After one of the most contentious presidential campaigns in memory, Americans are waking up find friendships gone, alliances shattered and bridges burned.
On June 5th you issued a statement acknowledging the role your newspaper has played in the racist oppression of people of color. “The Los Angeles Times has a long, well-documented history of fueling the racism and cruelty that accompanied our city’s becoming a metropolis,” you wrote. You promised reforms, including “addressing the concerns of people of color in the newsroom.”
You admitted that this is merely a start and asked for suggestions for how the Times can redeem itself and earn the trust of readers, especially people of color.
I will take you at your word.
To begin with, the Times should come clean about its longstanding, cozy relationship with the LAPD. And it should end this deep conflict of interest, which makes it impossible for your paper to report objectively about the police. When the media fails to hold the police accountable they are free to abuse the citizens they are supposed to protect.
My case shines a light on how the media censors critics and breeds self-censorship by journalists. I was the Times’ editorial cartoonist from 2009 to 2015. My cartoons often criticized police brutality and racist policing. Instead of stopping their abuse of minorities, however, the police repeatedly demanded that the papers that ran my cartoons fire me. Those requests fell on deaf ears until 2014, when the Times brought in a new publisher, Austin Beutner. Beutner, a hedge fund billionaire who is now superintendent of LA schools, midwifed a deal by which the $16.4 billion LAPD pension fund purchased #1 shareholder status in Tribune Publishing, which owned the Times and 14 other newspapers. (Yes, it’s legal for the cops to buy media companies.) Sealing the deal and in violation of the Times’ ethical guidelines, the LAPD police union gave an award to Beutner.
The LAPD police union has a history of buying newspaper stock. They don’t hide their motives. They seek to remove negative coverage of the police from “their” papers. “Since the very public employees they continually criticize are now their owners, we strongly believe that those who currently run the editorial pages should be replaced,” the union’s president explained in 2009, after it acquired interest in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Months after the LAPD-LA Times deal, then-LAPD police chief Charlie Beck arranged a secret meeting at Beutner’s office. Fire your cartoonist, Beck demanded. Beutner agreed.
But firing me was not enough for Beck. The LAPD also wanted to send a chilling message to journalists throughout the Southland: if you criticize the police, we will destroy you. So the Times published a smear job about me.
The Times’ article didn’t mention the meeting between Beck and Beutner. It didn’t talk about the LAPD pension fund’s ownership of the Times. To this day, those facts have never been revealed to Times readers. The piece relied upon faked evidence provided by Beck to characterize me as a liar (in a blog about jaywalking, of all things). I proved the evidence was bogus and that I had been truthful, yet editorial page editor Nick Goldberg—under orders from Beutner—ignored it.
Goldberg later admitted that the truth didn’t matter. The Times was determined to ruin me and didn’t care that I had done nothing wrong. Inexplicably, Goldberg still works at the Times.
My case is not just about me. It opens a window into why and how the Times’ relationship with the police corrupts its commentary and coverage.
It shows why and how victims of police brutality have been ignored or diminished.
It explains why and how police narratives are taken at face value, no matter how ridiculous. While I was being given the bum’s rush, reporter Paul Pringle, assigned to be the Times’ hatchet man, told me that he had verified that the bogus LAPD materials were authentic. How? I asked. “The LAPD told me,” he said. I laughed. He was serious, though. Pringle still works at the Times too. He recently won a Pulitzer Prize.
How can anyone read about what happened to me and still believe anything the Times has to say about cops?
Mr. Pearlstine, if this is not empty talk, if you are serious about turning over a new leaf, you should address my case. Hiring more people of color in the newsroom is overdue, important and necessary. But black reporters aren’t more likely than white journalists to go after the police if they’re equally afraid of getting fired. Everyone at the Times knows what the paper did to me; they know it can happen to them too if they go “too far” against the cops.
The LAPD got rid of their most irritating critic and a pundit who made going after police brutality a priority. The Times never replaced me.
The LAPD terrorized other journalists. They won.
Rehiring me would make a powerful symbolic statement that the Beutner era of corruption and complicity with the police is finished. It would demonstrate you do not edit a police propaganda rag. You could take down the two libel-filled articles about me that are still on your website. You could issue a retraction and an apology.
The LAPD has since divested itself of its Tribune stock. The Times’ current owner, Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong, should pledge not to enter into financial partnerships with law enforcement agencies.
Like many other papers, the Times relies on the police to tip off reporters about breaking local news. This relationship should be severed. Reporters ought not socialize with cops, much less rely upon them for stories. Refusing to be a police lapdog requires hiring more journalists—but Soon-Shiong is a biotech billionaire. He can easily afford them.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Donald Trump deserved to be impeached. He deserves to be convicted in the Senate.
Every president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors that could justify impeachment.
But not on these charges. Not for threatening to withhold $400 million in aid that we shouldn’t have been sending to Ukraine in the first place, not as long as 38 million Americans are poor. Not for trying to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden; American voters have the right to know that the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president and his son are on the take.
Certainly not on the nonsensical count of contempt of Congress, which punished the president for the crime of using the legal system to defend himself.
Impeachment is a political process that only has legitimacy when it’s bipartisan. In 1974 Democrats drafted wide-ranging articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. They appealed to constituencies across a wide spectrum of interests: corruption, financial fraud, bribing witnesses not to testify, privacy violations, opposition to the Vietnam War.
The Nixon articles were crafted in order to attract support from Republicans. The media claims that the GOP has never been in thrall to a president as slavishly as it is to Trump but people who remember Nixon know better. Still, Nixon’s hold on Capitol Hill Republicans eroded as the latter realized they could no longer defend conduct like his wiretapping of and siccing the IRS on political opponents.
Nancy Pelosi’s microaggression-based articles of impeachment against Trump couldn’t peel away a single House Republican.
Here are the articles of impeachment I would have drafted instead.
- Racist foreign policy. President Donald J. Trump’s comportment as head of state and top official in charge of foreign policy has brought shame, contempt and opprobrium upon the United States of America. He has used his Twitter feed and spoken comments in order to insult foreign heads of state and call them names. A brazen racist, he has referred to sovereign nations in Africa, and Haiti, as “shithole countries.” If the U.S. should set the highest standard of conduct, Trump’s sets the lowest, recklessly destroying our relationship with the world. Threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea, a nuclear power, is the kind of behavior that sparks conflicts. Few Republicans want another pointless war.
- The President may be psychotic. The president’s temperament and demeanor not only fail to rise to the bar expected of the office of President but bring disrepute upon the citizens of the United States he is tasked with representing. Anticipating the possibility that we might someday face a situation similar to that in England under King George III, the Founding Fathers conceived impeachment in large part as a way to remove a head of state who might be mentally ill, addicted to alcohol or other drugs or, in the flowery language of the time, indulge in “frequent and notorious excesses and debaucheries, and…profane and atheistical discourses.” A president not in full command of his mental faculties is an albatross; his tenure represents a threat to national security. Under the War Powers Act, the president has the right to deploy troops. He may decide whether a condemned prisoner is pardoned or executed. He can unilaterally order a nuclear attack without provocation. Although it is impossible to determine whether President Trump is mentally ill or under the influence of narcotics, his behavior is so unsteady that it is only prudent to plan for the worst and remove him before he causes a catastrophe. Republicans know he is dangerous.
- He endorses murder. After the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul, President Trump repeatedly sided with the murderers. “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. The president’s statements makes it impossible for other countries to take us seriously when we pontificate about human rights. Republicans cannot and do not find what happened to Khashoggi acceptable.
- He endorses fascism. After white nationalists and other bigots gathered at a violent right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in the murder of a peaceful progressive activist, President Trump pretended there was equivalence between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist protesters. There “were very fine people, on both sides,” he said. No there weren’t. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers died fighting fascism during World War II. President Trump dishonors them and increases the chances that fascism will rise again. Republicans do not agree with neo-Nazis.
- He is lining his own pockets at the public trough. Call it “emoluments” if you want to make voters’ eyes glaze over, call it what it is if you want to speak plainly: bribery. Trump has visited his own properties 400 times, filling rooms at full price with his retinue at taxpayer expense. Saudi Arabia has bailed out his failing hotels. He even suggested his own resort as the site of a G-8 summit. When foreign officials pay our president, they are buying influence. Republicans wouldn’t tolerate this behavior from their employees. The president is our employee.
- He kidnaps children—and loses them. The Trump Administration forcibly separated 5,400 kids from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Many were locked in cages. After federal courts ordered them returned to their parents, the White House admitted that they couldn’t locate them. They were lost. Thousands may be never be reunited with their families due to neglect and bureaucratic incompetence. Trump has asked for two years to find them. Even anti-immigration Republicans do not agree with stealing people’s kids.
I can think of other impeachable offenses—continuing and expanding Obama’s drone assassination program, backing Saudi Arabia’s genocidal proxy war in neighboring Yemen, airstrikes against Syria. But this column isn’t about what I care about. It’s a list of articles of impeachment that might have had a chance of attracting bipartisan support and thus resulting in Trump’s conviction in the Senate.
Instead, Democrats have indulged in a pro forma charade that will set an awful precedent, tempting the House of Representatives to impeach every president of the opposite party over every little thing. They’ve trivialized an only-in-case-of-emergency process into a rushed lark, ignored what really matters and squandered the opportunity to hold the president to account for his many crimes and sins.
Enjoy your “win,” liberals. Like your decision to abolish the judicial filibuster for nominations to the bench—in 2013 some Democrats actually thought there would never be another Republican president—you will soon rue it.
(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.)
Illegal immigrants, President Trump claims, are pouring over the border from Mexico into the United States. That’s not true now; notwithstanding the ballyhooed caravan of Central American migrants who recently arrived at a California crossing, illegal crossings are hitting historic lows. There’s actually a net outflow. But it was true until the early 2000s — which is when the left was calling for a border wall.
“Legal immigration should become safe, legal and commonplace,” I wrote in 2005 in response to George W. Bush’s call for a guest worker program for illegals. I opposed Bush’s plan because it would hurt American wages and job prospects. “At the same time, no nation worthy of the name can tolerate porous borders. We can and must seal our borders to prevent economic migrants, terrorists and others with unknown motives from entering the United States.”
It seems strange to recall, but support for stronger border controls was a common thread among both the populists of the America-First Pat Buchanan right and the labor-protectionist left that backed Bernie Sanders. Now the right, led by Mr. Trump, monopolizes the cause of economic nationalism — but recent history shows that there’s a even stronger, non-xenophobic for protectionism on the left. The problem is, Trump and Congressional Republicans haven’t been willing to make concessions to get The Wall (or a cheaper high-tech alternative to bricks, mortar and corrugated fencing with negative environmental impacts).
For their part, Dems have adopted a policy stance that thoughtful leftists recognize as nonsensical and ideologically incoherent.
First, mainline Democrats have been arguing, we should look the other way as foreigners enter the country unchecked because we need undocumented workers to take low-wage occupations — picking fruit, plucking chickens, making our hotel beds — that Americans don’t want. But that’s not only is not true, it cannot be true. Without undocumented workers, employers would be forced to offer higher wages for those tasks they couldn’t automate. Inflationary risks and agriculture sector disruption notwithstanding, raising wages for unskilled labor would create upward pressure on wages up the salary chain. Simple supply and demand. The removal of 11 million consumers, however, would depress spending on goods and services as well as sales tax collections.
The other pillar of Democratic immigration policy is so absurd that the party rightly refuses to articulate it: that border controls are inherently racist and xenophobic. No other country thinks so. You can’t sneak into Uruguay or Tanzania or the Seychelles without a visa (much less look for work) and hope for anything other than arrest and deportation. Controlling the flow of human beings into one’s country isn’t bigotry. It’s one of the fundamental characteristics of a modern nation state. One could sooner do without minting one’s own currency or issuing postage stamps.
Yet the status quo, a tacit open door at various crossing points, is all Democrats have to offer: more of the same lunacy.
The only reason the Democrats get away with their sophistry is that Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants during the campaign (Mexican rapists, etc.) were so vicious and toxic. On immigration, he out-crazied the Democrats. In power, the Trump Administration’s aggressive enforcement of immigration laws has come across as gratuitously cruel.
Trump’s ban against visits to the U.S. by citizens of six Muslim nations said to be associated with terrorism was launched so haphazardly that families with visas and/or official refugee status were turned away at JFK airport after boarding planes in their home countries with legitimate documents. Refugees from Syria, where a civil war rages in part because one side was funded and armed by the U.S., have almost all been refused entry although most Syrians fleeing the war zone are doing so precisely because they are enemies of ISIS and other radical Islamist groups out to attack American interests.
News reports have showcased sobbing families watching relatives who came here illegally from Latin America but have lived exemplary, law-abiding (except for their immigration status) lives as entrepreneurs and parents, being sent to countries like Honduras where they fear for their lives. Trump threw the “Dreamers” — kids without criminal records who came to the U.S. essentially as luggage, with their parents — under the bus. Americans support borders, but not these kinds of deportations — and thus not this Wall.
You may have been born here. But there’s a good chance that someone in your family tree arrived at Ellis Island or somewhere else without their paperwork in perfect order.
Like any other country, the United States ought to vet everyone who seeks to enter its territory. We need less illegal immigration and more legal immigration. As we reduce unauthorized land crossings and overstayed visas, we ought to increase opportunities for foreigners to apply for legal visas with a clear path to a green card and citizenship. Unlike undocumented workers preyed upon by rapacious employers because they live in the shadows, legal immigrants can insist upon fair legal wages. Admitting them puts less downward pressure on wages.
We need a realistic approach to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently here. So what if we wind up “rewarding” people who technically broke the law? We left the border open, we hired them, we chose not to enforce our own laws. This is what happens when a rich country leaves open its border with a poor one. Those who committed serious felonies (far fewer than three percent) should be carefully evaluated to see if they are likely to reoffend after serving their prison sentences; those determined not to have been rehabilitated should be deported to their countries of origin.
The others should receive amnesty. Most of the beneficiaries of Ronald Reagan’s 1986 mass amnesty worked out fine.
Immigration hardliners worry that each amnesty is a precedent for the next one, but that will only be true this time if we again fail to secure the border.
If Republicans keep the House next year, Trump will get his wall — or groundbreaking on one before a future Democratic regime halts construction. With that outcome less than certain (to say the least), Trump could secure the assent of the progressive populist base of the Democratic Party if he were to throw in legalization of the straight-and-narrow illegal immigrants who are already here along with an end to his Muslim ban.
Republicans could point to a promise kept on border protection. Democrats could throw a bone to a restive base on economic nationalism without climbing in bed with Trumpian xenophobia.
A win-win. Almost like Washington in the old days.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the editorial cartoonist and columnist, 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.)