Ted Rall

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$1,000,000

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Ricky Jackson, a 58-year-old man who spent all of his adult life in an Ohio prison cell for a murder he didn’t commit, was awarded a “whopping” million dollars to compensate him for the prosecutorial misconduct that led to his conviction.

Who Is This “Together” Starbucks’ Howard Schultz Is Talking About?

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 17:43

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

He’s considered a hero, and rightly so. Still, when French General Charles de Gaulle gave his most famous speech, the Appeal of 18 June 1940, not everyone was moved. “Nothing is lost for France!” the future leader of the Free French intoned into the BBC microphone to the people of France, who had just lost their country to the Nazi invasion. “The flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished!”

“Easy for him to say!” my grandfather raged. “He’s sitting over there in London, sipping tea! Here we’ve got the krauts up our ass!”

He changed his mind later. But still: terrible first communiqué.

Communications 101: If you hope others to follow you as a leader, remember who and where and what you are.

If you don’t, others will.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz forgot self-awareness with this week’s clumsy rollout of the coffee conglomerate’s “Race Together” advertising campaign featuring social media hashtags and handwritten cups — and stepped in something that looked and felt like a pile of day-old coffee grinds but smelled worse on Twitter.

What could go wrong? Schultz wanted to spark a discussion about race in America. The slogan, though cloddish, was something few would argue with: Unity is good. But then: everyone hated it. “Honest to God, if you start to engage me in a race conversation before I’ve had my morning coffee, it will not end well,” tweeted the usually placid PBS NewsHour host Gwen Ifill.

“The brand has been called tone-deaf and obnoxious,” reported The New York Times. “Many have pointed out that the company’s leadership is predominantly white, while many of its baristas are minorities.”

Oh, that.

Which is also a class thing: Schulz “earned” $28.9 million in 2012 alone. The average barrista gets $10 an hour.

What went wrong? Starbucks in general, and Schultz in particular, didn’t have the social standing — the political legitimacy — to declare a national conversation on race.

Starbucks is too white. Too unequal. Without a history of engaging customers on political issues, it jumped straight into one of the most fraught, complex and emotional: America’s original sin. “The last person I wanna discuss race with is a snotty condescending 18 yr old barista that corrects me when I say ‘large’ instead of ‘venti,’” one Twitterer tweeted.

And there’s that “Together” thing. Zillionaire Schultz and thousandaire me? We’re not even a little “together” — even though we both cash in on white male privilege. And he’s a lot less “together” with the African-American community — members of which he isn’t hiring enough of, and not paying enough to when he does.

Who the hell was Howard Schultz to lecture us about race?

Nobody.

Similarly, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has turned herself into a national laughingstock by forgetting who she is and who’s she talking to.

It began with “Lean In,” her book/PR campaign/wannabe movement to encourage working women to break through the glass ceiling by being more assertive in demanding raises, promotions and responsibility. Now the zillionaire feminist is promoting “Choreplay,” in which sex-starved husbands are encouraged to buy sexual favors from their tired working wives by performing household duties like cleaning the dishes and doing the laundry.

Let’s set aside the facts that the “girls make passes at guys who wash and dry dishes and glasses” meme (a) is way old and (b) has been decisively debunked. From a 2013 study in the American Sociological Review: “Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks—such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance—report higher sexual frequency.”

Nothing destroys credibility like spouting outdated nonsense.

The point is: who the hell is Sheryl Sandberg to tell us anything?

The Washington Post’s book critic sussed out Sandberg’s no-moral-standing problem in her book: “By the time she describes the pangs of guilt as a mother working outside the home — some of her most poignant passages — it is impossible to forget that she, like many of the female friends she quotes, is a wealthy, white, married woman with a ‘vast support system.’ Surely she could have included a story or two about successful women who are more likely to have been born to nannies than to hire them. Or at least more who didn’t graduate from the Ivy League.”

If you’re tonedeaf, at least be nice. (It might give you standing.) Which Sandberg was not: immediately after collecting a cool $90 million in stock sales, her new foundation posted ads looking for interns.

Unpaid interns.

In other words, slaves.

Like Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, Sandberg doesn’t see that as a billionaire who owes her spectacular wealth and privilege, including household staff, to her friendship with an even wealthier man who leads a company whose tiny workforce isn’t unionized, works “at will,” and is increasingly outsourced overseas at insanely low wages, she shouldn’t telling working-class (or middle-class) women what to do.

She ought to shut up and listen.

Then, of course, there’s Hillary Clinton’s latest scandal, Emailgate.

She’d already blown the moral standing thing as a “feminist icon” who’d be unknown to the world had she not married well, and as a millionaire — at least 25 times over — who claims to have recently gone from “broke” to “not well off.”

Then she defended her decisions not to use government email as secretary of state, and delete thousands of contemporaneous private emails as attempts to protect her privacy — something every American could identify with.

“No one wants their personal emails made public, and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy,” she said.

Indeed we do.

Unfortunately, Clinton has as much moral standing on privacy rights as Dick Cheney has as a peacemaker. She voted for the Patriot Act, which unleashed the NSA monster that reads everybody’s emails, everywhere, all the time, and even called Edward Snowden a traitor for letting us know what the NSA is up to. She’s a hypocrite. Worse than that, she’s made herself look ridiculous.

Before you open your mouth to lecture anyone, remember the cautionary tales of tonedeaf elitists like Schultz, Sandberg and Clinton. If you don’t have standing to talk, you’ve got nothing to say.

Why Would Anyone Want To Join ISIS?

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 17:35

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

They slash innocent people’s throats. They hew off heads. They rape children, sell women into slavery and vandalize ancient museum pieces. Why would anyone want to join ISIS?

That’s the big question Americans and people in other Western countries are asking — because thousands of their citizens, many of them well-educated and reportedly of sound mind and body, are doing just that.

Unfortunately, mainstream media outlets seem unwilling and/or unable to explain the attraction of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Even when the topic is broached, as it was recently on syndicated talk host Diane Rehm’s NPR radio show, so-called experts can’t or won’t answer the question, instead repeating the usual ISIS-is-incomprehensibly-evil memes we’ve already heard a zillion times.

“I think one characteristic that we see from ISIS is that they pursue every avenue. They have a specific recruitment for women, they have specific recruitment for different countries, different languages. They’re really unusually large for a terror group ,” Jessica Stern told Rehm.

Others say ISIS recruits are thrill-seekers or alienated youths searching for meaning in otherwise empty lives, as The International Business Times argued recently.

If ISIS is America’s enemy, or at least a phenomenon it would be in our interest to weaken or destroy, it is not in our interest to dismiss its adherents as fools, lunatics or alienated losers. Underestimating your adversary plays into his hands. They’re not crazy, and they come from all walks of life: “Four decades of psychological research on who becomes a terrorist and why hasn’t yet produced any profile,” John Horgan, director of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, told The Guardian.

Before we attack the Islamic State — OK, it’s too late for that — it behooves us to understand it. Which requires understanding its appeal.

ISIS is a Nation-State.

Corporate media outlets like NPR call ISIS “the self-proclaimed Islamic State” or “self-described Islamic State” as if the predicate weakens ISIS’ legitimacy. Ridiculous! You could apply the same lame undermining modifier to any nation: the self-described United States of America, the self-proclaimed Republic of Ireland, whatever. Nations exist until they don’t; ISIS has no less de facto legitimacy than, say, Panama.

No one knows whether ISIS will survive, but it is the first serious attempt to carve out an Islamist nation-state in memory.

ISIS isn’t like Al Qaeda and its spinoff groups, or Abu Sayyaf, Al Shabab and Boko Haram (which recently pledged fealty to ISIS). Those are underground insurgent organizations. They carry out attacks against government and private targets in territory that they do not control. A closer analogy is the Taliban, whose formal name during their rule ISIS echoes: The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — but it’s not a perfect one because, since 2001, “Taliban-held” areas of Afghanistan have been partially held and transited by troops loyal to the Kabul-based central government.

ISIS is trying to build a full-fledged nation-state with all the trappings: discrete borders, coins, stamps, its own monetary system, ministries, control and expansion of infrastructure, educational curriculum, a standing army, social programs, a judiciary, and not least — a cool flag.

“This is more than just fighting,” an ISIS recruit explains on an online video. “We need the engineers, we need doctors, we need professionals … There is a role for everybody.”

ISIS’ message — join us! we aren’t thinking about building a fundamentalist Muslim society, or trying to transform an existing Muslim country, but we’re actually making one now excites Sunni purists currently living in Western countries or in Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, whose leaders and values have been corrupted by Western and American influence. France, Germany and other countries with large populations of young Muslim immigrants have marginalized them in ghettos with high unemployment, subjecting them to racial profiling and harassment. They haven’t been made to feel at home. ISIS promises them they will be with them.

Ironically, it’s an appeal familiar to Jews who emigrate to Israel.

ISIS is a Caliphate.

Western commentators as well as some Muslim scholars scoff at ISIS’ claim to have reestablished the Islamic caliphate eliminated along with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War I. ISIS’ caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a shadowy Iraqi religious scholar turned jihadi who did time as a U.S. detainee — so what, they ask, is the basis of his legitimacy? Al-Baghdadi probably isn’t, despite his claims, a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed, which according to classical scholars is required to be named caliph.

The naysayers are missing the point. “All that the Islamic State lacks is the legitimacy derived from mutual international recognition by other states, which it never sought in the first place. It also realized that states in the Muslim world resist its declaration of the Caliphate. Its legitimacy emerges from declaring a Caliphate and a state apparatus to sustain it, thus deriving legitimacy from a small, but devoted core of Muslims around the world, willing to leave their lives behind to travel and become citizens of the new Islamic State,” says Cal State historian Ibrahim al-Marashi.

To echo Nike, this is a “just do it” thing — you’re the caliph if you say you are, and enough people believe you to back you up.

The demise of the caliphate in 1924 stripped Islam of its centuries-old central governing body. Imagine, for example, how Roman Catholicism would be affected by the end of the papacy: new sects would break off, splinterism would rule, no one would agree on what a real Catholic believes or does. The desire to reestablish cohesion — under, of course, radical Sunnism — motivates Muslim fundamentalists who, such as Osama bin Laden, have long called for its restoration.

A caliph, however, is not a pope. He is a religious, military and political leader, all wrapped up in one — and God’s representative on earth. By definition, all Muslims are required to swear allegiance to a caliph and follow his dictates, or be branded apostates, and face death.

ISIS Kills Its Enemies. A Lot.

For ISIS, violence — slave markets, ethnic cleansing, mass slaughter, even of fellow Sunni Muslims — is not merely an unpleasant but necessary tactic, but an end in and of itself.

It’s not just rule by fear, though ISIS leaders use that too, as when they execute deserters by crucifixion. Like the Hotel California, ISIS is a place you can check in but never leave.

The brutality turns off some fighters enough to prompt them to flee, but for many others, it’s a major attraction. Slaughtering Shias, secular Sunnis and non-Muslims serves a double purpose: purification and revenge. For as long as most Muslims can remember — and this goes for liberal-minded Muslims too — they have been on the receiving end of violence: Israel, created by the U.S. and European powers from stolen Palestinian land. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen and countless other Muslim nations oppressed by U.S.-backed tyrants. After 9/11: secret prisons, kidnappings, torture, drone assassinations, multiple invasions, constant bombing.

ISIS offers humiliated fighters a chance to lash out…even if swimming in the blood of a captured Yazidi woman is a poor substitute for an American drone operator, or a congressman.

It will take more than intercepting recruits on their way to Syria and arresting them, or cheesy, hollow appeals to patriotic sentimentality, to counter these powerful motivating forces.

“Born and raised in the United States, allegedly turned his back on his country and attempted to travel to Syria in order to join a terrorist organization,” said Loretta Lynch, Obama’s nominee for attorney general after the arrest of a Florida air force vet charged with trying to join the Islamic State. “An American citizen and former member of our military allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” said assistant attorney general John Carlin.

There will be more like him.

Reunited and It Feels So Good

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 00:34

Secretary of State John Kerry has signaled that the United States is reversing its policy of supporting the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because the opposition became dominated by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Now the U.S. wants to keep Assad in power as a bulwark against the (previously) US-backed rebels.

Raaaaand

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 14:46

Betcha didn’t know the “a” in “Rand” is long:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Rand Paul from Scandinavia?

 

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: John Kasich’s Ohio Fantasy

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 09:59

 

There’s denial.

There’s self-delusion.

There’s hallucination.

Then there’s John Kasich.

It’s just another political horse-race story about another white guy running for president, but “Kasich Looks to Republican Primaries, ‘Ohio Story’ in Hand” in the March 19th New York Times would have made me fall out of my seat had I not been confined by a seatbelt and squished in by a pair of chubby fellow airplane passengers.

John Kasich is the other Scott Walker, another Republican governor of a Midwestern state contemplating a run for president next year.

Kasich runs Ohio. Ohio is my home state.

Says the Times, Kasich is touting his “Ohio story” to make his case for moving into the Oval Office: “On his watch, Ohio’s $8 billion budget shortfall has turned into a $1.5 billion surplus. He has increased funding for mental health services and takes credit for 352,000 new private sector jobs.”

(Note the qualifier “takes credit for.”)

To be fair, the paper quotes Ohio State Senator Joe Schiavoni, who notes that “nearly half of Ohio households are getting by paycheck to paycheck, and 43% of students in public schools are on free or reduced lunch.”

When obscure governors run for president — Carter in 1976, Clinton in 1992, Bush in 2000 — their case to the nation is: Look what I did for my state! Elect me, and I’ll do the same for the country. The fact that Kasich is bragging about what he did to Ohio indicates that he’s (a) politically suicidal and/or (b) has absolutely no idea what’s going on there, especially in the state’s urban centers.

When I looked it up, I was surprised to learn that Kasich has actually visited Dayton, the southwestern Rust Belt city where I grew up. It’s a mess.

To be fair, this disaster predates Kasich by decades. Like many of my friends, I left after we graduated high school in the early 1980s because there were no jobs. Dayton Press, where they printed magazines like Time and Newsweek, closed. Mead Paper moved away. Department stores were boarded up, abandoned and demolished; factories rusted and rotted and were carted away. It got so you could take a nap in the middle of Main Street without being disturbed by traffic.

But things have only gotten worse under Kasich. Dayton’s population has plunged by 40% since I left. The local economy has been devastated since GM’s huge Moraine Assembly plant closed in 2008, throwing 5,000 people out of work.

Forbes listed Dayton as one of the ten fastest-dying cities in America. Four out of 10 were in Ohio. (The others were Youngstown, Canton and Cleveland.)

Forbes tried to put a bright face on Dayton’s problems: “Cash register and ATM manufacturer NCR is based in Dayton, and one of the region’s major employers, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is not going anywhere.”

NCR moved to Atlanta two years later.

Every day I check the Dayton Daily News app on my phone to follow the latest mayhem. Grim accounts of grinding poverty, drug epidemics and random violence are routine. The national story about the boy who found his neighbor’s mummified body while exploring an abandoned house somehow spoke volumes about the collapse of the city of Dayton. Facing foreclosure, the dude had hung himself five years ago. Bank officials never bothered to look inside.

Even the national economy recovered, Dayton’s contracted last year.

Kasich’s “Ohio Story” is a nightmare.

Cleveland, Dayton, Canton and Youngstown aren’t the Buckeye State’s only urban disasters — though they are some of the state’s biggest cities.

Toledo is so broke that its mayor asked residents to cut the grass in public parks. So many Cincinnatians are dying of heroin overdoses that the morgue is facing a budget crisis. The infant mortality rate is soaring in the capital city of Columbus.

Under John Kasich, Ohio is in danger of becoming a failed state.

Just what America needs!

The Ohio political blog Underbund has the goods on Kasich.

“The so-called ‘Ohio Story’ Gov. Kasich is out shilling to ruby red western and southern states will never include the kind of statistics reveled Friday in a report by the Pew Charitable Trust, which painted a different portrait of the state,” writes John Michael Spinelli.

Spinelli quotes the Pew report:

  • “In John Kasich’s Ohio, the share of households that are middle class has fallen from 50.9% in 2000 to 45.7% in 2013.
  • “Meanwhile, median income has also taken a dive under Gov. Kasich, from an inflation-adjusted amount of $56,437 in 2000 to $48,081 in 2013, a dip of nearly 15%.
  • “And the share of households spending at least 30% of income on housing as gone up, from 25% in 2000 to 30% in 2013.”

I have a question for Governor Kasich: If you manage to gain traction in the race for the 2016 Republican nomination, how will you keep reporters away from Dayton?

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

The Woman Who Broke Charles Manson’s Heart

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 00:22

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

This is the strange, true tale of how a man and woman conspired to steal the body of the (still living) notorious mass murderer Charles Manson.

Sheryl Sandberg’s Choreplay: Not Too Sexy

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 16:15

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, famous for her “Lean In” book and its advice to women to be aggressive in the workplace, is now advising women to institute “choreplay” at home — basically, wives exchanging marital favors in exchange for husbands’ completion of household tasks. Whatever its merits, Choreplay certainly doesn’t sound sexy.

The Traitors Within

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 00:33

Shockingly for patriotic Muslims, thousands of naive young Muslims are committing treason against their own people, rejecting their homeland to travel to the United States, where they join the terrorist military. Why would anyone join a group responsible for horrific atrocities, which have been documented on video?

Jeb Bush is a Devout Catholic

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 00:31

You may be surprised to learn that Jeb Bush is Roman Catholic. What’s even more surprising is that the media calls him devout, considering his enthusiastic support for capital punishment, preemptive war, and screwing over poor people.

Robert Durst and ‘The Jinx': Is watching TV the future of detective work?

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 17:50

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

 

Police forces are constantly looking at new technology and new methods for catching criminals: DNA, drones, flying helicopters over high-crime areas to discourage the bad guys from carrying out their dastardly deeds. Could there be a new means of nailing suspects: watching TV?

Last weekend’s arrest of Robert Durst, the New York real estate scion who has been implicated in the deaths of three people over three decades, makes me wonder about that in this week’s cartoon.

Durst has been suspected of being involved in the 1982 disappearance and presumed death of his first wife and now has been charged with the killing of a friend, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles in 2000. He shot and dismembered a neighbor in Texas in 2001 but was acquitted, claiming it was self-defense.

While filming a six-part HBO documentary called “The Jinx,” Durst apparently failed to realize that his microphone was still “hot” (live) when he went to the restroom. Talking to himself, he asks rhetorically, like something out of a tale by Edgar Allan Poe, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

It isn’t clear whether this qualifies as a confession, at least enough to sway a jury, or whether it’s admissible in court. It also isn’t known whether this statement led to the request to the FBI by Los Angeles police to arrest Durst at a New Orleans hotel where he was staying under a false name, and to ask that he be extradited to California. Whatever the details, the revelation in the sixth and final episode of the documentary was pretty much as blockbuster as blockbuster gets – and it probably isn’t going to help him if and when he gets to trial.

Though the families of Durst’s alleged victims and the detectives who have been trying to nab him for years are no doubt pleased that he may be about to face justice for his alleged crimes, they must be a little frustrated that it was a true-crime documentary rather than traditional police work that finally did the job. That said, the police contributed mightily to where things currently stand.

The Durst case is unusual in several respects, none more than the open-mike gaffe. Generally speaking, alleged serial killers with a run dating back to the Reagan years don’t stay free by absentmindedly blabbing — even if it is to themselves in that most private of places.

In the end, it may not have been so much the cliché that Durst wanted to get caught as his succumbing to his outsize ego by agreeing to do the documentary and by taunting the authorities, like a real-life Hannibal Lecter. “Bob doesn’t seem to feel totally comfortable unless he’s at risk,” one of the documentarians told an interviewer. “He seems to like to put himself at risk. It may make him feel more vital. It may be something he’s just compelled to grasp for. In this case, we felt he had a kind of compulsion to confess.”

Sadly for detectives, murder suspects aren’t usually wired for thrills.

Why The GOP Letter To Iran Is Such A Huge, Major Deal

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 14:15

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

In a supremely strange move this week, 47 Republican senators took the unprecedented step of directly writing the leader of a foreign government in order to get in the way of a US president’s foreign policy talks with it. This is even though the US constitution, as any ninth grader has learned in social studies, puts a sitting US president in charge of foreign policy.

In its letter to the Iranian government, the GOP senators said: Don’t bother cutting a deal with President Obama and the United States right. Because, it said, the next “Republican president” will just reverse any agreement “with the stroke of a pen.”

This astounded news watchers around the world. Here’s why this development is so disturbing and why you should follow these developments closely.

But first, let’s back up and look at the Iranian reaction to the letter. It certainly didn’t do much to dissuade Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from continuing with US talks to limit nuclear weapons production in Iran.

In a public statement, Zarif said he wasn’t buying it, but that he now has a stronger understanding of constitutional separation of powers under the American system than the signatories of the letter do.

Confused in the USA

As American legal scholars and political analysts struggle to get their heads around the GOP letter and its implications, Iran’s Zarif offered some theories. The Republican senators, Zarif said, must “not understand international law,” said Zarif, a professor of international law, and they must not understand the US constitution, either. Either they are not “fully cognizant of the nuances of their own constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.”

Ouch. And he’s right, as any ninth grader making a B in the social studies could tell you straight away.

Under law and by custom, the executive branch is in charge of foreign policy – including treaty negotiations, which this is not.

While the Senate specifically and the legislative branch in general have a consulting role to play, especially in the ratification of treaties, the kind of agreement being contemplated between Obama and Iran is not one of them. In fact, President Bush arrived at a similar deal with Libya, which did not require congressional consent.

Furthermore, presidents historically honor their predecessor’s international promises regardless of their political party. They have to, for all the obvious reasons.

So, bottom line, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’s notorious “bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran” plan will have to wait.

A Sign of Political Decline?

US lawmakers, for the first time anyone can remember, have publicly set out to undermine a sitting president during talks with a longtime adversary are astounding.

US Vice President Joe Biden accurately characterized the implications in this statement:

This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that our commander in chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments — a message that is as false as it is dangerous.”

Of all people, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, got right to the heart of the issue.

The GOP letter, the Ayatollah said, is “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.”

Don’t All Countries Stick To Foreign Commitments Post Elections?

Forgotten in this tempest of partisan lunacy is a fact alluded to in Khamenei’s statement: “All countries, according to the international norms, remain faithful to their commitments even after their governments change.”

Iran knows this well. Why? Because if Iran hadn’t followed such “international norms,” it would be free to develop any nuclear weapons program they felt like, no matter what it had agreed to in the past. And that means there would never be grounds for the United States or any other country to impose economic sanctions on Iran.

This is why international observers in the US, Europe and in the Middle East are so blown away by the GOP letter.

The agreement that prohibits an Iranian nuclear weapons program is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran signed it in 1968, and agreed to an inspections regime in 1974.

Ah, but that was under the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The Shah was deposed in the 1979 Islamic revolution. The new government, the one currently led by Ayatollah Khamanei, nevertheless agreed to honor the international agreements signed by its predecessor, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

And this makes the Republican letter still more outrageous.

Why You Should Care

What you are watching now is a most bizarre spectacle. You’ve got  the United States playing holier than thou, screaming to high heavens that Iran can’t be trusted and that the country poses a grave danger of developing nuclear weapons that it will sell or fire at Israel or even at us.

Yet Iran is and has been honoring a nuclear treaty signed by an entirely different government, one that was overthrown back in 1979.

But now you have 47 lawmakers contacting the leader of a foreign government directly, saying that, unlike Iran, anything the President of the United States negotiates with foreign countries becomes null and void when he leaves office. And this is not even after a full-fledged revolution, mind you, but just after an election.

Whatever moral high ground as United States once held on the international stage is collapsing into a deep deep valley. I’ll be watching these developments for you in the days and weeks to come. 

John Ellis Bush

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 00:01

How is it that, after stating his intention to run for President of the United States in 2016, serving as governor of Florida, and possibly becoming the third member of his family to serve as president in 30 years, no one knows the real name of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Goofus Hillary vs. Gallant Hillary

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 11:09

I’m calling bullshit on Hillary.

Not on Hillary herself. On the media’s portrayal of her.

“The private Hillary is as warm and charming a woman as anyone could conjure up. The public Hillary sometimes seems brittle, with the judgment of a raging rhinoceros,” writes fellow syndicated columnist Ann McFeatters.

I don’t mean to pick on McFeatters. Everyone (in the media) says the same thing: Hillary Clinton is so awesome one-on-one or maybe one-on-six, in private. For example, Mark Leibovich says she’s “quite human and funny” in private.

She’s been a high-profile national politician for more than 20 years. Why hasn’t she figured out how to charm the American public on TV?

These repeated accounts of Hillarity are less than reliable, issued as they are by the kind of people in a position to have met Hillary Clinton, which pretty much guarantees that they’re boring and bland and not very smart — the kind of people who think Obama means well and that Jon Stewart is a laff riot.

But let’s say it’s true. Who will we be voting for or against next year — Public Goofus Hillary or Private Gallant Hillary?
If you evaluate presidential candidates based on how much fun they’d be to share a drink or six with, Hillary presents a trust dilemma. Who wants to throw back cold ones with greedy tone-deaf Public Hillary, worth $20 million if she’s worth a dime, as she whines that she’s not “truly well off“?

But what if it’s true that Private Hillary rolls salt-of-the-earth style, wickedly funny and cool? Should you take a leap of faith, taking the word of the same press corps that gave us the Iraq War, and support the real — albeit secret and seen by few — Hillary?

Perhaps you’re one of those voters who views the presidency as a role to fill, and presidential elections as a casting call. For you, the POTUS is America’s representative on the world stage. He or she has to look — and feel — presidential. Your ideal prez would exude FDR’s charisma, wear Reagan’s suits, have Obama’s calm and JFK’s (or Mitt Romney’s) hair.

For you image voters too, Private vs. Public Hillaries are a problem.

Public Hillary is a nonstarter. She embodies the George W. Bush school of bull-in-a-China-shop diplomacy: the last thing we need is another war, one caused by her deployment of the same nasty exasperated expression she wore at the press conference where she tried to talk away her destruction of four years of electronic archives of the foreign policy history of the United States.

On the other hand, Loveable Private Hillary could bond with Vladmir Putin and other troublesome world leaders, banging out peace treaties and favorable trade agreements at karaoke bars from Pyongyang to Moscow. But what if Private Hillary is as much of a chimera as Saddam’s WMDs? Public Hillary Who Is Also Private Hillary could piss off so many old enemies, and make so many new ones, that we’d be fending off ICBMs in no time.

Or maybe you’re like me, an issues voter. As long as he or she supports the right policies and fight against the bad ones, you don’t care if a politician drinks, or womanizes, or drinks and drives a woman to the bottom of a pond. Show me the bills, dammit!

If you’re in it for substance over style, the Tale of Two Hillaries is even more difficult to tease out.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd calls Hillary a “feminist icon wallowing in regressive Middle Eastern states’ payola.” I’ll focus on the “feminist icon” part: what, aside from being a woman, has Hillary Clinton done for women? She has never proposed a significant piece of women’s rights legislation. Her 2008 presidential bid marketed her, not as a woman, but as a Margaret Thatcher-style “Iron Lady,” a man in woman’s clothing. Only now, echoing Obama’s double-win on the strength of historical symbolism, is she planning to emphasize the plight of girls and women in a patriarchal society.

On policy, Public and Private Hillary blend together. Not because she’s integrated. Because she’s a mess of contradictions: a liberal who supports wars of choice, obsessed with her own privacy as she runs interference for the NSA.

Even if Gallant is the real Hillary, and all that Goofus stuff is either her cynical attempt to work the system in a man’s world or reflects a personality unable to connect with people in large groups, I can’t vote for her.

She supports war and drones and the NSA. Who cares if she’s a barrel of laughs behind closed doors? So was Stalin.

Anyway, my invitation to hang out with her appears to have gotten lost in the mail.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

If It Doesn’t Die Right Away, Apple’s New Macbook Is Amazing

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 09:51

Originally published by ANewDomain:

Apple’s new MacBook is amazingly tiny, thin and light, weighing it at just two pounds. But something’s missing — something you might miss. The three and a half-year old MacBook Pro I’m typing on now features two USBs, a Thunderbolt, a FireWire and a Kensington lock slot.

Only one survives. TechCrunch reports,

This MacBook only has a single USB-C and it does everything from charging, to sending video out and transporting data … It’s the only port on the computer meaning owners cannot charge the computer and an iPhone at the same time. It’s not possible to output video to a monitor and input data from an external drive — at least not without a hub.”

Just what I need, another Apple video port that won’t connect to the year-old (i.e., ancient) digital projectors owned by any of the libraries, schools or bookstores where I give talks. Of course that’s a problem easily (though annoyingly) solved by the purchase of another overpriced, easily lost, unreliable adaptor.

For my money the big story here is Apple’s longstanding unwillingness and inability to address the issue of battery power.

Mad with Power

Apple markets portable devices that can’t be carried around more than a few hours without needing to be plugged in. This makes said devices practically as portable as one of those “portable TVs” that weighed 60 pounds but had a handle on top. By that standard, the earth is portable if you attach a big handle to the North Pole.

With moderate use, my iPhone 5C sometimes makes it six whole hours without running out of juice. (And yes, I turn off my apps, use airplane mode, adjust my settings to lower light and never stream video or play games, just like all the articles about saving battery power advise.) This, I submit, is unreasonable for a phone. If you remember, the original reason you bought your first cellphone was that it would be perfect in an emergency — like your car breaking down in the boonies.

Alas. During the recent cold snap here in the Northeast, I actually watched my iPhone go from 100 percent charge to 5 percent in an hour. In an hour! Because, as Apple says, you’re not supposed to use it when it’s under 32 degrees, which, for those who don’t know, happens during the season of winter.

Even when it was new, my laptop never made it more than three hours of doing something wild and crazy, like keeping Word and Firefox open at the same time. Photoshop? Fugheddaboutit.

Crappy battery life on Apple products has turned me into Rae Dawn Chong in “Quest for Fire.” I’m constantly and obsessively searching for power, but looking a lot less cute.  I carry a Mophie “juice pack” in case of, you know, an automobile mishap. When I fly, I favor carriers like Virgin America, which have power outlets. (Inexplicably, they have two outlets per row of three seats, which can lead to ugly scrambles between the knees. On the plus side, it keeps you limber and might lead to surprising romantic moments with other passengers.) At Starbucks, I’m the guy staring through — not at — your crotch to see if there’s a plug two feet above the baseboards.

Apple’s low-battery problems are well-documented. And, it turns out, intentional. Chief company designer Jony Ive admits the company intentionally ships its products with less capacity than rival Android. From the Financial Times:

Talking of performance, when the issue of the frequent need to recharge the iPhone is raised, answers that it’s because it’s so light and thin that we use it so much and therefore deplete the battery. With a bigger battery it would be heavier, more cumbersome, less ‘compelling.’

In other words, it’s our fault.

As much as I hate to admit it, the man has a point. As long as people keep paying top dollar for the smallest, lightest whatever, despite the fact that the power situation is objectively unacceptable, Apple has no reason to change.

Here’s What the Really Big Deal Is About the Apple Watch

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 09:15

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

People who have spent time with Apple Watch were startled to learn that they found themselves using their iPhones (you have to use it in conjunction with an iPhone) far less than ever before, sometimes hardly at all. So now we have something different to get distracted by. That’s not a big difference for you. But it’s a big difference to Apple.

A Closer Look: Why ISIS Is Destroying Historical Treasures

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 11:42

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has turned its destructive attention against archaeological treasures – and it’s partly our fault.

This week the United Nations called ISIS’ destruction of the 2,000-year-old Parthian city of Hatra a war crime. This follows reports that ISIS blew up the ancient Assyrian capital city of Dur Sharrukin and Nimrud, “known as Calah or Kalhu in the Bible … capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which flourished under King Ashurnasirpal II in the First Millennium BC.”

 

The group released a video of its members taking sledgehammers and electric drills to antiquities on display at the museum at Mosul, currently under ISIS rule. Looting of archaeological sites is rampant.

The cradle of Western civilization is losing buildings and artifacts that have survived countless invading armies. The loss is staggering, incomprehensible and irreplaceable.

There are several motivations behind what the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) calls “cultural cleansing.” 

One is economic.

“ISIS is said to be encouraging civilians to plunder historic sites, and charging a 20% tax on anything they sell. Intelligence officials say looting is the terror group’s second largest source of income after oil,” according to New York Magazine.

If we are to take ISIS at its word, there is also a religious motivation. According to at least one video released by the group, the destruction is an attempt to carry out Islamic law. “A man in the video says the Prophet Mohammed ordered to get rid of statues and relics, and that the objects are idols for Assyrians and Akkadians,” reports RT.

But there is a deeper underlying reason that radical Islamists have declared war on historically significant relics under their control – one that most Western journalists are too deeply embedded within their own culture and political paradigm to discern.

Cornell archaeologist Sturt Manning speaks for many when he tells CNN that the problem is ignorance.

Manning suggests that maybe the ISIS guys simply don’t understand why history and archaeology matter:

The destruction eloquently speaks of the human folly and senseless violence that drives ISIS. The terror group is destroying the evidence of the great history of Iraq; it has to, as this history attests to a rich alternative to its barbaric nihilism.”

Never believe people who tell you that other people’s behavior has no rational explanation, that they are “senseless” or nihilistic. People do things for a reason. Just because you don’t know what it is doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. In the case of ISIS, many of its members are Western-educated and highly intelligent. They know what they are doing.

Manning’s conclusion that “Providing educational opportunities and empowering communities to learn more about their cultures and histories, and those of others, is one of the best ways to eradicate destructive hatred and violence,” is facile and lazy and in no way explains what’s going on in Iraq and Syria.

In addition to the religious and financial motivations, these acts – like the 2001 bombing by the Taliban of the giant Buddhas at Bamiyan – are cries for attention by people who have been completely marginalized from the international system.

We were smarter before 9/11.

Writing in USA Today in March 2001, W.L. Rathje noted that Sunni Islam’s strictures against idolatry turned against statues that had survived centuries of Muslim occupation in large part as a way of getting the attention of the West:

Probably most important, the Taliban government for more than a year has been requesting international humanitarian aid for a country ravaged by drought, earthquakes, and war. No aid is forthcoming as long as the Taliban harbor international terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, an anathema to key voting members of the UN Security Council, including the United States, Russia (where the Taliban are working with the Chechnyan [sic] rebels), and China (where the Taliban are active among Muslim separatists).

As the Taliban see it, the UN and others (such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, and even such Taliban friends as Iran, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) will give millions of dollars to save un-Islamic stone statues but not one cent to save the lives of Afghani [sic] men, women, and children.

It is not America and the West’s air war against the Islamic State that is prompting its attacks against archaeological treasures. It is the way that it is being carried out: using remote control drone aircraft whose downing cannot hurt a single pilot, laser-guided missiles fired by high-altitude fighter jets far out of reach of antiaircraft guns — not really a war at all but a one-sided onslaught in which the US-led coalition brutalizes an adversary that has 0.00% chance of fighting back.

Like the Taliban in 2001 at the time of the Buddha bombings, ISIS has nothing to lose.

As Machiavelli wrote hundreds of years ago in a book that ought to have been read by the signers of the Treaty of Versailles, nothing is more dangerous than an enemy backed into a corner. It is always wise, he counseled, to allow a graceful exit – and to be willing to negotiate. Especially when you are going to win.

Arrogance and technology are merging to create a post-democratic America accountable to no one, not even its own citizens, and thus impossible to talk to.

As Chamayou writes in A Theory of the Drone:

A sovereign, given that he never places himself in danger in the war, ‘can thus decide on war, without any significant reason, as a kind of amusement’ or hunting party … in a republican regime the situation is different” since “the consent of the citizens is required to decide whether or not war is to be declared.”

Chamayou argues that the “dronization” of American warfare – riskless attacks using unmanned aerial vehicles in distant lands – undermines this fundamental precept of representative government, that a United States that fights wars without the consent or even discussion of its citizens is no longer a democracy.

If you think that’s terrifying, and I do, imagine how it looks on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Like them or not – and I don’t – the leaders of the Islamic State know that they cannot and will not ever have a seat at the table with a mega-superpower that demands unconditional surrender and refuses to negotiate with terrorists.

That was the situation in 2001. The Taliban controlled 95 percent of the territory of Afghanistan, and had been in effective control of the vast majority of the nation since 1996, yet the United States and therefore the world refused to acknowledge them as a legitimate government.

They weren’t stakeholders in the international community. 

They were outlaws, outliers, rōnin. Like North Korea today, they were an isolated regime whose only way of getting headlines and attention from Western leaders was by lashing out.

It may well be that economic and trade sanctions and a unilateral air war designed to completely isolate ISIS is the correct path to drive them out of power – though it didn’t work against the Taliban in Afghanistan. But, until that happens, don’t be at all surprised if these policies contribute to the decision of radical Islamists to take bulldozers to the world’s most precious archaeological artifacts.

Burning Bag

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 00:59

Congressional Republicans have stooped to new lows against Pres. Obama in recent weeks: inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress during delicate nuclear negotiations with Iran, and even sending a letter to Iran trying to undermine the negotiations by saying that the president doesn’t have the authorization to negotiate on behalf of the United States. And of course these were the same guys who heckled him during the State of the Union address. What’s next?

Ellen Pao vs Kleiner: What It Means to You and Silicon Valley

Sun, 03/15/2015 - 08:39

Originally published by ANewDomain:

Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination lawsuit has the tech world talking about what it will mean if she wins a verdict against her former employer, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

It’s a crazy case. Among the highlights: an office affair gone wrong, with the jilted married guy accused of retaliating against the jilting single woman; a company ski trip for bros before hoes; juicy revelations about huge salaries and ridiculous work hours, including putting in time during a honeymoon.

So what does it mean?

Maybe it’s about the power of money.

“What’s Really at Stake in Ellen Pao’s Kleiner Perkins Lawsuit,” asserts Emily Bazelon in The New York Times, is the tantalizing possibility of “a cultural shift” in Big Tech, infamous for its young white male-dominated “bro” culture. (They used to call that “frat boy”crap.)

“As the kingmakers who decide which start-ups survive, they have the leverage to make the industry more receptive to women and their ideas or continue to reinforce the ‘brogrammer’ norm,” she writes. (Disclosure: Bazelon edited some of my work in the 1990s.)

Or maybe this lawsuit is about the tightrope women have to walk in the American workplace.

“The real drama is in the more mundane charges, about slights familiar to any woman in any workplace that are rarely aired in public, much less in a courtroom,” Claire Cain Miller writes, also in the Times. “Ellen Pao, a former junior partner, was told that she didn’t speak up enough and was too passive — but also that she spoke up too much and was pushy and entitled.”

Could Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers be about the paucity of women?

“What is really under examination in this trial is the question of why there are so few women in leadership positions in Silicon Valley. At stake is any hope that the tech world can claim to be a progressive place, or even a fair one.” That’s David Streitfeld. Also in the Times.

Three different takes in the same paper!

Here, let me help make things more confusing — with yet another interpretation of why it matters.

Ellen Pao’s case is really about accountability.

The Silicon Valley that emerged after the dot com crash of 2000 has been a cultural and legal Wild West, dominated by companies run by executives who don’t think the rules apply to them.

Every human resources hack knows that gender discrimination is strictly prohibited under federal law. That’s been true for decades.

Google, the biggest tech employer, has a 70 percent male-30 percent female workforce. (It’s 79 percent – 21 percent for “leadership” positions.) Men in the Valley earn 61 percent more than women with the same job and qualifications. It’s actually getting worse.

Numbers like that lead to one obvious conclusion: the bros aren’t even trying. Because they’re not worried about the EEOC, or PR, or anything at all.

The rules-are-for-peasants mentality was epitomized by late Apple chief Steve Jobs, who famously parked in handicapped spaces. “He seemed to think the blue wheelchair symbol meant the spot was reserved for the chairman,” Andy Hertzfled wrote.

As I reported late last year, tech companies violate federal laws against age discrimination even more brazenly than those concerning gender — which is saying something. Many tech ads overtly state that anyone not “young” need not bother to apply. Electronic Arts had no employees over age 35.

And they’re just as bad on race. Whites and Asians are radically overrepresented; Latinos and blacks, if and when you can find them in Silicon Valley, are paid less than whites for the same job.

It’s not just legal stuff. Silicon Valley firms ignore the golden rule of business that the customer is always right. For the Valley, the customer — you and me — are sources of data and money to be exploited and drained dry without so much as a thank you.

Got a problem with Facebook? Too bad.

They don’t have a single customer service rep you can telephone for help when, say, your creepy ex-boyfriend posts photos of your intimate moments.

Facebook also resets the default on your “privacy” settings to “public” without asking. Nice respect for the fundamental American right to privacy.

Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg — I could have just as easily picked on any other company. Nothing personal.

Back to Ellen Pao.

If she wins, which is by no means certain, it will not mean that Silicon Valley will begin treating its customers with respect, or hire people over age 35. What it will mean is that they have to follow the same rules as the rest of us — or pay the price.