Archive for March, 2008

March 25, 2008

THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: IS CHICAGO BURNING?

Hillary Clinton, Superdelegates, and Playing with Fire

Will there be race riots if Barack Obama is denied the Democratic nomination?

Despite the continuing fallout over his association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the Illinois senator has won the most state primaries, the most votes and the most delegates. Polls have him running between one and four percentage points ahead of Clinton. Four centuries after the first blacks came to America in chains, the prospect of seeing one of their own become president is so close that African-Americans can taste it. Will they sit quietly at home and change the channel if white America dashes their hopes?

“One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race,” write Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of Politico.com. “Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.”
But what if she does?

Stars, planets and a bunch of asteroids would have to fall into perfect alignment in order for Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. First, she’d need to win a landslide in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary. That could happen; a March 23 Quinnipiac poll had her pulling ahead, 53 to 41. She’d need a repeat performance in Indiana. But she’s running even with Obama there.

Never mind reality. What if she racks up a string of late-season primary wins?
Two arguments are at the center of the Clinton campaign’s last-ditch attempt to seduce the 800 unpledged delegates who will determine the nominee at the Democratic convention. The first plays to the raison d’être of the superdelegates, created in 1982 to steer the nomination away from a leading candidate in case he or she fumbles late in the nomination race, hurting the party’s chances of beating the Republican nominee in November.

“[Hillary] has the best chance to defeat John McCain,” Bill Clinton says. Why? Because she’s vetted. All the dirt has been dug up on her; the GOP won’t dredge up anything new. As for Obama, his friendships with Reverend Wright and a Chicago slumlord might represent the mere tip of a toxic Daley Machine sludge pile.

Clinton’s second argument is her novel promise to win the “primary popular vote,” a phrase no one heard of before. Obama leads by 700,000 out of 26 million votes cast; Hillary says she’ll close this gap in Pennsylvania.

“Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote–which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle–and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory,” continues the Politico. “An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.”

The Democratic Party probably won’t risk alienating its most reliable constituency. Probably.

But what if it does? Left-of-center insiders, mainstream Democrats and street activists alike, are quietly worrying that things could turn ugly. 1968 ugly. Maybe even worse.

“If party insiders fix the nomination against the will of the people–when the entire election is about repudiation of the old politics–it will be an act of monumental political disaster that historians will condemn for generations,” Brent Budowsky writes at TheHill.com. Hillary Clinton would have a tough time uniting the Democratic vote against McCain, still coasting on the fumes of his pre-Bush rep as a straight-shooting maverick.

There would certainly be street protests in Denver. “I will, without doubt, march at the convention if there is even a remote chance on the nomination being stolen,” promises a typical poster at the liberal blog Daily Kos.

Blogger Al Giordano predicts: “It won’t be the chaotic street protest and battle with the cops that occurred in ’68: we’ve learned too much from that. It will be organized, Gandhian in its adherence to discipline and nonviolence, and more massive than anything maybe ever seen in the United States’ long history of social movements. If the party leaders choose to destroy democracy by denying the fair-and-square winner the nomination, democracy will then be duty bound to destroy the party…The big news is that, for the first time in decades, a black-white alliance from the street will be possible: Montgomery 1955 meets Seattle 1999 in Denver 2008.”

Street protests + rage = ?

No one knows whether angry Obama supporters would turn violent if their man is denied the Democratic nomination. But precedents count. The last time American progressives got worked up about anything was the invasion of Iraq. They marched by the millions. They kept things “Gandhian.” But non-violence failed: The media ignored them. And the war dragged on–longer, so far, than World War II.

More recently, on the international front, activists can’t ignore events in Tibet, where the passage of time has merely accelerated the oppression of the indigenous population at the hands of Chinese occupation troops. Ultimately, young Tibetans are finding violent resistance to be more effective–and more attractive to television cameras–than the Dalai Lama’s corporate-approved militant pacifism. If they keep Chinese cities burning through the summer Olympics, Tibetans could win their independence this year.

As they mull how to vote in the weeks ahead, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic superdelegates she’s wooing might want to ask themselves: How much would the U.S. miss a few cities?

COPYRIGHT 2008 TED RALL

March 23, 2008

Cartoon for March 24

Fellow CWA cartoonist Jen Sorensen pointed to a Wired article about how prices are trending downward–prices for our labor, anyway. What we buy always gets more expensive.

This ties in to a discussion among cartoonists and other info-floggers over the future of our business. If content isn’t king, information wants to be free and what we do is worthless in the new all online future (ha!), how will we earn a living? At a graphic novel symposium called Splat! held in Manhattan last Saturday, I was on a panel with “Diesel Sweeties” cartoonist Richard Stevens, one of the most successful webcartoonists around. Richard makes his living selling T-shirts and other merchandise, using his free comics as a way to draw readers to his website. He also draws a syndicated version of the strip for daily newspapers. Anyway, he and I disagree about whether others can replicate his success. The way I look at it, most cartoonists can barely come up with new ideas for cartoons. Coming up with T-shirt ideas is a whole other way of thinking, demonstrated by yours truly–I’ve never come up with a really successful T-shirt design, but I make money from cartoons.

The loss-leader model is being touted for musicians as well. No more will they receive real money for their record deals. Instead, they must tour and sell T-shirts. In the future, we’ll all sell T-shirts to subsidize our jobs.

Click on the cartoon to make it bigger.

March 22, 2008

Cartoon for March 22

Last week, Bill Gates testified before Congress that American business needs more math and science grads, but probably won’t get them–and will therefore need to import them from abroad.

Click on the cartoon to make it bigger.

March 21, 2008

Shoutout: Ted Rall Needs a Website Redesign

The person I had in mind to redo this website is totally swamped with other projects and can’t do it. Therefore, I am sending this out into the world.

I need someone who can update the 1995-vintage Rall.com site to something cool and modern without losing its simplicity or functionality.

I can’t afford much, but this is a paying job. So this would be a good gig for someone who likes to work with a lot of creative freedom and could use a relatively high-profile reference in his or her online portfolio.

If you or someone you know is interested, please email me at chet@rall.com.

March 18, 2008

Cartoon for March 20

Obama’s healthcare plan would only require that parents purchase insurance coverage for their children. In the future, therefore, adults will need fake IDs to pass as kids.

Click on the cartoon to make it bigger.

March 17, 2008

THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: OBAMA/DUKAKIS 2008

Dem Wimp Throws His Truth-Telling Preacher Under the Bus

If Americans were represented by an animal, it wouldn’t be an eagle. It would be a tiny shrew, nervous and paranoid and living in constant terror of being attacked by predators.

Our national prey mentality doesn’t have much basis in reality. The last attack on U.S. soil took place two-thirds of a century ago; Hawaii wasn’t even a state at the time. Before that, you have to go back to 1846–and we provoked that one. Whatever the historical basis–or lack thereof–for this innate fearfulness, U.S. voters look to their president as a Father Protector figure–someone who, if threatened, will ferociously defend what is now called, stupidly and horribly, das Homeland.

Republican candidates win elections in years when national security is a top concern. In 2004, it didn’t matter that John Kerry volunteered for, fought in, and returned with medals from Vietnam. What mattered was that he turned the other cheek to the Swift Boat ads. He held his fire in the debates. If Kerry wasn’t willing to stand up for himself, voters reasoned, how would he protect them? Bush may have been a coward during Vietnam, but his “dead or alive” cowboy movie bravado, not to mention starting a couple of wars from scratch, conveyed a comforting, if imbecilic bellicosity. The monosyllabic tough-guy act soothed a savage, terrorized electorate.

Hillary Clinton has figured this out. Her policy actions–voting for war twice, the Patriot Act, keeping silent about torture and Guantánamo–have been engineered to project Republicanesque hawkishness. She dresses butch and talks like a female prick–i.e., bitch. You don’t like her. She doesn’t want you to. She wants you to think that she’s macho enough to deal with Them the next time They pick a fight at three in the morning.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, has already given away a store he doesn’t yet own. He’s the new century’s version of Dukakis.

“I would explicitly reach out to disaffected Republicans and remind them of some of their traditions,” Obama told U.S. News & World Report. “Very rarely do you hear me talking about my opponents without giving them some credit for having good intentions and being decent people.” “I think I can reach out to Republicans and independents more effectively than any other candidate,” he said on “Meet the Press,” citing his “ability to focus on getting the job done, as opposed to getting embroiled in ideological arguments.” No wonder Republican pundits love him! Not only will he be easier to beat in November–if McCain loses, they’ll get the same love from President Obama.

Obama’s attempt to transform himself into the living embodiment of girly-man wimpiness led him to throw his own priest under the bus. This latest display of X-Treme wussosity came in response to demands by Rush Limbaugh, The Wall Street Journal and other braying hounds of the right who feigned offense at quotes pulled from his pastor’s old sermons. Jeremiah Wright, long-time leader of the Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago, officiated at Obama’s wedding and inspired the title of his book “The Audacity of Hope.”

“I reject outright the statements by Reverend Wright that are at issue,” Obama said in a statement.

First rule of politics: never apologize. It won’t satisfy your critics, and it makes you look weak. If Eliot Spitzer had followed that dictate, he’d still be governor of New York.

First rule of presidential politics: fight for those near and dear to you. Michael Dukakis lost points when he was asked what he’d do if his wife got raped. (Correct answer: “I would kill the rapist.”) If a man won’t stand up for his own wife–or his own pastor–how can we trust him to fight the terrorists?

Obama’s Sister Souljah act may erode his base of support: African-Americans and younger whites, many of whom agree with Reverend Wright’s “controversial” homilies.

“Racism is how this country was founded and how it is still run,” Wright said. Well, duh. The Journal‘s editorial page, which still thinks Iraq was the best idea ever, is particularly agitated about…this…this obvious fact. Who could say, with a straight face, that racism wasn’t a founding principle of a nation with legalized slavery? Who could argue, after reading countless newspaper headlines announcing the acquittal of white cops for shooting unarmed black men, or while driving through urban slums, that we’ve put racism behind us?

Murdoch’s right-wing rag, noted The New York Times, also criticized Wright for “accusing the United States of importing drugs, exporting guns and training murderers.” These things are all true (please reference “Iran-Contra,” “U.S. as top arms exporter,” and “School of the Americas”). If Obama can’t bring himself to speak the truth, he could at least support those who do.

Most damning of all, say Limbaugh et al., was Wright’s post-9/11 sermon urging his flock not to yield to the urge “to pay back and kill” or act “holier than thou.” His advice proved prescient–wars against Afghanistan and Iraq killed a million innocents, yet none of the criminals of 9/11. It also happened to be quintessentially Christian. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians [true] and black South Africans [true], and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is brought back to our own front yards,” he continued. “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

Chalmers Johnson wrote a bestselling book in 2000 about this phenomenon. It’s called “Blowback,” named after CIA jargon for foreign policies that result in unexpected, negative effects. Johnson wrote that blowback “is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people.”

It is well-established that the radical Islamists who launched the 9/11 attacks were motivated by their contempt for American policy in the Muslim world and their desire to bring the war, as they saw it, to the U.S. Everyone knows that Al Qaeda has its roots in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, which the Reagan Administration funded and armed. Calling 9/11 a case of “chickens coming home to roost” isn’t offensive. It’s painfully, boringly obvious.

Obama found it necessary to state that “the violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification.”

Wright never said otherwise. Most of the victims of September 11th were office workers. They weren’t responsible for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Many were opposed to it. As Johnson wrote: “Terrorism by definition strikes at the innocent in order to draw attention to the sins of the invulnerable.”

People who deny that U.S. foreign policy mishaps provoke long-term consequences are liars. People like them–people like Barack Obama–are laying the foundation for the next 9/11.

COPYRIGHT 2008 TED RALL

March 17, 2008

Bye, Bye, Bear

I’m walking on sunshine at today’s demise of Bear, Stearns & Co. I know, I know—it’ll be rough on the economy. And it could be the beginning of the end of other major firms. But it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch of sons of bitches.

I was a hired as a trader/trainee at Bear, Stearns in 1985. I earned the princely sum of $10,000 a year. After taxes, I received $315.02 every two weeks. (My rent was $425, for half of a sixth-floor two-bedroom on a crack-infested street in the Barrio of Manhattan’s Manhattan Valley neighborhood. I survived by driving a taxi at night.) Three factoids:

First, if I’d earned $20 less per week, I would have qualified for food stamps. I requested a pay cut from my boss. He said no.

Second, the CEO of Bear Stearns at the time, “Ace” Greenberg (he gave himself the nickname), “earned” $40 million per annum.

Third, when the opening of the New York Stock Exchange moved from 10 am to 9:30, we were told to come to work a half-hour earlier, at 8:30. Did we get a raise? Nope.

I was working there when Bear Stearns went public. Each employee received shares, which opened at, as I recall, about $24 each. Because our allotment was based on our salaries (shouldn’t it have been inversely proportional?), I received eight shares. What a joke! I quit shortly thereafter. My next job paid $17,500, which seemed huge by comparison.

I ended up at a Japanese bank with a far more egalitarian payscale. The president earned about $125,000; the lowest paid worker in the fax room got about $20,000. Morale was excellent, the president knew everybody’s names, raises of 15% were standard.

Bear Stearns’ stock, trading at $170 one year ago, is now worth $2. The company won’t be missed, at least not by those of who contributed to its bottom line without receiving fair pay for a day’s work.

March 17, 2008

Overheard Hilarity

On the bus on Saturday: a 20-ish blonde talking to her father. “I don’t understand what the big deal is,” she said, “about Iraq costing a trillion dollars. So what? That’s less than the cost of our house!”

The father: “What do you mean?”

Woman, audibly rolling her eyes: “Duh—a trillion. That’s a third of a million. Seems like a bargain to me!”

Finally: the silence of the American public explained.

March 16, 2008

Cartoon for March 17

Americans like to keep their options open. We don’t torture, Bush Administration officials claim. We just like to have the option available. You know, just in case.

I wonder: Does anyone beside Matt Bors and I wake up every day, wondering what the fuck is wrong with a country that thinks it’s perfectly OK to torture people?

Click on the cartoon to make it bigger.

March 15, 2008

Eliot Spitzer (cont.)
posted by Susan Stark

When I wrote my previous blog about prostitution and Eliot Spitzer (Prostitution Should Be Legalized), I wasn’t fully aware of everything that Spitzer did wrong, such as the money laundering, etc., because the full revelations of his activities hadn’t come out yet. I do not approve of these kinds of activities.

But, still, when it’s all said and done, Bush and his gang are guilty of high crimes against humanity (invasion of a country without legitimate cause), and approximately 1 million people have died as a result. And they have squandered more money than we can comprehend. The cost of Bush’s war will be estimated to a high of 3 trillion dollars, and I’m sorry, but, that is way too much money to spend so that conservatives can achieve their nebulous feelings of “safety”.

The Bush gang gets off the hook, while Eliot goes down for much pettier crimes.

Still, my position that Spitzer should be able to solicit prostitution if he wishes still stands, and that Kristen/Ashley should have to right to provide those services. Period. They are both consenting adults. The only kinds of prostitution that should be illegal are the ones that involve under-age persons, or persons being forced to work against their own will. The former is child molestation, and the latter is slavery.

This is the position that most sex-workers advocate, and it is certainly healthier than the positions taken by neurotic soccer-moms posing as “reformers” and “experts”. And that includes the male soccer-moms.