Why Doesn't Anyone Call Out Romney for Warmongering?Mitt Romney had a barnburner of a weekend in Israel. The GOP nominee apparent shared his unique combination of economic and anthropological wisdom, attributing the fact that Israel's GDP and average income is many times higher than those of the Palestinian Occupied Territories to Israelis' superior "culture. ... More »IRAN: BECAUSE TWO WARS AREN'T ENOUGH
Opinion - Ted Rall
Congress Should Mandate Minimum Number of Phone RepsI don't know if Mark Zuckerberg suffers from agoraphobia, but his company seems to have missed the jet age.If you're like me, you travel a lot. And if you're on Facebook, odds are that you've been locked out of your account--even though you entered the correct password--because you logged in from an "unfamiliar location."Facebook's test to make you prove you are who you say you are is bizarre: they show you randomly selected pictures of your Facebook "friends" and ask you to identify them. ... More »CUSTOMER SERVICE IS A RIGHT
Why George III Would Be Jealous of ObamaThe Phoenix bureau of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sold over 2,000 guns to operatives they believed to be working for Mexican drug cartels between 2006 and 2010. According to the ATF, "Operation Fast and Furious" was an attempt to track the weapons to higher level criminals.Things went south--literally--when ATF guns began turning up at crime scenes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. ... More »EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE: ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL LIE
Political Malpractice and Missed Opportunities under ObamaI'm on book tour, promoting "The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt." In "The Book of Obama" I argue that Obama is America's Mikhael Gorbachev. Like Gorby, The One (Oprah's phrase) is the most progressive, decent and intelligent leader his system is willing and able to allow to rise to power; like the reformist of perestroika, Obama's fundamental not-so-badness--coupled with his...ineffectiveness? cluelessness? conservatism? exposes the fact that the system is the problem. ... More »WHERE'S THE LEGACY?
This Time: Three Douches To Watch Out ForIt sounds like the lede of another breathless Dot-Com Bubble 3.0 puff piece by David Carr.Three douchebags hook up at a café-cum-gallery-cum-hacketeria in a section of Brooklyn so hip that hipsters can't find it on an app. Eight minutes later, they've banged out a business plan. What for, they can't say. All they know is, it'll be wicked awesome sweet. They send out a few emails; before you can type 140 characters they've lined up $28 million in seed capital. (There's also out-of-school chatter about off-the-book rubles. Whatever. ... More »SATIRE: THE REVOLUTION WILL BE DIGITIZED
Sluts of America, Arise!"A sitting United States president took sides in what many people consider the last civil rights movement," Adam Nagourney of The New York Times wrote in reaction to Barack Obama's endorsement of gay marriage.The last civil rights movement?No.Sadly, even as he belatedly championed equality for some, the president's statement expressed a pernicious, widely accepted form of prejudice. ... More »THE LAST CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE
Obama Accepts 21st Century View of Gay MarriageIn the BDSM world the phrase "topping from the bottom" means conditional submission: when the sub questions or disobeys the instructions of his or her dom. Subverting the submissive role defeats the whole purpose of a BDSM relationship; it is thus frowned upon.President Obama frequently engages in the political equivalent: leading from the back. True leaders lead. They declare what society needs and tells it what it should want. Leaders anticipate what is possible. ... More »LEADING FROM THE BACK
Obama Snubs Hard-Working College StudentsShortly after becoming president, Barack Obama said that he strongly supports continuing education. "If we want to come out of this recession stronger than before, we need to make sure that our workforce is better prepared than ever before," he said in 2009. "Right now, someone who doesn't have a college degree is more than twice as likely to be unemployed as someone who does. And so many of the Americans who have lost their jobs can't find new ones because they simply don't have the skills and the training they need for the jobs they want. ... More »A HARSH LESSON
Bankrupt and Corrupt, U.S. Can't/Won't Address Issues We Care AboutMillions of Americans won't vote this November. "Voter participation in the U.S. remains consistently below corresponding levels in most other western democracies," the International Business Times reported last year. "In countries like Italy, Belgium, Austria and Australia, more than 90 percent of the voting public cast ballots at election time."They--the corporate politicians and their media mouthpieces--call it apathy. Obama advisor David Axelrod blamed it for the Iraq War. ... More »DEATH AND TRIVIA
Joe Nocera, the columnist currently challenging Tom Friedman for the title of Hackiest Militant Centrist Hack--it's a tough job that just about everyone on The New York Times op-ed page has to do--loves the robo-signing settlement announced last week between the Obama Administration, 49 states and the five biggest mortgage banks. "Two cheers!" shouts Nocera.Too busy to follow the news? Read Nocera. If he likes something, it's probably stupid, evil, or both. ... More »ANOTHER OBAMA SELLOUT
Tax Fairness Won't Reduce InequalityReacting to and attempting to co-opt the Occupy Wall Street movement, President Obama used his 2012 State of the Union address to discuss what he now calls "the defining issue of our time"--the growing gap between rich and poor."We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by," Obama said. "Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. ... More »WANT MORE WARS? RAISE TAXES ON THE RICH
Sympathy for Newt and Open MarriageYou know the narrative. Right-wing family-values Republican gets caught doing secular-liberal totally-not-family-values stuff, usually involving sex:Cruising for manlove in an airport men's room.Knocking up the maid.Sending dirty emails to young male pages.Hiring male hookers and smoking meth.Asking wife #2 for an open marriage.This kind of thing happens all the time. And it's always red meat for leftie media commentators.Liberal pundits love to call fallen Republicans hypocrites. ... More »OCCUPY SEXUAL FREEDOM
Why Won't the Rich and Powerful Try to Save Themselves?I spent last week at Occupy Miami and Occupy Fort Lauderdale. One question came up several times: What if the system responds--or pretends to respond--to our demands? What if the political class agrees to create more jobs, help the unemployed, let distressed homeowners keep their houses?Then the Occupy movement (and American progressivism) will be out of business. "President Obama could finish us off over night," I said. "A speech would be enough. He wouldn't even have to do anything. ... More »OUR SUICIDAL RULING CLASS
An Art Form in Crisis Ignores the Rot Within"Ted Rall, mop-headed antiestablishment political cartoonist, has abundant talent, a 1,400-drawing portfolio, seven years' experience, the acclaim of peers and the approval of newspaper editors who, every so often, print his work. What he lacks is someone who will hire him full-time."That's from The New York Times.In 1995.Editorial cartooning, a unique art form whose modern version originated in 18th century France and has become more pointed, sophisticated and effective in the United States than any other country, was in big trouble back then. ... More »WHO POLICES POLITICAL CARTOONING?
MoveOn Co-opts OWS Rhetoric, Dilutes Its MessageIf Democrats were doing their jobs, there wouldn't be an Occupy movement.The last 40 years has left liberals and progressives without a party and working people without an advocate. The party of FDR, JFK and LBJ abandoned its principles, embracing and voting along with Reagan and two Bushes. Clinton's biggest accomplishments, NAFTA and welfare reform, were GOP platform planks. ... More »DEMOCRATS OCCUPY OCCUPY
Jobless? Face It: Obama's Not That Into YouForget Herman Cain's 9-9-9. The battle cry for every American ought to be 7-7-7.7-7-7: for the $7.7 trillion the Bush and Obama Administrations secretly funneled to the banksters.Remember the $700 billion bailout that prompted rage from right to left? Which inspired millions to join the Tea Party and the Occupy movements? Turns out that that was a mere drop in the bucket, less than a tenth of what the Federal Reserve Bank doled out to the big banks. ... More »7-7-7
The Rift Within OccupyEditors and readers expect pundits to weigh in on the brutal eviction of Occupy Wall Street from New York's Zuccotti Park. People will ask: Does this mean the beginning of the end for the Occupy movement?No.Now that we've dispensed with that, let's discuss a major rift within the movement: Reformists versus revolutionaries.Revolutionaries want to overthrow the government. They want to get rid of existing economic, political and social relations and create new ones. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are enemies.Reformists want radical changes too. ... More »REVOLUTION VERSUS REFORM
Pizza baron Herman Cain leads in the polls. Yet nobody believes he can win the Republican nomination. The fact that the #1 candidate doesn't stand a chance is an improbable truism emblematic of our broken-down political system.Partly it's that he's black. Republicans are racists.Partly it's that the nomination was promised to Mitt Romney. He's been waiting. It's Willard's turn.It's not the accusations of sexual harassment. Republicans are sexists. For the GOP touching the hired help (or wannabe hired help) is the droit du CEO.The reason Cain isn't allowed to be president is money. ... More »YOU WANT A JOB, RIGHT?
Don't Know What They Want, But They Know How To Get ItHere's how U.S. state-controlled media covered events at Occupy Oakland:"A day of demonstrations in Oakland that began as a significant step toward expanding the political and economic influence of the Occupy Wall Street movement, ended with police in riot gear arresting dozens of protesters who had marched through downtown to break into a vacant building, shattering windows, spraying graffiti and setting fires along the way," reported the AP. ... More »THE OCCUPIER'S CHOICE: VIOLENCE OR FAILURE
Time for the Occupy Movement to Come In From the ColdThe Occupy movement is an attempt to replicate Tahrir Square in the United States. But you can't just cut-and-paste a model that (sort of) worked in Egypt to the United States.Especially when you don't understand Tahrir.American media mischaracterized the Tahrir Square political uprising as an ongoing occupation cum encampment. True, poor people from outside Cairo who couldn't afford hotel rooms slept in the Square throughout the rebellion against soon-to-be ex-president Hosni Mubarak. ... More »CUT-AND-PASTE REVOLUTION, PART II
Winter Looms. Occupy Movement Wiggles Fingers. What Next?"Let's recreate Tahrir Square." The email blast that began it all in June, a call for opponents of America's wars and bank bailouts and rising income inequality and a host of other iniquities to occupy a public plaza two blocks from the White House, drew its inspiration from the Arab Spring. The call worked. For the first time since the unrest of the 1960s, Americans joined spontaneous acts of protest and sustained civil disobedience in vast numbers. ... More »CUT-AND-PASTE REVOLUTION, PART I
Time for #OWS to Broaden Its AppealI don't mean more Facebook pages or adding more cities. The day-to-day occupations on the ground need to get bigger, fast. The bigger the occupations, the harder they will be for the police to dislodge with violent tactics.More than 42 percent of Americans do not work. Not even part-time. Tens of millions of people, with free time and nothing better to do, are watching the news about the Occupy movement. They aren't yet participating. The Occupiers must convince many of these non-participants to join them. ... More »QUIT WHINING ABOUT STUDENT LOANS
Connecting the Revolutionary Dots in Occupied Washington"Our demand is that you stop demanding that we come up with demands!"I thought about that line a lot this past week. (It's from a recent cartoon by Matt Bors.) I was at Freedom Plaza in Washington, a block from the White House, at the protest that began the whole Occupy movement that has swept the nation: the October 2011 Stop the Machine demonstration.It has been one of the most exciting weeks of my life.Stop the Machine, timed to begin on the October 6th anniversary of the U.S. ... More »STOP DEMANDING DEMANDS
For America's New Radicals, a Coming-Out Party--and Brutal CopsGandhi lost, but never mind.#OccupyWallStreet, in its second week as of this writing, is and was important. It is the first major street protest inspired by the economic collapse that began in 2008. It is also the first notable public repudiation of Obama by the American Left. ... More »OCCUPY MAIN STREET
Democratic Party Needs a Democratic Primary ProcessWhat a comedown!In 2008 Barack Obama ran on hope and change. His reelection bid relies on fear (of Republicans) and stay-the-course (lest said Republicans slash even more Medicare than Obama is willing to give away).Inspired yet?Yeah, yeah, anything can happen in one year--the GOP could nominate Bob Dole again--but it's getting harder to imagine a scenario in which Obama wins reelection. ... More »WHY SETTLE FOR SECOND WORST?
Why Does the US Government Create Paranoia?"Truthers expect something from you," an interviewer told me last week.Indeed they do. I rarely get through a public appearance or talk-radio interview without being asked about 9/11 by a "Truther"--a person who believes that the attacks were planned and/or carried out by the U.S. government.The 9/11 Truth movement is diverse. Some adherents think the Twin Towers and especially the Pentagon were struck by remote-controlled missiles or drone planes, not hijacked jets. ... More »THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUTHERS
The Left's Case for Boycotting Obama in November 2012Three years in, it's obvious to all but the most willfully obtuse liberals and progressives that their 2008 votes for Obama have not paid off. The president blames obstructionist Republicans for his lack of action on, well, everything. His blame-the-GOP argument would be plausible if not for one thing: Before the Republicans swept the 2010 midterms, Obama had enormous political capital, a supportive media and Democratic control of both houses of Congress. Had Obama wanted, he could have governed to the left. Far to the left. ... More »FIGHT THE POWERLESSNESS
Ten Years Later, Americans Still Stupid and VulnerableThey say everything changed on 9/11. No one can dispute that. But we didn't learn anything.Like other events that forced Americans to reassess their national priorities (the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Sputnik) the attacks on New York and Washington were a traumatic, teachable moment. The collective attention of the nation was finally focused upon problems that had gone neglected for many years. 9/11 was a chance to get smart--but we blew it. ... More »WE LEARNED NOTHING FROM 9/11
Helicopter Shootdown Story Unmasks Bigoted MediaNew York Times war correspondent Dexter Filkins couldn't help liking the young American soldiers with whom he was embedded in U.S.-occupied Iraq. Recognizing that, Filkins tried to maintain some professional distance. "There wasn't any point in sentimentalizing the kids; they were trained killers, after all. They could hit a guy at five hundred yards or cut his throat from ear-to-ear. They had faith, they did what they were told and they killed people," he wrote in his book of war vignettes, "The Forever War."Alas, he was all but alone. ... More »AMERICAN DOGS COUNT MORE THAN AFGHAN PEOPLE
It's the Not Caring About the Economy, StupidAs a pundit it's my job to explain why politicians do the things they do. Every now and then, however, a pol behaves so irrationally that I have to throw up my arms and ask:What the hell is this guy thinking?That's what Obama has me doing. For over two years. Why isn't he worried about unemployment? Thomas Frank wondered in "What's the Matter with Kansas?" why Americans don't vote their (liberal) self-interest. What I can't figure out is why President Obama isn't following his self-interest.Obama says he wants a second term. I believe him. ... More »WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH OBAMA?
What I Would Do If I Were ObamaJobs, jobs, jobs. Throughout the presidency of Barack Obama, Americans have been preoccupied with jobs. Unemployed people need work. The underemployed need more work. The employed want salaries that go up instead of down.The rich are worried too. The Depression of 2008-? is killing their stock portfolios.Most presidents struggle to find the pulse of the people. Trapped in the D.C. bubble, they try to find out what voters want. Obama was lucky. He didn't have to do that. The U.S. ... More »DOWN AND OUT AT 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE
Hey Liberals! Time to Stop getting RolledWe might as well have defaulted.Regardless of where you stand politically, the deal to raise the federal debt limit came too late for the U.S. to achieve its main objective, avoiding the downgrading of debt issued by the U.S. Treasury that would have followed a default."The political and financial world surely thinks less of us now, and one demonstration of that will likely be a downgrading of the credit rating of the U.S., probably imposed in the next few months," writes John Keefe of CBS's Moneywatch. "The net result will be higher interest rates on ... More »BOYCOTT THE 2012 ELECTION
Wall Street-Backed Third Party Flogs Fake DemocracySAN FRANCISCO--For "1984" Orwell conjured up a one-party state so powerful and pervasive that it was forced to create a phony "resistance" movement led by a fiction-within-a-fiction, Emmanuel Goldstein.This past Sunday's New York Times op/ed column by Thomas Friedman, the hackiest hack in American mediadom, presents a Goldstein for America 2012: a third party whose candidate would purportedly be chosen by we, the people. ... More »AMERICAN SELECT
LOS ANGELES -- The lead of the week out here was written by Tom Barnidge of the Contra Costa Times: "There is something terribly wrong with my television set. Every time I turn it on, Donald Trump appears on the screen."The headline of the week appeared in a slightly larger newspaper, The New York Times: "Gross? Maybe. But It Got Me on TV, Right?"Actually, the Times (New York) headline was not about Trump. It was about gigolos in "Gigolos," a reality series on Showtime about men who hire out their bodies (or parts of them) to ladies of wealth in Las Vegas. ... More »TRUMP'S OUR MAN! IF HE CAN'T DO IT, NOBODY CAN
The Statue of Liberty Stamp Error and the End of AmericaLook at U.S. stamps and paper money from 100 or 50 or even 30 years ago and you'll see my point. Quarters were nearly sterling silver; now they're mystery metal (nickel-copper-zinc alloy). America: we're not what we used to be.A century ago President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the famous Beaux Art sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the nation's coinage. Among the results were Saint-Gaudens' breathtaking $20 gold "double eagle"; numismatists consider it one of the most elegant coins of the 20th century. ... More »STAMPED OUT
Why Not Link Pols' Pay Level to Ours?MIAMI--Most Americans don't like Moammar Kadafi or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. But that might change if they knew their paychecks. The leaders of Libya and Iran get $9,516 and $3,000 a year annually, respectively.Obama collects $5,505,509--a whopping $22,022 per day.Who's the real out-of-touch dictator?As the U.S. enters its third year of economic collapse, real unemployment has surged past levels that triggered revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Yet neither the President nor members of Congress seem worried. ... More »ZERO SALARY FOR CONGRESS
Can Obama Get Reelected?NEW YORK--Usually I don't care about political horseraces. Yet I am fascinated by Obama's reelection bid. Never mind what's good for the country. I'm dying to hear him make his case for another four years.I don't pretend to be able to predict the future. But I have a rich imagination--and I still can't begin to guess how the president can convince a majority of voters to choose him over the Republican nominee whether he be Mitt Romney or she be Michele Bachmann.Obama is good with words. ... More »FOOL US TWICE?
WASHINGTON -- In early November of 1963, the Gallup Poll gave President John Kennedy a 55-to-39-point lead over his probable 1964 Republican candidate, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona.Good news for the White House. Very good news."This could be fun, if it's Barry," said Kennedy, who liked Goldwater a lot. Everybody did. A lot of them, specifically Kennedy, thought the Arizona senator was too conservative or just too dumb to become president. "Give me Barry. I won't even have to leave the Oval Office." Then he told his staff and political people: "Don't waste any chance to praise Barry. ... More »WHY NOT BACHMANN?
Who Are the Libyan Opposition?SAN FRANCISCO--Hi. You don't know me. See that big guy over at the bar? I'm going to pick a fight with him. Wanna back me up?That's what we, the American people, are being asked to do in Libya. We're not picking sides. Picking sides implies that we know what's going on. We don't.Give George W. Bush this: he respected us enough to lie us into war. Obama wants us sign a blank check, no questions asked."We do not have any information about specific individuals from any organization that are part of this [war]," Hillary Clinton said on "Meet the Press. ... More »THE DEVILS WE DON'T KNOW
LOS ANGELES -- One historic purpose of presidential speeches has been to buy time to give presidents' policies a chance to work out. That's what President Obama did last Monday night with a well-crafted and appropriately tough (or belligerent) speech defending his policies in Libya.The man gives a great speech."The president spoke to the nation and made a strong case for why America needed to intervene in this fight -- and why that did not always mean it should intervene in others," said The New York Times in its lead editorial. "Mr. ... More »WHAT ABOUT SYRIA?
NEW YORK --- This is your basic "bait and switch" column. I am going to begin by talking about the fanciful story that strong and talented women, beginning with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security staffer Samantha Power, have taken over the government and pushed the president of the United States, NATO, the United Nations and the Arab League into trying to overthrow the Libyan gorilla Gadhafi.That titan of tubby masculinity, Rush Limbaugh, has said this is because the president, his generals and all male advisers are "the new castrati ... ... More »HOW AMERICA DOUBLED ITS BRAINPOWER
Why Won't Obama Explain His Third War?NEW YORK--U.S. forces fired 110 cruise missiles at Libya on the first day of the war. Each one cost $755,000 to build; $2.8 million to transport, maintain and shoot. Austerity and budget cuts abound; there's no money for NPR or teachers or firefighters. Note to union negotiators: the government has lots of money. They're spending it on war.For people too young to remember Bosnia, this is what a violent, aggressive, militarist empire looks like under a Democratic president. Where Bush rushed, Obama moseys. ... More »LIBYA: A WAR WE SHOULDN'T BELIEVE IN
Apocalypse Looms in Landlocked Central AsiaNEW YORK--The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan last week has killed at least 10,000 people. It is terrible. It may be a sneak preview of something 100 times worse.The next Big Flood will probably be the worst natural disaster in history. It could easily be avoided. Yet no one is lifting a finger to save the lives of one to five million people.Lake Sarez, in the eastern Pamir mountains of eastern Tajikistan, is known to Central Asians as the region's "Sword of Damocles. ... More »A TSUNAMI 100 TIMES WORSE THAN JAPAN
NEW YORK -- It was in the spring of 1966 that Time magazine shocked a lot of readers with a black cover with the white question: "Is God Dead?" The article, much debated, defined a new and more secular world.Wrong! It turned out He was only resting. And not for long. In the 1970s came "La Revanche de Dieu" -- "The Revenge of God" -- the title of a book by a French political scientist, Gilles Kepel.Kepel, whose work was published in 1991 and translated into English three years later, began by chronicling the events of the 1970s, a decade many of us remember only for bad hair and polyester ... More »THE REVENGE OF GOD
Labor Leaders to Blame for Workers' WeaknessNEW YORK--I will never understand why the people who are jealous of unionized workers who earn $50,000 a year give a pass to the incompetent bank executives who get $5,000,000. Resentment is a terrible thing to waste.Given how terribly companies have treated workers in recent years--mass layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages, piling on the work, while they pay their executives seven-figure salaries--you'd think Americans would be more receptive to unions. But organized labor's bad rep isn't surprising. ... More »UNION YES? WHAT UNIONS?
LOS ANGELES -- Adam Zyglis, the editorial cartoonist of The Buffalo News, did a portrait of President Obama sitting on an oil drum in the classic chin-on-hand pose of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker." Behind him, war raged in the Middle East and "Freedom" was under a tank and rubble. Zyglis' caption was "The Overthinker."Well, although Obama may be a touch too thoughtful to be a president in the decisive mold of a Harry Truman, he does have a lot to think about. I count at least 11 options in Libya, all of them risky.1. Invade Libya and get rid of Moammar Gadhafi once and for all. ... More »THERE ARE NO EASY CHOICES IN LIBYA
BOSTON -- Mitch Daniels, the new governor of Indiana, is probably the smartest of the new crop of Republican governors determined to bring public employee unions to heel. This is the way he puts it:"Public jobs grew while private jobs were lost. Public salaries went up while private sectors are shrinking. It's time to interrupt that loop, in the public interest."You can read that a couple of ways. Perhaps the reason private sector jobs are shrinking -- in numbers and compensation -- is precisely because corporations have broken most of the unions in the country. ... More »GOP TACTIC: INTRAMURAL CLASS WARFARE
Turmoil from Mideast to MidwestNEW YORK--If irony were money we'd be rich."You've got to get out ahead of change," President Obama lectured a week ago. "You can't be behind the curve." He was, of course, referring to the Middle East. During the last few weeks there has been a new popular uprising every few days: Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya.And now, Wisconsin. ... More »HOPE AND CHANGE? NOT FOR AMERICANS
Borders Goes Bankrupt. Will Books Survive?NEW YORK--Borders Books and Music, which once employed 30,000 workers at more than 600 stores, is bankrupt. Those numbers have been halved. And even after these massive cuts, analysts say, Borders is probably doomed.The next time you walk past the empty ghost store where your local Borders used to be, you may ask yourself: Are we becoming a post-literate society?Everywhere you look the printed word is under economic siege. Despite a 20 percent increase in demand in recent years, libraries are laying off, closing branches and reducing hours. ... More »PIRATE THIS BOOK
BOSTON --- As I remember my American history, our revolution began on April 19, 1775, when 700 British regulars, the Redcoats, left here to march west to the small villages of Lexington and Concord to destroy weapons caches they knew were hidden there by American rebels. The British column encountered 80 or so members of the local militia on Lexington Green and routed them, killing eight locals.The Redcoats reached Concord and found some buried cannon and balls, but most of the rebel weaponry had been hidden again farther away. ... More »FROM CONCORD TO CAIRO: FREEDOM
Why Is Obama Coddling Egyptian Dictator?NEW YORK--Here is Egypt, America's neo-con dream come true. Democracy! In the Middle East! And it isn't costing us a single soldier. You'd think American policy makers would be pleased as punch. So why are they messing it up?At first glance the uprising in Cairo and other Egyptian cities puts the United States in an awkward spot. We've propped up Hosni Mubarak for three decades. If we cut him loose, our other pet dictators will stop trusting us. If we don't, all that yapping about democracy and freedom rings hollow. ... More »AMERICA AGAINST THE PEOPLE
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- When President Reagan left office in 1981, his legacy did not seem Mount Rushmore quality. He left office with a good approval rating, over 50 percent. People always liked him. But there was limited enthusiasm for his record in office. Many of his own ideological soul mates were disappointed with the Gipper, thinking he was a tired old man. They thought he was being manipulated by younger aides in such capers as the Iran-Contra scandal and losing the Cold War to a new, younger Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. ... More »THE LAST REAGAN CAMPAIGN: LEGACY
After Tunisia and Egypt, the WorldNEW YORK--From the British newspaper the Independent: "Like in many other countries in the region, protesters in Egypt complain about surging prices, unemployment and the authorities' reliance on heavy-handed security to keep dissenting voices quiet."Sound familiar?Coverage by U.S. state-controlled media of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is too dim by half: they say it's an Arab thing. So it is. But not for long. ... More »THE NEW FACE OF REVOLUTION
LOS ANGELES -- Ten years ago, one of our sons, Colin O'Neill, and I were walking across the Qasr el Nil bridge in Cairo late at night from Tahrir Square -- Liberation Square -- to the island of Gezira in the Nile. As he began the story:"We were approached by a couple of guys about my age who looked as if they were selling something. Actually, they just wanted to talk -- in English and French. They were cousins, both of them language teachers in private schools. The four of us, leaning out over the bridge, talked for almost an hour. ... More »A FLAT FOR MOHAMMED
LOS ANGELES--I can't stop thinking about what Obama said about Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl shot to death in Tucson.Christina-Taylor, said the president, saw politics "through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often take for granted."Those are disturbing words. But not the way Obama intended.Obama relies on a deeply flawed assumption: that becoming cynical is an inherent part of growing up.That's a lie. ... More »HOW OBAMA HELPS MURDER OUR INNER CHILD
WASHINGTON -- Over the years, more than one Kennedy in-law has told me that there were obvious advantages to marrying into that blood-bonded family ever ready to take on the world, but that living with them was no picnic at the beach and you could get buried pretty deep in all that Irish mythology. R. Sargent Shriver was not one of the complainers; he was a man who would have made his own mark whatever his name or family. ... More »IF ONLY WE HAD MORE SARGE SHRIVERS
LOS ANGELES--Americans don't mourn right.We are tacky.We are gauche.We turn tragedy into kitsch.Last week's news was dominated by the aftermath of the Tucson massacre: the memorial service, the funerals, even the reopening of the Safeway supermarket.A memorial service at a sports arena. What is wrong with us? I say "us" because this is not a Tucson thing or an Arizona thing. It's all too American.Thousands of cheering fans--er, mourners--donned "Together We Thrive: Tucson & America" T-shirts, handed out by Arizona State University. ... More »IT'S MOURNING IN AMERICA: TACKY AND WEIRD
WASHINGTON -- Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States. He gave a stirring inaugural address and then took over a job for which he was unprepared. No one is ever prepared. The presidency is essentially a reactive job, with a man standing alone facing crises unforeseen.As good as Kennedy's inaugural was, the speeches that define him historically were given within just over 50 hours in June of 1963, one of them prepared secretly over months, the other practically ad-libbed.This is the story of those hours and those speeches:At 9:15 a.m. ... More »WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE JOHN F. KENNEDY
NEW YORK--The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 11 other people is tragic. But it is not shocking. It isn't even surprising.What is surprising--weird, even--is the response of the corporate-owned political and media establishment. They're coming out against violent rhetoric. Not real violence. They want to stop talk about violence.Liberals accuse right-wingers of creating an atmosphere of hatred that fuels incidents like the Arizona shootings."We need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently," urged MSNBC's Keith Olberman. ... More »POLITICAL VIOLENCE? STOP VIOLENT POLITICS
LOS ANGELES --- I do not believe that Sarah Palin and her blather about "reloading" or Sharron Angle, she of "Second Amendment solutions," have anything to do with the gunning down of innocents in Arizona. You can't blame a third of a huge nation, who love simplistic hyperbole, for the actions of one crazy person in Tucson.What bothers me is people, sane and insane, with guns, better ones, another manifestation of technological revolution. ... More »WORDS DON'T KILL PEOPLE; BULLETS DO
NEW YORK--Everyone talks about income inequality, but no one does anything about it.Lately they've been talking more than ever."The United States is the rich country with the most skewed income distribution, " Eduardo Porter asserts in his upcoming book "The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do."Porter continues: "According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average earnings of the richest 10 percent of Americans are 16 times those for the 10 percent at the bottom of the pile. ... More »SOME WEASELS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
NEW YORK--For many years figures on the political fringe, especially on the right, have claimed that the government and its corporate owners want to transform us into a cashless society. Their warnings about the conspiracy against paper money fell on deaf ears, primarily because the digitalization of financial transactions seemed more like the result of organic business trends than the manifestation of some sinister conspiracy.Now, however, those who want to do away with liquid currency are stepping out of the shadows. ... More »NEXT: DIGITAL TOTALITARIANISM
LOS ANGELES -- The Associated Press, as usual, released last week its editors' poll of the 10 top stories of the year 2010. No. 1, with 54 first-place votes, was the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The congressional passage of health care reform was second with 30 votes.The list by the men and women who actually edit our news continued: (3) Midterm elections; (4) U.S. economy; (5) Haiti earthquake; (6) Tea Party movement; (7) Chile mine rescue; (8) Iraq; (9) WikiLeaks; (10) Afghanistan.All of those were obviously big stories. But hold the presses! It is not a list I would vote for. ... More »THE GAME-CHANGER LIST
LOS ANGELES -- I doubt that President Obama is about to sit down at the end of this year and tell Oprah Winfrey that he is giving himself a B-plus as he did just a year ago. He may deserve a great deal more credit than voters gave him last November, but you can't brag about being a party leader whose party was clobbered and a commander-in-chief stubbornly pursuing victory in a winless, pointless war.The presidency is an enormously complicated thing -- the good, the bad and the ugly happen at the same time -- and then history cleans up the mess. ... More »THE B-PLUS PRESIDENT
NEW YORK-"Given his druthers, Obama will pursue the most left-leaning course that he can get away with." So says Jennifer Rubin, a right-wing pundit at the neoconservative-leaning Washington Post. "Obama," Rubin claims, "would have marched through his entire liberal agenda--if he had the votes."This, of course, assumes that Obama ever had a liberal agenda. There's not much evidence of that. Moreover, Obama did have the votes in Congress to get almost everything that he wanted. But he chose not to even try.It is also not true. He did have the votes. ... More »THE DEATH OF THE MODERATES
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- In 1982, Richard Nixon told me he thought that by the middle of this century the world would be dominated by Asians, primarily Chinese. He reminisced about a conversation with China's leader, Mao Zedong, in which Mao said 300 million Chinese would be willing to die for that goal -- and 300 million Americans would not.Nixon was a gifted global analyst and a racist. During a two-hour conversation, he said a confrontation was coming -- probably economic rather than military -- and that "yellow" (his word) Asians were simply genetically superior to Caucasians. ... More »IT'S MORNING IN CHINA
NEW YORK--After the Soviet collapse in 1991 U.S. policy toward Central Asia was transparently cynical: support the dictators, screw the people. As the U.S. stood by and watched, corrupt autocrats looted the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Dissidents were jailed, massacred--even boiled.Well, actually, the U.S. was anything but passive. They negotiated deals for oil and gas pipelines. They rented airbases after 9/11. ... More »WIKILEAKS: THE DEVILS WE KNOW
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN--For much of the year now drawing to a close, U.S. and NATO bigwigs conducted secret peace talks with Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the #2 Taliban official. They paid him tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of dollars to show good will. NATO planes delivered him to the presidential palace in Kabul, where he met with Hamid Karzai."But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all," reports The New York Times. ... More »CONNING THE TALIBAN
NEW YORK -- And now a quote that could come from Dr. Strangelove:"A lot of people fear artificial intelligence. I will stand my artificial intelligence against your human any day of the week and tell you that my A.I. will pay more attention to the rules of engagement and create fewer ethical lapses than a human force."That is from John Arquilla, executive director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. "Dr. ... More »DR. STRANGELOVE REDUX
NEW YORK--"Don't touch my junk!" Will this be the battle cry of the next American Revolution?If you think about it, it's amazing. Why this? But thinking doesn't have anything to do with it. There's a good reason. Which we'll get to."This," of course, is the intrusive new security-screening regimen at 68 major U.S. airports. You can walk through one of the new "backscatter" body-image X-ray scanners, suck up 2. ... More »RAPE MY BRAIN BUT DON'T TOUCH MY JUNK
LOS ANGELES -- William F. Buckley once said this: "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University."A great populist call from a man who, thank goodness, was no populist. But the thought rings through American politics today. Sarah Palin, no Buckley she, is the current spokesman for the attitude that the problem with American politics is that there are too many smart and informed people running the country. ... More »WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, CALIFORNIA MADE NEW ELECTION LAWS
President's Right-Wing Policies Revealed Years AgoNEW YORK--We used to love Obama. Now we don't. What a difference two years makes!But not really. We may have changed. But Obama hasn't. It was obvious from the beginning that Mr. Hopey Changey was devoid of character, deploying a toxic blend of liberal rhetoric and right-wing realpolitik. We were in denial.Let's take a trip down memory lane.Obama made a name for himself by speaking out against the Iraq war. "I am certain that I would have voted to oppose this war," he said in 2007. Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, he voted to fund it. Repeatedly. ... More »OBAMA WAS BAD FROM THE START
LOS ANGELES -- I had to pull over to the side of La Cienega Boulevard last Tuesday evening as I drove home from work. I was crying.It was nothing, or it was the same old thing. I was listening to the news on National Public Radio when there was another story about another death in Afghanistan. Pfc. Andrew Meari, age 21. A village called Senjaray. An Afghan on a moped pulled up next to an American truck and blew himself up, killing Meari and another guy. The Americans, my countrymen, were there, near Kandahar, working to win the trust and cooperation of the locals. ... More »THE COWARDICE OF AMERICA AT WAR
Straight Talk on Balancing the BudgetNEW YORK--The federal budget deficit is like the weather. Everybody talks about it; except for Bill Clinton, no one ever does anything about it.President Obama's bipartisan Fiscal Debt Commission has released a draft report that starts out with a big problem: even talking about reducing spending is insane when you're in the midst of a Depression. The real unemployment is over 20 percent. Creating jobs ought to be the feds' top--perhaps sole--priority.Let the insanity commence.Triumphant Republicans say they want to balance the budget. So does Obama. ... More »YES, I CAN
An Autopsy of a Political SuicideNEW YORK--It's the day after the Republican sweep we all knew was coming. If Obama had any dignity, if he was honest with himself and with us, he would resign. It's abundantly clear that he isn't up to the job.But you don't become president by being honest or dignified. So now it's wound-licking time. The President and his cronies are comforting each other. "It's not your fault the economy sucks," a Yes Man reassures Obama, sinking his heels into the new Oval Office carpet. "It was like that when we got here."Do they scratch him behind his ears? They should. ... More »THE OBAMA POSTMORTEM
WASHINGTON -- There are no outsiders inside the Beltway.That may be an exaggeration, but it is a slight one.It is unusual when the liberal Washington Post and the conservative Washington Times agree on anything other than the importance of the Washington Redskins to the survival of the fittest and of the Republic. But on the day after the day after the Republican/Tea Party victory in the 2012 midterm elections, both papers sort of giggled at the new and the recycled anti-Washington loudmouths coming or coming back to our capital city. ... More »WASHINGTON LAUGHS AT 'REVOLUTION'
Make Rogue Corporations Pay for Foreclosure CrisisBOSTON--"We know how to prevent foreclosures," Federal Reserve Bank senior economist Paul Willen told The New York Times. "We just need to be prepared to spend the money." Willen "sees two possible solutions: Require banks to modify loans, basically imposing the cost on them; or pay banks to modify loans, imposing the cost on taxpayers."Millions of American families have lost their homes to foreclosure since the global economy crashed in 2008. At this writing 4. ... More »BANK JOB
WASHINGTON -- It may not get much done, but the first session of the 112th Congress, convening in January, will be fun to watch. The most interesting commentary on the 2010 midterm elections was from Republican partisans and their Tea Party cousins as they rhetorically, warily circled each other on the morning after.The man who managed Senator-elect Rand Paul's primary campaign in Kentucky, David Adams, had this to say: "I'm hoping for a lot of fireworks in Washington over who takes control of who. ... More »A THIRD PARTY?
LOS ANGELES -- Yes, you can get too much of a good/bad thing. I suspect many Californians would be glad to vote for Meg Whitman as governor if she would just take her commercials off the air. For almost a year, people here have begun and ended each day with the image of Meg on their television screens.The ubiquitous $200 million woman -- that's about $200 million of her own money spent on her own campaign -- has a rather simple message: "I'm here!" Also "I ran a business and I'm richer than you. Way richer."For nuance, the Republican candidate adds that she is not "a career politician. ... More »AS CALIFORNIA GOES ...?
Ban Foreclosures NowSAN FRANCISCO--What would happen to you if you got caught forging a mortgage application? You'd go to jail. And rightly so.In one case in Florida, an employee of GMAC Mortgage admitted under oath that he personally forged 10,000 foreclosure affidavits. This low-level schlub is the tip of the tip of a massive iceberg, one of countless "robo-signers" whom voracious banks including GMAC, Bank of America, Citibank and JPMorganChase hired in order to kick American families out of their homes as quickly as possible. ... More »TOO PIG TO JAIL?
WASHINGTON -- What is the most powerful political operation in the country in this 21st century? It's the United States Supreme Court. The men and women in black are on their way to deciding their second national election in just the first decade of the century.In the year 2000, the justices stopped the counting of votes in the presidential election. This year they tilted (or mutilated) congressional elections by ruling -- in the case called United Citizens -- that corporations are people, only more so. ... More »WAITING FOR ANOTHER WATERGATE
LOS ANGELES -- Illegal immigration has become an issue, perhaps briefly, in the California gubernatorial election because it turns out the Republican candidate employed a Mexican lady as a nanny-housekeeper for nine years. Then, going into politics, Meg Whitman fired Nicandra Diaz Santillan.Ms. Diaz put it this way: "She threw me away like a piece of garbage." Ms. Whitman, who has been saying employers should be punished for hiring the undocumented, says she never knew Ms. Diaz had no papers.There can't be many Californians who believe Whitman. ... More »THE WAY CALIFORNIANS LIVE, LEGAL AND ILLEGAL
Support for Occupation Relies on Lies and SpinSOMEWHERE IN AFGHANISTAN--There's an exception. It is a limited set of circumstances. If the armies of another nation invade your country, there is no need to resort to lies to sell war. The battle is already joined. The threat is palpable. Anyone with a smidgen of patriotism and/or the instinct of self-preservation will rush to enlist.Mostly, this does not happen. It sort of happened in 1941, with Pearl Harbor. But Hawaii, itself recently seized by U.S. marines without the thinnest veneer of legality, was merely a distant possession. ... More »AFGHAN WAR MYTHS
WASHINGTON --- "2010 is 'Gone' for the Democrats" was a headline on Politico.com last Tuesday. Poll averages on RealClearPolitics.com the same day showed the Republicans picking up eight Senate seats in November and leading the national generic poll -- any Republican against any Democrat -- by 7.8 percent in House races.Maybe. But maybe the Republicans have peaked too soon. They are certainly over the top. The party already has some pretty weird candidates out there talking about phasing out Social Security and Medicare. ... More »THAT MAU MAU IN THE WHITE HOUSE
America Faces Permanent UnemploymentSOMEWHERE IN AFGHANISTAN--It has been two years since the U.S. economy, once the envy of the world, drew its last breath. Millions of homeowners have gotten evicted. Unemployment has soared to Great Depression-era levels. Yet, aside from the witless "take America back" rants of the Tea Party crazies, things are calm. Remarkably so, when you consider the misery and rage that is tearing families apart.The explanation: unemployment benefits. ... More »REVOLUTION B GON
Nine Years Later, Afghanistan Looks Much the Same: A MessHERAT, AFGHANISTAN--OK. The roads are impressive. Specifically, the fact that they exist. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, more than two decades of civil conflict had left the country bereft of basic infrastructure. Roads, bridges and tunnels had been bombed and mined. What didn't blow up got ground down by tanks. Maintenance? Don't be funny.It took them too long to get started, but U.S. occupation forces deserve credit for slapping down asphalt. ... More »WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?
Please Spare Me the Hypocritical ObituariesSOMEWHERE IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN--I am researching a book, a follow-up to "To Afghanistan and Back," which in 2002 became the first book published about the U.S. invasion. Accompanied by fellow cartoonists Matt Bors and Steven Cloud, I am traveling from Kunduz to Heart via Mazar-i-Sharif and Mainana. By the time you read this, I should be about to turn south toward Zaranj, on the Iranian border.Nimruz province is a challenging August vacation destination: lows in the 100s, highs in the 130s, scorpions and sporadic insurgent attacks at no extra cost. ... More »IF I DIE IN AFGHANISTAN
If the U.S. Can't Help Afghanistan, Who Can?DO AB, AFGHANISTAN--Afghanistan has more infrastructure than it did in 2001. But Afghans also have less soul.In many ways, Afghanistan was a more dangerous country nine years ago. There were more mines, more random acts of violence, warlordism everywhere. U.S. warplanes were bombing everything that moved. But, particularly in the Tajik-dominated north, there was also boundless optimism, a feeling that anything was possible. Good times might not be right around the corner--not exactly. But soon. ... More »THE DEATH OF HOPE
LOS ANGELES -- In the early 1980s, in a book called "American Journey," I calculated that American corporate chief executive officers were making 30 to 40 times as much as they paid average production workers. Looking back at that, I see that I was surprised to learn that that ratio had increased from 25-to-1 in 1970 -- and that in other developed countries the ratio was closer to 10-to-1.It seems now that I was easily shocked in the good old days. ... More »BUSINESSMEN OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
NEW YORK -- Glenn Beck does not like to be compared with Father Charles Coughlin, the radio priest from Detroit. Coughlin, whose weekly show was listened to by as many as 40 million Americans in the 1930s, began as a Roosevelt New Dealer and ended up a raving anti-Semite.The radio priest was finally pulled out of politics by the Vatican as Nazi Germany began to march through Europe, demonstrating where anti-Semitism could lead. Beck is no anti-Semite, as far as I can tell, but he sure as hell is a first-class rabble-rouser with a magnetic hatred of the sitting president. ... More »THE SUMMONING OF OUR DISCONTENT
In a Deteriorating Afghanistan, a New Breed of TerrorKABUL--"In squads of roaring dirt bikes and armed to the teeth," Joshua Partlow reports in The Washington Post, "Taliban fighters are spreading like a brush fire into remote and defenseless villages across northern Afghanistan."Two other cartoonists and I were a day away from heading to Faryab--a remote, rural, Uzbek-dominated province in the northwest known for its brutally entertaining matches of buzkashi--when Partlow's piece appeared. He described a phenomenon that deploys novel tactics out of a bizarre 1970s action flick. ... More »ISLAMO-GANGSTERISM
Nine Years Later, Afghan City is Buzzing But Still MenacingTALOQAN, AFGHANISTAN--Nine years ago, when I was using this provincial Afghan capital as a base to cover the battle of Kunduz, Taloqan was a dangerous place with medieval charm. Donkey carts and horse-drawn carriages, their steeds decked out with red pom-poms, plied muddy ruts that passed as roads. The only motorized transport belonged to Western NGOs. Commerce consisted of a few sad huts you'd recognize as primitive convenience stores and an outdoor bazaar where 90 percent of economic activity was attributable to sales of opium paste. ... More »DIFFERENT WAR, SAME SITUATION
It's the Economics, [REDACTED]SOMEWHERE IN AFGHANISTAN--Two months ago long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas got fired by her employer, the Hearst newspaper conglomerate, in response to her off-the-cuff slam at Israel. I criticized the firing on free speech grounds."Free speech must be defended no matter what--even that of cranky anti-Semitic columnists (if that's what Thomas is/was)," I wrote. "Unless we are truly free to say what we think--without fear of reprisal--free speech is not a right. It is merely a permission."I received many letters in response. ... More »THE LIBERTARIAN WAR ON FREE SPEECH
NEW YORK -- Speechmaking has never been among Mayor Michael Bloomberg's many talents. But he rose to the occasion last Tuesday when he chose to defend the rights of Muslims to build a community center and mosque a couple of blocks from what was the site of the World Trade Center before Sept. 11, 2001."Our doors are open to everyone -- everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules," he said. ... More »A CHRISTIAN REPUBLIC AGAINST ISLAMIC REPUBLICS?