Ted Rall

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Updated: 1 hour 49 min ago

It Isn’t Violence If The State Does It

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 00:18

Another black man has been killed by police and the media is celebrating the fact that there wasn’t any violence on the part of protesters.

“Bernie” Now Available for Pre-Order

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 12:26

It’s done and off to the printer: my next book!

In the same format as “Snowden,” my graphic biography of Bernie Sanders hits stores January 12, 2016. You can pre-order via your local independent bookstore, Amazon, or buy signed copies through me — a perfect belated holiday gift for the post-New Year’s January doldrums!


Wed, 11/25/2015 - 12:10

Publication Date: January 12, 2016

Pre-Order at Amazon!

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders was surrounded by grinding poverty that turned families against each other as they scrimped and saved to pay their bills.

Bernie saw politics as his chance to give a decent life to everyone, not just those born to wealth or the lucky few who hit it big. But the Democratic Party and the country overall were moving to the right.

Bernie joined a tiny independent party from Vermont. He ran for mayor. As a socialist. And won.

Now he’s running for the Democratic nomination for president. Check out his amazing story and what his campaign means to you.

To Pre-Order A Personally Signed Copy directly from Ted:

Shipped Where? United States $16.95 USDEurope $22.95 USDOutside U.S. & Europe $26.95 USD Want It Dedicated? To Whom?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: No One Should Be Sad When George H.W. Bush Dies (Probably Soon)

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 14:43

            The curtain is about to fall on George Herbert Walker Bush, known colloquially as Bush 41, or simply 41. The patriarch is, if not exactly dying, no longer doing well enough to want to be seen much in public. The final taxi, as Wreckless Eric sang memorably though not famously, awaits.

Do not believe the soon-to-be-everywhere hype.

Dubya’s dad is and was a very bad man.

No one should forget that.

The old Skull and Bones man has skillfully set the stage for — not his rehabilitation exactly, for he was never shamed (though he much deserved it) — his rescue from the presidential footnotery familiar to schoolchildren, that of the Adamsian “oh yeah, there was also that Quincy” variety. The centerpiece of this so-far-going-splendidly historical legacy offensive is his authorized biography by Jon Meacham, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” a demi-hagiographic positioning of HW as a moderate last half of the 20th century Zelig.

This has been done before, compellingly and brilliantly, in Robert Caro’s soon-to-be five-volume (!) biography of LBJ. Caro uses LBJ as a window into his times; that’s what Meacham is up to too. But there’s a big whopping difference between the subjects. LBJ was a man of principle who was also a cynical SOB; Vietnam tarnished his amazing civil-rights legacy. He knew that and regretted it until he died. Dude was complicated.

There is, sadly, little evidence that Bush ever had a big ol’ destiny in mind, good or bad. He may be the first of that crop of presidents who followed them (excepting, perhaps, ironically, his son after 9/11) whose main goal in life was accomplished when he won a presidential election. Clinton and Obama and perhaps Hillary next, they all figured they’d figure out how and why to change America after they took office and some stuff to react to happened (OK, that includes W).

“Mr. Bush may never have achieved greatness. But he’s led a long and remarkable life, which has spanned the better part of the 20th century. He fought in World War II. He started a successful oil business. He spent two terms in the House of Representatives; he served as ambassador to the United Nations and as American liaison to China; he ran the Republican National Committee and, far more important, the C.I.A. He was vice president for eight years and president for four. At 90, he jumped out of an airplane,” Jennifer Senior writes in the New York Times Book Review.

Pardon my shrug. Dude’s a boy Hillary. Great résumé. What did you accomplish at all those gigs? Even at the CIA, he’s remembered for…


Where there’s a record starts with his 1988 run for president. Neither the advantages of incumbency as Reagan’s vice president nor his Democratic rival Michael Dukakis’ awkwardness on the campaign trail were enough for him; he felt it necessary to deploy scorched-earth tactics to obliterate a good man, albeit a politician not prepared for the national stage against a GOP that had turned rabidly right under Reagan. Lee Atwater’s “Willie Horton” ad remains a colossus of scurrilous race-baiting, a dismal precedent that paved the way for Bush 43’s racist whispering campaign targeting John McCain’s adopted daughter in the South Carolina primary and Donald Trump’s glib desire to subject the nation’s Muslims to an Americanized Nuremberg Law.

We won’t hear about Willie Horton during “ain’t it sad HW died” week.

“His campaign tactics may have been ruthless, but in person he was unfailingly decent and courteous, commanding remarkable levels of loyalty. Character was his calling card, not ideas. To the extent that he had one at all, his governing philosophy was solid stewardship: leading calmly and prudently, making sure the ship was in good form, with the chairs properly arranged on the decks,” Senior writes.

Of course he was polite. He’s a WASP. But does it matter? A public figure isn’t notable for what he does behind closed doors.

And Hitler liked dogs and kids.

Bush deserves, as do we all, to be judged for what he set out to do.

It is by his own standards — his wish to leave the ship of state ship-shape when he left for Kennebunkport in 1993 — that he falls terribly short.

It was the economy, stupid…and he was the stupid one. After the stock market crashed in 1989, HW sat on his hands, waiting for the recession to magically go away. As the invisible hand of the marketplace dithered and dawdled, the housing market crashed too. Millions lost their jobs. Countless businesses went under. Lots of misery, much of it avoidable. Much of which could have been mitigated with a little action from the Fed and a Keynesian stimulus package. He did little.

By the time he left, everyone, not least Wall Street traders, breathed a sigh of relief that there was going to be someone at the wheel going forward.

There were, of course, the wars. There’s his good war against Iraq, for which he gets credit for merely slaughtering Saddam’s army as they retreated down the “highway of death” and not going on to kill everyone in Baghdad, as his stupid bloodthirsty son tried to do. Mainly, the Gulf War is a plus because few Americans died in combat (some “war” dead were killed in forklift accidents). Still, it was a war that needn’t have been fought in the first place.

In a now largely forgotten episode, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — then a U.S. buddy — asked permission to invade Kuwait, which was “slant drilling” into Iraqi oilfields and undercutting OPEC cartel prices. It being August, all the big names were away on vacation, so Saddam took the word of a low-level drone at the State Department that everything was cool.

It wasn’t.

If Bush had been a decent manager — the kind of guy who arranges the deck chairs — he would have had better people handling his pet tyrants.

Then there’s the truly sorry invasion of Panama. No one remembers now, but this was Bush’s first personnel dispute with a dictator. General Manuel Noriega was getting uppity, HW decided to put him in his place, the Marines slaughtered thousands of Panamanians. Really, for no reason.

Certainly without justification. Noriega was sent to a US prison, having spent more than two decades on trumped-up cocaine charges. Which you might care about. Noriega wasn’t a nice guy, right?

The trouble is, treating a sovereign head of state like a common criminal scumbag sets some bad precedents.

Now, when the US approaches guys like Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad to suggest that he leave office, he digs in his heels for fear of winding up in prison or worse. Back in the pre-Panama days, you could convince a guy like the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos to fly to Hawaii with a duffel bag full of bullion, so everyone could move on.

There’s the goose-gander thing. Why shouldn’t Assad be able to argue that Obama ought to be imprisoned for breaking Syrian law, like those against funding terrorist groups like ISIS?

Bush’s biggest boner may have been his hands-off approach to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Rather than help Russia and the other former Soviet republics come in for a soft post-socialist landing, as in China after Mao, Bush’s guys quietly rejoiced in the mayhem.

Clinton gave us “shock economics,” Yeltsin, mass starvation, the destruction of Grozny and the oligarchs — but Bush set the stage for a mess with which we, and more importantly the Russians, are dealing today.

Any way you look at it, George Bush Senior left the world worse off than it was.

The possibility that he may have been courteous to his minions and henchmen doesn’t change that.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


We’re Not Barbarian (Americans)!

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 00:57

People in the West wonder where the Islamic State will strike next after the Paris attacks. Some commentators wonder aloud whether ISIS would strike a hospital, ignoring the irony that the U.S. blew up a hospital in Afghanistan recently.

Dangerous Refugees

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 00:52

Donald Trump suggests that Syrian and Muslim refugees should have to register with the police in the United States. Maybe he has a point: Native Americans would still be alive if they hadn’t allowed British terrorists to slip in alongside religious refugees.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Bernie Sanders is a Socialist and So Are You

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 05:36

            When it comes to politics, Americans are idiots.

Because American voters are political ignoramuses, Bernie Sanders found it necessary to take the stage at Georgetown University yesterday to explain what socialism, and democratic socialism are. The point being that too many Democratic primary voters plan to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton, not because they like her or her ideas, but worry that a self-declared socialist (or democratic socialist) won’t be able to beat the Republican nominee in the general election.

Setting aside the rather idiotic idea of voting for a candidate because everyone else is voting for her — what’s the point of holding an election? we’d might as well turn elected office over to the candidate with an early lead in the polls — I have to wonder whether an electorate that knows nothing about socialism is qualified to vote at all.

And remember: these are Democratic primary voters. One must shiver in fear at the colossal dumbness on the Republican right, where climate change denialism is normative, Ronald Reagan was brilliant (and brought down This Wall) and Tea Party marchers famously carry signs demanding “government get out of my Medicaid.” To them, socialism means Stalin — if they know who he was.

Socialism, Marx and Engels explained, is the long transitional economic form between laissez faire capitalism and communism, an ideal utopian state that will only become possible after the rise of a New Man (and Woman) whose total commitment to communitarian ideals over individualistic concerns allows the state to wither away and people to rule themselves in small collectives. This true ideal communism, Marxists believe, is centuries away at best.

In contemporary politics, Communist Party rule in nations like the Soviet Union and China led to confusion, especially in the West, where capitalist news media was only too happy to turn a relatively simple idea into a muddle. Neither the Soviet nor the Chinese Communist Parties ever claimed to have achieved communism. With the exception of Pol Pot’s bizarre Kampuchea, communist parties governed self-declared socialist states, not communist ones. It was, after all, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

When Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist, he’s drawing upon a tradition of Western European electoral politics in which socialist principles live alongside free-market capitalist ones, rather than a fully fleshed-out transformation of the economy into one in which the workers control the means of production. For Sanders and the hundreds of millions of citizens of the nations of Europe and their post-colonial progeny (Canada, Australia, many African countries), democratic socialism is a system that looks a lot like the United States of America.

In the ur-democratic socialist nations of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, citizens’ elected representatives propose and vote on laws — just like here.

There is no state economy. There are, like here, small private businesses and giant corporations.

So what makes them socialist? Government regulations and the social safety net. Government agencies tell power companies, for example, how much they may pollute the air and sets the minimum wage. There is, as in all capitalist societies, poverty. But the government mitigates its effects. Welfare and unemployment benefits, social security for retirees, free or subsidized healthcare make things easier when times are tough.

The United States is a democratic socialist country, albeit a lame one.

Senator Sanders wants less lameness.

In his speech, The New York Times summarized, “he said he wanted an America where people could work 40 hours a week and not live in poverty, and that such a society would require new government entitlements like free public colleges, Medicare-for-all health insurance, a $15 minimum wage, $1 trillion in public works projects to create jobs, and mandatory [paid] parental leave.”

These benefits are standard in almost every other technologically advanced nation on earth, as well as many developing countries. Democratic socialism? It’s like that old dishwashing liquid ad: you’re soaking in it.

Yet here is Sanders, in what pundits are calling a do-or-die speech attempting to fix his “I like him but America won’t elect a socialist” crisis. David Axelrod, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign, says, “The issue here is, is that word [socialism] a barrier for a sufficient number of voters that it creates an electoral ceiling for him?”

As far as I know, Bernie hasn’t emphasized the quality of public education in his campaign. But something is, no pun intended, radically wrong when so few Americans understand basic political and economic terms — especially when they apply to the political and economic system under which they themselves live.

By global standards, Sanders’ campaign is calling for weak socialist tea. In most European countries, all colleges are free or charge nominal fees. Socialized medicine, in which your doctor is a government employee and there’s no such thing as a big for-profit hospital corporation, is the international norm. Paid leave? Obviously. And most governments recognize the importance of public infrastructure, and not relying on the private sector to provide every job.

There can only be one reason Americans don’t know this stuff: they’re idiots. Their schools made them that way as kids. Media propaganda keeps them stupid as adults.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


Love, American-Style

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 09:42

Though it was nice of Americans to offer their support to the French after ISIS’ terrorist attacks against Paris last week, surely Parisians remember that, not so recently, Americans were deriding them as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” and renaming French fries “freedom fries” merely because they were smart enough not to join our invasion of Iraq?

My Take on the Paris Attacks

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 08:37

You can check out the full text of my response to yesterday’s ISIS attacks in Paris at Skewed News.

Here’s an excerpt:

            Amid the chaos and horror of this latest spasm of urban terrorism, it is vital to keep two key points in mind:

  1. Asking “Why us?”, as Americans did after 9/11, is stupid. We know why. Anyone who doesn’t know why, and why “us” — Paris, New York, the West — is willfully obtuse.

  2. This is nothing new. We are not/This is not [some new] “war.” After each dramatic terrorist attack, including 9/11, overcaffeinated editorialists claim that Everything Has Changed and so We Had Better Step Up and Kick Terrorist Ass. This is even stupider than asking “Why us?” Terrorism has always been with us and, unless the configuration of power dynamics defined by economic relationships internationally as well as within nations changes radically, it always will be. Paris is the latest manifestation of a cycle of violence.

Generation Hexed

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 00:00

Political analysts note that there aren’t any Gen X-era big-name Democrats following Baby Boomers Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They anticipate that leadership will skip Gen X from the Boomers to their Millennial children. Meanwhile, middle-aged Gen X whites are suffering increased mortality reminiscent of the post-Soviet collapse during the 1990s. Turns out that a lifetime of neglect and contempt by those older and younger is having an effect.


Thu, 11/12/2015 - 00:58

Jeb Bush said that, if he had a time machine, he would go back in time, find baby Adolf Hitler, and kill him. Will these theoretical ethical dilemmas become normative in the political ritual of running for president?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Ben Carson: Please Believe Me When I Say I’m Psycho

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 04:58

To echo the current ad campaign by Geico, politicians lie. It’s what they do.

Like when Donald Trump says he’s going to make Mexico pay for a border wall — ain’t never gonna happen. Hillary knew she was lying when she claimed that NSA contractor Edward Snowden was protected by federal whistleblower laws (those are only for federal employees).

Probably because he’s ahead in the polls, attention is currently focused on Ben Carson’s distant relationship with the truth, most interestingly his story of getting offered a scholarship to West Point. It’s a ridiculous tale given the fact that many young Americans try to get into the military academies (I applied to Annapolis), so a lot of people know the real deal. If you gain acceptance after a grueling application process — I remember a battery of physicals that took all day and having to obtain a sponsorship from a member of Congress — tuition, room and board is free. But you’re committed to serving as a junior officer for six years after graduation.

By far the weirdest of Carson’s alleged fibs — the story itself and the media’s reaction to it — is the soft-spoken-to-the-point-of-stoned physician’s description of himself in his 1990 autobiography as a violent young man with a “pathological temper.”

I haven’t read “Gifted Hands” and likely never will, but CNN has: “The violent episodes he has detailed in his book, in public statements and in interviews, include punching a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock, leaving a bloody three-inch gash in the boy’s forehead; attempting to attack his own mother with a hammer following an argument over clothes; hurling a large rock at a boy, which broke the youth’s glasses and smashed his nose; and, finally, thrusting a knife at the belly of his friend with such force that the blade snapped when it luckily struck a belt buckle covered by the boy’s clothes.”

“I was trying to kill somebody,” Carson has said about his inept act of attempted murder in ninth grade, at age 14.

“CNN was unable to independently confirm any of the incidents,” Scott Glover and Maeve Reston reported. The network tracked down several of Carson’s friends and former classmates. None remembered Carson as out of control or violent.

Stipulated: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Minor changes in details — “camping knife” or “pocketknife,” is there a difference? — don’t change the basic facts of the story. Just because CNN can’t corroborate Carson’s stabbing attempt doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Maybe they didn’t talk to the right friends or classmates. Carson may well have told the truth about this. That’s not the point.

The point is two-fold:

First — whether Carson told the truth or lied — why is he telling this story now, while running for president? (Among other times, he talked about it at a campaign appearance in September.) A history as a deranged juvenile delinquent isn’t something to brag about when you’re asking voters to give you nuclear launch codes.

I understand the self-confessional bit in his bio. Memoirs that hide the author’s flaws suck. “Gifted Hands” came out 25 years ago, long before Carson thought about politics. But he’s still talking about trying to stab a dude for, by his own account, no good reason.

Yeah, it’s a redemption narrative. After that, he found God (in a bathroom!) and got soooo calm.

I say it’s creepy.

Unlike my September 2001 opposition to invading Afghanistan, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that I don’t want someone with a predilection for psychotic outbursts running the country.

That’s assuming he’s telling the truth about it. Really, truly, I hope he’s lying.

Which is my second point: Carson’s media critics are in the strange position of accusing him of not being an attempted murderer. Can it be that violence has become so normalized in American society that viciousness is now a requirement for high office?

Reporter: “Is it true, Dr. Carson, that you didn’t try to kill someone for fun?”

Dr. Carson: “Absolutely not. I swear swear swear that I did try to kill the guy, and that it would have been fun, and God damn that belt buckle!”

The way this is going, Carson will soon have to produce the original long-form version of his victims’ death certificates in order to continue as a viable presidential candidate.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


Leftie Come Lately

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 00:30

The case against Bernie Sanders is that he’s too far left to be electable. Now, however, Hillary Clinton is stealing all his ideas, like opposing the TPP and Keystone XL pipeline. Shouldn’t that make her unelectable too?

Portraits of the Candidates with Their Favorite Deities

Sun, 11/08/2015 - 13:30

Ben Carson has a portrait of himself hanging out with Jesus at his house. What if the other candidates had similar images of themselves with those most important to them?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Cops Gone Wild! Police Unions Are Killing Our Freedoms

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 08:43

Police unions are out of control.

Earlier this year, Baltimore cops murdered Freddie Gray by chaining him up and intentionally swerving and repeatedly slamming on the breaks. Rather than telling their members to behave professionally, however, the head of the city’s police union attacked people who protested Gray’s death, smearing them as — of all things! — “a lynch mob.”

About a year ago, the leader of New York’s police union reacted to the assassination of two Brooklyn cops as they sat in their squad car by declaring that newly-elected mayor Bill de Blasio had “blood on his hands” — because he hadn’t been sufficiently pro-cop. (There is no evidence that the killer ever heard of Bill de Blasio.)

Now the Fraternal Order of Police is threatening one of the United States’ most acclaimed film directors.

FOP executive director Jim Pasco, threatened Quentin Tarantino, who helmed “Pulp Fiction” and numerous other major movies, in The Hollywood Reporter. “Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element. Something could happen anytime between now and (the premiere). And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable. The right time and place will come up and we’ll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that’s economically.”


Tarantino’s “crime,” in the eyes of “there’s blue, then there’s you” cops: he attended a Black Lives Matter rally, where he said he was against murderers, and for the murdered.

There’s only one logical inference. According to the police, Black Lives Do Not Matter. By their wicked logic, we should support murderous cops, not murdered civilians.

If you don’t toe the line? “Instead of dealing with the incidents of police brutality that those people were bringing up, instead of examining the problem of police brutality in this country, better they single me out,” Tarantino told The Los Angeles Times. “And their message is very clear. It’s to shut me down. It’s to discredit me. It is to intimidate me. It is to shut my mouth, and even more important than that, it is to send a message out to any other prominent person that might feel the need to join that side of the argument.”

Jacobin magazine’s description of these organizations as “The Bad Kind of Unionism” is putting it mildly. The only people they “protect and serve” is themselves — the people be damned.

It’s ironic that that Tarantino quote comes from the LA Times. The Times, you see, is owned by Tribune Publishing. Whose number-one shareholder is a private equity firm called Oaktree Capital. Which manages the pension fund of the LAPD police union, the LAPPL (Police Protective League).

The LAPPL is one of the free-speech-hating fascist police unions threatening Tarantino. And the LAPPL appears to have gotten the Times to fire me as its political cartoonist — using quickly-discredited evidence — because I criticized the LAPD for the fact that they’re violently militarized and lousy at their jobs.

After I was fired, the LAPPL issued a press release. “So many within the LAPD were pleasantly surprised at the recent firing of Los Angeles Times opinion cartoonist Ted Rall,” the union said. “We hope other news publications will take note…” (They removed it from the Internet after the outcry over my firing.)

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That’s cops in the year 2015. They want to shoot and torture and rob and harass us. Without fear of punishment.

They can’t even stand criticism.

So they go after cartoonists. And film directors.

Reporters, too.

A former journalist — the “former” comes courtesy of the cops who leaned on his cowardly excuse for an editor to fire him — in Baker City, Oregon is suing Baker City and its freedom-hating police chief for making his life miserable. After the Baker City Record-Courier let Brian Addison go as a favor to Baker City PD in 2008, the cops followed his car around, repeatedly stopping him. When he landed another job, not in journalism, in 2014, the cops got him fired again — using a falsified “dossier” that indicated he had a criminal background. He didn’t.

What did Addison do to piss off the po-po?

He wrote an editorial complaining about an incident at a high school girls basketball game, where the fuzz walked a drug-sniffing dog through the stands during halftime. Addison’s editorial pointed out, correctly, that this was a disgusting violation of basic Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.

Unions are an essential bulwark against gangster capitalism. Public-sector unions are just as necessary as private-sector ones. But these police — and their unions — have got to go.

Every police department in the country should be disbanded. All the cops should be fired. It’s time to start from scratch — and replace them with civilian-run organizations designed to protect us.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


Police Lives Matter

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 14:24

When police officer Charles Gliniewicz was found dead, right-wingers blamed Black Lives Matter for creating an atmosphere in which it was open season on cops. Then it turned out he was corrupt, an embezzler, and had staged his suicide to look like he’d died while on duty.

White Drug

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 00:55

Now that heroin has become a “white” person’s drug, the establishment has changed its approach from harsh sentencing designed to lock them up and throw away the key, to treatment and leniency.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Politics Behind a Paywall: If CNBC Sponsors a Debate, Did It Really Happen?

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 03:49

There are two kinds of media censorship: direct and self-directed.

In an authoritarian regime, nothing gets published or broadcast without state approval. I watched the inner workings of direct government control of the press during a visit to Turkmenistan. Every magazine and newspaper was run out of the same office. Many were edited by the same people, all wearing the same lapel pins, an image of the country’s then-dictator, Sapamurat “Turkmenbashi” Niyazov.

This didn’t exactly make for a bunch of scintillating reads: the “our harvest rocks” stories were direct heirs of propaganda in the Soviet Union, of which the Turkmen SSR was a remote outpost. But it did offer clarity. The Turkmen people have never suffered from any illusions about the nature of their political system. They knew they weren’t free.

Censorship exists everywhere. In the so-called “free world,” however, political and cultural gatekeepers work to try to fool citizens into thinking that it does not. This morning, on NPR, I took note of an in-house ad in which an employee of the network claimed that it reports “unbiased news.”

There is, of course, no such thing as unbiased reporting or analysis. I’ve been listening to NPR for decades. In stories about foreign policy crises, never once have I heard an interview with a pacifist, someone who is against all military action. Whether it’s about Iran or ISIS, the “debate” is always between two varieties of interventionism: harsh (sanctions, i.e. “containment”) and harsher (bombs). If NPR’s “Marketplace” has ever interviewed a communist about why capitalism sucks and should be replaced, I missed it. Biased? You betcha. Always. Inevitably.

Here in the United States, censorship is usually self-directed. No one from the State Ministry of Propaganda calls The New York Times to tell them what’s fit to print. They make those decisions on their own. But those calls are informed by who those editors are — the elite schools from which they graduated (Columbia Journalism School), their class background (parents rich enough to send them to Columbia J-School), input from their friends and colleagues (other people whose parents are rich enough to send them to Columbia J-School). Who they are determines what makes it into print.

Which is often motivated by a desire not to offend those in power.

Major American media outlets are run by people who believe that they need access to those in power, which is to say government officials and corporate executives, in order to do their jobs. The Los Angeles Times, where I worked until July, fired me, apparently as a favor to the police. You see, I drew cartoons critical of police brutality and incompetence. The cops, understandably, didn’t like that. So they ginned up an excuse — since disproven — for the paper to get rid of me. Now they’re in a pickle. They know they messed up, but if they admit it they’ll hurt their relationship with the LAPD by revoking their favor to them. That might mean, the next time there’s a big O.J.-type crime story, that the LAPD refuses to feed them information.

A cartoonist colleague working in the Midwest tells me that, after he drew an anti-police cartoon, the cops stopped talking to his paper’s reporters. If the paper wants tips from the police, they’ve let his editors know, all they have to do is fire their cartoonist.

America, land of innovation, has now conceived of yet a third kind of media censorship: economic.

Last night, like millions of Americans, I turned on my TV to watch the third Republican presidential debate. Since I only subscribe to the basic cable package, however, I couldn’t get it. It only aired on CNBC, which where I live is on premium cable. (It didn’t livestream online either.)

I pay north of $120 a month for cable TV and broadband Internet access. This makes me a relatively privileged member of the mediarati. But not privileged enough. To watch a political debate — a civic ritual that used to be, and still ought to be, on every TV channel and radio station, free, by law — I would have to bump that up to something closer to $200. This is really, really wrong.

As a result, I — and other political commentators — are reduced to commenting on a debate as seen through the lens of media elites who have those $200 a month to spend.

Many millions of Americans, particularly young people, have “cut the cord” and watch only streamed television and movies. You can’t accuse them of apathy if you won’t let them participate in a presidential campaign.

Here’s how niche CNBC is. Debates sponsored by FoxNews and CNN averaged 24 and 23 million viewers, respectively. (After CNN offered livestreaming, Fox followed suit.) CNBC’s all-time viewing record is 3.9 million, during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Economic censorship is gross. But, much like the brazenness of censorship under a dictatorship, putting politics behind a paywall serves as an unintentional signifier. The system is not of, by or for you, the people.

It’s the ultimate triumph of pay-to-play electoral politics: democracy without voters.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


The Ferguson Effect

Tue, 10/27/2015 - 23:28

FBI Director James Comey says that police are going easy on crime because they’re intimidated by Black Lives Matter protesters watching them in case they hurt a black person.

State Integrity Investigation gives Oregon an F

The long-standing State Integrity Investigation of the Center for Public Integrity and Public Radio International has granted Oregon an overall F grade on avoiding corruption in state government.

The ranking is accompanied by a scathing, accurate article about Oregon's failure in fighting corruption.

Oregon's overall rank fell from 14th to 42nd, the biggest drop of any state.

We have been saying for years that Oregon's lack of limits on political contributions and repeal of laws requiring that political ads identify their funders makes Oregon government inherently corruptible. Now the leading national investigation of State integrity agrees with us.