Archive for January, 2006

January 21, 2006

Ted Rall is 25 Across

Sharp-eyed reader David points out that, as he puts it, I’ve achieved a new level of celebrity: I was an answer to yesterday’s New York Times crossword puzzle. That really is kind of amazing to this boy from the Ohio burbs. On the other hand, it is a pretty damned hard puzzle.

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January 19, 2006

Ted Rall Show Time Change (Again!)

My radio show will air 2 to 4 pm West Coast time effective this coming Sunday, each and every Sunday. Tune in at 106.9 FM in San Francisco or livestream at 1069freefm.com. (Livestreaming currently not working for Macs–we’re working on it. Ditto on podcasts.)

Column Update

Since this week’s column about the botched Hellfire missile bombing in Pakistan went to press, the Pentagon has changed its story, now claiming that it killed Al Qaeda notables even if they missed Mr. #2, al-Zawahiri. First and foremost, this latest backtracking smells suspiciously like the same spin we’ve seen in the Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch sagas–after so many lies, who can believe them? And the DOD hasn’t even seen the bodies of those they claim to have killed. Even if they did manage to take out these other “terrorists,” however, the missiles still killed at least 22 innocents in the process–and that’s unacceptable.

January 8, 2006

Technical Delays for Ted Rall Show

Today’s show looks like it’s about to begin, albeit a little over half an hour late. My apologies; please hang in there as we figure these things out and we’ll be ready to rock. We have seriously cool stuff today, including an exclusive interview with the editor and publisher of the Colombia City Paper, the liberal paper targeted by an arsonist last week.

January 6, 2006

Fad Dogs

More proof that a passing thought can reveal something horrible comes from Matthew:

Thanks for commenting on the plight of fad dogs. As an Akita lover, I was a little surprised to see you show Akitas as a “missing” breed. Perhaps I’m just so tuned to look for them, I still see them everywhere! And there are still far more being bred than people actually want to keep. Our organization only covers three states, and we get about 500 calls ,per year from people wanting to give up Akitas.
I have two theories to offer as to why fad dogs disappear so much more quickly than biology would suggest they should (I mean, two besides idiots who dump them when they are no longer faddish):
1 – older dogs need, and get, less exercise. They spend more time indoors, and go on fewer walks. Owners also get tired of walking the dogs, and start just letting them into the backyard instead. So many are still alive and in loving homes, just not as visible.
2 – when a breed becomes popular and expensive, a lot of nimrods get into the breeding business for financial reasons; the result is a lot of dogs with health and/or temperament problems. By the time you are seeing a breed “everywhere”, most of them are of very poor breeding. Temperament issues are compounded by many of the owners having no idea how to raise a dog. After a couple of years, the problems show up, and the dog is either euthanized, or taken to a shelter (and probably euthanized).
I thought the juxtaposition of Akitas and school lunches was interesting. During World War 2, conditions in Japan were so bad that nearly all Akitas were killed for food and pelts, despite the breed being a “national treasure”. It just made sense – a bit of food, some warmth, and one less mouth to feed. Yet another horror of war.
And although I have not heard of euthanized pets going into school lunches, there is quite a bit of evidence that some actually do end up in pet food.

January 6, 2006

Ted Rall Subscription Service

TRSS new subscriber Don sez:

I *love* this subscription service.
Thanks for three outstanding cartoons. You hit it out of the park on three different subjects. I *knew* there was something wrong with $.75 school lunches! (Seriously, I have been in dog rescue in Atlanta for 10 years, and it is a big problem, and a moral outrage. What do these “adults” think they are teaching their kids?) You nailed the arms industry, and the spying ‘toon has more truth in it than the last 7 issues of the NYTimes.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are a ray of hope and sanity.

E-mail me at chet@rall.com if you’re interested in receiving my cartoons and columns as much as three days before they appear online or in print! The cost is $25 for all of 2006.

January 6, 2006

Soldiers Over 30: More Comments

Craig writes:

I enjoyed you op piece on “soldiers over 30”. Of course, for all the reasons you mention, the military wants younger naive recruits that don’t understand what you do. If my CO gave me an order that puts my butt on the line in order to, as you say, “open and protect markets for big corporations and to conquer and control regions with energy resources and conduits thereto” my first thought would probably be to “frag” the guy rather than to shout “Urah!” I am appalled, but not surprised, when I see videos of young service men in Iraq blasting the crap out of people and things and enjoying it as if it were a video game. There is a lack of connection between their actions and the human suffering it is inflicting, especially with “bad guys”. This is, naturally, exactly what is desired and is especially prevalent in the younger adult ages (watch any bunch of high school guys play a contact sport). There would be a lot less wars if one needed to be 30+ to serve.

Jim points out:

How could you forget that it was precisely returning vets under 30 who formed VVAW back in the Sixties? They were perhaps the most significant force in turning the American public against that war. And today, it is IVAW.

No one’s denying that vets get a quick education on the ways of the world. The point of my article is that soldiers ought to be recruited from Americans who already received that knowledge beforehand. And who doubts that the VFAW vets were one big bunch of bitter guys?

John says:

Regarding your 1/3/06 column, isn’t it clear that being a soldier of any age is absolutely the last resort? It’s amazing that in the 21st Century, we still think like warring primitives who willingly follow an obvious half-wit. Contrast that with how people will scream through the tv screen at football coaches! Really sad.

But that’s the point. The military would improve in quality if it had to compete with civilian employers for high-qualityt employees. Surely free-market Republicans would agree.

Andy says:

Actually, I think late 20s is still to early. I say minimum reqs for joining the army should be 35 years old, marriage license, a child, and a stable job (you’d get a paid vacation for all time spent doing army stuff). Then you’d have smart army and you better believe politicians would think twice before using it.

Great point.

A long-time GOR writes:

I’m confused…I agree with you….and that really scares me
What is the answer??
Oil is too important to the lifestyle we expect in America…to keep the oil flowing we must be involved in maintaining “stability” in the middle east…if we make up a reason for being there like “its about democracy”, does it make it any less important…
I guess its easier to get someone to die for freedom than it is to get someone to die to ensure the shareholders of Exxon get their dividend next year…

An anonymous correspondent writes:

Ted-
I’m sure you’ve received a chorus of e-mails with tales of our supposed “nation’s finest” acting like juvenile imbeciles, but your column and blog posts hit a nerve with me so I thought I’d share my experiences. I ask that you keep me anonymous if you decide to share my story though, for I do not wish right wing nut job hate mail to fill my inbox.
After I graduated high school in 2000, my girlfriend at the time joined the Marine reserve (she had no money and the thought of getting cash for college was too enticing). Of course, she has since been called into active duty and has recently returned from Iraq. Although we’re no longer together, we remain close to this day, and I’ve had the distinct honor and pleasure of
hearing some of the most ridiculous, and in some cases appalling, stories involving young Marines (supposedly the best and brightest of the armed forces, right?) that you can imagine. Time and time again, my friend would regale me with tales of excessive drinking and driving, officers having sex with young female enlisted members (which is supposed to be a no-no), and my personal favorite, complete disregard for firearm safety (think getting really drunk and shooting at things in your backyard, which happens to be in a residential neighborhood). My point is that young, college age kids do stupid things. If I had a dime for every time I got way too drunk/stoned/whatever and did something completely ill-advised in college, I’d be typing you this e-mail from a boat in the Bahamas instead of from my desk at work (and I was one of the more well-behaved kids). I was just a guy in college though – I didn’t have a gun and I wasn’t responsible for anyone’s life, safety, or security. I’m never, ever surprised at the reports of prisoner abuse, military mistakes, or wrongful civilian deaths because I know that the soldiers fighting for our supposed “freedom” are a bunch of stupid kids that have no business being given such responsibility. Yes, I’m sure that there are plenty of good, responsible soldiers out there, but I’m in complete agreement with you that it’s absurd that in our country you’re supposedly responsible enough to kill large numbers of people and have
access to deadly weapons before you’re responsible enough to have a sip of an alcoholic beverage.

Chohong writes:

I know a friend in New York who is still firmly for the war, for the Republicans, and for Bush. He’s almost 34. Maybe I should give his name to a military recruiter. He’s offered the same reasons as Katherine Jordan for why we were right to invade Iraq. Maybe a tour of duty there would help him justify his stance.

It sure would help him to focus.

January 4, 2006

Ted Rall Show: New Time

Starting this Sunday January 8, The Ted Rall Show will air from 10 am to 12 noon every Sunday, West Coast time, on 106.9 FM San Francisco. Livestreaming is available through 1069freefm.com.

January 4, 2006

Don’t Trust Soldiers Under 30

I received some interesting email in response to my column.

Andrew wrote:

I would like to share my military recruitment story with you, as it contains a number of parallels to your recent column. During the summer of 2001, I was stuck in a rut in a dead-end job, and I was considering the Army as an alternative, mostly because of the prospect of having my student loans repaid after 3 years of service (I was 27 at the time, with $25,000 in outstanding student loans). The first time I talked with the recruiter, we went over my MOS options based on my background. A few days later, they called me back and asked if I was interested in taking the ASVAB that afternoon. I accepted, and was promptly shipped off to the local National Guard Armory.
After the test (and I use that term loosely) was complete, my recruiter drove me back to the recruiting office where I had left my car. They already had my test scores, and I got the full-court press just like you did, offering me anything and everything to sign that paper. I told them I needed a few days to think it over, at which point they started to ratchet up the pressure. If I had been less mature, I might have given in. Instead, I told them that I would settle for nothing other than training as an Air Traffic Control Operator. They told me it wasn’t a problem.
Sounds great, except that I talked to an Air Force recruiter the next day, inquiring about ATCO with their branch. After going over my background, he informed me that I wouldn’t be accepted into ATCO training with any branch of the military because of a charge of marijuana possession that had occurred a few days after my 19th birthday. I had let the Army know about it the first time I talked to the recruiter and his supervisor, and they were more than willing to let me go through basic before telling me that I had to choose something else. When I went back to the Army recruiting office and asked them, they couldn’t give me a straight answer about why they lied to me. I told them to go to hell. Two months later, a few planes flew into the World Trade Center, and I was really glad that the police had caught me eight years previously.
Please feel free to share any of this story as you see fit. People need to know that military recruiters are paid bonuses based on their ability to provide warm bodies to basic, and most could really care less about what it takes to meet their quota.
In closing, thank you for writing the things that need to be said, even if most people don’t want to hear it. I look forward to your columns every week. Keep up the good work.

A cautionary tale. Caveat recruitor.

Bradford writes:

Ted, The very reason the military wants 18 year olds is that war is a complete waste of life. Guess why the religious right fights so hard to prevent abortion, touts abstention, knowing full well that young people have had sex since time began? They are in the pocket of the government and military, which need tax-revenue-producing warm bodies and warm bodies for their wars. George W. Bush’s family was smart in supporting George W’s dishonorable AWOL behavior while erasing his records and rewriting his personal history to make him out to be a hero. They know the game. If you’re dumb and poor enough to buy the lies about glory and democracy, you deserve a burial plot in a government graveyard. Oh, some naive youngsters plant little American flags on your grave once a year. With that and the price of a fare, a dead body…well, a live body can get a ride on public transportation if the workers aren’t on strike.
When future wars are undeclared by traitorous despots like George W. Bush and Dick ‘DICK’ Cheney, Americans shouldn’t go. Let the Southern Baptist cock suckers and the John Ashcrofts and Dick Cheneys and Rush Limbaughs and Sylverster Stallones go and fight their wars. We can stay home and screw THEIR girlfriends for a change!!! Dear John, How I hate to write…

“Larry” (name kept anonymous at my initative) says it all:

Ted, I wrote to you from Iraq a couple of years ago. I’m happy to report that I wasn’t injured and only one of the soldiers in my battalion was wounded, none killed. The one wounded got hit in the gut and is fine now. We were amazingly lucky. I want to thank you for your columns. Though I often disagreed with you in the finer points and approaches, I found your opinions and their expression a welcome counter-balance to what is force-fed to soldiers in war.
I am writing also to say that your recent column was right on the money. I joined at 28, having run out of acceptable options, having made too many of the wrong mistakes. A tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars and Army sergeants’ and officers’ time is spent taking care of children in uniform. We have to teach them on subjects ranging from safe sex, responsible drinking, and avoiding drugs to brushing their teeth, cleaning their rooms and washing their clothes. Many of these kids were called ‘crack babies’ when they were born, and many didn’t grow up with parents. They are ready for anything other than adult responsibility and a professional career. We teach them the basics and how to follow orders, and they never think far beyond that. Most will stay and become the leaders of the future Army, a fact I find frightening.
Raising the minimum age of enlistment to the late 20s would eliminate a great many problems the Army encounters every day. We would have more responsible soldiers who cost less to maintain and could be better counted upon to refuse illegal orders. The improved decisions they would make would save lives.
Though it’ll never happen, it would be great for all of us.

January 4, 2006

Correction to This Week’s Column

The Army test I took in 1982 was the “Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery,” not the “Armed Forces Qualifying Test.”

January 2, 2006

Cassandra Indeed

I blundered into this amusing little reference about me in the right-wing neo-con rag The Weekly Standard from April 2003, three weeks after the fall of Baghdad. Remember when the conservative media was going crazy with lists of “left-wing idiots”? Under the headline “The Cassandra Chronicles: The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers,” The Standard noted such “idiotic predictions as:

“This invasion of Iraq, if it goes off, will join the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert One, Beirut, and Somalia in the history of military catastrophe. What will set it apart, distinguishing it for all time, is the immense–and transparent–political stupidity.”

–Chris Matthews, San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2002

“Visions of cheering throngs welcoming them as liberators have vanished in the wake of a bloody engagement whose full casualties are still unknown. . . . Welcome to hell. Many of us lived it in another era. And don’t expect it to get any better for a while.”

–James Webb, in the New York Times, March 30, 2003

Did you know that your average Iraqi fellow would much rather watch his relatives be raped or eaten by dogs than have to shake hands with an American Marine on the sidewalk?

“Regardless of their political affiliations, patriotic Iraqis prefer to bear the yoke of Saddam’s brutal and corrupt dictatorship than to suffer the humiliation of living in a conquered nation. . . . The thought of infidel troops marching through their cities, past their mosques, patting them down, ordering them around, disgusts them even more than Saddam’s torture chambers.”

–Cartoonist and conspiracy-theory book author Ted Rall, April 2, 2003

Yep, we were all wrong. Such “idiots” were we! (I have no idea what “conspiracy-theory” book the WS was referring to.) Too bad the left doesn’t have a ballsy magazine–why are Mother Jones, the Nation, etc., such fucking boring-ass wusses?–to call these assholes on their shitty predictions.