Ted Rall

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Armpits Must Be Dry

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 03:16

An Ebola-infected nurse was allowed to travel home to Cleveland from Dallas, potentially exposing hundreds of passengers to the deadly disease.

Ebola capitalism and the new greed

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 17:46

So I just wrote a new column about the link between capitalism and Ebola exclusively for anewdomain.net. Help support independent journalism and the people who pay for it by reading it here.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Millions of Gen Xers Will Be Homeless Before You Know It

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:11

Forget terrorism, Ebola or even climate change — the most dangerous threat to this country is an epic retirement crisis.

We will soon see tens of millions of Americans reduced to poverty, bringing an end to the United States as an economic superpower.

Unlike attacks and pandemics, this crisis is an absolute certainty, one with a clear, near start date. But the media is hardly mentioning the imminent retirement crisis. So politicians haven’t even begun to think about it, much less take it seriously.

Actually, “retirement crisis” is a misnomer. The problem isn’t that people won’t be able to retire or will be living on a shoestring, though those things are true. We’re staring down the barrel of an epic old age crisis. For the average American, to be elderly will mean not mere belt-tightening, but real, grinding poverty: homelessness and hunger.

Throughout the last few decades, vulnerable people living from payday to payday have gotten battered by the shredding of the government safety net, a lack of accumulated savings caused by the boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism, and a lackluster real estate market.

Now members of the poor and lower middle class in their 50s and 60s are heading into a retirement crisis created by a perfect superstorm.

Traditional defined-benefit pension plans have been replaced by stingy 401(k)s and similar programs which employers no longer pay into, cap how much you can contribute (assuming you can afford it), take a beating during downturns in the stock market, and allow workers to tap when they’re laid off or run into financial trouble. After years of sketchy raids and outright theft, workers with old-fashioned corporate and government pensions can’t be sure their money will be there when they need it. The first Generation Xers — many of whom never had the opportunity to accumulate wealth due to several long recessions that impacted them particularly hard — will reach the traditional retirement age of 65 in the year 2024.

The facts are brutal:

No savings: The average Gen Xer only has a net worth of about $40,000 — enough to live on for a year. Maybe. In Akron. 36% of Americans don’t have a dime saved for retirement.

Later Social Security: Thanks to that lovable wacky Ronald Reagan, the Social Security retirement age was quietly raised to 67 for Gen Xers born after 1960. When you finally get Social Security, it doesn’t pay enough. The U.S. ranks third to last in social security benefits among developed nations.

Age discrimination: The continuing post-2008 recession hit those in their 50s especially hard; employers want cheaper, younger workers. 25% of Americans over age 55 now have no savings whatsoever.

About those pension plans: When journalists mention the retirement crisis, they focus on problems with the defined-benefit system. But that’s irrelevant to most Americans. 90% of private-sector workers don’t have one. Most government workers do — but 85% of Americans work in the private sector.

401ks suck (if you have one). Three out of four workers have no pension plan. What they might have is a 401k. The average Gen Xer who has a 401k — 69% don’t — has a $63,000 balance.

Financial experts say 92% of U.S. workers fall significantly short of what they’ll need to live decently after retirement. “In the decades to come,” Edward Siedle writes for Forbes, “we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the ‘new normal’ for many elderly Americans.”

This is about you — not some theoretical lazy Other.

“At some point,” Siedle says, “lack of savings, lack of employment possibilities and failing health will catch up with the overwhelming majority of the nation’s elders.  Let me emphasize that we’re talking about the overwhelming majority, not a small percentage who arguably made bad decisions throughout their working lives.” [Emphasis is mine.]

America’s army of starving old people will drag down younger people too. “Public finances will be pushed to the limit, crowding out other priorities such as education,” Christian E. Weller predicts in The Hill. “Moreover, economic growth will be slower than it otherwise would be because employers will have more workers whose productivity is declining, while many older families, who could start successful new businesses, will forego those opportunities.”

And the pols?

Useless, Siedle concludes. “Conservatives are trying to pare back so-called entitlements that will mushroom in the near future and liberals have failed to acknowledge the crisis or propose any solutions.”

We can hit the streets to demand action now — or we’ll be living on them later.

(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

You Can’t Escape Zombies in a Canoe

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 03:56

A Pentagon program to militarize local police departments is even giving heavy weaponry to local officials that don’t have any law enforcement functions, including a coroner in the remote Ozark mountains of Arkansas.

Book Review: ” Radical Descent”…Into What?

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 14:43

I wrote a review of Linda Coleman’s new book. Which you can read here.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: I’m Not Changing My Passwords Just Cuz Hackers

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 12:08

The 2003 film “House of Sand and Fog” depicts a tragic string of events that follows a woman who loses her house after ignoring eviction notices mistakenly sent to her for nonpayment of county taxes. A recovering drug addict recently abandoned by her husband, she’s overwhelmed by the deluge of bureaucratic housekeeping demanded by contemporary American society.

I think of that beleaguered woman’s character whenever I receive yet another notice from my credit card company that they are changing their terms and conditions, when an airline urges me to join their frequent flyer program, when a client informs me that they never received the email I’m sure I sent out, but now I can’t find in my sent messages. So much crap, so many petty details, why bother to get up in the morning?

Never is this deluge more front and center than during the immediate aftermath of the latest mass hacking, typically, allegedly, by online gangs in the former Soviet Union. During the Cold War, they said they would bury us. Now they are — in security-focused inanity.

In the latest fiasco that has to make one question if we are really better off now than we were in the old days of passbook savings, they’re saying that as many as 76 million households may have had their account information compromised by an incursion into computers at the banking conglomerate JPMorgan Chase. “The intrusion compromised the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of those households, and can basically affect anyone — customers past and present — who logged onto any of Chase and JPMorgan’s websites or apps,” reports The New York Times. “That might include those who get access to their checking and other bank accounts online or someone who checks their credit card points over the web. Seven million small businesses also were affected.”

Understand this: we are supposed to be very very scared. And we’re supposed to be scared for a reason: they want us to act. They – the banks and corporations – want us to spend an awful lot of time and energy protecting their money.

Bear in mind, when someone steals your credit card data and makes unauthorized purchases or withdrawals, you’re not responsible. In short, it’s not your problem. But the media is colluding with the megabanks in order to make us care about something that we really shouldn’t.

Consider, for example, this advice to us banking customers in the Times article: “Those who want to add a layer of security to their financial life should consider a ‘security freeze,’ one of the strongest tools against theft because it prevents someone from trying to open a new account in a consumer’s name. When you freeze your reports, the big three credit bureaus will not release your credit reports to any company that does not already have a relationship with you. Financial providers and other companies typically request such reports before issuing a new account.”

Considering that this is something that the powers that be want us to do, they’re not making it easy.

The paper continues: “Consumers need to approach each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and may need to pay a small fee, depending on where they live. The process can be a hassle because the freeze has to be ‘thawed,’ or lifted, to apply for a new credit card, for instance, or for a mortgage. (And consumers may need to keep PINs and other information handy to do that).”

Uh-huh.

So let me get this straight. Credit agencies that earn billions of dollars selling our information, much of it erroneous, want to charge us for our own data, so we can protect the big banks that we bailed out in 2009 at taxpayer expense and even now refuse to refinance mortgages or lend to small businesses, a major reason that the economy is still terrible, and waste God knows how many hours online or on the phone dealing with this boring crap.

Well, hear this, Russian hackers and American banksters: I’m a busy person. I have a lot to do. Like most Americans, I work three jobs. If I ever find myself with any spare time, it’s going to be on the beach and is going to involve margaritas and good books.

I am not going to change my passwords every time I read one of these scare stories. I refuse to pick new unique passwords for each of my dozens of accounts. I will not freak out on behalf of people who don’t give a damn about me or anyone I care about. And it will be a cold day in hell before I put a credit freeze on my own account, and pay for the privilege.

(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

 

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Drought Goes On, California Goes On Too

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 08:52

 

Some “deep green” environmentalists believe that the tab for two-plus centuries of industrialization is about to come due in the form of a catastrophic ecological disaster — one that might lead to the great sixth mass extinction on a scale similar to the meteor believed to have taken out the dinosaurs. (Yes, that means you, human reader.)

Here in California, the current drought — which some scientists believe may be the worst in 500 years — understandably leaves many Golden State residents, always aware of water restrictions in a region surrounded by deserts, with a sense of disquiet. What if this goes on? Will the California Dream turn to dust and blow away?

Apparently not. Like the Earth in general, California’s climate is surprisingly resilient, according to recent computer models.

State climate researchers ran a projection of what would happen after “even decades of unrelenting mega-drought similar to those that dried out the state in past millennia,” reports Bettina Boxall of the Times.

“The results were surprising,” Jay Lund of UC Davis told her.

If you own stock in the ag business, you might want to consider unloading them. Agriculture, the climatologists found, would be hit hard. “In their computer simulation, annual runoff into rivers and reservoirs amounted to only about half the historical average. Most reservoirs never filled. Under that scenario, experts say, irrigated farm acreage would plunge…The state’s 8 million acres of irrigated cropland could fall by as much as half, predicted Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. Farmers would largely abandon relatively low-value crops such as cotton and alfalfa and use their reduced water supplies to keep growing the most profitable fruits, nuts and vegetables. They would let fields revert to scrub or dry-farm them with wheat and other crops that predominated before California’s massive federal irrigation project transformed the face of the Central Valley in the mid-20th century.”

Biodiversity would suffer too. “Aquatic ecosystems would suffer, with some struggling salmon runs fading out of existence.”

Water prices will rise. Desalination plants will be built along the coast. While initially painful, the agrishock would only affect 4% of the state’s economy — notable, but not fatal.

Bottom line: “The California economy would not collapse. The state would not shrivel into a giant, abandoned dust bowl. Agriculture would shrink but by no means disappear.”

Paradoxically, this good news (or not-that-bad news, anyway) is bad news.

Political and economic leaders tend to ignore problems before they turn into a crisis — especially when heading off the issue would cost money. The news that California’s drought probably won’t lead to ruin within their lifetimes, or our children’s lifetimes, ensures that they’ll keep ignoring environmental destruction. Species will keep going extinct. Flocks of birds will continue to thin out. Invasive species will accelerate the process. These things may not sink the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but they really really really suck.

This is one of those rare times when I wish — almost — that the scientists had lied about what they discovered.

ISIS is Hiring

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 03:53

Silicon Valley has added zero net new jobs in 16 years, and many of the old jobs pay poorly. ISIS, on the other hand, is hiring.

Almost

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 11:52

ISIS beheads a journalist. The US bombed them. They behead another one. The US bombs more. So it goes and goes, yet no one asks: why is ISIS still cutting off its hostages’ heads? Could it be that we’re playing into their blood-soaked hands by provoking contempt for the US among bombing victims?

Battleground Middle East: Reporters and historians explore the roots of conflict

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 10:05

Battleground Middle East:
Reporters and historians explore the roots of conflict
Express Milwaukee
October 8, 2014

Beyond the “Law”

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 03:26

After Apple announced that it would be hard for the NSA to hack into the new iPhone 6, angry government officials fumed that people who buy it would be trying to put themselves “outside the law.” Say what?

Cartoons vs. Capitalism vs. the Climate: A week of presentations & discussions with cartoonists Stephanie McMillan & Ted Rall, and more!

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 10:36

 

 

 

 

 

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1565076077047113/

October 14-18
(All are at California State University at Northridge (CSUN)* except 1 p.m. Wednesday @ LA Valley College. All are free and open to the public.)

*CSUN is at 18111 Nordhoff St, Northridge, California CA 91330-8207

Tuesday 10/14:

“Art is a Weapon”
7-9 p.m., Kurland Auditorium, Valley
Performing Arts Center (VPAC)
Political art + recent work
by Ted Rall, John Quigley & Stephanie McMillan
Wednesday 10/15:

“Art is a Weapon”
1-3 p.m., Monarch Hall, Campus Center at LA Valley College
map: https://www.lavc.edu/map/
Political art + recent work
by Ted Rall & Stephanie McMillan

“War, Imperialism and Oppression…and Resistance”
7 -9 p.m., Sequoia Auditorium, Sequoia Hall
with Ted Rall, Stephanie McMillan & Prof. David Klein

Friday 10/17:

“Art is a Weapon”
2-3:40 p.m., Nordhoff Hall 113
Political art + recent work
by Stephanie McMillan & Ted Rall

The Little Prez

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 03:23

Public access to the White House and its environs has shrunk steadily since Andrew Jackson hosted a wild party there. Now the wake of a run by a deranged vet through the White House has security experts recommending that a safety corridor be extended several blocks beyond the White House fence. How safe is safe enough?

The Worst Toilet I Ever Endured Was the Toilet I Endured in San Francisco

Sat, 10/04/2014 - 10:07

You just shat. Now you realize there’s no TP. Or paper towels. What do you do? That was me in San Francisco. Learn from my shame. Exclusive to ANewDomain.net.

Two ISIS Guys Hanging Out

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 07:38

When you stop to think about it, ISIS has killed fewer people than President Obama. If ISIS represents an existential threat that the world must stop no matter what, does that make the US even worse? What, besides technology, is the difference between drones and beheadings?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Ebola Is Here in America. Why Aren’t We Angry?

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 14:26

It was clear from the tone of the coverage of Ebola’s arrival in the United States that media gatekeepers expected people to be surprised by a Dallas hospital’s decision to turn away U.S. Ebola Patient Zero from the emergency room. It was, by any standard, a colossal screw-up, one that might easily have been avoided. The man was Liberian. He’d informed ER staff that he’d recently traveled to Liberia, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. His symptoms — he vomited en route to the hospital — were consistent with Ebola. Despite having all the information they needed to make a proper diagnosis and having received alerts from the Centers for Disease Control to be on alert for people arriving from West Africa with flu-like symptoms, the hospital turned him loose, where he is believed to have directly exposed at least 100 people to the deadly virus.

It’s an outrageous lapse, yet Americans weren’t outraged. Why would we be? Anyone who deals with the U.S. healthcare system has experienced its systematic incompetence.

In New York City, where I’ve lived most of my life, conventional wisdom is that a visit to the ER will make whatever is ailing you worse rather than better — unless you’ve been shot. Severe vomiting? Head pressure that makes you feel like your head is going to explode? Sky-high fever? Blunt head trauma caused by a car accident? Odds are, you’ll sit on hard plastic seats in a stuffy waiting room for hour after hour, feeling nastier and nastier. The one time I got proper treatment at the ER was when the root of a mole on my chest separated from the artery into which had grown, causing it to burst into a glorious, gory explosion à la “Saw.”

“Gunshot wound!” an intern shouted when my friends carried me in.

Instant attention. Multiple doctors.

Obviously it worked out ­— here I still am, writing and complaining.

If you live in New York, and you’re really really sick but not visibly bleeding, you might want to shoot yourself. Hey, doc, while you’re dressing that bullet in my thigh, can you look at the dent in my skull?

The Dallas Ebola incident reminded me of an evening I spent with my friend Cole Smithey, the film critic.

“My finger is bothering me,” Cole whispered to me during a screening. After the lights came up, he showed me an index finger that had expanded to nearly double its normal width. We drew the same conclusion: an insect bite, most likely a spider. Swelling tends to be greater on extremities.

As the night wore on, however, the swelling got worse and more painful. We searched in vain for the telltale double marks of a spider bite.

Cole is a stoic guy but his agony was obvious. Around 11 pm we appeared at the emergency room of Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan — a stone’s throw from New York Hospital where, New Yorkers remember, Andy Warhol died of medical neglect.

We waited. The pain got worse. When we consulted the triage nurse, she took a quick look at Cole’s hand, which by then was swollen nearly down to his wrist, and told us to leave. “Go the pharmacy and get some Benadryl,” she ordered.
We followed her advice. Cole took the Benadryl and went home.

And nearly died.

Turned out he had an aggressive form of flesh-eating bacteria. Unable to sleep, he took a cab at 5 am to a private 24-hour clinic where doctors immediately recognized the symptoms and began pumping heavy-duty antibiotics via an IV.

It was touch and go for a few hours.

“Good thing you came when you did,” a doctor told him. “If you’d waited a couple more hours, you’d be dead.”

Like the Ebola failure in Texas, my friend’s near-death experience due to an idiot in the ER is an outrage — and common occurrence. Every American can tell a similar story. It’s been this way for as long as we can remember; it just keeps getting worse.

As the Ebola scare demonstrates, a nation that shortchanges its healthcare infrastructure is due for an awful reckoning. But good healthcare is incompatible with corporate capitalism. As long as medicine is a business rather than a privilege guaranteed by the government to every citizen at no cost, hospitals will be short-staffed, too small for their communities, riddled with workers who are overworked, demoralized and/or inept.

(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