Ted Rall

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Updated: 3 hours 14 min ago

Which Side Are You On? You Must Choose Trump or the FBI

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 00:00

You know it’s a wild crazy world when liberal Democrats find themselves in the position of having to defend the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies that spy on Americans and violate their rights simply because those agencies have bureaucratic disagreements with President Donald Trump. That’s exactly the position that we are in now. So the question is, when are people going to realize that we can break out of this binary crap and just simply say that we don’t like anyone involved?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: On the One Hand, Gun Violence. On the Other Hand, Gun Control. It Never Ends.

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 11:10

On the one hand, because it’s the 18th school shooting so far this year, the news that another psychologically damaged man shot 17 schoolchildren to death with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle is not news. Put it on page 27 below the fold, maybe?

On the other hand, you have to be shocked because these are kids and who do we become if we stop being shocked? Congress and the president should put their heads together and act now.

On the one hand, the Second Amendment is an essential safeguard against government tyranny. While an authoritarian state (any state) will always have police and troops with better training and arms than its enemies at its disposal, owning a weapon will give many resistance fighters of the future the courage they need to fight back.

On the other hand, the population of Americans who live in rural areas was 95% when the Founding Fathers ratified the Constitution. Now it’s 15%. Once a major source of food necessary for survival, hunting today is mere sport. Considering the daily carnage of gun violence, the Second Amendment may be as obsolete as the flint-lock rifle. Perhaps we should repeal?

On the one hand, military-style weapons like the current mass shooters’ gun of choice, the AR-15, were designed for one purpose: to kill people efficiently. Until 2008 they were banned. Why not renew the assault weapons ban?

On the other hand, people really do use them to hunt. Having been on the receiving end of more than my fair share of death threats, I’d rather defend my homestead with an AR-15 than a less efficient, less accurate gun. Sorry, liberals, but gun rights people have a point: ban AR-15s and the next step will be a push to ban other weapons. Slippery slopes are a real thing; look how the pro-life movement has rolled back abortion rights via incremental, reasonable-seeming moves like bans on late-term terminations.

On the one hand, there are 270 million guns in the United States — almost one for every man, woman and child. Even if we banned guns, how would we force the gun genie back into its bottle of death? Send government goons to kick down every door in the country to search for them?

On the other hand, existing guns could be grandfathered into a ban on the manufacture and sale of new guns (including from one individual to another). Guns would get old. They’d rust. Those used for target practice would wear out. Trigger mechanisms are often the first to go. Like the fairly effective ban on ivory, the effect would become evident over time: a nation awash in weaponry would become less so with the passage of time.

On the one hand, states like Florida seem crazy for not requiring gun purchasers to register their weapons. Florida actually bans such regulations. Cars, boats, even bicycles and cats and dogs, must be registered. Why not devices that kill people?

On the other hand, gun ownership is different. It’s a constitutional right. Automobile ownership, operating a boat and having a pet are privileges guaranteed by state and local laws. Mandatory gun registration would be no more constitutional than forcing media outlets to apply for a state license before publishing (they do this in other countries).

On the one hand, many if not most mass shooters are mentally ill. Wouldn’t it make sense to prohibit sales of firearms and ammunition to people suffering from mental illness?

On the other hand, who gets to define what constitutes mental illness? Federal law bans sales to anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” New York, where I live, goes further, banning sales of guns to one “who has stated whether he or she has ever suffered any mental illness.” That’s very broad: “Heathers” and “Stranger Things” actress Winona Ryder, singer Mariah Carey, artist Yoko Ono and actress Roseanne Barr were all institutionalized. But no one thinks they’re going postal any time soon — frankly, I’d trust Winona with the nuclear codes more than Trump. The metric is also highly subjective. Gays were officially classified as mentally ill until 1987. Transgender people are still on the list.

On the one hand, people who knew him say they’re not surprised that Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz went berserk. The signs were there all along: violent Internet posts, ties to white supremacists, erratic behavior like threatening people with a BB gun. People saw something; why didn’t they say something?

On the other hand, this isn’t “Minority Report.” You can’t jail someone for what they might do. People are entitled to their opinions, no matter what they are. If you jailed everyone who acts strange or right-wing or loopy, half the country would be locked up. And anyway, who trusts the police or the government to decide which half?

On the one hand, if anyone deserves to die, it’s Nikolas Cruz.
On the other hand, what kind of society executes a “broken child,” possibly autistic, almost certainly emotionally damaged, absolutely wrecked by the recent death of his mother, his last surviving parent?

How does killing a killer send the message that killing is wrong?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Who’s the Next Trump Official Who’ll Turn Out Not to Have Been Vetted?

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 00:56

White House staff secretary Rob Porter was forced to step down after it turned out that high-ranking White House officials failed to make sure that he passed his security check even though he handled highly classified information for the present. Although there were a variety of changing narratives coming out of official spokespeople, it now seems clear that they knew that he stood credibly accused of domestic violence against his former wife, yet decided to keep him on board anyway

In Which the Democratic Party Sucks Up to the FBI of all People

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 00:09

Democrats are defending the FBI against Trump’s attacks because they’re attacking Trump. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. But they’re also reflecting just how far to the right the fifty-yard line of American politics has shifted over the years. Given their roots being run by the evil J. Edgar Hoover, who could have imagined Democrats running interference for the FBI?

When the Job Market Shifts, Always Remember That It’s All Your Fault

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 00:03

New York City livery driver Doug Schifter is the latest of traditional taxi and black-car drivers to commit suicide because the disruption caused by Uber and Lyft have driven down prices and increased competition to the point that it’s impossible to make a decent living despite working terribly long hours. I was amazed at the lack of compassion for people like him who find themselves displaced by the whims of capitalism.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Do the Democrats Take Trump’s Trolling Lying Down?

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 15:23

This is advice for the Democrats. Democrats never take my advice. So why do I keep giving it to them?

These “what Democrats ought to do” columns aren’t really for the Democratic Party leadership. They’re for you, dear left-of-center reader. I’m explaining what the Dems should be doing and comparing it to what they’re actually doing. That gap between what makes sense and what is going on, I hope you’ll conclude, is so big that we should declare the Democratic Party dead and gone. Giving up on the Dems is important.

The Left will never roll up its sleeves and start building a genuine alternative to the current system until it stops trying, somehow, to take over or sway the Distracticats.

This week, I’d like to showcase the stunning ineptitude of the Democrats’ communications strategy.

There are many examples to choose from, but lately I have been marveling at Democratic leaders’ wimpiness in the face of the president’s Twitter-trolling.

On November 28, 2017, Trump tweeted: “Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi canceled their scheduled meeting with Trump. “Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. “Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell and (House Speaker Paul) Ryan to meet this afternoon.”

Morons!

Schumer and Pelosi were right to cancel — but not because of Trump’s stated pessimism about arriving at an agreement. They should have canceled because Trump insulted them. “Chuck and Nancy”? Really?

As Frederick Douglass said, people naturally have contempt for a person who won’t stand up for himself. Schumer and Pelosi should have fought back. They should have refused to let Trump big-dog them.

They could have taken the high road: “Until the President learns to address us politely, like an adult, using our proper titles and names — Senator Schumer, Representative Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader Pelosi — we Democrats will have no communications with him whatsoever.”

Or they could have gone the Ted Rall route: “We’re sorry, silly fat Orange Donald, that your mother didn’t raise you properly. Until you delete your Twitter account, apologize on TV and sign a contract agreeing to never darken social media again — oh, and no pussy grabbing either — you can go f— yourself.

Either way, they’d have to mean it. That would mean no more meetings, no more tolerating the president’s wanton rudeness. Total obstruction.

I know. It ain’t gonna happen. Democratic leaders obviously believe that they risk debasing themselves if they lower themselves to Trump’s rhetorical level. What they don’t get is that Trump is a bully. The only way to deal with a bully is with shock-and-awe brutality.

The debasement follows the insult. Your decision not to climb into the gutter with the bullying idiot may seem admirable — “when they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama said — but it allows your tormentor to cast you as a coward. When you allow the bully to insult you over and over and over, as Trump does to his enemies, you tacitly endorse their insults. Why, otherwise, do you tolerate disrespect?

Or, to look at it another way, consider why Trump’s fans love him. They love him because he “says it like it is,” doesn’t take prisoners, doesn’t mince words. One person’s lack of impulse control is another’s courage. Imagine, if a progressive were as rude and aggressive as Trump, how exciting that would be?

On January 26, 2018, Trump was back at it — not that he ever took a break. “DACA has been made increasingly difficult by the fact that Cryin’ Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!” Trump tweeted.

Imagine you were Chuck Schumer. You’re a U.S. senator. He’s been in Congress since 1974, when Trump was still making his name refusing to rent apartments to black people. Why, you might ask yourself, should I put up with this patak who dares to give me a ridiculous nickname?

Four days later, here was Schumer, calling him “President Trump” and “the President.” WTF?

Schumer and the Democrats won’t even defend themselves. Do you seriously think they’ll lift a finger for you and me?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

No One Is Ever Good Enough For Mr. Persnickety

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 00:47

I am frequently criticized of being too idealistic and to judgemental when it comes to Democrats. They’re just human beings! They’re doing their best. Why am I so hard on them? But the criticisms that I wage hardly seem like too much to ask. For example, don’t destroy the entire countries like Libya and Syria. Don’t kill hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq. Don’t torture them at Guantánamo. Don’t give massive tax cuts to the wealthy. Don’t hang out with rich people or accept their contributions. This is too much to ask?

Ted Rall vs. LA Times: Here’s Rall’s Appellate Brief Challenging the Times’ Nasty, Abusive “anti-SLAPP” Motions

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 15:04

Yesterday my attorneys filed, and California’s Court of Appeals accepted, our Appellate Brief in my defamation and wrongful termination lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times et al.

I sued in 2015. The Times filed three anti-SLAPP motions against me, halting the case because they’re scared of facing a jury and want to intimidate me. In 2017 a lower-court judge ruled for the Times, ordering me to pay them $350,000 in the Times’ attorneys fees. This document is our appeal of the 2017 decision.

If successful, the $350,000 judgement will be vacated and I can build my case to take to a jury.

If not, the $350,000 stands, plus more fees for the Times defense of this appeal. And my case dies. And Californians who work for media companies will have no recourse in the courts if their employer discriminates against them, even if they do so for racist or sexist or homophobic reasons.

Please read our brief below; it’s an interesting read. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reactions. Thank you for your incredible support!

 

Ted Rall vs. Los Angeles Times: anti-SLAPP Appellate Brief by Ted Rall

What if #MeToo Held Capitalist Predators to Account Too?

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 00:44

The #MeToo Movement has held sexual predators in positions of power who abuse that power to account. Wouldn’t it be nice to also see a similar movement holding predatory capitalists, most of whose victims are women, similarly to account?

Today We Are Challenging the LA Times’ anti-SLAPP Motion in California’s Court of Appeals

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 08:03

California anti-SLAPP rulings are automatically appealable “de novo” ( which means the higher court looks at it with “fresh eyes”) to the Court of Appeals. Therefore, today my attorneys Jeff Lewis and Roger Lowenstein are filing our appellate brief in Ted Rall vs Los Angeles Times et al. We are asking the justices to overturn the lower court ruling issued last summer, which found that the Times has an absolute privilege under the First Amendment to publish anything it wants about anyone, even it’s false and libelous. The lower court acknowledged in its ruling that the enhanced audio showed that I wrote the truth in my May 2015 blog post about jaywalking.

Even though California’s anti-SLAPP law makes it extremely difficult to sue for defamation, we do not believe the law was intended to, nor does it say, what the Times is arguing. So we are fighting on.

This path is not without risk. The lower court awarded the Times about $350,000 in legal fees, and ordered me to pay them. If the Court of Appeals agrees with the Times, my case will be dismissed and I will have hundreds of thousands in additional fees.

Nevertheless, it is important that victims of injustice stand up for themselves, and not just for their own sake but for the betterment of society. If the LA Superior Court ruling stands, it would create a precedent that would effectively legalize libel. This could ruin countless lives and careers. In addition, the Times must be held accountable for its corrupt collusion with the LAPD. Media organizations should not create financial partnerships or close associations with law-enforcement agencies they are supposed to cover objectively. Given that the Times publisher was friends with the chief of police whom I mocked in my cartoons, is it any wonder that the LA Times does a lame job reporting on police malfeasance and violence against people of color?

After the court accepts it, I will post and disseminate a copy of our Appellate Brief online. If you wonder why the press is in trouble these days, it’s worth a read.

You can support my legal battle against the LA Times here.

With Democrats Like Doug Jones, Who Needs Republicans?

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 00:40

Democrats were understandably excited when Alabama elected one of their own to the U.S. Senate last December. Let’s follow up now: how did Doug Jones vote? Spoiler alert: pretty much like a Republican. The point of electing a Democrat if he doesn’t vote like one?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Could Lose Again in 2018

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 15:23

You’re reading this, so you probably follow political punditry. And if you follow political punditry, you’ve been hearing the usual corporate suspects predict that one of two things will happen in this fall’s midterm elections: either the Democrats will win big (win back the Senate), or they’ll win really big (the House too). Outta the way, Congressional Republicans: here comes the Big Blue Wave!

Of course, these are the same clowns who called it big for President Hillary. Yet on and on they yammer, and we have to listen to them since big-money political media won’t hire anyone who has a clue.

Interestingly, there are early warning signs — just as there were throughout the 2016 presidential race — that Democrats may be counting their electoral chickens before they’re aborted.

“The Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot, which asks people whether they’ll vote for Democrats or Republicans for Congress, has dwindled since the heart of the tax debate in December,” Nate Cohn reports in The New York Times. “Then, nearly all surveys put Republicans behind by double digits. Now, poll averages put the Democratic lead at only around six or seven percentage points…the last two weeks of polls have gone further than a reversion to the mean. They’re arguably the best two weeks of polls for Republicans since the failure of the Senate health care bill in July. A highly sensitive poll average — like the FiveThirtyEight tracker — might put the Democratic lead down to roughly six points, basically the lowest level since the spring.”

As Cohn notes, there are nine long months to go before November. Things can and will change. Historically, the party in power usually gets “shellacked” during midterm elections. Democrats hope that voters will punish GOP senators and representatives as proxies for their party’s incredibly unpopular standardbearer.

People hate Trump. Yet Democrats have good cause for concern. Americans vote their pocketbooks, and their wallets are feeling better than they have in a long time. Unemployment hasn’t been this low since 9/11 — to the point that employers are complaining about labor shortages. Consumer confidence hasn’t been this high since Bill Clinton was president. Most people don’t own stocks, but the Dow is soaring — and that’s usually better for jobs than the other way around. Fuel prices have been lower. Like it or not (I don’t), the GOP’s tax bill is becoming more popular.

Given what a turd Trump is, you’d think the booming economy might not be enough to keep voters from turning out against incumbent Republicans this fall. But you’d be forgetting the Democratic Party’s inimitable talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Democrats are still hobbled by the same internal divisions that led to Clinton’s defeat. The Bernie progressives have the energy and the momentum but the DNC is still under the Clintonista jackboot. In most Republican districts, the Democratic challenger is a corporate right-winger Bernie’s peeps won’t care enough to drag themselves to the polls on a rainy Tuesday in November. A lot of them (women, people of color) play to identity politics over class-based populism — that was a loser in 2016, and it could easily bomb again this year.
The biggest issue for the Democrats is their lack of issues or, more precisely, their lack of a coherent platform of policies with which to unify scores of local campaigns into a national referendum, as Newt Gingrich did for the GOP with his Contract for America in 1994.

What would the Dems do if they got their sweep? No one knows.

Would they impeach Trump? They’re not saying.

Would they repeal the Trump tax law? Probably not (but they should say they would).

Would Democrats push for a higher minimum wage? A national abortion-rights bill? Cutting back NSA surveillance? Bringing back troops from Afghanistan and Iraq? Closing Gitmo? Probably none of the above — so why would left-of-center voters get excited about more of the same?

Democrats aren’t promising anything. Voters may take them at their word — and let the Republicans keep on keeping on.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Trump’s State of the Union Address Reaches Across the Aisle to Skeptical Democrats

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 00:17

Pundits praised President Trump’s first State of the Union Address for making new moves toward bipartisanship, or at least pretending to reach out to Democrats. But the tone of his speech was too belligerent for liberals to be able to take him seriously.

The Immigration Debate Made Simple

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 00:56

Although there is certainly a legitimate debate to be had over how much immigration is appropriate, anti-immigration conservatives are often recently disingenuous about the facts. For example, many of them believe that undocumented workers should leave the United States and apply for US residency and citizenship from their home countries. The problem is, for the vast majority of people overseas, there is no procedure whatsoever for them to do so. Similarly, the so-called “dreamers” (children who were brought here with their parents at a young age) don’t have anywhere to go back to because their relatives no longer live in their home countries.

Subcomandante El Schumer

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 00:50

Democrats are always known for their rather spectacular ability to sell out as well as their ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But even by those grim standards, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer’s decision to back off on shutting down the federal government reached a new level. Not only did the Democratic leader agreed to fund president Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, something that seems really strange considering the fact that the president repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for it, but Schumer offered $7 billion more than the president even asked.

This Week, We File My Appeal to Overturn the Court’s Order to Pay the LA Times $350,000

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 13:24

Last summer, a Los Angeles court ordered me to pay the LA Times $350,000. Because they only paid me $300 a week, that seems like a lot. It also seems like a lot considering that I didn’t do anything wrong to them, but they did do several very bad things wrong to me. It also seems like a lot considering that I’m the plaintiff and they’re the defendant, not to mention they did me wrong, so shouldn’t they be paying me?

But that’s not the legal system, at least not for me in this case. So my attorneys are about to file an appellate brief with the California Court of Appeals asking them to set aside the LA Superior Court’s anti-SLAPP decision in my case, wipe away the $350,000 the Times inexplicably wants me to pay them, and allow my case against them to finally begin because the Times is using every trick in the book to prevent my case from being heard by a jury.

The Art of the Heel

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 08:14

Although very few people still believe that Donald Trump is a master negotiator, he looked even more stupid than usual when the news broke that in June 2017 he attempted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Apparently his White House attorney talked him out of it, which I guess is a good thing, but now he has the worst of both worlds. He gets blamed for firing Mueller without actually being rid of Mueller. Not to mention, Mueller knows what he was up to. Not good.

If You Want To Defeat Trump, You Have To Out-Troll Him

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 00:49

If I were in charge of the Democrats’ messaging operation, I would run zillions of ads making fun of Trump for asking Congress for $18 billion to pay for his border wall after repeatedly and loudly promising that Mexico would pay for it. Unfortunately, Democrats don’t have the zest for trolling that you need to thrive in today’s political environment.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Have Hijacked the Anti-Trump Resistance

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 09:52

Conservative “tough on crime” Democrat Kamala Harris trolls for 2020 votes.

Leftists want to change the world. They want peace, equal income, equal wealth, equal rights for everybody.

Democrats are not part of the Left. If Democrats have their way, the fundamental inequality of American capitalism, a system in which 1% of the people “earn” 82% of the income, will never change. Democrats apply identity politics as a distraction, in lieu of systematic solutions to class-based discrimination. Democrats demand more women directors in Hollywood, more African-Americans admitted to Ivy League schools, transgendered soldiers in the military so they can join the slaughter of brown people in other countries.

Donald Trump represented a rare opportunity for the Left. After eight years of fascism with a smile, the American system got a figurehead as visually and tonally repugnant as its foreign policy (drones, aggressive wars, coups, undermining popular elected leaders) and its domestic reality (widespread poverty, crumbling infrastructure, no social safety net, for-profit healthcare and education). “Hey,” the Left could finally say, “the U.S. is a disgusting monster headed by a disgusting monster. Let’s get rid of that monster!”

It has become painfully apparent that Democrats have hijacked the anti-Trump Resistance.

“I feel like the revolution is now,” a demonstrator at last weekend’s second Women’s March told a New York Times reporter. “I want equal pay,” added her 11-year-old daughter, Xenaya, chimed in. “And equal rights.”

Definition of “revolution”: “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.”

At those very same marches, however, (establishment Democratic) speakers like Nancy Pelosi and Kirsten Gillibrand urged women to run for office (presumably as Democrats) and to support Democratic candidates (whether they’re women or men). Even if you think that is a beautiful and important idea, it is not revolution.

Running for office and validating the status quo by voting for major-party candidates is the exact opposite of revolution.

USA Today’s take was typical: “Women’s March returns, but the real focus now is the midterm elections.” The paper quotes Linda Meigs, who is challenging a GOP incumbent in Alabama: “I just feel that there’s a blue wave coming, and it’s a wave of women – women who were energized by the Women’s March and by what’s going on in Washington in the White House.”

Meigs is probably right. Even Republicans think so. But so what?

Even if Democrats take back the House and the Senate, women Resisters who fall for the Dems’ co-option game hoping for “equal pay” and “equal rights” will be sorely disappointed. Not because Trump will get in the way — because Democrats won’t fight for anything substantial.

Consider the Democrat most Women’s Marchers probably voted for. Like the rest of her fellow Democrats, Hillary Clinton (a multimillionaire) supported raising the minimum wage to a pitiful $12 per hour. (If it had merely kept up with inflation, it would be $23 per hour now. Given increases in worker productivity, it ought to be at least $25 per hour.)

Nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women.

Clinton gets better-a-century-late-than-never cred for endorsing the long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment. But Democrats controlled the White House, House and Senate as recently as 2010 — and never mentioned it.

Even on the signature identity-politics issue of abortion rights, Democrats have long deployed a form of psychological terrorism against women. Unless you vote for us, they’ve been telling women, some Republican president might appoint a Supreme Court justice who might cast the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Women and their partners shouldn’t have to rely on a wobbly 45-year-old court decision. Why don’t Democrats ever propose a bill legalizing abortion nationwide? Considering that 58% of voters, including many Republicans, support abortion rights, and that Democrats could characterize Congressional opponents as misogynists in attack ads, it’s entirely possible that an abortion-rights law could pass Congress. They certainly could have tried under Obama. But they didn’t. Because Democrats don’t care about people. Democrats care about electing and collecting campaign donations for Democrats.

There is no reason — zero, none, nada — to believe that the Democratic Party’s half-century-old refusal to lift a finger to help the disenfranchised will change if and when they win back Congress. Which makes the squandering of the anti-Trump historical moment so tragic.

It’s time for the actually-existing American Left to do some serious soul-searching, analysis and — most of all — organizing. Why didn’t militant leftists insist on greater prominence at the Women’s Marches than those Democratic hacks? Where is the grassroots organizing? Where are the left-wing thinktanks to create an intellectual and theoretical basis for our arguments? Why aren’t there protests daily, as opposed to annually? Trump and the Republicans and the Democrats shouldn’t be able to show their faces in public without facing a crowd of loud and angry protesters.

It’s not like the Democrats are a fiendishly clever adversary! Allowing the idiots who chose Hillary over Bernie to steal anti-Trumpism points to complete impotence and political incompetence on the part of what’s left of the Left.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Grey Wall of Silence: Trump Is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 06:00

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” Donald Trump said recently. “And if somebody says something that’s totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse.”

Yes, Trump is a jerk.

True, he himself is the Slanderer-in-Chief.

Granted, he’s a bit of a fascist.

Pertinently, libel laws are state laws. Neither the president nor Congress can change them.

But even an authoritarian hypocrite is right sometimes. And Trump is dead right that the nation’s libel laws are “a sham and a disgrace.”

My defamation lawsuit against The Los Angeles Times is a case study. (I’ve written about the merits of my case elsewhere. Here, I ask you to simply consider the process of lodging a complaint and taking it to a jury to consider. My question is this: should suing be this difficult?)

Bear in mind: the timeline in my case is typical.

The Times published an article announcing my firing in July 2015. After their excuse for my firing fell apart, they published a second piece “reaffirming” their decision in August 2015. Two and a half years later, we haven’t even begin discovery — and I’ll be lucky to get in front of a jury before 2020.

Justice delayed is justice denied. So what’s taking so long? Part of the problem is California’s understaffed, overworked court system. But mostly it’s the fact that newspapers have rigged the legal system against plaintiffs.

In California, for example, media companies lobbied the legislature to pass Civil Code 48(a). Under 48(a), you have to serve written notice to a newspaper that they’ve libeled you within 20 days of the initial publication. What if you’re off fishing for three weeks? Too bad — you can’t sue. What if you hear about the libelous article more than 20 days later? Again, you have no recourse.

What if you’ve never heard of the law? You’re like most people — and you’ve got no case, no matter what they wrote about you.

California is one of 28 states to have an “anti-SLAPP” law. According to proponents, there are wealthy individuals and companies who file nuisance lawsuits against defendants, not to win but to tie the poor defendants up in court and force them to hire expensive lawyers to defend themselves.

Assuming abusive lawsuits are actually a problem (there’s no evidence of this), the “solution” created by anti-SLAPP laws is ridiculous on its face. A defendant files an anti-SLAPP motion that, if successful, gets said frivolous lawsuit thrown out of court and forces the rich abusive plaintiff to pay the poor defendant’s legal fees. But…the operative word here is “rich.” If you’re rich and out to screw over a poor defendant, why would the risk of incurring some extra fees deter you?

Here’s where things get really crazy. I consulted with numerous attorneys who told me I’d probably beat the Times if I ever got in front of a jury. Getting past anti-SLAPP, they said, would be the tough hurdle. But the anti-SLAPP law is only supposed to kill frivolous lawsuits. Then how can it be that, in the opinion of numerous experienced lawyers, my case — which they think would probably win — could be defeated by an anti-SLAPP motion? Because anti-SLAPP law is so complicated that many judges don’t understand it and rule in favor of anti-SLAPP motions when they ought to reject them.

Some states have ruled anti-SLAPP laws unconstitutional because they deny plaintiffs their right to a jury trial. But not California. Not yet.

Lawyers I talked to in L.A. liked my case but were so cowed by anti-SLAPP that it took me months to find one willing to represent me. Finally, I filed suit in March 2016.

As predicted, the Times filed a set of anti-SLAPP motions against me. Then they invoked an obviously unconstitutional section of the California Code, 1030(a), that is so obscure that few attorneys or bond companies had heard of it, one that required me to post a cash (i.e., 100% of value) bond just to continue my case. The reason? I reside outside of California. The Times demanded $300,000. The judge knocked it down to $75,000. Thanks to appalled readers, I raised the money via crowdfunding. What would someone without a media mouthpiece do if they had to come up with 75 grand just to stay in court? They’d probably have to drop their case.

Hearings on the anti-SLAPPs took place in July 2017. It had been two years since the Times published their lies about me: two years without discovery, two years during which key witnesses might die or move away, two years during which the Times could destroy evidence.

Even though lower-court judge agreed that “the enhanced tape establishes his [Rall’s] recounting of the incident was accurate” — i.e., I told the truth, the Times lied when they said I didn’t, thus the Times defamed me — he ruled against me, awarding the Times about $350,000 in legal fees at my expense.

Go figure.

Anti-SLAPP is automatically appealable, so the next step is the Court of Appeals. We submit our appeal brief. The Times replies. We reply to their reply. The court sets a hearing date. If all goes well, that’ll happen some time this year. If the appellate judges rule in my favor, we finally begin discovery — in 2019-ish.

Four years after the crime. Four years for the trail to go from cold to stone-cold.

If and when I get to my actual trial, then — just maybe — print-media journalists will break their Grey Wall of Silence and report on my case. If and when that happens, though, I’m sure they’ll manage to characterize me as an abusive plaintiff trying to curtail the First Amendment rights of the pure-as-virgin-snow Los Angeles Times.

Trump can’t and won’t do anything to address our ridiculous libel laws. Which is really really #sad.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)