23 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

January 31, 2017

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Case for Left Nationalism

Make America Great Again. Trump’s campaign slogan was a direct appeal to nationalism. As a son of the Rust Belt city of Dayton, Ohio, I wasn’t surprised to see that it worked. 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1b/Muralbelfast2.jpg/200px-Muralbelfast2.jpg

People in the postindustrial Midwest and in much of the rest of flyover country are tired of being ignored by the urban coastal elites who seem to think laid-off factory workers should shake off their blues and get a job as a coder. Not that the children of the dispossessed stand a better chance: Silicon Valley is a great wealth generator but a lousy job creator. Many highly skilled American tech workers are unemployed, cheated out of jobs by sleazy companies who abuse the H1B visa program to hire compliant foreigners for a fraction of the cost.

If you’re one of the millions of left-leaning Americans shocked and awed at Donald Trump’s first week as president, his “America First” inauguration speech, his orders to build his Mexican border wall, tear up NAFTA, start a trade war, and especially the sudden brutalism of his Muslim travel ban, I have news for you: there are just as many others who are cheering him on, thrilled that he’s keeping his campaign promises. As far as they’re concerned, the rest of the world — including refugees from countries whose wars were started by the U.S. — can go to hell.

After all, their hometowns already have.

As Sabrina Tavernise recently wrote in The New York Times, victims of economic decline and their attendant societal ills — depression, alcoholism, the meth and opioid epidemics — revolted in the 2016 election against elites “who lived in isolated islands of economic opportunity and sneered at people who didn’t.” She cited NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who sees a clash between globalists and nationalists. “The globalists, who tend to be urban and college-educated, want a world like the one described in John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ — no religion, walls or borders dividing people. The nationalists see that as a vision of hell…They also want to limit immigration, an instinct that globalists are often to quick to condemn as racist.”

Globalism dominates economic policymaking in the Democratic Party. Beginning with the takeover of the party by the Clintons’ Democratic Leadership Council in the early 1990s, Democrats have pushed through free trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, and the creation of the World Trade Organization. This has not come without consequences: Globalization eroded the power of Big Labor, formerly a major source of income and manpower for the party. It also turned off people in Ohio and Michigan and Illinois and Pennsylvania — those who lost their own jobs, as well as their friends, families and neighbors. Democratic politicians have been so blind to the suffering all around that they never even once proposed a bill that would have helped victims of outsourcing with money or job retraining. Some even publicly praised the fact that wages were going up in places like Mexico! Trump gave long-seething Americans an outlet for their rage.

The globalist left vs. nationalist right paradigm is, however, is a recent thing. In fact, the right part of that equation only dates back to last summer; pre-Trump, exporting American jobs via trade deals was a point of bipartisan consensus.

The short history of Democratic globalism suggests that one way back from defeat and political irrelevance, both for the party and for the broader Left, is to make the case for a leftist nationalism.

Until the 1970s, Republicans promoted free trade agreements. Democrats opposed them. Protecting workers, especially the highly-paid blue-collar laborers, from foreign competition, kept union donations pouring into party coffers. But then party fundraisers found Wall Street. Big finance craves freedom of movement for capital so business owners can find the cheapest raw materials, supplies and workers in the world — and a broken, dispirited workforce unable to organize and bargain collectively. Wall Street told the Democrats: dump your other girlfriend. You can’t have us as well as big labor. Workers have gotten ground up under the bus ever since.

The grassroots campaign of Bernie Sanders — and of Donald Trump, whose fundraising tactics and social media-driven campaign emulated Sanders’ down to the fonts and spacing of his email solicitations — have broken big corporate donors’ hold on campaign financing. Meanwhile, look what happened to Hillary Clinton (“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders“) and her base of corporate and wealthy individual backers. Nationalism, not globalism, is the future of American politics — but right now, it’s only the right that’s riding the wave.

Though patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel and the first of the nativist, history shows us a long and honorable record of left-wing nationalism. The Chinese civil war turned in favor of the Communists over Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists after Mao Tse-Tung directed his cadres to lead the patriotic resistance against Japanese occupation. Most members of the French Resistance against the Nazis were communist. Fidel Castro was an ardent patriot/nationalist; so was Ho Chi Minh. These leftists understood that the oppression of workers by the ruling class often manifests itself via forms of globalization: invasions, colonialism, the establishment of puppet states via imperialism. It is not necessary to succumb to the dark forces of bigotry, or to deny refuge to victims of war as Trump did last week, to stand up for the citizens of your own country against those who would exploit or abuse them.

There’s nothing wrong with imagining a world without borders. It’s good for Americans, and for decency, when wages of workers in other nations increase — there are fewer wars and more consumers. As things stand today, however, nation-states are here to stay. In fact, there are more of them than ever before.

Is it really so unreasonable for American workers to expect the leftists who claim to care about them, to fight for them to earn higher wages? A left unable to appeal to nationalism has no future.

By Ted Rall

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

January 03, 2017

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Useless Impotent Democrats Will Not Lift a Finger to Fight Trump

By TED RALL

Donald“There’s no savior out there.” That’s a line from “Lord’s Prayer,” a song written by TV Smith for the Lords of the Church, a band that trafficked in 1980s melodic punk. Here’s some more:

“There ain’t no savior out there

Your stairway to heaven leads nowhere

Don’t look to me for emancipation

You are your only salvation.”

That’s my message to Americans who want to resist Donald Trump and his works — or more precisely the policies of the most right-wing cabinet in American history. Waiting for divine intervention is lunacy. If you’re serious about slowing down the Pencites, you’d better get ready to take them on yourselves.

You sure won’t be able to count on the Democratic Party.

Take Trump’s cabinet nominees — please! In the old days, Democrats would only have needed 40 senate seats to filibuster a would-be attorney general accused of racism, an energy secretary who forgot the name of his own department and a sitting CEO of ExxonMobil as secretary of state.

Unfortunately for the republic, then-majority leader Harry Reid was such a fool that he thought Democrats would never lose another election. So, in a fit of staggering ahistoricity, he eliminated the filibuster for most nominees in 2013. As a result Trump will probably get all his picks, perhaps minus Sessions because he’s widely disliked by his colleagues.

OK, so unless you’re a character in the too generously reviewed movie “Arrival,” what’s past is past, no do-overs. But Democrats don’t seem to have much appetite for anti-Trump combat even when you consider their new self-imposed limits.

Democrats’ approach to policy is likely to boil down to “let the Republicans do what they want, then take the blame when they overreach.” They may even let the GOP repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration’s sole major policy achievement. “Republicans are about to learn that there’s a big difference between being against something and being for something,” said Steve Israel (D-New York). “They’ve already stumbled out of the gate, and we should let them continue to stumble.” Unasked: How many Americans will die for a smart tactic?

On the nominees, look for bureaucratic foot-dragging of approvals with procedural votes and other stalling tactics. “I don’t want to needlessly prevent President Trump from being successful,” Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) told The Politico. “But accelerating the confirmation of unacceptable candidates who have views that are outside the mainstream is not constructive.” In the end, though, those unacceptable candidates will get their gigs.

Dems even plan to try to find common ground on rebuilding infrastructure — an admirable goal that I’ve pushed for years. But Trumpism is already so extreme that Democrats ought to ask themselves whether they’re missing the fuhrer for the trees: is it possible to get behind an autobahn without endorsing the tyrant who builds it?

If they really wanted to mount a resistance to Trump, Congressional Democrats could do so with considerably more vigor.

Notably, any single senator can place a personal “hold” on a nominee or bill. There’s no time limit or limit on the number of holds. In 2008, for example, Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) placed a hold against a funding bill for 12 federal programs. A hold only goes away one of two ways: the senator lifts it, or the 60% of the Senate votes against it. Democrats could use the hold to replace the filibuster Reid got rid of.

But there’s no reason to believe Democrats will put up a serious fight against the Trumpists. “In the end, a hybrid strategy might make the most sense for Democrats — use Trump and the GOP as a foil and slow them where they can — while seeking to pick one or two areas where his aspirations coincide with their values,” CNN muses. “A las Barricadas!” this is not.

Democratic impotence is nothing new; since the 1970s leaders have pushed the party’s ideology to the right while abandoning every pretense of resistance to the expansion of the corporate gangster capitalism that grinds up working and middle-class people’s hopes and aspirations. Now that Trump is about to impose an especially right-wing (here’s another punk reference, to The Clash) clampdown on ordinary Americans, the Democratic Party will lie completely exposed in the full glory of its uselessness.

Screw the Dems. You are your only salvation.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

December 27, 2016

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Please Stop the Fear and Loathing of 2017

By Ted Rall

THE_RETREAT_FROM_AFGHANISTANI admit it: it’s hard to find empathy for the liberal Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton and are now shocked, shocked, shocked that That Horrible Man Donald Trump is about to become president. We lefties kept saying (and liberals kept scoffing) that Bernie would have beaten Trump; now that we’ve been proven right it’s only natural to want to keep rubbing the Hillarites’ faces in their abject wrongness.

But what’s the point? Empirical evidence can’t convince a squishy liberal to move left. Liberals are congenitally attached to the big status quo, the capitalist system itself. Unlike leftists, liberals just want to reform capitalism into something less savage. This, of course, is impossible. Yet liberals’ fears — of revolution, of violence, of the chance they’ll lose their current status — block their ability to see the truth.

Anyway, many of my best friends are liberals. And they’re terribly depressed at the prospect of four to eight years of President (or more for President-for-life) Trump.

I hate to see so many people so miserable (even though the very same people gloated over their Bernie-supporting brethren’s pain last May). More importantly, they’re right about Trump. He is a dangerous mofo for sure. We on the left, accustomed to do all the protesting and carrying on ourselves, are going to need all the help we can get from sad Hillary Clinton Democrats to take on Trump, his Republican House, his Republican Senate, his soon-to-be Republican Supreme Court and, oh yeah, his thousands of police departments, soldiers and killer drones.

So this, my dear dismayed Democrats, is for you. Things will be OK — eventually. Between now and then, they’re going to get a lot worse. But those eventual improvements will only come about if you buck up, roll up your sleeves and prepare for a lot of hard work.

The first thing I want you to understand is, there are no quick fixes to Trumpism.            You already saw the futility of silly games like asking the Electoral College to throw the election after the fact. Only two “faithless electors” defected from Trump; five dumped Hillary! Also, please stop thinking Trump will be impeached. It’s technically possible, but highly improbable since no president has ever faced impeachment by a Congress controlled by his own party. The system will not correct itself. The system is broken; that’s why Trump won.

So what to do? Work outside the system. Resistance must take many forms, but creating a crisis of governance by militant — i.e., unpermitted, uncooperative — action in the streets is essential to dislodging the tyranny which many of us suspect Trump will bring into being. But not yet. First, we must allow the system’s failure to become evident for all to see.

As Che Guevara wrote: “Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.”

At first, the left-liberal anti-Trump coalition must keep its powder dry. Let Trump and his junta cabinet of ultra-right generals and billionaires commit their atrocities. Let the media report on them, with little result. Watch Congress fail to exercise its constitutionally mandated oversight. Count on Democratic resistance that never materializes. See the Supreme Court validate some of Trump’s horrors and reject others only to be ignored and thus exposed as impotent.

Those of us who follow politics closely know that Trump is a fascist-in-waiting. Most Americans, however, are in wait-and-see mode. If we protest too early (c.f., the anti-Trump demonstrations following Election Day), people won’t support us. Let the possibilities of peaceful struggle exhaust themselves first.

Another advantage of waiting is that it allows us to study our incoming enemy. Trump will inherit Obama’s police state. But he will alter its structure, tactics and strategies in ways no one can predict with certainty. We’re outarmed, outequipped and outnumbered. Let’s watch, and wait to see what we’re up against before lashing out.

Here I take a cue from the Afghans. Poor and remote, these fierce people have repeatedly repelled invasion forces launched by far richer, better-equipped enemies: Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. When foreign armies arrive, the Afghans melt away into the mountains. They let their adversaries settle into Kabul and other cities. They study them, poking and prodding in search of weaknesses. Then, when the time is right — typically many years after the other side declared “victory” — the Afghans unleash a ferocious assault that drives out the interlopers.

Trump was born in Queens. But it helps to think of him as an invader. His mish-mash protofascism, ferocious gracelessness and aversion to linear thinking or consistency are foreign to American politics and culture. He doesn’t belong here. He’s un- and anti-American. He’s got to go.

But we have to be smart about this. That starts with you liberal Democrats: stop staring down the barrel of 2017 with fear and loathing. It’s time to start planning.

We have to take our country back.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

October 06, 2016

THE DIRECTORS VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: BY COLE SMITHEY

SAM PECKINPAH: LIBERATOR

 

KEN LOACH: SOCIAL REALIST

 

JOE CARNAHAN: THE BEST-KEPT SECRET

 

CATHERINE BREILLAT: TRANSGRESSOR

 

WERNER HERZOG: MENSCH


DAVID FINCHER: MODERNIST


WILLIAM FRIEDKIN: THE MUSCLE


JOHN CASSAVETES: INDIE ICON


PAUL VERHOEVEN: REBEL


LARS VON TRIER: PROVOCATEUR


QUENTIN TARANTINO: MAVERICK

 

ALFRED HITCHCOCK: MASTER OF SUSPENSE

 

LUIS BUNUEL: FETISHIST

September 02, 2016

SHAKEDOWN

Why Brazilian Police and Establishment Media Shook Down and Defamed Olympic Swimmers
By Cole Smithey

Pixote

Remember the reports of the broken bathroom door, and broken mirror, and broken soap dispenser? All lies espoused by the oh-so-reliable Brazilian police who were busy shooting protesters with rubber bullets and killing hundreds of other impoverished Rio citizens as part of the daily violence that goes on in the same hellhole that filmmaker Hector Babenco famously captured in his unforgettable neo-realist drama “Pixote” in 1981. Babenco’s film was, and is, a cinematic plea for an end to an inhuman social system in and around Rio that has blood running in the streets on a minute-to-minute basis. An all too common, and tragic, footnote to "Pixote" came a few years later when the film's charismatic non-professional lead actor Fernando Ramos de Silva was murdered by a cop in the city's litter-strewn streets. Evidently, not much has changed since 1981.

Ryan Lochte

You got played if you’re one of the suckers who bought into the establishment media’s pillorying of American Olympic champion swimmers Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger. They fell victim to anti-American public relations attack designed and executed by Rio de Janeiro’s notoriously corrupt police officials. As if ignoring the public robbery of four Olympic athletes wasn’t enough, the Brazilian Police Department exploited the crime to deflect blame and extort money from the victims. The “security guard” bandits were never even named, much less arrested. Here is a criminal international incident twisted to blame American Olympic champions and humiliate anyone who isn’t Brazilian.

An utter lack of editorial oversight and responsibility would be a generous alibi for the thousands of media outlets (American and otherwise) that fell for the Brazilian police's ploy. The first rule of engagement with any media outlet that everything is a lie, and you have to read between the lines to come away with any semblance of truth.

Long story short: a Rio yellow taxi with four American Olympic swimmers inside pulls up to a gas station in the wee hours of the morning. Gas station workers and security guards shark the [obviously drunk] America Olympic athletes desperate to relieve themselves. Bathroom doors are locked. The four young men go behind the station and urinate in the grass.

Let he or she who has not peed upon sage or brush, throw the first stone. If you pretend to feign indignation at four inebriated guys peeing in the grass behind a gas station at six in the morning, you be frontin’ homie.

An armed guard approaches the athletes, presumably in the act of urinating. Lochte plays the punk when he pulls down a paper ad posted on the side of the gas station as he exits the area. The athletes calmly get inside their waiting cab before being ordered out of their taxi by two black-clad men with badges, both waving around loaded guns. Happy 2016 Olympics suckers.

Rio Gas Station

At gunpoint the athletes are made to sit down with their hands raised, execution style. At one point in the video of these events, we see Lochte stand up to argue with the guards holding he and his pals at gunpoint. Brave or dumb. Doesn’t matter. Dude stood up. Ryan Lochte did the right thing in the heat of the moment regardless of how drunk he was. He’s a patriotic hero. You feel me? 

An English/Portuguese-speaking man intercedes to translate what the guards are saying to their victims. This ringer tells the athletes that the guards are demanding that each of the four American hostages pay up for damages done to the gas station property. Who knows if that grass will be able to survive so much Olympian pee? The four swimmers forked over whatever money they had, and were allowed to leave. The badges wearing men-in-black used semi-automatic handguns to rob four American Olympic champions at gunpoint, and got away with it Scot-free. You feel me now?

Don’t forget that this was these athletes’ big night of celebration behind a punishing schedule of Olympic heats. Why these Olympic athletes didn’t have proper chauffeurs and official escorts for their big night out on the town remains a burning question that no one in corporate media has thought to ask.    

Rio

If Lochte and his teammates are smart they’ll hire a big American law firm to sue every single media outlet that libeled them, and also personally sue each Rio police official responsible for the miscarriage of justice and public smearing they committed. If these athletes do follow up in the courts, Ryan Lochte Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger could become the most financially successful Olympic athletes in its history.

So what about the legacy of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games? Police officials on an international revenge crusade have reduced that sporting relic to the public mugging, and consequent pillorying, of four of the fastest swimmers in the world. File the 2016 Olympics in the file entitled, “Mistakes to never make again.”

Dilma-rousseff

Brazilian politicians and authorities are still smarting two years after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s spying on Brazil’s [now impeached] president Kilma Rousseff. Whether you call Rousseff’s ousting a “soft” coup or a hard one, one thing’s for sure; there was nothing legal or proper about it. At the time, the Guardian news outlet called the situation, “the most serious diplomatic fallout to date from the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden."

Aside from the monies they extorted, the Rio police’s lust for vengeance derives from the slaughter that their soccer team received at the hands of the German team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup before a crowd of 58,000 in Brazil. The 7 to 1 loss spoke volumes of inconvenient truth about where the rubber meets the road in World Cup soccer.

At the recent Olympics, Brazil’s shootout match victory against Germany, that delivered gold to Brazil’s soccer team for the first time in history, has drawn much suspicion for obvious reasons. Sometimes, winning is losing. Let’s also not forget the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent indictment of Marco Polo Del Nero, the president of Brazil’s soccer federation. Salt on an open wound.   

Rio-de-Janeiro-riot-police fire teargas as Olympi torch arrives

I stopped watching the Olympics the second the story about the robbery of the U.S. swimmers came out. I wasn’t the only one. Brazil sent its message loud and clear, if you come to Rio you can expect to be robbed at gunpoint. The police will then rob you again before they let you leave the country. We know this because they made Lochte’s companions each pay a charity donation in the neighborhood of $15,000. You don’t need to worry about the nature of the unidentified charity; this is strictly a cash deal. False arrest, kidnapping, extortion, and liable per se are just a few of the charges that a large firm of American attorneys should be looking over.

Whether or not you bought into the lies dreamed up by the Rio police, which every media outlet in the world regurgitated like twice-vomited split pea soup, I bet you’re not in any hurry to vacation in Rio anytime soon.

If the shoe were on the other foot, and this same sequence of events played out for a group of foreign athletes visiting a city in America, this automatically politicized narrative would have played out in a very different way. You can bet the gas station guards would be sitting in the pokey, and not the athletes.

Much has been made of Ryan Lochte’s exaggeration of specifics involving the proximity of the gun pointed in his direction, and cocking of said pistol, but there is no question that two guns were drawn and the four swimmers were made to sit down, at gunpoint.

2016+Olympic+Team+Swimming+Trials+Day+6+cu05bULLHPFx

More egregious than Lochte’s enriched telling of events were exaggerations from the Rio police, who stated that the American swimmers had vandalized a bathroom at the gas station. Supposedly, this unruly group of hooligans reportedly broke a door, a mirror, and a hand-soap dispenser broken. That none of this happened didn’t stop every newswire in the world from running the lies. Good luck finding any retractions. What you will find, however, in supposedly respectable news outlets such as the Guardian, is reference to “the Olympic gas station hold-up that wasn’t.” Except that it was a hold-up followed by a police shakedown.

Welcome to Rio, now give us all your cash along with your reputation, and we'll sell you back your passports for $15,000. Don't come back, or [better yet] don't come at all. Brazil's tourism industry will suffer the backlash it deserves.

Cole

August 14, 2016

Got $75,000? The LA Times Is Trying to Bankrupt Me by TED RALL

Got $75,000?

That’s how much The Los Angeles Times is demanding that I pay them.

After they fired me for phony reasons.

After they published lies about me.

They set out to destroy me, but the truth came out and ruined their plan. So now they’re determined to bankrupt me — by abusing the court system.

One year ago, The Los Angeles Times fired me in what became known as The Ted Rall Scandal. I’ve been their cartoonist since 2009. Never had a problem. Was never late. Never did anything wrong. My bosses never had a complaint — to the contrary, I received nothing but praise.

What I didn’t know, and my editors didn’t know to tell me, was that the political cartoonist of The Los Angeles Times isn’t allowed to criticize the police. I wish I’d been informed. I have principles, but I also have to eat. If they’d told me the cops were off-limits, I wouldn’t have criticized the LAPD, police brutality, corruption or incompetence. If I’d known that LAPD chief Charlie Beck enjoyed special most favored nation status on the LA Times editorial page, I would have left him alone.

But no one told me. So I did what cartoonists are supposed to do: I criticized and ridiculed and made fun of the cops.

Unbeknownst to me, dark forces were aligned against me.

In 2014, Tribune Publishing, the Chicago-based $499 million conglomerate that was the parent company of the LA Times, brought on a brutal, cynical billionaire named Austin Beutner as its new publisher. Beutner had made his money in the 1990s, raping the ruins of post-Soviet Russia. He had big political ambitions: mayor of Los Angeles, perhaps even governor of California.

Beutner had no experience in newspapers. Probably never even delivered one as a boy. But Beutner had what Tribune wanted: a contact list full of potential investors. As for Beutner, he figured he’d use the paper to make up for his lack of name recognition among voters. It was a match made in hell.

Beutner made good on his promise to bring cash into the troubled Tribune organization by midwifing a deal between his only political ally, the LAPD’s police union (the Los Angeles Police Protective League) and Oaktree Capital, a Beverly Hills based investment firm. The LAPPL moved its $16 billion pension fund to Oaktree. At the same time, Oaktree became the number one shareholder in Tribune. The local police owned the local paper.

The LAPPL made no secret of its appreciation. Weeks after being named publisher, Beutner was given the LAPPL’s 2014 Badge and Eagle Award for
“support[ing] the LAPD in all that they do.”

In July 2015, the fuzz called in their chit with Beutner.

As has only recently been revealed by my lawsuit against the LA Times for defamation and wrongful termination, the plot against me began with a conspiracy at the highest levels of city government and the corporate media elite.

Chief Beck secretly met with Beutner. He handed him documents, as well as a CD-ROM containing an audio recording, that he convinced Beutner would be adequate proof that I was a liar and a fabulist, and therefore sufficient legal cause for firing me. And not just for firing me. They wanted to make an example out of me. They were out to destroy me. So they published not one, but two articles — something they’d never done before, ever — calling me a liar.

I was freelance. Why not just tell me I was no longer needed? Because Beck and Beutner thought I’d be a pushover. And because they wanted to send a message to every journalist in Southern California. Don’t criticize law enforcement. If you do, your career will be over.

Times readers have never been told the source of these documents. I would never have found them if I hadn’t filed my lawsuit. In brazen violation of the newspaper’s own rulesgoverning the ethical conduct of journalism (ironically written by the author of the second smear piece, Deirdre Edgar), Beutner and his minion who wrote the first smear piece, editorial page editor Nick Goldberg, protected Beck as an anonymous source.

The key evidence used against me, both to fire me and to use as the focus of two unusual articles published by the Times in their campaign to destroy my journalistic career, was the audio file. It contained about 20 seconds of audible speech and over six minutes of road noise.

That recording, secretly made by a police officer who arrested me for jaywalking in 2001, supposedly proved that I had been treated politely by the cop, not rudely handcuffed as I had written in the Times. Cheap and/or careless, the Times didn’t have the “evidence” authenticated or analyzed. Big mistake.

Things fell apart for the Times after my firing.

I paid to have the tape professionally enhanced. Turned out, there was a woman shouting “take off his handcuffs!” buried under all that static. I was vindicated. Independent journalists and other media outlets agreed.

Driving the point home, the LAPD public information office said that the audio never came out via official means. In other words, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck ginned up the evidence from somewhere else: probably a self-made, crappy dub made by the police officer himself 14 years before. It wasn’t official evidence. It wouldn’t have been admitted in court and it shouldn’t have been used to fire anyone — something a real journalist, not a billionaire financier, would have known.

I eventually obtained a copy of the official audio file from the police department itself via a public records act request. What a difference! It was clean. It looked different. And it wasdifferent. Without any enhancement at all, you could hear an angry crowd of people yelling at the officer about my mistreatment.

By this time, the Times’ ridiculous assault on free expression had blown up in their faces. Social media and the Internet had gone crazy. Journalists of all political stripes had come to my defense. Tribune, knowing that they had screwed up, fired Beutner so unceremoniously that he wasn’t allowed to use his own email account to say goodbye, and was escorted by security guards out of the building.

All I wanted was my job back and a retraction. An apology would be nice too. I don’t know why, even after all this, the Times is fighting this lawsuit. The way they’re acting, you would think that I was the one who had hurt them.

Their latest legal maneuver is beyond belief. Although discovery hasn’t begun yet, things haven’t been going well for them during initial hearings in court. That’s how it goes when you don’t have a legitimate defense for your indefensible actions. So their lawyer is resorting to scorched earth tactics. The last thing they want is for 12 Angelenos to listen to my case, consider both sides, and render justice.

The sleazy move their lawyer cooked up is to file an “anti-SLAPP” motion against me. California legislature passed the anti-SLAPP law to stop the following scenario: “A deep-pocketed corporation, developer or government official files a lawsuit whose real purpose is to silence a critic, punish a whistleblower or win a commercial dispute.” (Those words are by the LA Times’ editorial board, written two weeks after they smeared me!)

I’m not a deep pocketed corporation. I’m not a developer. And I’m not a government official. I’m a critic. So I’m the one this law was designed to protect.

Incredibly, the Times’ lawyer is arguing that I, an individual freelance cartoonist with a five-figure income, is quashing the Times’ free-speech rights! If they convince the judge that they are right, my case gets thrown out and – get this – I’m going to have to pay their attorneys’ fees!

Even more incredibly, they asked the judge to force me to post a $300,000 bond now, in advance, to guarantee their attorneys’ fees if they win their anti-SLAPP motion. She knocked it down to $75,000. But it’s not like the 10% bail that you hear about on TV. I owe the entire $75,000 on or before Thursday, August 18. My lawyers and I prepared a brief to fight it, but because the Los Angeles court system is so backed up, we can’t get a hearing until next summer. So another words, I either cough up $75,000 by next Thursday, or the Times gets away with what they did to me.

If you like to read more about the case and/or contribute to my fundraiser – I am not going down without a fight – please click here or go directly to http://gofundme.com/tedrall.

Thanks to my lawsuit, we know that the LAPD asked the LA Times to fire me as a favor to the cops because I was constantly criticizing them and their police chief. But, as Sartre said, individual actions require accountability. In that spirit, here’s a rogues gallery of the principal players and their roles in the conspiracy behind my firing last July.

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck

Beck

Until a few months ago, when the LA Times was forced to submit affidavits in their defense to my lawsuit for wrongful termination and defamation, Beck’s role was unknown. In multiple articles, the Times was too cute by half, claiming that they had received the sketchy audiotape and the dubious documents from the LAPD. As the following evidence shows, however, the police chief took a break from fighting crime and beating up black people to walk over to the LA Times to complain about my cartoon and accompanying blog in which I described having been roughed up by an LAPD officer who arrested me for jaywalking in 2001:

SmithDepo

They say that law-enforcement officers like him work in order to protect our freedoms. But Beck obviously never heard of the First Amendment. The First Amendment doesn’t really protect free-speech as broadly as similar statutes do in other countries, but the one thing that it does do is prevent government agencies – like the LAPD – from interfering with journalism and criticism. Beck hates the Constitution; he is un-American.

If there’s any justice, Beck will soon resign. He and the Times are claiming that he raided the LAPD evidence locker and gave the material to the paper. If that’s true, he should go. However, it looks like he’s lying. Most likely, he got the stuff from the arresting officer’s personal files. Which means that he lied about the stuff being official evidence. In that case too, he should go.

LA Times Ex-Publisher Austin Beutner

Beutner

As far as I can tell, Beutner is even more stupid than he is evil. And he is evil.

The billionaire who made his bucks raping the former Soviet Union in the 1990s is the guy at the Times who took the meeting with the police chief about little old me. The LAPD police union, the LAPPL, was a major political ally for him, so he kind of had to. However, he also should’ve thought about journalistic ethics. The last thing that the publisher of the paper that covers the police should be doing is hanging out with them. And the very last thing that he should be doing is hanging out with a guy who is asking him to fire one of the cops’ critics.

The reason I say he’s stupid is because it never occurred to him that he might be getting played by the police chief. He took Beck at face value. He wasn’t careful. He just accepted the evidence the cops gave him, handed it over to his editorial page editor, and ordered him to fire me. At least that’s how it looks right now. We’ll learn more during the discovery phase of the pre-trial.

If he’d been a journalist, or knew anything about journalism, or had any common sense, it might’ve occurred to him that the chief of police had a vested interest in getting rid of a cartoonist who keeps making fun of the chief of police. Of course, that would’ve also interfered with his own interest. After all, he was too cozy with the police to say no.

The paper let him go after I was fired.

LA Times Editorial Page Editor Nick Goldberg

Nick Goldberg

Goldberg, the editor of the editorial pages, was a guy I barely had anything to do with. He wasn’t my usual editor. But he supervised my usual editors. He got the order to fire me from Beutner.

Now back in the day, when I started out, if a publisher had asked an editor to do something like this, to fire someone on the flimsiest of evidence, evidence that hadn’t been properly evaluated or analyzed or authenticated, evidence that really didn’t show much at all, said editor would have told said publisher to fuck himself. Probably would’ve resigned. But that’s not what Goldberg did.

Like many newspapermen nowadays, Goldberg was terrified. Most of his colleagues have been laid off. All he wanted to do was to keep his head down long enough to retire. So he was a wimp. When Beutner ordered him to let me go, he said yes sir. Without letting me talk to my editors. And not only that. He signed my death warrant. He signed the first article, the “a note to readers” intended to end my journalistic career.

Within days, Goldberg had in his hand solid proof that everything he had written was untrue. That he had lied for the cops. Even then, he kept quiet. No retraction. No resignation letter. He’s still there, drawing a six-figure salary despite his utter lack of decency.

LA Times Readers Representative Deirdre Edgar

Deirdre Edgar

Deirdre Edgar seems like a relatively obscure figure in this whole fiasco. Actually, she’s very important. She wrote the second hit piece against me, the one that came out three weeks after the paper found out that I have been telling the truth and that the cops have been lying about me.

Ironically, she’s the so-called “Readers representative” – the equivalent of an ombudsman at other newspapers. She’s the person who supposed to stand up for journalistic ethics. In fact, when the paper rewrote their ethical guidelines back in 2014, she got the byline.

The irony is that among other things, those ethical guidelines require reporters to give equal time to the subjects of critical articles in order to respond. She didn’t do that. Never called. Never wrote. The same guidelines say that the reporter should meet in person with the subject of a critical article. She didn’t try to do that. There’s other stuff too. Like, you’re not supposed to willfully lie about the subject of an article. Which she did.

LA Times Editor/Publisher Davan Maharaj

Davan Maharaj

Maharaj was the editor-in-chief when all this went down last year. His role at the time remains obscure. Tribune Publishing decided to name him the new publisher after they fired Beutner.

Whatever his role last summer, he has been at the helm since early fall 2015. All the time, he has allowed those two libelous articles about me to remain on the newspaper’s website. This, of course, despite the fact that the information inside them is false and everyone knows they’re false. If this guy had an ounce of integrity, he would resign.

Support free speech! Fight the LA Times’ demand that I pay them $75,000: gofundme.com/tedrall

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His new book, the graphic biography “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” is now available.)

The happy footnote to this situation is that Ted did indeed raise the $75,000 to stay in the fight against the LA Times! The battle goes on. Will Ted end up winning the case? Let's just say the LA Times may end up with a new publisher with the last name of Rall.

June 03, 2016

Michael Gingold’s Fangoria: A Study in Entropy — EXCLUSIVE

By Cole Smithey

New York, NY — My BS detector went into the red the minute I read IndieWire’s overworked lede, “Fangoria Editor-in-Chief Michael Gingold Fired After 28 Years — Guillermo del Toro and Others Offer Support.”

GINGOLD

The piece that followed (written by Graham Winfrey) poured praise upon Michael Gingold as a “patron saint of the horror community.” My mind went immediately to the many Fangoria writers who took their assignments from Michael, only to discover that their pay would not be forthcoming. The notoriously passive aggressive, selfish, and narcissistic Gingold would ignore their email requests for what was rightfully theirs. New York is a small town. I’ve heard firsthand stories from Fangoria writers who never received payments that were due them. Michael would pretend to be actively attempting to get writers their money, knowing they would never be paid. Lying to writers to keep them working is about as low as it gets. Throughout it all though, Michael made sure he got paid week after week, month after month, year after year. An ethical editor (and yes such editors do exist) would have done the right thing when faced with this type of untenable situation, and resigned. 

Longtime Fangoria staff writers, some of whose lives were effectively ruined after they slogged away for weeks if not months without pay, before finally walking away from a career that evaporated before them.

Who offered support to the unpaid writers on whose backs Michael Gingold rode high and mighty for so many years? Certainly not Guillermo del Toro.

For the record, I did a one-on-one interview with del Toro in Cannes for "Pan's Labyrinth" in 2006, and found him to be a delightful guy. 

I posted a reply on Indiewire and on Twitter saying that Gingold was not the saint he was being painted as. “Worm” was the term of art I chose. Immediately, I started receiving Twitter hate messages defending Michael Gingold as “not the guy who signed the checks.” They informed me that Fangoria owner Tom Defeo was the guy to blame.

Another red flag went up. Didn’t these industry “professionals” know the magazine’s managing editor was responsible for all day-to-day operations, including paying the writers? — Evidently not. Why was this cluster of trolls trying to shield Gingold from criticism? If Michael Gingold was the patron saint of independent horror, why would he actively allow writers to be promised money he knew wasn't there? Things didn’t add up.

Suddenly, Twitter locked my account because someone was trying to hack into it. The horror fanboys were coming for me. I had to create a new super-strong password. My attention went back to the IndieWire article. Mitch Davis (“co-director of the Fantasia International Film Festival) is quoted extensively in the piece, painting a picture of doom and gloom for Fangoria for “discarding seasoned writers with so many years of history, knowledge and trust among fans.” That’s all well and good but why, if Davis has so much investment in discarded writers from Fangoria, didn’t he speak up on their behalf until now? Why, indeed.

Like all print publications, Fangoria has been bleeding money for years. As the IndieWire article points out, it “hasn’t put out a print edition since its distributor went out of business in 2015.” How Michael Gingold managed to hang on to a steady paycheck this long, without putting out any print issues in 2016, is a mystery.

FANGO346The elephant in the room is, of course, why and how Fangoria lost so much financial ground under Gingold’s failed editorial vision for the publication. No one should be praised for doing such an obviously crappy job, regardless of how long he or she milked it.

Whether or not Fangoria’s new Editor-in-Chief Ken W. Hanley can turn the magazine and website into something profitable, remains to be seen. Hopefully, Mr. Hanley will at least see to it that his writers get paid. Either way, with people like Guillermo del Toro and the handful of trolls that came after me on Twitter, I’m sure Michael Gingold will be treated better than he deserves. He’s already gotten way too much out of the deal.

In this episode Mike Lacy and I drink Hoptimum (from Sierra Nevada) and discuss Woody Allen's 1986 romantic comedy Hannah and Her Sisters. Bon appetite. 


Hannah and Her Sisters

May 31, 2016

Soul Corruption: Why It’s Time to Boycott Hollywood

HOLLYWOOD

Box office reports that were once the province of trade papers such as Variety and Hollywood Reporter have been used as advertising bait for so long that no one remembers the days when such information was carefully guarded. In no other country are box office receipts used to lure audiences to see movies. If anything, predictions that “Captain America: Civil War” will earn $1.3 billion in the international market, should make audiences want to look elsewhere for their movie entertainment. It’s not as if you the viewer are getting a cut of the profits by purchasing a ticket.

It’s a crass mentality that befits Donald Trump. “See how much freaking money I make. You should want to give me more cash to add to my collection.” The logic is so ludicrous because there is no logic to it. If you’re into paying for public humiliation, there are better ways to get off.

Box Office Mojo

Sites like Box Office Mojo keep running tallies of box office reports as if such information were part of a stock market for readers who can’t invest in it. Sports Betting Dime pits superhero tripe (Captain America) against other would-be Hollywood blockbusters for betting purposes.

Having just returned from the 69th Cannes Film Festival, where I watched 23 international films (along with only one Hollywood title — the predictably disappointing “Money Monster”), I can categorically state that Hollywood’s fixation on profit has led to an inauthentic cinema that all thinking audiences should ignore with a vengeance.

When Hollywood dares to brag about how many billions of dollars they made on some superhero garbage, while 50 million America citizens go hungry every day, it’s time to show the industry the door. Boycott Hollywood and its insidious methods of public humiliation. Don’t give these vulgar creators of violence indoctrination pap anymore of your money.

There is plenty of authentic cinema to be had in the form of foreign, independent, and documentary features. Watching countless people being beaten and shot to death to the strains of pop songs in Hollywood films like “Suicide Squad” isn’t just bad for your psyche, it’s a corruption of the human soul. Boycott Hollywood.

Cole Smithey

December 03, 2015

QT LAMF

Seeing Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful 8” is Your Civic Duty
By Cole Smithey

Hateful_8Quentin Tarantino is a national treasure. Unfortunately, Americans don’t much appreciate their great artists. If Tarantino were French, he'd already have a statue. If he were French, film-loving citizenry would flip out (and rightfully so) if the police tried to pull as disgusting an act of character assassination as the libel war police unions are waging against this revered writer, director, and prodigious film historian. There would be protests. Here, alas, nothing.

QT ran afoul of the corrupt Blue Wall of Silence when he spoke out against the ongoing plague of police-committed murders, which occur at an average rate of two to three times every day, at a “Rise Up October” rally in Manhattan.

The Rise Up October rally’s goal was to put relatable life narratives beside the names of victims who get quickly lost and forgotten in the escalating number of citizens shot, Tasered (you can picture the trademark symbol), choked, or otherwise destroyed by America’s highly militarized but poorly hired and trained police officers.

This demonstration was different from a “Black Lives Matter” protest in that it brought together families and loved ones of the victims in order to tell their personal stories about those who were senselessly taken away from them. It was a rare chance for people directly affected by police murders to bear witness. It’s impossible to put too fine a point on the obvious necessity for this forum of social communication, in order to provide people with a communal release of emotion and suffering. People need expression. They must be heard. We must listen. The families of victims such as Eric Garner, Sam Dubose, Antonio Guzman Lopez, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott took the stage one by one to express their grief and share stories of the people they still love.

During the course of the seven-hour march, Tarantino took the stage.

“I got something to say, but actually I would like to give my time to the families that want to talk," Tarantino said. "I want to give my time to the families. However, I do just want to also do want to say, what am I doing here? I’m here because I am a human being with a conscience, and when I see murder I cannot stand by, and I have to call the murdered the murdered, and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”

Quentin-Tarantino
Tarantino’s impassioned speech clearly came from his heart. It was messy. He was upset. These are the words of a man speaking a sad truth that has been gestating in his mind and gut. Evidently Tarantino’s use of the word “murder” — but really, is there a better word? — hit a nerve with police organizations unwilling to address the crisis at hand in an appropriate, much less ethical, manner.

The National Association of Police Organizations decided to go after the filmmaker behind such modern classics of American cinema as “Pulp Fiction” and “The Inglorious Basterds.”

The police group is calling for a boycott (by police officers) of Tarantino’s hotly awaited Christmas day opener “The Hateful 8.” The alliance is requesting that its officers “stop working special assignments or off-duty jobs, such as providing security, traffic control or technical advice for any of Tarantino’s projects.” One wonders if these guys have lawyers. What if something happened bad to the director because he couldn't get police protection? Their legal exposure could be breathtaking.

Wait, it gets better.

Fraternal Order of Police president Jim Pasco said, “Tarantino has made a good living out of violence and surprise. Our officers make a living trying to stop violence, but surprise is not out of the question. Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element. Something could happed anytime between now and the premiere. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable. The right time and place will come up and we’ll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that’s economically.”

The veiled message of inherent violence and intimidation is clear. Surprise? This is like a school bully telling the nerd, “You won’t see it coming, but you will feel it.” Disgusting.

Cops are threatening to “hurt” Tarantino (um, “economically”). I don’t know about you, but the last time I heard someone use “harm” in such a threatening tone, they meant bodily harm, It’s implied here that the director might be in physical danger from the very agencies charged with protecting public safety and paid by taxpayers — like Tarantino.

There's more.

Now the LAPD is attempting to smear Tarantino’s integrity by claiming that there is “no record” of an arrest for which QT has said he was jailed for eight days for unpaid vehicle infractions. There is an obvious possible explanation for that: Tarantino has repeatedly stated that he was sent to a LA County lockup run by the Sheriff's Department, not the LAPD. Anyone familiar with the LAPD’s well-documented history of conveniently misplacing evidence — including thousands of rape kits — will recognize the “leak” as a hack effort at obfuscation. Is there “no record” of the arrest because someone at the LAPD shredded it? I wouldn’t be surprised.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see QT’s lawyers begin to open up cans of legal whoop-ass on police unions, and even the LAPD, in the days before “The Hateful 8” opens.

Apparently police union bigwigs have a problem with high-profile celebrities exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. Their message is chilling; if you have something critical to say about police officers’ nonstop killing rampage, you have the right to shut the fuck up.

I suppose we’ve learned something about where police leaders fall regarding their would-be regard for the cultural significance of the filmic arts.

Tarantino intended his presence at the Rise Up October rally to open up a public discussion for police departments to engage in, to stem the plague of police killings. Rather than taking advantage of an opportunity to engage in public discussion about ways to correct the ongoing crisis, however, police unions across the country are doubling down on a pattern of murders that cost police departments millions of dollars in settlements.

How can they afford the tab?

The story is as old as the hills: follow the money.

Modern-day police departments are beholden to a myriad of corporations, some backed by the Pentagon. Gun makers, Taser (which also makes body cameras — as used by the LAPD), bulletproof vest manufacturers, and car companies are just a few of the players in the lucrative business of “law enforcement.” The biggest of all may be the prison-industrial complex that has reengineered American society. This matrix of commerce, authority, and power creates an invisible call for a set of lethal and racist ideologies to find their level in personal action.

Corporations instill their personalized fascist ideologies through product placement in police departments that arm, train, and shield their police officers from ever going to jail regardless of how visible their crime. That trend, however, is changing. The Blue Wall of Silence is being peeled away, though incrementally, one layer at a time.

We are seeing more instances where police officers are being charged with murder, as in the Chicago case in which officer Jason Van Dyke was charged for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, albeit a year late.

It’s no accident that you commonly see officers emptying their revolvers, sometimes repeatedly, into their victims. Shooting someone 18 times isn’t just trigger-happy; it is the sociopathic behavior of an insane person pleading for help. These killings affect both sides of the equation — police and civilians. Killing another human being is a terrible thing that no one escapes without the experience etched forever in his or her darkest memory.

Hateful-Eight

To put things in a filmic context, notice when you watch a video of a police shooting someone more than once that it is 1000 times more upsetting than the most gory scene in any Tarantino film.

The Guardian reports that U.S. cops have killed 1,041 people so far this year. Although this is (disgracefully) the first year that such a comprehensive tally has been kept of people killed by police in America, all evidence points to police conducting this level of incremental genocide against its populace for decades.

Wake up, America! Between the mass shooters, white male terrorists, and the cops, your odds are getting worse all the time.

It’s more than a little ironic that New York Fraternal Order of Police leader Patrick Lynch is accusing QT of being a “cop-hater” (Tarantino never said or implied that he hated cops, his films don't depict cops as evil or really much at all, and has denied it) considering that hating the thing that scares the living shit out of most people would be a luxury. Lynch’s choice of words leads the discussion into a confrontational realm that also lets loose a self-reflexive inference to self-hatred. Hello, Sigmund Freud.

Let’s consider the boycott for a moment. There are 330,000 police officers in the country. Even if none of them buys a ticket to the Christmas Day release of a movie for which 100 cinemas have been outfitted with classic Panavision 70 projectors, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number of movie lovers worldwide who will queue to see a movie that promises to dominate the 2016 Oscars.

Even if his films aren’t your cup of tea, any movie lover should acknowledge QT’s mastery of writing and directing. His exceptionally original stories expand cinematic language in a myriad of provocative ways. QT hasn’t just reinvented cinema, he has rekindled an ongoing interest in the directors (such as Howard Hawks) that continue to inspire him. Quentin Tarantino is a modern traditionalist. His use of Panavision 70 on “The Hateful 8” creates some of the most beautiful and lush images ever created on film, and by “film” I do mean old-school 65mm celluloid. Magical. The screen image you see is three times more picture than you see with your average film.

There’s a reason that there are so few filmmakers as talented as QT: he’s a one-of-a-kind thinker. In full disclosure, I had the pleasure of meeting Quentin during my first visit to the Cannes Film Festival in 1992. I’d been accepted into the American Pavilion volunteer program only to be cancelled at the last minute (after I’d already booked my flight). I went anyway. After sleeping in nooks and crannies of the Palais in my tux, I got cast in a Gaumout Studios-run program for student filmmakers. Gaumout provided me with food and housing throughout the festival while I worked with a German, Arab, and French crew. Luckily we were given tickets to the world premiere of “Reservoir Dogs.” I went to the much-coveted screening in the Grand Palais with my German co-actor pal Geza, a true force of nature. There’s a YouTube copy of the movie we made online.

I met Tarantino in the press area of the Palais. I introduced myself and told him his “movie kicked my ass” the night before. He laughed with that big hearty snicker and said, “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.” Here was a first-time filmmaker, the same generation and age as me, showing a mind-blowing heist movie in the Grand Palais of the Cannes Film Festival. The energy was electric.

That screening of “Reservoir Dogs” hit me like a combination of “Fists of Fury” mixed up with “The Exorcist.” I felt as though my guts were being torn out of me. It’s interesting to revisit that "brutal" movie and realize how little violence there is on the screen. It’s not what you see; it’s what you imagine.

Police violence is an old theme in the movies, though not Tarantino's. If you watch Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon,” you’ll notice that Jim Kelly’s character Williams flashes back to the police brutality he suffered on inner city streets as a black man living in urban America. Williams is glad to be in Hong Kong. “Enter the Dragon” was made in 1973.

Hateful 8
In 1970, Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini spoke about the terrible problem created when impoverished young people take jobs as police officers, only to kill those in their community because they are acting as protectors of a corrupt system. The issue is much more deadly now that police departments act on, and engage, the public as militarized Robocops who escalate benign situations into SWAT team tactical maneuvers like something out of a Terminator movie. There’s a profound paradox in the fact that the lower to middle-class men and women who put on police badges to earn their daily bread are being manipulated by the shrinking economy that corporations pay politicians to squeeze through draconian strategies.

Check out “Across 110th Street” for its gritty depiction of an openly racist police chief lording over Harlem like a walking pariah. (Tarantino used the theme song from the movie for his Blaxploitation homage “Jackie Brown.”)

In his exquisite documentary “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” about the significance of LA’s locations in the many films shot there, Thom Andersen discusses the “incremental genocide” of minorities that goes unabated. Andersen points out Ethiopian-born filmmaker Haile Gerima’s 1975 neorealist drama “Bush Mama,” which shows police attacking black citizens on the streets of South LA with lethal force. About the area’s tormented citizens, Anderson states, these are “people made to feel that they live in an occupied territory.” Not much has changed.

Anderson also references Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep,” a deeply personal film that casts a damning eye on LA’s oppressive daily reality through the eyes of a black family whose father works in a slaughterhouse.

America’s systemic roots in a deadly ideology of colonialist racism has been killing many thousands of minority victims for decades but it is only now, thanks to citizens filming events on their cellphones, that the world is waking up to the scale of atrocities being committed by police officers who may or may not be incompetent, sociopathic, or suicidal. Video has contributed greatly to exposing the type, and scale, of assassinations being committed at an astonishing rate. Still, the crisis is getting worse. It’s significant to note that five-sixths of those people murdered by trigger-happy cops were unarmed. America’s militarized corporatocracy is sending coded mob signals, none of them with an iota of nuance. One of the messages is that police unions are sending is that Americans live in a country occupied by the wealthy, and unless you are one of them, you are not welcome here. Another message is, if you’re not happily siding with every U.S. police officer’s right to kill whomever they want with impunity then you don’t deserve your freedom of speech in the first place. Get in line and salute, asshole, and wipe that dumb look off your face.

This past July, respected veteran editorial cartoonist Ted Rall was unceremoniously fired from his post at The Los Angeles Times after an apparent conspiracy between the LAPD, the city's police union (the LAPPL), and probably the newspaper’s then-publisher/billionaire financier Austin Beutner, worked its intended witchcraft.

A secretly recorded (and almost certainly altered) police audio tape of Rall being arrested back in 2001 for [not] jaywalking in L.A. was illegally passed to the Times, and was leveraged as grounds for termination. The LAPD union website was quick to publish a gloating endorsement of Rall’s firing, which it praised as a potent message to journalists across the nation. (They took it down after the media investigated the story and sided with Rall against the LAPPL and their lackeys, the Times. Certainly, there are those weak-kneed writers, editors, and publishers who will never utter, write, or print a negative comment about this goon squad that makes the Nazis look like a bunch of pussycats. Fear of cops is normal, and even more pronounced under the conditions in which we live.

Less than six weeks after Rall’s unfounded termination Tribune Publishing canned Beutner. In case you don’t know, publishers are very rarely if ever fired. Heads up. While not directly attributed to the fallout from Rall’s firing, after he unequivocally disproved the Times’ false accusation of him misrepresenting his jaywalking story in a blog post containing basic audio forensics his paper ought to have done in the first place, Beutner’s firing will forever be inextricably linked to the Times/LAPD skullduggery.

The cops set out to smear Rall, but it's Rall who came out looking good while the police have egg on their face. Yet they still haven't learned their lesson, as demonstrated by the attacks on Tarantino. But why are they so touchy? It’s ridiculous that the same cop squads that send thousands of their members to Leni Riefenstahl-scale funerals of any of their fallen brothers, are freaking out over QT’s public support for victims (and their families) of police murders at the rally where Tarantino spoke out.

The Guardian reports, “shootings involving Los Angeles police officers have doubled this year” (2015). Maybe the LAPPL should focus on the real problem, not the film directors and cartoonists calling them out on it.

Proving that when you're a hammer everything looks like a nail, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch laid it on thick: “It’s no surprise that someone who makes a living glorifying crime and violence is a cop-hater too. The police officers Quentin Tarantino calls “murderers” aren’t living in one of his depraved big-screen fantasies; they’re risking and sometimes sacrificing their lives to protect communities from real crime and mayhem. New Yorkers need to send a message to this purveyor of degeneracy that he has no business coming to our city to peddle his slanderous cop fiction. It’s time for a boycott of Quentin Tarantino’s films.”

So the filmmaker isn’t a fan of the incremental genocide being committed by cops against blacks. QT certainly isn’t the only American who holds such basic humanitarian views. But it doesn't do any good for good people to remain silent. It’s important that in this dark hour, not only that Tarantino’s fans come out to support him and all that he stands for as a preeminent film artist, but that other likeminded citizens step up to show their support.

Blue privilege rolls on. Blood fills the streets.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGindy announced an “expert’s report” that found “reasonable” the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Rice, armed only with a toy gun, was shot less than two seconds after the officer arrived on the scene.

Two Louisiana State Police officers (Norris Greenhouse and Derrick Stafford) were arrested and indicted on second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges for shooting to death Jeremy Mardis, a six-year-old boy, along with his father as they sat in their pick-up truck after being pulled over for no apparent reason.

Theantimedia.org reported that the Los Angeles police union (LAPPL) took umbrage at the creation of a new award intended “to encourage police officers to find more peaceful resolutions to conflicts.” Can’t have that.

In Chicago, the police scandal involving the public execution of Laquan McDonald shows explicitly how the city’s corrupt chain of power reaches right up to the top. If there’s any justice left, Chicago mayor/former Clintion flack Rahm Emanuel’s career is toast.

The American public is in a state of perpetual fear fuelled constantly by daily police-committed murders of civilians. Smart people avoid cops at all costs. Some people are afraid to leave their homes for fear that they might be pulled over and shot like so many others have been. It feels like wartime anywhere you go, even though we supposedly live in a free country, and not just in the slums anymore. America is being occupied by the same systems we built to protect us. There’s no need to worry about robots turning on humanity; cops already have that territory covered.

Quentin-tarantino
Tarantino is releasing “The Hateful 8” as a “Road Show” release similar to the glorious way epic spectacles such as “Gone With the Wind” and “Lawrence of Arabia” came out in the days when people got dressed up to go see a movie that came with a program, a musical overture, and an intermission. This nod to cinema tradition provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy a long lost aspect of movie culture thanks to a filmmaker just as committed to his audience as he is to the films he makes. Quentin Tarantino wants nothing more than for people to come together to enjoy the magic illusion of movement that only 24 frames per second of celluloid running though a projector can provide.

Quentin Tarantino’s status as America’s most inventive, impassioned, and consistent filmmaker is justified. Even with its (albeit microscopic) flaws, “The Hateful Eight” is more fun and stimulating than any other movie that came out in 2015.

When you watch “The Hateful 8,” pay heed at how Tarantino leads up to the murders that occur with much discussion related to ingrained racist ideologies that persist in America, and are being actively exposed and supported in nearly every news media outlet in the country, Fox News and CNN especially, as well as from faux lefty outlets like NPR. Each death of a character in “The Hateful 8” arrives with a specific narrative theme attached.

The police unions have dared set foot inside Tarantino’s wheelhouse and inside our revered bastion of social discourse, the cinema. It is your civic duty to buy a ticket to “The Hateful 8.” As you watch the film, think about what makes these characters so hateful, and about the culture that made them that way. The discussion is yours — as long as you keep the cops out of it, they don’t want to hear it, and they can hunt you down and ruin your life.

Je suis Quentin.

Hateful-Eight

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July 03, 2015

The Best Films of 2015 So Far

By Cole Smithey

It’s a stretch to call “Mad Max: Fury Road” a Hollywood picture but we'll pretend so the left coast isn’t utterly left out of contributing to the best films of 2015, so far.

5. Ex Machina

Ex-machinaScience fiction has been a dying film genre in recent years. Largely this is because there are too few screenwriters or filmmakers with the imaginations to create compelling futuristic stories. Alex Garland has been an exception to the rule.

Smart, sexy, and back-loaded with a terrific twist ending, “Ex Machina” is an elegant sci-fi movie that considers the possibilities of artificial intelligence in thought-provoking ways. The stark narrative is essentially a three-hander for actors Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander to play out their diametrically opposed characters in an isolated “No Exit” game of winner-take-all.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad-max-fury-road“Mad Max Fury Road” makes up for what it lacks in storyline and character development with a groundbreaking blend of feminist politics and action-movie tropes in a broad physical spectacle featuring death-defying stunts atop and between a constantly moving canvas of motor-driven insanity. “Fury Road” is to cinema as the Ramones’s “Teenage Lobotomy” was to rock ‘n’ roll. The picture’s deceptive depth lies in its blistering backbeat of fast-paced action fulfilled by a cast of gnarly Wild West-inspired characters “living to die and dying to live.” A lack of water and oil has turned humanity into hordes of people living by their primal instincts.

Miller proudly announces the movie as a feminist think piece. Charlize Theron’s implacable bionic-armed heroine Imperator Furiosa leads the lion’s share of the action. The steely Furiosa turns a fuel-delivery (via the giant oil truck she drives) into a rescue mission to transport five “wives” to Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne in a franchise return), the demonic despot who controls the flow of water to the starving masses. The Australian filmmaker balances the motherly power of femininity with tougher aspects of womanhood, namely a cold-blooded will to kick serious ass LAMF. Instant cult classic? You bet.

3. Amy

Amy_The must-see-documentary at this year’s Cannes Film Festival was Asif Kapadia’s ambitious biography of Amy Winehouse. It’s a devastating look at how some of the people closest to the singer/songwriter contributed to her untimely demise. By sticking with his voiceover-only narration (rather than taking the standard talking-head approach) Kapadia stays out of the way of his fascinating subject. The method is so much the better for rapt audiences to absorb Winehouse’s raw talent and sophisticated mastery of melody, songcraft, and delivery.

Most captivating are studio-recording sessions in which Winehouse delivers her unique voice and phrasing with a stark honesty that charms all. Watching her record her famous song “Back to Black” is nothing short of stunning. A duet recording session with her hero Tony Bennett reveals much about Winehouse’s craftsmanship as a singer and about the high standards to which she held herself. The instant rapport that she shares with a glowing Tony Bennett is a dreamlike moment of musical delight.

2. What Happened Miss Simone?

What_happened_simoneDirector Liz Garbus (“Bobby Fischer Against the World,” 2011) eloquently sets the film’s tone with an eerie quote from Maya Angelou.

“Miss Simone, you are idolized, even loved, by millions now. But what happened, Miss Simone?”

It proves to be a provocative question about a complex woman caught in a web of domestic and social abuse. Through dazzling archive performance and interview clips, and upfront contributions from the likes of Simone’s articulate daughter Lisa, Garbus hits every note in a biography that, like Nina Simone’s dynamic vocal range, goes from gravel to frosting. Intelligent audio interviews allow the outspoken singer to narrate in her own inimitable voice. Documentaries don't get much more intimate than this.

The rich narrative and musical material on display allows Garbus to work the audience into a compulsive lather of mixed emotions. The film flashes to modern day relevance over Simone’s scalding protest song “Mississippi Goddam,” a response to forty churches burned in Birmingham, Alabama.

Simone sings with a fury that explodes, “Alabama’s gotten me so upset, Tennessee made me lost my rest, And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam.“

From a political perspective, “What Happened Miss Simone” arrives at a key moment of crisis for Blacks in America, when the ongoing incremental genocide of Blacks is on the rise.

Nina Simone’s definition of freedom rings with the same truth as is found in her music.

“What is freedom? No fear.”

1. Girlhood

GirlhoodYou might read the title “Girlhood” and think that some ambitious (perhaps female) filmmaker is taking on Richard Linklater at his most recent game. Indeed, if you consider Céline Sciamma’s substantial pedigree, as the masterful writer-director behind such youth-centric LGBT triumphs as “Water Lilies” and “Tomboy,” you could arrive at the conclusion that Richard Linklater has been taking some notes from her.

When compared to her first two tour de force films, “Girlhood” reveals itself to be every bit as insightful and authentic a cinematic representation of a personal female coming-of-age experience in modern-day France. For the record, “Girlhood” stands up well opposite Linklater’s “Boyhood” as another essential filmic chapter in the global political, socioeconomic, and cultural challenges facing young people in the 21st century, albeit from vastly different cultural backgrounds. “Girlhood” is a stunner.

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