so he can’t claim that Republican Congressional meanies blocked him.
Bizarrely, the President doesn’t explicitly promise that the economy will get better if we reelect him. His reelection campaign is mostly backwards looking, pointing to his achievements so far: healthcare, pulling out of Iraq, the assassination of Osama bin Laden, and his unpopular bailout of the big banks. On the economy, his overall approach has been to counsel patience, while hoping for things to improve.
Say this for Mitt Romney: he doesn’t share the president’s reticence. “If I become president, you’re going to see an economic resurgence: manufacturing resurgence, high-tech, health care. You’re going to see this economy take off,” Romney told supporters in New Jersey last month. “And I say that because I know what I’m going to do, and I know what kind of impact it will have.”
Romney’s ads strike the same can-do tone. “By day 100, President Romney’s leadership brings new certainty to our economy, and the promise of new banking and high-tech jobs.”
How will this kickass FDR-like miracle transpire? Romney has put forth what John Cassidy of The New Yorker calls a “ragtag collection of proposals—59 of them, ranging from eliminating the inheritance tax, to capping federal spending at twenty per cent of GDP, to opening up America’s energy reserves for development [which have been] widely dismissed as inadequate by his fellow Republicans.”
Trickle-down redux. Warmed-over drill-baby-drill
Sarahcuda. A dash of Steve Forbes (remember him?). In short: not so whoa.
If I were Romney I’d be proposing a conservative-based jobs-growth agenda—i.e., one that puts money into the pockets of business. Tax incentives for employers to hire new workers. Federal subsidies for job training programs. Higher payroll deductions for corporations. Capital gains tax cuts conditioned on funds being invested into projects that generate new jobs.
Romney could shore up his party’s nativist base by promising to build an impenetrable fence along the border with Mexico and to crack down on undocumented workers.
Thanks to the Republican Congress, it would be easy for Obama to make the case to voters that he’s trying to create jobs. He could propose something bold and grand, a new WPA that directly employs 20 million Americans building high-speed rail lines, new bridges and tunnels, teachers, artists, you name it. Best of all, it’s a promise he wouldn’t have to keep. The GOP would block it—turning them into the obstructionists Democrats portray them as.
Obama could also pursue small-bore approaches to the jobs problem, such a “first fired, first rehired” law that requires large employers to offer new jobs to their first layoff victims. The United States should join European countries, which don’t set arbitrary time limits on unemployment benefits. Layoff victims shouldn’t lose their homes; a federal program should cover their rent or mortgage payments until they get back on their feet.
Would these ideas fix the economy? Maybe not. But they would certainly go a long way toward reversing the current toxic state of electoral politics, in which the major parties float irrelevant wedge issues in their perennial battle over two or three percent of the vote in a handful of swing states, by engaging citizens in the process.
Will either party push forward a credible solution to the economic crisis? Probably not. Which is a reflection of the system’s inability to reform itself, and a harbinger of revolutionary change to come.
(Ted Rall’s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com. This column originally appeared at NBCNews.com)
(C) 2012 TED RALL, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Why George III Would Be Jealous of Obama
The Phoenix bureau of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sold over 2,000 guns to operatives they believed to be working for Mexican drug cartels between 2006 and 2010. According to the ATF, “Operation Fast and Furious” was an attempt to track the weapons to higher level criminals.
Things went south—literally—when ATF guns began turning up at crime scenes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Now, as part of its investigation, the GOP-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is demanding that the Obama Administration turn over documents relevant to the botched ATF operation.
President Obama has refused, invoking “executive privilege.”
I put “executive privilege” in quotes because, like terms such as “enemy combatant,” it does not appear in law. Presidents of both parties—indeed, presidents of parties that no longer exist, all the way back to 1796—have asserted that the constitutional separation of powers grants the executive branch an “inherent” right to ignore subpoenas issued by Congress or the judiciary.
The standard argument is that compliance would reveal the internal deliberations of the President, his Cabinet officers and other government officials who require the presumption of privacy in order to engage in internal debates and deliberations.
This is Obama’s first use of “executive privilege,” but both by historical and current legal standards it is radically overreaching. The closest we have to a definitive word on executive privilege dates to the Watergate scandal, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Richard Nixon’s attempt to stonewall Congress. As long as a prosecutor could argue that the relevant documents were essential to the justice of a case, and did not compromise national security, Chief Justice Warren Burger said, the president would have to fork over the documents.
Operation Fast and Furious, a law enforcement matter, doesn’t qualify under the Burger ruling. It’s hard to imagine making a credible case that national security would be compromised if the details were made public. Since run-of-the-mill ATF memos would be covered, the usual top-level internal deliberations justification doesn’t apply either: “Obama’s claim broadly covers administration documents about the program called Operation Fast and Furious, not just those prepared for the president,” reports Larry Margasak of the Associated Press.
Once again Obama is following precedent established by George W. Bush, whose legal advisors seem to have missed the class about how Americans decided not to be ruled by a King. Bush, who promoted another legal fiction, a “unitary executive” branch, invoked “executive privilege” six times, such as when refusing to release the minutes of Dick Cheney’s meetings with corporate energy executives, Karl Rove’s refusal to testify in the politically-orchestrated firings of federal prosecutors, and in the cover-up of the “friendly fire” shooting of former football player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.
We’ve come a long way since 1796. Because the Constitution grants the Senate (but not the House) the right to ratify treaties, George Washington refused to turn over notes about the negotiations of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain to the House, claiming “executive privilege.” But he did give them to the Senate. And the Supreme Court overruled Thomas Jefferson’s 1807 claim that providing his private correspondence to Aaron Burr’s defense in his treason trial would imperil national security.
In case after case, the whole idea of executive privilege has been made up, used by both parties to protect secrets and cover up malfeasance, yet has little to no constitutional basis. But it’s hardly the only example of how the Constitution is routinely ignored. The most glaring, of course, is the way presidents have stolen the exclusive right to declare war from one wimpy Congress after another. By some measures the U.S. has fought hundreds of wars, yet only five have carried the legal standing of an official Congressional declaration of war.
Americans enjoy the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair and speedy trial, by a jury of their peers, under the Sixth and Seventh Amendments. Yet President Obama—building on a secret assassination program against so-called “terrorists” begun under Bush—asserts the right not only to deprive U.S. citizens of these rights, detaining them indefinitely and denying them a trial, but to assassinate them. According to The Washington Post, all they need to subvert more than two centuries of constitutional law is an internal memo: “The Justice Department wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the American-born radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike [on September 30, 2011], according to administration officials,” reported The Post. “The document was produced following a review of the legal issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior lawyers from across the administration. There was no dissent about the legality of killing Aulaqi, the officials said.”
We’re not even allowed to look at the text of the secret memo.
Too bad the Tea Party’s Constitutional purism is so inconsistent, focusing more on fighting the Democrats than protecting our freedoms. With no one to push back, we’re no longer a democracy. We’re Might Makes Right, not a nation of laws.
What’s worse, most Americans don’t care.
The United States is un-American.
(Ted Rall’s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com. This column originally appeared at MSNBC.com)
(C) 2012 TED RALL, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.