Ted Rall

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Smart Politics in Pictures and Words
Updated: 2 hours 37 min ago

U.S. Invades Ebola

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 03:39

When the Ebola crisis struck in West Africa, other countries, like Cuba, sent in doctors. Not the United States. Repeating a worrisome trend we saw in Haiti after the earthquake and in Asia after the Indian Ocean tsunami, the U.S. sent in armed troops to subjegate the victim population.

Can anyone identify this foot problem?

Sat, 09/20/2014 - 12:04

Every now and then, I reach out to my readers, the most intelligent people in the world, to help me unravel the mysteries of the world. On one occasion, for example, an entomologist who reads my column was able to identify the male dobsonfly I found in central Pennsylvania.

Today’s challenge concerns the attached photos. (No, these are not my feet.) If you know what this is, please comment.

Fungus? Athletes foot?

Thanks. (It may help the medically inclined to know that the feet are attached to someone whose immune system has been significantly compromised.)

United They Stand

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 03:35

Congressional Republicans have stonewalled President Obama and the Democrats on pretty much anything, even refusing to sign off on routine budget requests and increases in the federal debt limit. But even a “divided Congress” has managed to come together to support Obama’s request to go to war in Syria and Iraq (again).

Up the Sensitivity

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 03:57

Professional football players are told to bulk up on steroids, decimate their opponents physically, and brutalize each other. Yet fans are surprised that some of them victimize their family members with domestic abuse.

If You’re in San Francisco

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:20

It would be awesome, as far as I’m concerned, were you to come meet me at my book signing at the Book Passage at the San Francisco ferry terminal on the Embarcadero. This event is this coming Monday evening.

Specs:

Monday, September 22, 2014
6:00 PM
Book Passage
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Why the Fuzz Pulled You Over

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 11:52

Crime is falling in California. Yet the state’s police agencies have one of the highest concentrations of surplus military hardware in the United States. People started paying more attention to a post-9/11 Defense Department program to transfer military gear used against Afghanistan and Iraq to civilian police departments here in the United States in the wake of racially charged clashes between demonstrators and heavily armed police in Ferguson, Missouri.

California law enforcement agencies began seriously taking an interest in military style hardware after a February 1997 shootout between bank robbers and overwhelmed cops in North Hollywood. In most places at most times, however, police rarely confront criminals with that much high-powered weaponry. That’s why California Police Chiefs Association president Christopher Boyd’s claim that “all of this equipment is needed…Most police departments cannot afford to buy them” seems a bit, well, over the top.

When you have to go back nearly two decades in order to justify the need, it looks more like a reaction to a quantum singularity than a genuine necessity – and given what happened in Ferguson, there is a real concern that police militarization widens the chasm of trust between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to serve.

You can’t blame police for wanting the most powerful weapons and the strongest defensive capabilities in order to protect officers. But policing is at least as much about politics as it is about protection. Not politics as in Democrat or Republican, but the politics of a tense relationship between free citizens, most of whom are law-abiding and pay the salaries of the cops, and municipal employees who were supposed to be more concerned about protecting the public than themselves.

After Ferguson, many of my white friends defended the police’s use of military style hardware as just good sense given the dangers of the streets in that St. Louis suburb. Then I would ask them: if you trust the police, if you’re not afraid of them, if you feel that the ultimate defense is not having done anything wrong, then how you feel when you see the flashing lights in your rearview mirror? Happy? Completely unafraid? None could honestly answer yes.

It seems counterintuitive, but this is one of those cases in which civilian oversight necessitates protecting the police from themselves by prohibiting them from protecting themselves too much.

For today’s cartoon, I push the “what if this trend continues?” envelope – but really, truly, I don’t think that we are really all that far from the dystopian nightmares portrayed by countless science-fiction novels and films. I’m 51 years old. If you’d told me, when I was 21, that the United States would become a country whose government and law enforcement officials were terrified of their own citizens, that they would treat us like surly victims of a foreign occupation army, I would have rolled my eyes. I was a cynical punk rocker back then, but things have gotten worse than I ever imagined.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: A Hillary Clinton Candidacy is an Incredibly Depressing Thought

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 07:18

Women of a certain age are thrilled by the prospect of a possible President Hillary.

Over-50 females are so overjoyed that one of their own might finally achieve the nation’s top political post — better two centuries late than never — that they’re willing to overlook the former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State’s not-so-minor defects.

Like her very long resume, minus significant achievements. Like the blood of a million Iraqis dripping off her warmongering claws. (She voted in ’03 for a war she ought to have known would soon become unpopular. What was she worried about? That New Yorkers, liberal as they come, wouldn’t reelect her in ’06?) Like the ugly optics of America’s first woman president having to be a former First Lady because we can’t find a woman who made something of herself on her own merits. Like the nasty truth that, aside from her chromosomes and body parts, she’s not one of them at all — just another slimy influence peddler. Not to mention, she doesn’t stand for anything, or have a vision that differs from the status quo.

For the rest of us, a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign is an incredibly depressing thought.

Starting with her much-vaunted Inevitability. Doesn’t anyone remember that we went through this in 2008? Democrats didn’t want her then; we don’t want her now. Can’t we do better than this tired old warhorse?

When I see Hillary’s chipmunk-cheeked countenance, I see old. Part of this is primal physicality, the sexist social conditioning that says guys age more gracefully than women. (How much you wanna bet that’d be the opposite under matriarchy?) But Hillary is actually old: she’ll be 69 on Election Day 2016. Her supporters point out that that’s the same age as Reagan when he took office. Considering the fact that the Gipper went senile in office, they might want to hush up.

For years, Clinton has played it hush-hush about her not-so-awesome health. This is one of those times, as with John McCain, where you’d have to pay close attention to the candidate’s veep pick.

More than calendar years, Hillary is spiritually old. She’s a throwback to another time, one that’s never coming back.

Like Reagan, Hillary Clinton is a cultural hiccup. Disconnected. Passé.

Post-Obama, who for his many shortcomings managed for a time to project a youthful vigor, an elderly President Hillary would mark a grim, dutiful restoration, a political return to the 1970s and 1980s, when she toiled as a talented if sketchy corporate lawyer. She harkens to the presidency of her husband, a conservative who banished liberals from the Democratic Party, severing the last connection between Washington’s political classes and the people they were supposedly sent to serve, never to be seen again after post-9/11 Bush went insane right-wing and Obama codified and expanded it all.

I don’t mind that she stayed married to Bill after he cheated on her. What’s unforgivable is that she stayed married to him after he destroyed American politics.

I hate Hillary — if you think about the million Iraqis she voted to kill, how can you not? — yet I don’t feel contempt for her.

What I feel is bored.

Bored, tired and sad. We have so many pressing systemic problems (economic decline, endless war, national purposelessness); is it really possible we’re going to have to endure another four-to-eight years of a presidency that doesn’t even try to address what ails us?

Because, let’s face it, there is no universe in which a President Hillary kicks ass. There is no chance, not even a remote one, that she is interested in decisive action on climate change (her “plan”: hope for young people to form a “movement“), bold moves to reduce unemployment or raise wages, putting an end to NSA spying on Americans (she’s in favor of it), or slamming the breaks on Washington’s kneejerk reaction to anything that happens overseas: blow it up (she’s really in favor of war).

You only get one thing by electing a President Hillary: a first woman president.

An old, tired, unimaginative, uninspiring, boring, useless, first woman president.

Yay.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

My “Guest Book”

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 15:12

In conjunction with the release of my new book, Barnes & Noble has requested that I put together a list of five recommended books along the same lines and why I recommend them. Here goes.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obama Trolled by ISIS

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 08:50

 

President Obama’s reaction to the videos of two American freelance journalists getting beheaded by Islamist militants gives me the uncomfortable feeling that the American people are getting punk’d — again.

The same thing happened 13 years ago this week, when a dozen and a half Muslim fundamentalists attacked our financial and political capitals using our own planes. The hijackers got exactly the reaction that they wanted: overreaction.You should never underestimate an adversary, least of all when their remarkable success against difficult odds have demonstrated the wisdom of their tactics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, like the 9/11-era Al Qaeda from which it split, is not run by stupid people. Stupid people don’t take half of Syria away from its longtime authoritarian dictator – whose armed forces happen to be better equipped and trained – and half of Iraq away from a puppet regime backed by the world’s most ferocious superpower – in two years.

Considering ISIS through the lens of proper respect for their leaders’ intelligence, what were they thinking when they posted those two gruesome videos? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Abu Suleiman al-Naser and other top officials of the Islamic State had to know they would provoke a political reaction. It has: More Americans (94%) are aware of the ISIS execution videos than any other news event in the last five years.

ISIS’ leaders also must have anticipated a military reaction. After the videos, a war-weary American public’s apathetic stance toward the civil war in Syria flipped toward strong support in favor of the bombing campaign announced by Obama (who paradoxically continues to poll poorly on foreign policy).

Clearly ISIS’ top brass believe they stand more to gain than to lose from the coming onslaught by U.S. drones and fighter jets. This should frighten us.

Put yourself into the mindset of the insurgents. Their enemies are the existing governments of the countries they seek to occupy: Syria, Iraq, possibly Jordan, certainly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. But – again, like Al Qaeda in the early 2000s – they have a more formidable adversary: moderation.

To survive and expand, radical jihadists don’t need all, or even most, Muslims to join the fight. But they do require the tacit consent of the governed in the areas they control, and the political sympathy that prompts donors to send them the financial contributions that allow them to arm new recruits and hold their territory — factors that fuel legitimacy.

As radicals and fundamentalists, ISIS’ Manichean worldview portrays the West, and especially the United States and Great Britain, and their Middle Eastern client states – obviously Israel most of all – as monsters hell-bent on the oppression of Muslims, the exploitation and appropriation of Muslim lands, using moral corruption and godless capitalism as means toward global domination at their expense.

Until recently, most Muslims – including most Sunnis – didn’t buy it. Hundreds of millions of them drank, smoked, failed to pray regularly, and envied the liberalism and economic power of the West.

The genius of 9/11 was to provoke the United States and its allies into behaving exactly like the monsters Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups had long argued they were. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, brazenly embracing torture and mass kidnappings and opening a gulag archipelago of secret prisons everywhere from Eastern Europe to Guantánamo to jail ships floating in the Indian Ocean, as well as the brazen disregard for innocent civilians demonstrated by Bush and Obama’s willy-nilly drone program, convinced countless fence sitters and former moderates to join the militants, cut them a check, or at least look the other way. By the end of the Bush years, the United States was wildly unpopular, viewed as “violent” and “selfish” throughout the Muslim world.

We got trolled.

The tactics Obama plans to use against ISIS are more of the same. Once again, U.S. warplanes and remote-controlled killer air robots will rain death upon people, the vast majority of whom were innocent and had nothing to do with the group responsible for beheading those poor journalists. Once again, although we will on occasion succeed in killing some #1 or #2 “top terrorist,” we will lose this battle for hearts and minds because (a) the nature of guerrilla warfare is that no leader is indispensable and anyone can and will be replaced, and (b) each civilian death will generate thousands of fierce lifelong enemies – yes, some family members and many friends, but most of all the one group of people American pundits and journalists rarely reference when discussing “collateral damage” – ordinary people, there and in the region and around the world, who react with disgust and rage at our cruelty.

Ironically, disgust and rage are the very same emotions that triggered America’s latest tumble into the Islamist trap.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out this week. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Yes Means Yes

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 03:04

Coming soon: California is poised to enact a “yes means yes” law – based on the so-called Antioch College rules – that will require college students to get “affirmative consent” – clear, verbal agreement – for each intended stage and type of sexual activity.

No Protection

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 03:24

Obama says the US should resume bombing Iraq, and send troops back there, in order to protect diplomatic personnel and troops who remained there after the occupation was nominally ended. By this logic, the United States can invade any country with Americans in it.

ISIS Plans Ahead

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 03:47

The radical Islamist army ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) received weapons and training from the United States in its war against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. They’re still opening the weapons systems we sent them via the Gulf States and directly. Yes, we’ve bombed our former allies before, but never in recent memory has there been such a rapid change of relations.

The Cashless Society is Here

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 03:52

I have seen our future dystopian cashless society. What could go wrong? After all, it’s not the government would ever use its power to shut off people’s access to their money with a flip of a switch.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Are “Feminists” Telling Women Not To Protect Themselves from Rapists?

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 10:31

Identity politics, a writer friend reminds me, is where liberalism goes to die.

The oceans are boiling, freelance journalists’ heads are getting lopped off, and there’s not the slightest sign of resistance to income inequality so out of control it would worry Cornelius Vanderbilt. Yet the Internet’s politically-correct “social justice warriors” are dedicating their formidable energies into attacking pissant trivialities.

Anyone who doubts that online slacktivists have their heads so far up their collective asses that they can’t see daylight need only read up on the controversy over Undercover Colors, which is a nail polish that allows women (or men, but they’re not the target audience) to discreetly discover whether their drink has been spiked by one of several common “date rape” drugs.

(My advice to women: if you’re at a party or with a guy so sketchy that you think you may have been slipped a mickey, don’t bother with the fancy polish. Just scoot. You don’t want to be there anyway.)

Better safe than sorry, right?

Wrong.

“Anything that puts the onus on women to ‘discreetly’ keep from being raped misses the point,” writes Jessica Valenti, a once-influential feminist blogger whose hammer-to-the-skull-obvious post-motherhood columns for The Guardian add to the case for automatically censoring any piece of writing by a parent about their children. “We should be trying to stop rape, not just individually avoid it.”

Um, what?

Valenti is serious about this: “So long as it isn’t me isn’t an effective strategy to end rape. ‘Undercover Colors’ polish and products like it only offer the veneer of equality and safety. And that’s simply not good enough.”

Which is true. And stupid.

Like: wearing shoes isn’t an effective strategy to stop assholes from breaking glass bottles on streets. Since assholes do leave shards of glass all over the place, however, walking barefoot isn’t smart.

Installing a car alarm or using an anti-theft device like The Club is an example of “individual avoidance.” One wishes that it were possible to leave one’s automobile unattended free of fear that someone might steal it. But reality dictates that, if you park in a high-crime neighborhood, you take measures to deter thieves. True, it’s a “so long as it isn’t me” strategy. But what else can you do? We’re not likely to see an effective strategy to eliminate car theft any sooner than “an effective strategy to end rape,” a crime endemic in every culture throughout history.

How removed from the real world are writers like Tara Culp-Resser of Think Progress, who also criticized the entrepreneurs who invented the anti-date-rape polish? “It would likely be more effective to focus on larger efforts to tackle the cultural assumptions at the root of the campus sexual assault crisis,” she wrote. “Like the idea that it’s okay to take advantage of people when they’re drunk.”

To my horror, I have known men who bragged about having raped inebriated women. (Since their accounts were devoid of details, it would have been pointless to report them to the police.) They didn’t violate women because of “cultural assumptions.” They did it for the same reason that CEO pigs issue themselves huge raises the same day they fire thousands of employees: because they can.

This reminds me of the complaint against liberals who claim to support public education, yet send their kids to private school. If your local public schools are decrepit or dangerous, it’s unconscionable to subject your children to them if you can afford not to. Obviously, we should fight to ban private schools, and for that matter the capitalist system that separates American kids into pre-poor and pre-rich educational systems — but until the revolution is achieved, it’s every man and woman for himself and herself.

Feminist propaganda can’t stop rape. No marches, no poster campaign, no hashtag bullshit. Men will stop raping women when they no longer can.

Neither I, nor the social justice types, know how to achieve that better society. Until someone comes up with that Big Idea, anything women can do to protect themselves — self-defense classes, carrying pepper spray, even a nail polish — is just common sense.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out this week. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

 

The End of Racism

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 03:51

Homophobia faded after straights realized that many of their friends and close relatives were gay. Racism remains an intransigent problem. Could a similar solution be at hand? probably not.

Bombs? Or More Bombs?

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 07:51

Have you ever noticed that, when there’s some crisis overseas, the debate on American media takes place between those who want to use bombs, and those who want to use bigger bombs? Never is it seriously considered that we should not get involved.