Ted Rall

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Smart Politics in Pictures and Words
Updated: 4 hours 32 min ago

Big Charmer Is Watching

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 23:07

Some propaganda is personal, not serious. After the September 11th attacks, journalistic outfits that ought to have known better laughably compared George W. Bush to Winston Churchill. Now the same media outlets, many of them even liberal Democratic, are calling Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch “charming” and intelligent. Even if you admire Gorsuch for some reason, the one thing that he certainly is not is charming. Yet everyone keeps saying it. Which makes it true eventually.

From an Addiction to Weed to an Addition to Devices

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 23:06

Studies show that the use of smartphones and tablets exploded at the same time that drug use declined among American teens. Correlation or causation?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Immigration Ethics 101: How to Resist Trump’s ICE Deportation Goons

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 06:50

            The Clash sang-advised: “know your rights.” But few people do.

President Donald Trump is hell-bent on deporting millions of people, including kids who came to the U.S. so young that they’re Americans in every way but their immigration status. He even signed an executive order that would allow the arrest and deportation of fully-vetted green card holders the authorities say are suspected of any offense — including a traffic ticket.

I don’t believe in open borders. A country that doesn’t control who enters its territory hardly qualifies as a nation-state. But let’s get real about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. They’re not criminals. They’re victims.

Corporations strive to keep the wages and negotiating leverage of American workers low. They’ve pressured their pet politicians — both Democrats and Republicans — to increase the labor supply with immigrants both legal (e.g. the much-abused H1B visa program) and undocumented. Illegals are powerless and scared. Business can’t get enough of them.

If you’re un- or underemployed, illegal immigrants are your comrades. Your joint struggle should be fought against your mutual enemy, the cheap and greedy employers who deploy divide-and-conquer propaganda like Trump’s.

Like the people of Nazi-occupied Europe, we will someday be judged for our actions (and inactions) in response to the Republicans’ inhumane mass deportations. But what should we do? Unlike Europeans, white Americans never developed a culture of resistance or a system of ethical standards to which decent people are expected to adhere.

First, know your rights. Even if you’re here illegally, you have rights under the Constitution. However, the police and their colleagues in Immigration and Customs Enforcement don’t want you to know that — and they’ll lie straight to your face. So get educated about the basics.

If an ICE agent comes to your door, don’t answer. They can’t come in without an arrest warrant signed by a judge. If you talk to them, the ACLU advises, don’t open the door. If you do open the door, they may ask if they can come in. Say no. If they present a warrant for your arrest, don’t physically resist. Go with them. Simply demand to speak with an attorney and declare that you will remain silent. Then shut up. Always carry contact information for an attorney with you, and memorize his or her name and phone number since a card or phone will be taken away from you in jail.

If you are here legally, spread this information to people you know who are not.

Second, don’t snitch. If you know or suspect that someone is here illegally, do not tell the authorities or anyone in contact with them. At the bare minimum, discretion requires limiting your contact with members of law enforcement and, of course, ICE agents. Talking to cops or ICE agents is always fraught but never more so than now — so ethics-minded American citizens should break off contact with anyone they suspect of working for the deportation squads.

Morality dictates that you lie to police or ICE agents if they ask you for information about an undocumented neighbor. But be aware of the risks: Trump’s mass deportation order provides for criminal penalties for Good Samaritans “who facilitate [illegals’] presence in the United States.”

Finally, if you’re a deportation thug you must quit your job. Needing to earn a living does not absolve you from accountability for wrongdoing. Death camp guards and slave catchers had bills to pay too. They could tell themselves that what they were doing to get by was lawful. But it wasn’t right — and a lot of people knew that at the time.

Consider, for example, the case of Guadalupe García de Rayos. After 22 years in the U.S. — her parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 14 — she was arrested by ICE agents in Phoenix, who deported her in 24 hours. She left behind two U.S.-born children, both citizens. How can those ICE idiots live with themselves?

It is better to sleep under a bridge and starve to death than to participate in a mass-scale deportation program targeted at the most vulnerable members of society — and the most law-abiding (except for their presence in the U.S.). On the other hand, there is incredible power in refusing to obey an immoral order. How long would Trump’s mass deportations — or his presidency — last if thousands of police officers and ICE agents were to call press conferences and resign rather than deport an innocent family?

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Donald Trump Really Can Solve All Your Problems

Sun, 03/19/2017 - 23:37

Donald Trump promised to solve all of our problems. With Trumpcare, for some Americans, he will definitely keep that promise.

The Republicans’ Political Suicide

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 05:54

Republicans had it all: Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court. Then they floated a “repeal and replace” plan to get rid of Obamacare, apparently an act of political suicide. Healthcare is the new third rail in American politics.

The United States of Entropy

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 23:10

Americans are optimistic people. They think things can only get better. In fact, as we are learning now, things can always get worse, no matter how bad they are now.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Splitting Up of the Democratic Party: Why It’s Probably Coming Sooner Than You Think

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 11:57

Before the election, some pundits were predicting that a Trump defeat would cause the Republican Party to split into at least two discrete new parties — one representing the old GOP’s business establishment, the other for the populist firebrands of the Tea Party. As the fight over gutting Obamacare reveals, those factions are in an uncomfortable marriage. But a full-fledged rupture doesn’t appear imminent.

A bigger story, one the corporate political writers aren’t focused on, is on the left. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Democratic Party split in two.

In my imagined scenario, the liberal Democratic base currently represented by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren file for divorce from the party’s center-right corporatist leadership caste. What next? Led by Sanders/Warren or not (probably not), prepare to see a major new “third” party close to or equal in size to a rump Democratic one.

I even have a name for this new 99%er-focused entity: the New Progressive Party, or simply the Progressive Party. Since this is ahistorical America, no one remembers the Bull Moosers.

Today’s Democratic Party is evenly divided between the Bernie Sanders progressives who focus on class issues and the Hillary Clinton urban liberals who care more about identity politics (gender, race, sexual orientation and so on).

In the short run, a Democratic-Progressive schism would benefit the GOP. In a three-way national contest I guesstimate that Republicans could count on the roughly 45% of the electorate who still approve of Trump after two months of hard-right rule. That leaves the new Progressives and the old Democrats with roughly 27.5% each — hardly a positive outlook for the left in the first few post-schism elections.

But as the cereal box warning goes, some settling may — in this case will — occur…and sooner than you’d think.

First, some “Republicans” in the Trump coalition — those Obama and Sanders voters who switched to Trump — will migrate left, attracted to a Progressive left-nationalist economic message that puts working-class Americans first minus the racism and nativism of the anti-NAFTA Trump right. Doesn’t feel like it this second, but bigotry is finding fewer adherents.

Second, demographic trends favor any left-of-the-Democrats party. Slightly more than half of Americans age 18 to 29 oppose capitalism in its current form. Some Millennials will move right over time, John Adams style — but most will not, mainly because the capitalist economy isn’t likely to reward them with better-paying jobs as they age. A strong Progressive Party — and 27.5% of the vote is strong, guaranteeing access all the way down the ballot to minor races and a spot on the national presidential debate stage — would be the natural home for America’s long-disenfranchised political left.

Third, the Progressives would attract sustained media attention. Excitement generates enthusiasm.

Finally, it isn’t a stretch to imagine that some mainstream Republicans disgusted by a Trump/Tea Party-dominated Republican Party might scoot over to the old Democrats — whose current politics are Republican Party circa 1980, so it’s not like it would be an uncomfortable fit — adding to their numbers.

Granted, this is all very back of the envelope. But my instincts tell me we’ll probably wind up with three surprisingly evenly matched parties before too long.

To be clear, a Democratic split isn’t inevitable. It may not even be more likely than not, not in the next few years anyway. But 10 or 20 years out? The further you extend the timeline, I’d bet a tidy sum that the left will finally hear what the Democratic Party leadership has been telling them for half a century — we don’t need you, we don’t owe you, we won’t do anything for you — and walk.

Why am I so convinced that today’s Dems will go the way of the Whigs?

Still controlled by center-right Clintonistas, the Democratic National Committee continues to snub progressives and leftists despite the fact that Bernie could have beaten Trump.

Throughout the campaign, polls showed Bernie would outperform Hillary in the fall. Still, the DNC cheated on her behalf. And they sleazily lined up the superdelegates for her.

She never considered him for veep. She didn’t even promise to appoint him to the cabinet. Big mistake.

She didn’t adopt any of his signature platform planks.

After the debacle Democratic leaders blamed everyone but themselves: WikiLeaks, Russia, the FBI, the media, even Bernie voters. They didn’t think they did anything wrong.

In the race for DNC chair and thus for the soul of the party, they picked the establishment choice over the progressive.

If you’re a Bernie Sanders Democrat, you have to be a complete idiot to believe that the Democratic Party has learned the lesson of 2016: lean left or go home. Even after it became clear that Trump was putting together the most right-wing administration in American history, Democrats were still voting in favor of Republican appointees.

I can’t predict how the great split-up of the former Democratic Party will play out. But given the escalating rage of the party’s progressive base in the Age of Trump and the absolute refusal of the DNC leadership to grant them concessions, it’s hard to imagine this restive crowd staying calm and keeping Democratic.

The tsunami is coming. Lefties have a choice: get washed away, or grab a surfboard.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

The Good News is Obamacare is Probably OK. The Bad News…

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 23:09

Good news is that if you would like on health insurance through Obamacare, the affordable care act is probably safer now. That’s because of the bad news: Congress is divided between people on the far right and the even further right.

Donald Trump Finds Out the CIA Has Been Spying On Him

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 00:07

According to WikiLeaks, the CIA uses a program called Weeping Angel to turn Americans’ smart televisions into bugs that work even when they are powered down. It turns out that the CIA is spying on Americans like the NSA was at the time of the Edward Snowden leaks. But hey, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, right?

How a Law is Made: Trump Edition

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 00:11

Most presidents begin their first term by proposing legislation. Not Donald Trump. It isn’t surprising that he does everything differently and this is no exception. However, his approach of issuing a blizzard of executive orders — which is amusing considering how much he criticized this practice under President Obama — marks a major departure in the way legislation happens in the United States. Could this be the way that dictatorship begins coming out with a bang but with a whimper?

Rall v. LA Times: Lawsuit Update

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 11:59

Here’s the latest on my defamation and wrongful termination lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times.

At the first of three hearings to consider the Times’ anti-SLAPP motions against me, the judge in the case chastised both the Times’ and my attorneys for violating court rules governing page counts.

The problem began because Times’ attorney Kelli Sager submitted a 27.5 page anti-SLAPP motion against me, asking the court to dismiss my suit and award the Times’ its six-figure legal bill. Court rules limit the page count to 15.

We adhered to the 15-page limit, but it wasn’t possible to reply to 27.5 pages of argument with 15 pages. So in order to effectively counter the Times’ 27.5 page motion, we used a smaller font size.

According to Law360.com: “At the start of the hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon announced she was continuing the hearings on all three motions to future dates and asked that the parties respectively submit amended court filings ‘in compliance with court’s rules and without appendices and footnotes.’ The refiled documents should not exceed 20 pages, she said. ‘I just want both of you to adhere to the California Rules of Court, that’s all I’m saying,’ Judge Sanchez-Gordon said. ‘I’m continuing this because I could not get through [them], I’m sorry.'”

Both the Times and I will resubmit revised anti-SLAPP and opposition to anti-SLAPP motions, respectively, to the court for hearings to be held in June and July.

“Many cartoonists in the States will watch what ensues with interest, considering it a timely test of the First Amendment,” reports Cartoonist Rights Network International.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Can Only Beat Trump By Out-Trumping Him

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 14:33

At a water cooler or Starbucks near you, speculating about Donald Trump’s psychological state is America’s newest cultural obsession. Is the president crazy? Or crazy like a fox?

I don’t know. What I do know is that Trump’s Democratic opponents are doomed if they think they can beat him by acting reasonable. Haven’t they learned anything from Hillary’s disastrous “when they go low, we go high” shtick?

Point of order: what follows are musings about political strategy, not an impassioned “Trump is evil and here’s how to get rid of him” advisory column. If this makes you want to read no further, here’s the big reveal: Democrats are congenital wimps.

Still here? Awesome.

This Week In Trump (TWIT): the president accused ex-president/drone killer/kitesurfer/eight-figure author Barack Obama of having his phones tapped during last year’s election. Is he right?

I don’t know. What I do know is that corporate media is ridiculing Trump for “offering no evidence.” That phrase was in the New York Times’ headline. Nice qualifier; a similar expression of uncertainty would have saved hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives during the Bush-Judy Miller days. “Citing no evidence,” said the Los Angeles Times about Trump’s claim. Since when does that corrupt paper care about evidence? If you can see past its crazy tone and placement on Twitter, the substance of Trump’s charge is hardly outlandish.

True or false, Trump’s accusation is a blockbuster. Whether by design or coincidence, the resulting tsunami of coverage wiped the question of whether attorney general Jeff Sessions lied under oath about meeting with the Russian ambassador and whether he made any untoward promises during those rendezvous.

Political observers have noticed a pattern in Trump’s behavior. Whenever he’s under fire, Trump does something bigger and more outrageous.

Magically, Trump’s troubles go: poof!

“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump was caught saying on video just before his key second debate against Hillary Clinton. “You can do anything.” Seasoned politicos, including your humble narrator, thought his campaign was all over. So Trump invited three women who’d accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to attend the debate. It was a gangster move. A WWE move. And no one could stop talking about it.

Goodbye PussyGate, hello White House!

Again, I’m not weighing in on Trump or his policies here. This is about politics and human psychology and how Trump understands them better than the Democrats.

It has been suggested to me by frustrated Democrats and progressives that Americans should be reminded that the Real Issue is Jeff Sessions’ lying about Russia. They say that the media ought to ignore Trump’s accusation against Obama.

Sorry, guys. That won’t work.

Asking the media to throw shade on PhoneTapGate is insane. Interest in our wild and crazy president is Making the Media Great Again! Newspaper circulation is up for the first time in decades! So are broadcast ratings — because TV cable news covers stuff like this.

There’s only one way to beat crazy: with more crazy.

As one of the few lefties to publicly humiliate the hectoring bully Sean Hannity, and one of the few lefties Ann Coulter is scared to debate, I’m beginning to think I’m the only person in American politics who understands what it would take to take on a loudmouth like President Trump.

Louder.

Meaner.

More over the top.

Love does not Trump hate. It certainly doesn’t Trump Trump.

Trump trumps Trump.

If I were running the DNC, I’d replace the party’s milquetoast rhetoric of watered-down feints with full-bore Trump-style attacks.

Bad: “I am going to be sending [Jeff Sessions] a letter to have him explain himself.” (Al Franken)

Lame: “This is a very real & serious threat to the national security of the United States.” (Elizabeth Warren)

Better But Not Good Enough: “He has proved that he is unqualified and unfit to serve in that position of trust.” (Nancy Pelosi)

To beat Trump, you have to out-Trump Trump with talking points the media can’t ignore and people can’t stop talking about. Here are some lines that might make Sessions the story again by washing away Trump’s TWIT distractions (the alleged Obama tap and Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0).

Good: “Jeff Sessions is a traitor. He should be locked up in prison, now.”

Better: “Let’s say Sessions is telling the truth. Let’s assume Jeff Sessions can’t remember meeting with the Russians. Then he’s a goddamn idiot and too stupid to be attorney general. Why is Trump appointing morons to the cabinet?”

Best: “Of course Obama tapped Trump. Snowden told us. Obama tapped everyone! Which is how we know Sessions is a traitor!”

These sample talking points would be scurrilous. They would be unfair. They’d play fast and loose with the facts.

But they’re the only approach that would work.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

You Might Just Be an ICE Deportation Goon If…

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 00:07

Trump wants to add 10,000 employees to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service under the Department of Homeland Security. This huge increase would largely be dedicated to carrying out mass deportations ordered in order to follow up his campaign promises. You kind of have to ask yourself: what kind of person would want to do this kind of work?

OMG Now We’ll Have to Report on Actual News?

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 00:58

Major news outlets including CNN, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed were banned from a recent White House press briefing with Donald Trump press secretary Sean Spicer. While most people are focusing on the fact that these outlets were banned for publishing things that displeased the White House, what about the fact that these guys shouldn’t be attending such events in the first place? Whatever happened to real reporting?

Take It From Me: Who Uses Your Bathroom Is So Not a Big Deal

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 00:48

Entering the “bathroom wars” surrounding laws like North Carolina’s rule prohibiting transgender people from using the restrooms associated with their gender identities, the Trump Administration will roll back Obama-era regulations that allow transgender students to use their appropriate restroom. Take it from my personal experience, though…really, who uses your restroom is so not a big deal it’s ridiculous.

First Trump Came For Just About Everyone, But I Said Nothing

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 00:45

Under Trump’s mass deportation plan, legal residents suspected of the tiniest offenses could be thrown out of the United States.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Republicans May Impeach Trump

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 16:16

Campaign Ad: Paul Ryan for President 2020.

Speaker Ryan speaks into the camera.

“Impeaching a president from my own party wasn’t an easy decision,” Ryan says, looking sober as footage of disgraced former president Donald Trump departing the White House for the last time appears.

“Sometimes principle” — he pauses for a half-beat — “comes before party.”

A full beat.

“Country always comes first.”

Narrator: “He stood tall when America needs him most. Ready to make the tough decisions when they matter most. Paul Ryan for President.”

Trump-haters want Democrats to push for impeachment. Setting aside the Dems’ congenital cowardice and the arithmetic — a minority party can’t impeach anyone — the real danger to Trump is his nominal Republican allies.

On the surface, Congressional Republicans appear to have been shocked and awed by the president’s surprise victory and ideologically aligned with a Trump Administration whose hard-right cabinet is prepared to grant every item on the GOP’s wish list. But you don’t have to look hard to see that the pre-November split between the party’s old guard (Ryan, John McCain, Mitch McConnell) and the Trump insurgency remains.

The Donald struts the marbled corridors of the capital, his head held high like Caesar. Beneath their togas, the senators’ sharp knives await.

This is speculation, but I bet Republicans with presidential ambitions — Ryan, Rubio, Cruz, Paul — have already grokked that Trump’s days are numbered. Odds makers agree. Whoever takes credit for bringing down a feared and reviled leader will rid themselves of a rival and reap rewards up to and including the highest office in the land.

Barely one month after taking office, Trump’s approval ratings are tumbling into territory historically belonging to presidents mired in scandals and unpopular wars. Voters tell the latest Quinnipiac poll Trump is dishonest and doesn’t care about people like them. Trump’s numbers are within a rounding error of Richard Nixon’s during Watergate.

Right now, Donald Trump is constitutionally impeachable over his temperament and his brazen violations of the emoluments clause. But nothing will happen until he’s politically impeachable. Trump would have to commit a crime or mistake so colossal and irredeemable that mainstream voters of both parties would find him repugnant.

If I’m Ryan or Cruz or some other crafty GOPer, I’m thinking to myself: every president screws up eventually. But this guy Trump will definitely screw up big. Given his manic pace, his Waterloo will occur sooner rather than later.

Whatever form it takes — provoking a war, crashing the economy, corruption, one authoritarian move too far, conspiracy and obstruction of justice — the inevitable Trumpian disaster leaves House and Senate Republicans with a stark choice. Defend him or stand back silently, and Trump drags the Republican Party along with him as he flames out. Or they can throw him under the bus.

Remember, they never liked him in the first place.

Plan B is far more appealing. Becoming the party of impeachment at a time when impeachment is popular transforms crisis into opportunity, allowing Republicans to cleanse their Trump-era sins (trying to repeal the increasingly well-received Obamacare, paying for the Great Wall of Mexico with deficit spending, etc.) and seize the moral high ground in one swoop. Vice President Mike Pence takes the helm, steadies the ship, promotes their right-wing agenda with more grace than his former boss, and Ryan and his buddies prepare for 2020.

As for the Democrats, this scenario leaves the party even more damaged than it is today. If they leave the task of deposing a wounded Donald Trump to the Republicans, they’ll likely never recover.

Still seething over the DNC’s shabby treatment of Bernie Sanders, the progressive base would consider the party completely discredited and hopelessly moderate for failing to lead the charge against Trump. Swing voters, and not a few Democrats, will give Team Ryan credit for their integrity in taking down one of their own. I can imagine the Warren wing forming a new Progressive Party, leaving the Democrats at less than half its current level of support.

Dems could dodge this looming catastrophe by declaring all-out war against the president. For example, Democratic lawmakers could shut down Congress, and thus deny Trump his entire agenda, by denying a quorum — i.e., failing to show up until the president agrees to resign. There are many ways to obstruct. But creating a constitutional crisis would require balls — something in short supply among Congressional Democrats.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Under Trump’s Rules, Just About Anyone Could Be Deported

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 00:40

Donald Trump’s sweeping new plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants includes a provision that also targets 12.6 million green card holders whom the authorities even suspect of even the most trivial offense. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where Trump’s mass deportation plan is heading next.

Jealousy

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:52

When someone with no talent defeats you, do you suck it up? Or do you complain and get accused of being jealous of someone better?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sue the SOBs? It’s Harder Than You Think

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 15:10

Are you one of those Americans who say it’s too easy to file a lawsuit? As I can tell you from personal experience, it’s anything but. The canard that U.S. courts are jammed up by litigious jerks is based on anecdotes spread by corporate propaganda.

We do need “tort reform” — but we should make it easier to sue, not harder.

What about all those “frivolous lawsuits” you’re always hearing about? You hear about them because deep-pocketed corporations run TV ads complaining that they’re being victimized by predatory trial lawyers. The truth is, big companies don’t want to be held accountable in the courts for their misdeeds.
What most people don’t know is that judges are good at ferreting out frivolous lawsuits before they get very far. If you get sued, the first thing your defense lawyer will do is file a “motion for summary judgment” — a request that the judge throw out the case because it’s weak. Between this and other methods of winnowing out bad cases, at least 95% of civil claims never make it to trial.

The dirty secret is that American courts have created so many hurdles to sue that it’s become daunting for all but the most determined plaintiffs to pursue justice. My case against The Los Angeles Times illustrates how hard it is for an individual to sue a large entity.

The Times fired me as its editorial cartoonist in July 2015, apparently as a favor to LAPD’s police chief, whom I had mocked in my cartoons.

Neither I nor Times readers were aware that there was a conflict of interest between the paper and the fuzz: the LAPD’s union pension fund was a major shareholder of the Times’ parent company.

It ought to be illegal for a government agency or an entity associated with a government agency to buy stock in a media company — but it isn’t.

The Times published an article accusing me of having lied in a blog post. I was able to show that I’d told the truth. But after I sent the Times the exonerating evidence — which attracted worldwide media attention and calls for my reinstatement — instead of issuing a retraction and giving me back my job, Times executives doubled down, publishing a second piece reaffirming the first one. In March 2016, I filed suit in LA Superior Court against the Times for defamation, wrongful termination, blacklisting and other charges.

As I expected, the Times’ defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss my case on the grounds that it was not meritorious. The judge denied.

After that, California’s legal and financial hurdles became nearly insurmountable.
When free speech groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation get behind something, I’m usually all for it. The First Amendment is my religion. But speech advocates’ support for a federal anti-SLAPP law is wrong — and terrible for freedom of expression. Perhaps they haven’t thought this all the way through.

Twenty-eight states and D.C. have passed anti-SLAPP laws. On paper, they sound great. A “SLAPP” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) is a lawsuit the plaintiff doesn’t think he’ll actually win. The purpose of a SLAPP is to harass you by forcing you to hire a lawyer and tie you up in court. It’s an intimidation tactic sometimes used by big companies to silence individual whistleblowers and critics. Is the problem really widespread? No one knows. No one has done a serious study.

If you get sued in a state with an anti-SLAPP statute, your anti-SLAPP motion is a powerful tool. Discovery (depositions, subpoenaing of evidence) halts. If the judge rules in the defendant’s favor that a suit is frivolous, the case gets tossed and the plaintiff pays the defendant’s attorney fees. This is supposed to make jerky plaintiffs think twice before filing a SLAPP.

There are two big problems with this theory.

First, anti-SLAPP isn’t likely to deter frivolous SLAPPs filed by wealthy companies and individuals. Wealthy entities have more than enough money to litigate anti-SLAPP and to absorb the potential awarding of attorney’s fees to defendants. In fact, proponents have never come up with any statistical evidence that anti-SLAPP laws deter frivolous lawsuits.

Second, the intent of anti-SLAPP laws — to protect the little guy from the big guys — is constitutionally prohibited. You can’t grant rights to some defendants but not others; there are plaintiffs and defendants, period. So there’s nothing to prevent a rich megacorporation from using anti-SLAPP against Joe Schmoe.

Which is how the LA Times, the fourth largest newspaper in the U.S. and part of a $512 million media conglomerate, was allowed to file an anti-SLAPP motion against a $300/week cartoonist. In other words, the Times censored my cartoons and tried to ruin my journalistic career for their owners, the police. Then they accused me of violating their First Amendment rights!

Starting with their anti-SLAPP motion, Times’ lawyers have unleashed a barrage of tactics to delay my suit and harass me. And it’s worked — for nearly a year, I haven’t been able to question Times editors or LAPD officials under oath or subpoena documents that would help me build my case — or my defense to the anti-SLAPP motion. I’ll get my case before a jury in 2018 or 2019 — if I’m lucky.

Or I’ll be broke.

Three days of anti-SLAPP hearings in Rall v. Los Angeles Times begin February 28th in LA Superior Court. My attorneys spent many hours preparing our opposition to that motion. Legal fees aren’t cheap, so the expense of defending against an anti-SLAPP filing before the case even begins is enough to deter some plaintiffs from filing valid lawsuits.

If the judge rules for the Times, I’ll be ordered to pay the Times their legal fees. The Times told the court their bills would be at least $300,000. If she rules for me, the Times can and probably will appeal to the Court of Appeals. That means more work for me and my lawyers and months, maybe another year, of delay — and justice delayed is justice denied. If the appellate court agrees with the Times, my case gets thrown out and I’ll have to pay the Times’ bills — which by then will be significantly higher.

I know I’m right. And I think the law is on my side. But by filing a lawsuit in an anti-SLAPP state, I’m risking bankruptcy. How many would-be plaintiffs get scared away from pursuing their legitimate claims? How many defendants get away with illegal behavior by abusing anti-SLAPP laws?

Anti-SLAPP opens the door to unfair defense tactics. LA Times lawyers invoked an obscure California statute to require me, as a non-California resident, to post a cash bond to guarantee the Times’ legal bills if they win on anti-SLAPP. They asked for $300,000; the judge knocked it down to $75,000. Just to keep my case going — before it begins, really — 75 grand was the cost of entry.

Thanks to concerned readers who gave to my GoFundMe campaign, I raised the $75,000. After I turned over the money to a bond company who filed it with the court (more fees there), the Times tried to get the case thrown out on the ground that the form hadn’t been filled out perfectly.

Still think it’s too easy to sue?

There’s hope for change. In 2015 Washington State became the first state to find its anti-SLAPP statute unconstitutional because it denies plaintiffs their fundamental right to a trial by jury. Anti-SLAPP, the Washington Supreme Court ruled, “seeks to protect one group of citizen’s constitutional rights of expression and petition — by cutting off another group’s constitutional rights of petition and jury trial.” Minnesota and D.C. may do the same.

Congress should pass a federal law about this — one that bans anti-SLAPP laws.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)