Ted Rall

Syndicate content
Smart Politics in Pictures and Words
Updated: 1 hour 27 min ago

About Today’s Cartoon

7 hours 34 min ago

Some readers have pointed out that today’s cartoon could be read as transphobic, especially because Hitler presided over the mass murder of trans people. This being the Internet, there is unfortunately no way to take back or edit a cartoon — it’s out there. In this case, if I could, I would do one or the other.

By way of explanation, the cartoon is a “what if?” analogy about Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Many liberal women plan to support HRC for president because she’s a woman, and are willing to overlook her record as a pro-NSA corporatist warmonger free-trader — a right-wing political record — because they’re so (understandably) excited at the prospect of seeing the first woman elected President. But…haven’t we just seen identity politics fail with Obama? America would surely have been better off with a boring old white Protestant male who was progressive than Obama, who started several wars, expanded others, and let the banks off the hook.

Anyway, I thought: what if Hitler were a woman? Some women would vote for her anyway! Then I thought: how could he become a woman? Obviously, that would make her a trans woman. Then the cartoon wrote itself.

Nobody knows for sure, of course, whether trans people would really support a terrible candidate with bad politics simply because he or she was trans. That hasn’t happened yet. But we’ve seen it with blacks and Obama and now we’re seeing it with Clinton. There are other examples. People are tribal. They vote for people simply because they’re like them. So yeah, I bet that’s exactly what would happen.

But that’s not the point. The analogy wasn’t clear to everybody. As the cartoonist, it’s my job to make things clear, and this one doesn’t work that way. So if I could make some changes, or just do a different cartoon, I would.

Venice Beach declares war on our infantile obsession with nudity

7 hours 50 min ago

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Not many people are aware of it, and few exercise the right, but it is legal for women to walk around topless in New York City and other cities. (A bare-chested New Yorker even got $40,000 from the city to settle her lawsuit alleging harassment by the NYPD for her nudity.)

Now, if the Venice Neighborhood Council gets its way, toplessness will become legal somewhere more pleasant than the gritty, often slush-filled streets of the Northeast: Venice Beach.

“I think this is a serious equality issue, and I’m not going to shy away from it,” Melissa Diner, the Venice council community officer who sponsored the resolution told the Los Angeles Times’ Martha Groves. Diner said she hoped to “start a conversation about not only wanting to show our nipples on Venice Beach, but about what else people want to see.”

“Venice Beach was founded and designed around the European culture of Venice, Italy,” the neighborhood council said, “and … topless [sun]bathing is commonplace throughout Europe, much of the rest of the world and many places within the U.S.”

In many states and municipalities, the legal basis for prohibiting the exposure of female breasts falls apart because public lewdness laws are specifically targeted against genitals, which obviously breasts are not. Aside from the inherent gender discrimination of anti-toplessness statutes, the widespread social acceptance of breastfeeding in public beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, and the fact that many American travelers see that topless sunbathing in other countries don’t spark riots of sex-crazed males, exposes — pun intended — the utter absurdity of such laws.

So, yes, it is an important political, social and cultural issue. It’s a question of equal rights, body image, addressing the problem of oversexualization driven by, among other things, advertising. But it’s also a matter of maturity.

I’ll admit, when I first read the headline about Venice considering this change, I giggled. Sorry, that’s the 14-year-old boy I used to be. But then after thinking about it for two or three minutes, I shook it off and got serious.

Which is not unlike what happened the summer that the dorms at my college, Columbia University, converted from single-sex, all-male to coeducational. The showers were old, no curtains, one big room. The first female students moved in before they got around to putting in individual shower stalls.

One morning I stumbled in bleary-eyed to the shower, and found several of my new female classmates taking showers. Yes, I was surprised. I was 19. Then I found a spot on the other side of the room, lathered up and got over it. Within a day or two, it wasn’t a big deal.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne so brilliantly documented, America’s original sin, alongside slavery, is Puritanism. Four hundred years after the first colonists arrived in America — people who were so uptight that they couldn’t get along with the British — it’s time that we declared war against our infantile societal obsessions with nudity, especially female nudity.

Ready for Adolfa

20 hours 2 min ago

The knee-jerk reaction of Hillary Clinton supporters who primarily want a first woman president to those who question her less than progressive stands on a host of political issues makes one wonder: where is the limit of identity politics?

The Cops Have Met Their Enemies: They Are Us

Sat, 04/25/2015 - 06:32

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

Fellow political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow deploys a character, Officer Friendly. The always-smiling 1950s-style cop is a clever meme because it reminds us of what has been lost to the militarization of local policing: the fictions that their job is to keep us safe and that they work for us.

In case you harbor any lingering doubts about the true nature of the relationship between us ordinary serfs and the constabulary, the Guardian reports that the Missouri National Guard “used highly militarized language such as ‘enemy forces’ and ‘adversaries’ to refer to citizen demonstrators” in Ferguson during the protests following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man:

Documents detailing the military mission divided the crowds that national guards would be likely to encounter into “friendly forces” and “enemy forces” – the latter apparently including “general protesters.”

A briefing for commanders included details of the troops’ intelligence capabilities so that they could “deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri national guard vulnerabilities,” which the “adversaries” might exploit, “causing embarrassment or harm” to the military force, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN.

And in an ominous-sounding operations security briefing, the national guard warned: “Adversaries are most likely to possess human intelligence (HUMINT), open source intelligence (OSINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), technical intelligence (TECHINT), and counterintelligence capabilities.”

Isn’t that sweet.

Naturally National Guard officials are backtracking.

Captain John Quinn says that ‘enemy forces’ really means “potential threats” like — as Dave Barry says, I am not making this up — “inclement weather, heat, failing levees, etc.”

Incoming. Failing levees?

“It’s disturbing when you have what amounts to American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy,” said Antonio French, local alderman and captain of the obvious.

Except, it ain’t “somehow.”

In many American cities, particularly those with majority white police forces in minority neighborhoods, the police are an occupying army. They view the locals not as citizens whose taxes pay their salaries, who are in fact their bosses, but as dangerous, troublesome rabble to be contained, controlled and suppressed. The militarization of domestic policing, which dates back to the 1950s and the establishment of the first SWAT team in Los Angeles, further separates gendarmes from civilians via training derived from warfare, heavy body armor and wildly excessive firearms.

Trust in the cops is at a record low, thanks in part to ubiquitous cell phone and security camera videos that document police abuse so meticulously that it’s no longer possible even for white law-and-order types to deny accusations by blacks that the cops are treating them like dirt. Look for the cop-citizen gap to widen further as the police increasingly treat whites — for example, during the crackdown against the Occupy movement — badly as well.

The cops have met their enemy, and he is us.

And now there’s no denying it.

 

Guy Who Shot Walter Scott Video Is Selling It for 10K. And Good for Him

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 06:36

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

The guy who took the video that caught a South Carolina cop shooting Walter Scott in the back is telling news outlets that they’ll have to cough up $10,000 to post or broadcast it.

Good. Good for him.

For the record: Passerby Feidin Santana, who took the cell phone video that shocked the nation and landed the police officer in jail awaiting a murder trial, gave it away for free to the family so they could pursue legal remedies, and to media organizations in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

“Now they will have to pay,” Max Markson, the publicist, said.

Let’s get one thing straight: News is big business. The CEO of NBCUniversal makes $31 million a year. Last year – which relatively sucked – brought in $91 million in operating profits to The New York Times. So it’s not like major news outlets can’t afford to shell out a few bucks.

As long as I can remember – in other words, too long – American news organizations have raked in handsome profits and paid exorbitant salaries to their executives, while monetizing video footage and other news assets created by ordinary citizens who gave them away for free. They claim that their refusal to “pay for news” is motivated by the purely noble desire not to allow money to corrupt the process.

The truth is, they’re just cheap. Newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets all around the world routinely pay for interviews, photos and videos; there’s no evidence that the ABC in which the A stands for Australia is any less trustworthy than ours. I have some experience with this: When I agree to an interview with a non-American news organization, it is not rare for me to receive an honorarium to compensate me for my time. Believe me, those foreigners aren’t getting anything different from me than the outfits based here in the good old U.S. of A.

In 2002, two French brothers sold the rights to their exclusive footage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 to CBS for $1 million. They caught a lot of flak for profiting from tragedy, but CBS got 35 million viewers to tune in to their riveting documentary of the attack on New York City. You can be damned sure that CBS made a handsome profit on that.

To reiterate, I would come down on the other side of the argument if we didn’t live in a world of corporatized mass media that keeps thousands of fat white guys, and a few fat white women, in penthouse apartments and Hamptons vacation homes. As long as they’re making money from news, why can’t the rest of us?

It’s the IDs, Stupid

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 00:44

After an American drone accidentally kills two Al Qaeda hostages held in Pakistan, President Obama took the unusual step of apologizing because one was an American aid worker. However, the New York Times noted as an aside that it typically takes weeks to identify drone casualties. Why don’t they know who they’re killing in advance?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Two Stories the Same Day Show That the U.S. is Rotten to the Core

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 21:38

Still think the United States is governed by decent people? That the system isn’t totally corrupt and obscenely unfair?

Two stories that broke April 23rd ought to wake you up.

Story 1: President Obama admitted that one of his Predator drones killed two aid workers, an American and an Italian, who were being held hostage by Al Qaeda in Pakistan. As The Guardian reports, “The lack of specificity [about the targets] suggests that despite a much-publicized 2013 policy change by Barack Obama restricting drone killings by, among other things, requiring ‘near certainty that the terrorist target is present,’ the U.S. continues to launch lethal operations without the necessity of knowing who specifically it seeks to kill, a practice that has come to be known as a ‘signature strike.'”

“Lack of specificity” is putting it mildly. According to a report by the group Reprieve, the U.S. targeted 41 “terrorists” — actually, enemies of the corrupt Yemeni and Pakistani regimes — with drones during 2014. Thanks to “lack of specificity,” a total of 1,150 people were killed. Which doesn’t even include the 41 targets, many of whom got away clean.

Obama’s hammy pretend grief was Shatner-worthy. Biting his lip in that sorry/not sorry Bill Clinton way, the president summed up mock sadness for an event that happened back in January. Come on, dude. You seriously expect us to believe you’ve been all weepy for the last three months, except for all those speeches and other public appearances in which you were, you know, laughing and cracking jokes?

Including, um, the same exact day when he pretend-sadded, when he yukked it up with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots? “That whole story got blown a little out of proportion,” he jibed. (Cuz: “deflate-gate.”) While sad. But laughing.

So. Confusing.

I swear, the right-wing racists are right to hate him. But they hate him for totally the wrong reasons.

Anyway, what took so long for the White House to admit they killed one of our best citizens? “It took weeks to correlate [the hostages’] reported deaths with the drone strikes,” The New York Times quoted White House officials. But in his prepared remarks, Obama said “capturing these terrorists was not possible” — thus the drone strike.

How stupid does the Administration think we are?

The fact that it is possible to find out who dies in a drone fact (albeit after the fact) indicates that there is reliable intelligence coming out of the targeted areas, presumably provided by local police and military sources. If there are cops and troops there who are friendly enough to give us information, then it obviously is possible to ask them to capture the targeted individuals.

Bottom line: the U.S. government is blowing up people with drones willy-nilly, without the slightest clue who they’re blowing up. Which, as political assassinations, are illegal. And which they specifically said was what they were no longer doing. Then they have the nerve to pretend to be sad about the completely avoidable consequences of their actions. They’re disgusting and gross and ought to be locked in prison forever.

Story 2: David Petraeus, former hotshot media-darling general of the Bush and early Obama years, received a slap on the wrist — probation plus a $100,000 fine — for improperly passing on classified military documents to unauthorized people and lying about it to federal agents when they questioned him about it.

Here we go again: more proof that, in the American justice system some people fly first-class while the rest of us go coach.

In this back-asswards world, people like Petraeus who ought to be held to the highest standard because they were entrusted with immense power and responsibility, walk free while low-ranking schlubs who committed the same crime get treated like Al Capone. Private Chelsea Manning, who released warlogs documenting U.S. war crimes in Iraq to Wikileaks, rots in prison for 35 years. Edward Snowden, the 31-year-old systems administrator for a private NSA outsourcing firm who revealed that the U.S. government is reading all our emails and listening to all our phone calls, faces life in prison.

Two years probation. Meanwhile, teachers who helped their students cheat on standardized tests got seven years in prison. To Petraeus, who went to work for a hedge fund, $100,000 is a nice tip for the caddy.

Adding insanity to insult is the fact that Petraeus’ motive for endangering national security was venal: he gave the documents to his girlfriend, who wrote his authorized biography. Manning and Snowden, heroes who in a sane society would receive ticker-tape parades and presidential medals of freedom, weren’t after glory. They wanted to inform the American people about atrocities committed in their name, and about wholesale violations of their basic freedoms, including the right to privacy.

Before he was caught and while he was sharing classified info with his gf, Petraeus had the gall to hypocritically pontificate about a CIA officer who disclosed sensitive information. Unlike Petraeus, the CIA guy got coach-class justice: 30 months in prison.

“Oaths do matter,” Petraeus pompously bloviated in 2012, “and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.”

If you’re a first-classer, the consequences are very small.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, 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 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

Rand Paul: What Will Freak Him Out Next?

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 06:46

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

What could make U.S. presidential candidate Rand Paul, that patron saint of American libertarianism, freak out next? Gun-shy media people need to know.

Yemen Drone Strikes: Arrest This!

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 06:43

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative studied Obama’s drone strikes in Yemen and found that, contrary to assurances that drone strikes are only used when there is no other way to apprehend targets, people were killed even when the local authorities were ready, willing and able to arrest them. But arrests just aren’t as damned cool as drones.

EU Antitrust Charges Against Google? NP. Just Buy Europe

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 06:40

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

The European Union is about to file antitrust charges against Google, The New York Times reports. If found guilty of abusing its market dominance — Google controls 90 percent of search in Europe — it may have to pay a six billion Euro fine. That’s equivalent to 10 percent of Google’s annual profits.

But the worst thing for Google isn’t the prospective fine, says aNewDomain legal analyst Tom Ewing. It’s that the firm will likely have to substantially change its business practices. The claim against Google is around complaints that Google favors it own products and services, non search-related, when someone in Europe uses Google to search. The complaints came from Microsoft, TripAdvisor, Yelp and others. The EU announcement this week culminates a five-year investigation, during which Google didn’t do enough to satisfy EU complaints.

That’s the whole point of anticompetition law and, likely, the EU antitrust charges against Europe. But here is a possible out for Google: Buy Europe!

Waves Everywhere

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 06:31

Originally published by The Kernel/The Daily Dot:

Bigger, Badder LAPD Cops: What Could Go Wrong?

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 03:45

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck “wants to swarm high-crime neighborhoods with more than 200 highly trained officers from the elite Metropolitan Division without undermining years of progress the department has made in building better relationships with those communities,” report Kate Mather, Richard Winton and Cindy Chang in The Times.

Metro Division cops are the best of the best — the department’s elite. So what could go wrong?

“Parachuting reinforcements into unfamiliar territory on this scale marks a change from the LAPD’s longtime community policing tactic of using beat cops to patrol neighborhoods. Metro officers are known more for their specialized tactical and weapons training than for their skills in building relationships with residents,” their report says.

Civil rights lawyer Connie Rice told The Times that she’s concerned the Metro Division deployment may make things worse. “The Metro officers are a super paramilitary version of policing,” she said. “They are not the cops who have relationships and know the communities. They tend to be very aggressive, historically. They don’t get to know a community…. They don’t get to know the people they police or, for that matter, the local officers.”

Today’s cartoon is centered around a rather hilarious quote by Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff: Metro Division police “are not Ferguson-like. They are not South Carolina-like. Our training — sensitivity training, use of force training — is off the charts.”

Really, truly … do these people ever stop and listen to themselves?

Given the state of police-community relations in Los Angeles and across the United States — and I mean “community” in the broad, dictionary sense, not the euphemistic stand-in for “black neighborhood” — the burden of proof is on the cops. Asking us to “just trust them” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Of course, there are establishment types who do still trust the police. Last week, for example, New York Times columnist David Brooks argued that police body cameras violate privacy rights — not for you and me, but for the cops. “Cop-cams…undermine communal bonds,” Brooks wrote. “Putting a camera on someone is a sign that you don’t trust him, or he doesn’t trust you. When a police officer is wearing a camera, the contact between an officer and a civilian is less likely to be like intimate friendship and more likely to be oppositional and transactional.”

I got a ticket a few days ago (for talking on my cellphone while driving). You know what?

It wasn’t an “intimate friendship.”

Although that would certainly be a nice standard to which the Metropolitan Division should aspire.

Best System Ever

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 00:48

As American voters once again gear up for a presidential campaign season in which all the options are evil or slightly less evil, it is striking that the system itself remains in place, mostly unquestioned.

Tokenism: Fascism’s Beard

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 00:55

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is spreading the media meme that a woman president would be “cool.” Yes, it would – but shouldn’t we hold out for a woman president, or any president, whose politics are more appealing?

Cops’ Right to Privately Beat Suspects Shall Not Be Infringed

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 00:19

New York Times columnist David Brooks came out in a recent column as a strident proponent of privacy. Not for you and me, mind you, but for policemen whose right to privately beat people will be infringed upon by body cameras.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Clinton Runs First, Thinks Last

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 07:59

The revealing headline: “Hillary Clinton Will Run; She Still Has to Explain Why.”

The money quote from the story beneath that headline: “For months, Mrs. Clinton has lamented the stagnant wages holding back lower-income people and the concentration of wealth among a sliver of the wealthiest, a sentiment echoed in her first public remarks as a 2016 candidate.”

Linger on that sentence’s introductory phrase: “For months.”

Months?

!

What?

Hillary has been a political animal for decades. She’s been a possible future presidential candidate since at least 1996 — the year she last drove a car. She’s just getting around to figuring out what her politics are?

(By the way and speaking of which, someone in Hillaryworld needs to clue in She-Who-Must-Be-Driven to basic automotive vernacular. When one is a passenger, one does not say, as Secretary Clinton did yesterday, “when I was driving here.” Driving is something one does, not something that is done to you. Unless you are actually, you know, driving, the correct phrase would be: “when I was riding here.” Unless, of course, this is one of those misremembering “dodging sniper fire” senior moments.)

Maybe I took high school civics class too seriously, but I thought the correct order was:

First, come up with list of ideas, policies, and bills that you would, as President of the United States, promote, enact and propose.

Second, run for President of the United States.

This, however, is no longer how a professional political class so removed from the lives of the average citizen that they not only don’t drive but don’t even know words about driving — who think being worth $25 million equals “dead broke,” and that earning $12 million a year makes you “not truly well off” — sees it. First, they fundraise. Second, they run. Third, they figure out what they believe in.

With a campaign warchest likely to set new records, the task of selling influence in a 2017-2021 first term is well underway. Unless she dies or gets hosed by a new scandal, Hillary has the Democratic nomination all sewn up. Which means it’s time for the last priority: ginning up a platform.

At this writing, Clinton says she wants to be a “champion” for “everyday Americans.” What does that phrase even mean? As opposed to what — Americans who live outside the standard Sunday-to-Saturday space-time continuum? Is there some special eighth-and-a-halfth day for one percenters?

There are, she told Iowans, “four big fights that I think we have to take on.”

Hillary’s big fight #1: “We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday.” Question: will there be flying robots? If there are flying robots, I’m in! But not flying robot murderers, like we use to kill Pakistanis and Yemenis. Too much tomorrow.

Big fight #2: Strengthening families. “When families are strong, America is strong.” You’ve been warned, single people who drain America’s strength — Hillary is coming for you! “Because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.” Hell-o, Oprah!

Big fight #3: Campaign finance reform. “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all – even if that takes a constitutional amendment.”

Big fight #4: National security. “We need to protect our country from the threats that we see, and the ones that are on the horizon.”

With all due respect — in other words, none — Hillary’s “platform” reads like a mash-up of Dick Morris’ focus-grouped pabulum and a schoolchild answering test questions about a book she didn’t read.

The “big fight” thesis gets an F: Who’s against “an economy of tomorrow”? Does anyone oppose stronger families? If a presidential candidate has ever run in favor of letting threats go unanswered, it’s news to me.

Of Hillary’s “big four fights,” only a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision has substance. But campaign finance reform is a low priority for Americans. What Americans care most about, polls have shown consistently, is the economy. People want more jobs, higher wages, better job security.

In all fairness, Hillary isn’t the only run-first-think-second presidential contender. With the exception of Rand Paul, there isn’t much beef on the Republican side either.

Still, Hillary’s lameness towers above the rest if for no other reason than the fact that she’s had at least 20 years to think about what she’d do as president. If this is all she can think up after all this time, how slowly will she react when she gets that hotline phone call at 3 a.m.?

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, 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 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

Back to Work

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 00:44

In order to make upper middle class customers feel less guilty about entering their establishments, chains like McDonald’s are issuing modest symbolic increases to their workers.

Time for a Pay Adjustment

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 00:43

Two stories broke the same week: the CEO of McDonald’s announced that 10% of its employees would get a raise from $9 to $10 an hour; the CEOs of big retailers and restaurants, on the other hand, earn $5,859 per hour.