Ted Rall

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Better a Pedophile Than a Democrat

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 08:31

If you doubt that team politics are the order of the day, check out the Alabama Senate race where Roy Moore, who stands accused of child molestation and attempted rape, stans a better than even chance of winning a special election the simple fact that Alabama is a Republican state and that voters there simply won’t support a Democrat no matter what.

Brother, Can You Spare a Post Card?

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 00:44

Paul Ryan and the Republicans say the new Republican tax reform plan is great because it will be simpler. But another thing is simple too: many people will get no cut or even have to pay higher taxes.

We Hardly Knew Ye, Old Boys Club

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 07:07

The explosion of sexual assault and harassment allegations against politicians, entertainment figures and other authority figures signals a cultural shift that this behavior will no longer be tolerated. Which means it’s a new era for a certain kind of man.

Rall v. LA Times: Now They Want Me To Pay Them $340,000

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 12:47

Hi, hope you’re enjoying the fall weather!
Here’s the latest on Rall v. LA Times.
As you may recall, the Times won their anti-SLAPP motion against me in LA Superior Court, and we are appealing that to the Court of Appeals.
We’re optimistic, but in the meantime the Times has filed their attorneys’ fees with the Court and is demanding that I pay them $340,000. That’s right — the LA Times defamed me, and now they’re abusing the law to try to bankrupt me!
There’s a court hearing about the Times’ insane legal bills on November 20; if you’d like to attend please let me know.
Among the highlights:
Times lawyer Kelli Sager charges $705 an hour to defend them against the people they libel, instead of simply publishing a retraction and an apology for their lies. No wonder newspapers are in financial trouble!
One of the defendant corporate entities, Tribune Media, ceased to relate to newspapers in a complicated restructuring that my previous lawyer didn’t know about. Sager was supposed to tell my former lawyer; that’s standard legal ethics. She didn’t. Yet she is billing more than $30,000 just defending that defendant…when she could simply have told my lawyer for the cost of a phone call.
If the Times wins on November 20th, they will likely go after the $75,000 bond posted in 2016 as a result of a previous court order. If that happens and I prevail at appeal, we’ll get it back.
Thank you for your support and, if you’ve been following the fight between Disney and the LA Times, remember: the LA Times are not First Amendment heroes.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Call H.R.? Why Not the Cops? The Weird Politics of Sexual Harassment

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 07:37

            When the Kevin Spacey story first broke, he stood accused of one act of wrongdoing: aggressively hitting on a 14-year-old boy.

If true, this is wrong. Very wrong. Obviously. Adults shouldn’t proposition children. But this happened more than 30 years ago. The nature of the response — Netflix distanced itself from the star of its hit show “House of Cards” by announcing its previously secret decision to end the series next year — seems like the wrong response to the actor’s behavior…and one that has become all too typical.

Bear in mind, this was before other people stepped forward to say Spacey had sexually harassed them. Some of Spacey’s accusers worked on “House of Cards.” After that, Netflix would have been derelict not to put Spacey on hiatus as the accusations get sorted out, and to fire him for creating a toxic work environment for its current employees. Which is what it did.

Sexual harassers getting their just comeuppance is a good thing. It is decades, centuries, millennia overdue. What I can’t figure is, why is the knee-jerk response to these accusations, the standard-issue form of social shaming in the 21st century, to fire them from their jobs — including jobs where they didn’t do anything wrong?

The NYPD may file criminal charges against Harvey Weinstein, whose name will for the forseeable future be preceded by the phrase “disgraced Hollywood producer.” But Weinstein is an exception. For most men accused of sexual harassment and assault during this post-Weinstein outcry, the standard demand is: fire him!

Depriving a man (or woman, if that happens) of their livelihood in response to piggishness seems both too little and too much.

For victims, the knowledge that their attacker lost their job hardly rises to the level of even minimal justice. Nor does it protect other women from falling prey as well. Any sanction short of a prison term for a rapist or a big-time sexual harasser is bound to feel trivial, as though society doesn’t weigh victimhood, as if victims are disposable.

For the falsely accused (e.g., the University of Virginia, probably also the Columbia student accused by a famously mattress-toting classmate), being deprived of a livelihood for a crime they didn’t commit is egregious. We live in a capitalist society without a minimal safety net, so losing your job can — if you are unable to find a new one — quite literally kill you.

Unless the incident occurs on the job, the connection between employment and sexual harassment and rape is as arbitrary and odd as that between employment and healthcare. If a society determines that healthcare is important, it should be available to everyone, not just workers fortunate enough to land a 40-hour-a-week job working at a company big enough to offer a health plan. Similarly, what does sexually harassing 30-plus years ago at a private party — yes, even a boy — have to do with Spacey’s then-current gig with Netflix?

It didn’t turn out to be the case, but try to imagine that the entire brief against Spacey had never expanded beyond Anthony Rapp’s tweet, which describes an incident that Spacey claims he doesn’t recall. It’s safe to say Spacey’s character on “House of Cards” would have been killed off. Spacey probably would have lost other jobs. He would likely have had trouble finding work in the future. You might say good, who cares? But this outcome would have been fair neither to Rapp nor to Spacey.

If Rapp is telling the truth, it would be better for that truth to be determined by the courts, should he decide to file charges. Statues of limitation are challenging in these cases, but the solution is for state legislatures to fix that problem, and for prosecutors to be induced to go after cases tougher than a slamdunk. As it is, political leaders are abdicating justice to social media lynch mobs and employers. There are also civil courts, where the standard of proof is lower.

As far as Spacey goes, is it ethical to take money out of his pocket over an accusation that has never been tried, much less proven, by a judge or jury?

On the other side of the coin, Fox News waited way too long to fire Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. I’m not typically sympathetic to corporations or their bottom lines, but if I’m the boss at a company, anyone who forces my organization to pay a multimillion-dollar settlement to a sexual harassment victim — because, let’s face it, corporations only pay when they’re guilty — is out the door before it happens again. Mark Halperin allegedly harassed women at ABC; ABC’s firing thus seems cut and dry.

Of the recent firings, NPR handled things better than most. Michael Oreskes hung on to his job as long as his accusers were out of his past, from his previous position at the New York Times. They let him go after a female NPR staffer said he’d harassed her.

These cases of sexual harassment and assault are more straightforward from a human-resources point of view: employers must not permit a hostile work environment. That requires them to fire harassers. But this does not go far enough. What of their victims? Is victims’ only recourse to sue in civil court, or try to get a book published? Here too, we need to adjust the criminal justice system to a post-“Mad Men” world that understands the toxic effects of workplace harassment. Bill O’Reilly probably misses his job, but he’s still rich and life goes on.

As I’ve written before, employers have way too much power over workers. While bosses have every right — and the duty — to fire those who abuse other employees at their current workplace, they shouldn’t be allowed to punish anyone for actions, no matter how heinous, that took place outside the workplace or at a previous job. Otherwise we wind up with insane politically-oriented censorship firings like the case of the neo-Nazi dude who never shared his views at his job at a pizzeria, yet got canned after he was photographed in Charlottesville, and the liberal woman whose marketing company employer let her go after she gave the finger to Trump’s motorcade — while biking, not at work.

Sexual harassers and assaulters should face prison time. So should false accusers. But bosses need to mind their own business — at their own business.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) 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.)

As We All Know

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 04:18

Mainstream media outlets like NPR and The New York Times keep saying that Russia hacked the 2016 presidential election. Now we’re making policies and launching investigations based on those stories. Maybe it’s true. But there’s still no concrete evidence available to the public.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: NYC Attack: Another Reason to Protect Bicycle & Pedestrian Paths

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 04:26

This week’s ISIS-inspired truck attack in lower Manhattan by Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov has prompted discussions on a number of fronts. There is blowback, the foreign-policy-chickens-come-home-to-roost indicated by an increasing number of radical Islamists emerging from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, a Central Asian nation whose brutal dictatorship is financed and armed by our U.S. taxdollars.

There is the ongoing verbal diarrhea of our mentally diseased president, whose tweets that Saipov deserves the “DEATH PENALTY” (caps his) were overshadowed by his even more outlandish suggestion that the suspect be reclassified as an “enemy combatant” (a Bush-era phrase undefined by American law) and sent to the U.S. torture-concentration camp at Guantánamo. Always the opportunist, Trump also said the “diversity visa” program ought to be abolished because Saipov came to the U.S. under what is more commonly known as the visa lottery.

Seems to me that the biggest issue raised by the New York attack is the one we’re not talking about: the need to protect bicyclists from cars and trucks on public roadways.

Saipov drove his rented Home Depot truck down the West Side Highway onto what becomes West Street, the six-lane road that follows the Hudson River in Manhattan. At Houston Street, just south of Greenwich Village, he made a quick right and a quick left onto the joint pedestrian-bike path that runs alongside the highway. There he mowed down cyclists and pedestrians, killing eight people.

Those eight people aren’t dead solely due to Saipov. They were also killed by the City of New York and its lousy urban planning.

Though in recent years there has been considerable progress in terms of setting aside asphalt for bike paths, walkways and urban parklets in New York and many American other cities, city officials seem largely oblivious to the risks of placing soft human bodies in close proximity to speeding cars, SUVs and trucks.

New York, where I live, is one of numerous cities to report success with bike-rental programs. Ours is called Citibike; you rent a bike from a kiosk and return it to a docking station near your destination. In between you make your way down and across city streets, where cars and trucks rule.

I almost understand the city’s reluctance to dedicate a bike lane to, or to dedicate entire streets to, along smaller crosstown thoroughfares. They’re too narrow; you’d have to eliminate a lot of street parking, which would create more congestion. But the way New York has handled bike lanes along big boulevards is nothing short of inexplicable.

Nothing separates the bike lane from motor vehicle traffic but a line of white paint or, in some cases, short plastic sticks. Forget terrorism — hype aside, terrorism kills so few people that the only rational way for individuals to respond to it is to ignore it and live your life. It’s the ordinary accidents that worry me: two cars collide, one or both lose control and enter the bike path. It happens all the time in New York and elsewhere.

The West Street path where Saipov murdered his victims benefits from a short jersey barrier along the automobile section. But it’s easily accessible to even a large truck driven by a person of ill will, as we saw a few days ago — not to mention the random drunk who thinks it’s a service road. And it contains yet another ridiculous design flaw: putting pedestrians and bicyclists in the same space. Cyclists weave between walkers, terrifying them. Walkers are oblivious to cyclists, creating more accidents. Each deserve safe, discrete spaces to enjoy the outdoors.

What’s maddening about this is that this is the kind of tragedy that is predictable and easy to avoid with minimal expense. Bike paths running adjacent to traffic should be separated by solid concrete or metal barriers between intersections. At intersections, a series of metal bars wide enough to allow bikes to pass through but too narrow for cars, and solid enough to stop one traveling fast, should be installed.

The same precautions should be taken along densely-populated urban streets in order to protect pedestrians. In May 2017 a man high on PCP drove on a sidewalk in Times Square, killing a woman and leaving more than dozen others injured. But it would have been worse had his vehicle not been blocked by a bollard. Sturdy metal barriers should be installed along busy streets to protect pedestrians from out-of-control cars; at intersections they should go with those poles I mentioned above.

You can’t protect everyone. You can’t anticipate every nefarious plot. But disasters that are predictable, easy to avoid or mitigate, and relatively inexpensive are a no-brainer.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) 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.)

Our Two Parties, Explained

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 23:30

Given the failure of the Trump Administration to articulate a coherent policy message or to enact significant legislation, you would think the Democrats would be rising to the occasion, forming a loyal opposition party that explained their alternative vision. You would be wrong. Here’s why.

The Trouble with NDAs

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 23:27

People are wondering, why do the victims of Harvey Weinstein and other sexual predators agree to settlements that include a non-disclosure agreement? Because the pressure is too much to bear not to. Here’s my personal experience with an NDA and a suggestion of a solution.

Francis: The People’s Pope

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:10

Publication Date: March 13, 2018

Order at Amazon!

He thought his church career was drawing to a close. Then he was asked to take over a Catholic Church in crisis.

Religiosity was in decline in the West. And the Catholic Church was in bigger trouble than any other institution you could think of. Losing parishioners, shrinking in power and prestige and discredited by corruption and sex scandals, a 2000-year-old church that traces its origins to Saint Peter was on the ropes, in danger of losing its viability everywhere but Latin America.

So the council of cardinals turned to Latin America for its savior. Francis brought newfound humility, transparency and charisma to a church that desperately needed it…but first he had to answer some hard questions about the sins that came with his rise to power.

Current Events/Biography, 2017
Seven Stories Press Paperback, 5″x7″, 192 pp., $16.95

To Order A Personally Signed Copy directly from Ted: Information TBA

Robert Mueller to Arrest Those Who Lost the Election for Hillary0

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 23:16

Congressional Special Counsel Robert Mueller is about to begin arresting people in his probe of the 2016 presidential election. Who cost Hillary Clinton the election? He knows. So do we.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: #MenToo? Even Under Matriarchy, Rape and Sexual Harassment Would Still Be a Big Problem

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 10:05

Post-Harvey Weinstein, the pitchforks are out — and with good reason. Women and girls have been diminished, objectified, exploited, terrorized, discriminated against, sexually harassed forever. Only fools thought sexism and misogyny at the hands of male oppression had been eliminated, but many people had reason to assume things had improved post-Gloria Steinem in the 1970s, when “male chauvinist pig” became a sit-com meme. Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly et al. demonstrate that, at the apex of the power structure, nothing really changed.

And that’s the point of this column, which I was reluctant to write for fear of being accused of minimizing the righteous anger of the women stepping forward to say enough, no more. Rape culture — the insidious vapor that women wade through every day, whether it’s inappropriate sexist or sexual remarks, gauging whether it’s safe to take their boss up on an offer for drinks that could lead to a promotion, and/or an unwanted sexual advance, or hesitating to tell a wolf-whistling construction worker where he can stick it because he could break her face without breaking a sweat — does not afflict men to any significant extent. Men feel fear walking down a city street at 1 a.m. in a bad neighborhood; women feel it all the time in every neighborhood.

Rape culture only afflicts women. But rape cuts across gender. One out of ten rape victims in the United States is male, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

This echoes what I was told as a member of a committee when I was a student. Barnard College, where I lived in a dorm, had recently established a rape crisis center with about 10 counselors. Someone brought up a surprising statistic. The campus security office reported that 10% of rape victims at Columbia University were male. (They didn’t say the sex of the attackers.) When I suggested that the crisis center might want to consider hiring one counselor with expertise with male victims, however, the other committee members laughed — all of them except the other guy.

To the extent that society discusses this hidden 10 percent — or, if you believe the 2013 National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 38 percent! — the cliché is males raping males. Yet the BJS found that 46 percent of victims reported being raped by a woman.

No one can credibly minimize the devastating impact of sexual assault and harassment on the vast majority of victims, who are women. But, as inadequate as it is, there is awareness, and infrastructure, and sympathy for female rape victims. Can you imagine, as a man, trying to file a report with the police that you’d been sexually assaulted by a woman?

Given male anatomy that requires an erection for penetration, how can a woman rape a man? Well, she can. Really. As with female rape victims, physical arousal in men can be stimulated involuntarily. Don’t forget the effects of drugs, alcohol and psychological manipulation.

What about men’s superior upper body strength? Men are stronger on average. But many individual women are stronger, and some individual men are weaker, than the average. Sometimes there are multiple attackers. It happened to me.

To most guys even, getting jumped by two women sounds like a “Dear Mr. Guccione, I never thought I’d be writing this letter” scenario. But not every dude wants it all the time, no guy wants it from every woman, and sometimes you’re just not feeling it with a woman whom you might find appealing under different circumstances. Every “unwanted sexual advance” is unwanted until and unless it gets accepted; the trouble starts when the advancer refuses to take no for an answer, as happened in my situation, and it escalates when they get angry or vengeful. Like most men, I was socially programmed, Robocop Directive 4-style, never to lay a hand on a woman. I was lucky; I barely managed to escape my attackers, pants dragging on the floor, without hitting anyone.

It was easy to imagine another outcome: succumbing to rape or, worse, being charged with assault for defending myself. This happens to women too, of course — but it’s harder for male victims to mount a credible legal defense.

Similarly, men also fall prey to harassment in the workplace. I have been fired from two jobs, each after I had refused my female boss’ sexual advances. They cited other pretexts, but I’m sure that I would have lasted longer had I put out.

Many of Harvey Weinstein’s victims tell stories of turning up for a meeting hopeful that a connection with a high-powered producer could score them a great role in a cool movie, only to find that the only thing he wanted was sex. For those who got out of his hotel room without him touching them, the experience was degrading and a waste of time.

I get it. One night in the 1980s, the car service that took me home late from my job at a New York bank asked if I’d share a vehicle because heavy rain had made taxi scarce. I was in my early 20s. My taxi companion, a woman in her 40s, informed me that she was a top bank official looking to hire a new officer and invited me to lunch to discuss my career. At lunch, however, she made an indecent proposal: she’d put me on salary to a job I’d never have to show up to as long as I became her live-in boy toy. She didn’t threaten or grab my bits. But she wasted my time and my self-esteem. Was my body all this high-powered executive saw of worth in me?

When I confide this story, reactions range from incredulity — you should have gone for it! — to derision. Sounds hot! Dismissal, men who have been there will tell you, is typical. Former professional bicyclist Joe Papp told me he was “sexually harassed and then assaulted  (groped, kissed against my will) by [an] inebriated female colleague. One other female colleague present. Reported it to ownership next day — they laughed.”

Pundits point to Weinstein and Hollywood’s male-dominated executive suites as central to the propagation of rape culture. “To solve the problem, Hollywood needs new executives and decision-makers: women,” Adam Epstein writes at Qwartz. “Nothing of substance will get done until there are more women bosses in every department, and at every level, of the film business.” Gender equality is great — but it won’t eliminate sexual harassment and assault. According to one study, one-third of American men report being sexually harassed in their workplace during the last year.

As Roxane Gay wrote in The New York Times, “Sexual violence is about power. There is a sexual component, yes, but mostly it’s about someone exerting his or her will over another and deriving pleasure and satisfaction from that exertion.”

You could transform America into a matriarchy. It might be great. But it wouldn’t free us from rape or sexual harassment.

Only a revolution against inequality could do that.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) 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.)

Bush’s Exit Interview

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 23:21

George W. Bush left the presidency disgraced with rock-bottom approval ratings. Now he’s trying to rehabilitate his legacy by breaking presidential tradition and attacking Donald Trump. Can a speech erase a record of mass murder and illegal war?

The Revolution Will Be Jerseyized

Sun, 10/22/2017 - 23:23

Colin Kaepernick’s jersey is the bestselling one in the NFL, even though the league has blacklisted him for protesting police brutality, and wearing his jersey elicits hostile reactions from right-wing football fans. Soon this is how we’ll express ourselves politically, not by protests or letters to the editor, but via our licensed sports merchandise.

No Starlets

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 07:21

How can we separate the brilliant auteur from his disgusting sexual history as a predator? If only there were a warning label.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Girls in the Boy Scouts Feels Weird

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 11:08

I’m not a traditionalist. Progress is good. The fact that we’ve always done something a certain way is no argument for continuing to do it the same way.

I’m not a fan of single-sex environments, whether they be schools, workplaces or civic organizations. I’ve worked in all-male spaces (a Wall Street trading room, a taxi garage) and found the testosterone-fueled machismo toxic and thoughtless. I lived in a 99% female college dorm and worked in a 80% female office (banking consultancy); there was oppression there too, in a more groupthink conform-or-die way (like in the movie “The Beguiled,” but less murderous and more inane). The majority gender always discriminates against the minority.

So after it was announced that girls will be allowed to join the Boy Scouts, I wondered: why does this decision feel so weird? Not so much a bridge too far — objectively, admitting transgender Scouts earlier this year, and gays in 2013, felt more radical but also exactly like the right thing to do — as much as pointless and poorly executed.

As an only child raised by a single mom, and who saw my father six hours a week, I thrived in the male energy of Boy Scouting. Someone wrote that a father is a parent who doesn’t mother. That’s what I loved about it. At Woodland Trails scout reservation the troop leaders sat around drinking beer while we chased each other with pointy sticks, set fires with few regards for safety protocols and blundered into mayhem, like the time members of my patrol burned wood covered with poison oak and half the guys breathed in the smoke.

You see what I mean about stupidity and testosterone.

The world is mixed-gender. If the argument is that scouting prepares young people for adulthood, then gender segregation should go because it’s counterproductive and sets the stage for the same-sex sexual abuse scandals that have already occurred. Seen through that lens, a merger of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts into one mixed-gender youth organization would have made sense.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead of striking a decisive blow against sexism, the BSA “blindsided” the Girl Scouts without consulting with the group in advance, according to the latter group’s spokesperson, deploying a policy change that seems intended to boost the BSA’s sagging membership by poaching girls who are more into camping than making stuff in someone’s house. “If you have a mom who’s really into crafts and girlie stuff and being a princess, then that’s what your Girl Scout troop is going to be like. If you have a daughter who’s more rough and tumble, it’s not going to be a good fit,” Rebecca Szetela, a mother of four from Canton, Michigan, told The New York Times.

Oddly the BSA, historically more politically right-wing than the relatively progressive Girl Scouts, continues to prohibit atheist and agnostic kids from joining the organization.

Where there were once two, easy to digest options for kids, now there will be two and a half: Boy Scouts (for boys and girls), and Girl Scouts (girls only).

BSA is about to begin a transition period. Initially there will be a parallel girls-only program within Boy Scouts in which those girls who want to do so can earn the same Eagle Scout award I got at age 16. Unless that blows up somehow, I’d expect a full gender merger after 2020 or so, followed by the BSA dropping the “B” for Boy and simply becoming Scouts of America, or just Scouting.

That will leave the girls-only Girl Scouts, currently at 1.6 million members to the BSA’s 2.3 million, out in the cold — doomed to a slow fade or forced to fold shop and integrate their members into the Scouting Borg.

From the insane continuation of the Boy Scouts’ ban on atheists and agnostics (why force religion on an 11-year-old?) to their embarrassing decision to let Donald “You know life. You know life. So—look at you” Trump speak at their Jamboree, to this out-of-the-blue stab in the back to Girl Scouting, it’s evident that the national leadership is badly in need of clues.

The idea of girl Boy Scouts is novel — and it required a smooth rollout preceded by careful explanation of the pros and cons for all kids and for both organizations. Instead, a big change was dropped on our laps without any preparation or the cooperation of the girls’ organization. The end result comes off as unwarranted, motivated by ill will and just plain silly.

After the way they announced it, girls in the Boy Scouts makes almost as much sense as allowing Republicans to vote in a Democratic primary.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) 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.)

Self-Driven

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 23:12

Elon Musk of Tesla says self-driving cars will be safer in the aggregate. But most people don’t trust the same tech companies that screw up routine updates to smartphones and expose them to ransomware with their lives.

Lawsuit Update

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 13:19

It has been a while since I filled you in on what’s going on with my lawsuit, so if you’ve been wondering, here’s what’s what.

The original judge in my case, Teresa Sanchez-Gordon, retired. That was a bummer for me because she seemed to understand the case and its importance, and for the most part, she ruled in my favor. LA Superior Court handed the LA Times’ anti-SLAPP motion against me over to a temporary substitute judge, a retired gentleman brought back for a few months in order to help the court dig out of its formidable backlog. Judge Joseph Kalin informed us that he had over 500 cases on his docket. He also said that he had read all of the documents in my case over the previous week. Considering that they are over a foot high and amount to thousands of pages, call me skeptical. No human being could possibly handle all that work.

Adding to the challenge was getting sabotaged by my own lawyers. Rather than send a seasoned litigator to argue the crucial anti-SLAPP hearings (of which three were scheduled), Shegerian & Associates sent a junior associate just a few of years out of law school to argue against Times attorney Kelli Sager, a veteran litigator with decades of experience at a major white-shoe law firm that represents giant corporations trying to crush workers. She was timid, unprepared and failed to fight back when Sager said things that simply weren’t true. Unsurprisingly, the judge ruled against me.

With two more hearings to go, I asked the firm to send out the litigator that we had agreed upon. Carney Shegerian responded with a Notice of Termination. That’s right: my own lawyer fired me! It’s not because I was rude or anything like that. I wasn’t. I don’t know why he did it but I do know that other lawyers tell me that this kind of behavior, dumping a client right before a crucial hearing, is highly unethical.

I managed to find a new attorney in time for the next hearing, but Judge Kalin refused to grant me a continuance to allow my new lawyer time to familiarize himself with my case, and forced me to do my own oral argument. Naturally, the Times lawyer didn’t grant me the basic courtesy of a continuance. All along, they have been playing by scorched-earth tactics.

OK, so I did better than the junior litigator: the judge acknowledged that I had told the truth about my jaywalking arrest in 2001. Which means that the Times never should have written those two articles libeling me and that they should have retracted them and that they should have hired me back immediately. Instead, Judge Kalin ruled that, as a newspaper, the First Amendment gives the Times the right to publish anything, even lies, because of the anti-SLAPP law. Strike two.

Now we go to the Court of Appeals, where we will ask the Court to reverse Judge Kalin’s ruling.

I have a sharp new legal team for the appeal: appellate attorney Jeff Lewis and trial lawyer Roger Lowenstein. We’ve been strategizing and I feel we have a strong case base on the both the content and the spirit of the law, not to mention precedent.

We are drafting our appellate brief, which for anti-SLAPP the court considers de novo, or without consideration for the lower-court ruling. Then the Times gets to respond. Then the court sets a hearing date. Best guess right now is that the appeal will be heard in mid-2018.

If we prevail at that stage, then the case really begins: discovery, subpoenas, depositions of Times employees, etc. If we lose, that’s it. And I’ll owe the Times hundreds of thousands of dollars in THEIR legal fees. Anti-SLAPP is brutal and desperately needs reform to stop these megacorporations from abusing it to crush individual plaintiffs.

In the meantime, I will be incurring substantial costs related to the case, so if you feel inclined to support my fight against the collusion between the LA Times and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, you can help out at http://gofundme.com/tedrall.

The Politics of Destruction

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 10:02

We used to build things: infrastructure, government programs. No more. In the Age of Trump, we’re all about watching Mr. Destructo destroy anything and everything. All we can do is watch, and try to find pleasure in what we hope turns out to become creative destruction.