Archive for July, 2006

July 25, 2006

Los Angeles Radio Interview

I’ll be discussing my new book Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East? Wednesday morning at 10:45 am local (West Coast) time on the Bill Handel Show on KFI Radio. You can listen online or at AM 640 in southern California.

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July 14, 2006

It’s Here!

I feel like I’ve given birth.

Terry at NBM Publishing messengered over the first copy of SILK ROAD TO RUIN. With great trepidation, a flashback to the disappointment when St. Martin’s Press fucked up the printing of WAKING UP IN AMERICA, I opened the package and removed the book. Would the spot varnish on the blood splatters look OK? Would the matte jacket look good with the paper stock? Had the hardcover casing turned out OK? Were the signatures laid out properly–not always a given?

I needn’t have feared. SILK ROAD is, without a doubt, a fine-looking specimen. Over an inch thick, nice blacks, the graphic novellas look great, etc. Whew.

I think Terry, who says this is my best work yet, may be right.

Attendees to next week’s San Diego Comic Con will have the first shot in the nation of buying SILK ROAD TO RUIN. I’ll also be on hand to sign it. (And no, no, no–I’m not doing any panels or talks there. And yes, I would do one if invited. But I never have been and never will be, so please stop asking.)

Books will begin shipping to stores in August and should start appearing in two or three weeks. Now would be a good time to place your order with your local bookstore or online using the link above.

I think (crossing my fingers here…) that this is going to be one of my Big Deal kind of books.

July 11, 2006

Gates/Buffett Column Feedback

Some good responses have come in that I thought I’d share with y’all:

“Ken” (his name has been changed to protect his identity) starts out with Emilio Estevez’s classic dying quote from “Repo Man”:

I blame society.

No … really. Pointing out that it can’t possibly be ethical for one person to have accumulated 44-50 billion dollars is meaningless in a society where a struggling single mom thinks she is one TV Game Show or Lottery Ticket away from having millions. Their billions are justified by the people who want (but will probably never have) a touch of that kind of wealth.

We as a society, are very much about winning the game and winning as big as you can. America is about getting more, not just enough, and no where is that more reflected than in our version of Capitalism. To many people (including, perhaps, Gates and Buffett) the stack of billions is not merely wealth, but their life-time score in the game of Capitalism. And aside from the hypocrisy of Baseball, most Americans seem to be just as enthusiastic about those who win by playing by “gaming the system” as they are for those who play honestly.

But this, all of this, is academic.

What percentage of the population will actually listen to new information and possibly change their world view based on that
information? I can’t quote a study but I imagine among media consuming young adults and adults the percentage is less than 1%. All of the activist outreach, all of the propaganda, all of the well-reasoned editorials in the world amount to nothing more than SPAM — spewing out volumes in a desperate search for people who have the ability to change their minds.

But don’t stop — not for one instant — or your message will be swallowed up in the storm of ideas … lost “like tears, in rain.”

Looking back at what I have written, before sending it, I see that I have really said nothing new about America that Umberto Eco’s “Travels in Hyperreality” hasn’t already said and nothing about modern Capitalism that hasn’t been said by Jamie Uys’ excellent “The God’s Must be Crazy.”

It’s just more SPAM.

Thanks, etc.

On the other hand, Lloyd stands up for laissez faire:

Count me among those who regularly agree with much of what you say as well as being among those who considers himself quite left of center politically. But count me also as a nerd who feels an instant need to come to Mr. Gates’ defense, though I’m sure he can defend himself quite ably. As to Mr. Buffet, I don’t know the man and cannot even pretend to speak intelligently about him.

Bill Gates is a smart man. I’m sure we agree on that point. As he grew his company, unlike many leaders, he included him employees in his prosperity. His company was also at the forefront of providing employer benefits that we all wish Wal Mart would emulate. Though his company is huge, and the stock he has owned since the beginning is substantial, his annual compensation is under a million a year, rather small for such a man. The reason he’s so rich is our stock market which values Microsoft stock so much, that his share has ballooned to the many billions it is now worth.

You mention a price point of $200 in your article. I’m unsure of which program you refer to, but most people with Windows on their computer paid $100 or less for that fully legal copy of Windows. As to fairness, well, the technically adept can get Linux for free while the rest of us are going to pay someone, whether it’s Bill or Steve.

Bill Gates is not stealing by selling his product for a stated price, and his wealth was not stolen from anyone since the vast majority of it is paper wealth only. But when he converts that paper wealth into actual money just so he can solve the problems of the world (and every dollar spent by private citizens on the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and private money has been a part of its financing since the beginning, is one more dollar of our government’s money that will not be borrowed by an irresponsible Legislative and Executive branch).

Because of Ken Lay, many people had entire retirement accounts wiped out. Because of Bill Gates, many people will live enriched lives. We don’t need to fall over ourselves thanking Bill, but we shouldn’t be comparing him as less honorable than the likes of Kenny Boy.

People often only write to complain, and I’m guilty of that here, but keep up the good work. I never miss a column.

P.S. (and quite late): As an avid Arizona Cardinals fan and someone who had a Pat Tillman jersey when only locals knew his name, cut the guy a break. He learned that he had erred by joining in Bush’s jihad. He just didn’t get out before the bullets got him.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that, had I known what I know now about Pat Tillman, I wouldn’t have drawn that cartoon in 2004.

And finally, there’s this:

Bravo on a brilliant column.

I was wondering if anyone would come out and tell the truth about Buffet and Gates.

Lionizing two ruthless businessmen for charitable giving with money that was essentially stolen from many people over a very long time (legally or illegally stealing is still stealing) was too hard to stomach for me.

This money if distributed equitably and fairly as pay and compensation would have had a far greater effect on charitable giving than these two could possibly do now.

Gates is an anti-trust cheat who bundles software to torpedo competitors and somehow escaped the breakup of his company. Although Europe still has a lot to say about that.

Buffet is a holding company baron who can effectively rule over a vast range of companies through the power of the boards. Since he controls so many boards who knows what he was able to pull off. Collusion, antitrust, cut throat competition etc. I’m sure it is all legal or can’t be proved to be illegal.

The government today tolerates what wasn’t tolerated in Teddy Roosevelt’s time and certainly not tolerated after the great depression. Because of this lax enforcement we have a thousand Ken Lays out there that will never be brought to justice. People’s livelihoods, retirements, college for their kids and the dream of owning a home are rapidly disappearing as the Buffets and Gates take more of what is rightfully other people’s money.

And the most galling is their canonization in the news media for giving away what they can not possibly spend.

As a closing the worst isn’t even these two. Even they blanched at Bush’s economic policies.

July 10, 2006

Counting on Ignorance

Once again, a top Bush Administration official is counting on the average American’s ignorance of recent history to make an assertion that would be laughable were it not such a direct affront to the truth. While visiting a “secret” US military facility in Tajikistan, Donald Rumsfeld blamed the resurgence of Afghan opium production on the Taliban:

“”Anytime there is that much money floating around and you have people like the Taliban, it gives them an opportunity to fund their efforts in various ways,” said the Secretary of Defense.

Of course, the Taliban government ended opium cultivation in Afghanistan in 2000, at the request of the US and UN and at the cost of impoverishing countless Afghan farmers. As those who read my reports from the war zone in 2001 know, it was the return of the Northern Alliance government–which led to the current U.S.-backed Karzai puppet regime–that prompted the current spike in drug production and smuggling across Central Asia.

July 10, 2006

Told You So

Over and over.

Excerpts:

It’s not as if we don’t have a history. When the paras moved into Camp Price just outside Gereshk in May and their commander had his first meeting with local officials, it took the Afghans just 10 minutes to bring up the battle of Maiwand. One of the worst defeats ever suffered by the British Army in which more than 1,000 men were slaughtered by the side of the Helmand River, the battle may have happened in 1880 but Afghans in Helmand talk about it as if it were yesterday and all claim that their forefathers were there.

If any further reminder were needed that one gets involved in Afghanistan at one’s peril, the Kabul headquarters of the Nato-led peacekeeping force is on the site of the old British cantonment. Its entire strength fled from here in January 1842 after a tribal revolt against the British-imposed ruler.

Of the 16,000 soldiers, wives, children and camp followers who left, only one got away; the rest were massacred or taken prisoner by Ghilzai tribesmen. Only Dr William Brydon was deliberately left alive to tell the tale and warn people back home of the consequences of getting involved in Afghanistan.

In a country that has ended up as a graveyard for so many thousands of British soldiers, why don’t we learn from history?

This time the politicians tell us that we have gone to make peace, not war — to “secure the area so that development can take place and extend the reach of the Karzai government”. But we are woefully underequipped for either: already six British soldiers have lost their lives within 24 days, victims once more of the Ghilzai Pashtuns.

Last month saw 53 “TICs” — troops in contact, in other words under Taliban attack — and last week there were two nights during which all but one of the British bases and outposts in Helmand came under attack.

How did it all go so wrong? Why does a senior British military officer talk despairingly of “military and developmental anarchy”?

AFGHANISTAN was supposed to be the success story.

July 10, 2006

Sneak Peak at This Week’s Column

Here’s the first and last paragraph of this week’s column, which is scheduled to go online tonight.

GATES AND BUFFETT: 1000 TIMES WORSE THAN KEN LAY
Why Enron Chief Was Better Than “Philanthropists”
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Ken Lay–all thieves. Compared to the world’s two richest men, however, Lay was small potatoes. So why are we praising them, and kicking Lay while he’s down–six feet down?
[…]
Consider a burglar who boosts your TV and then, thinking better of it, donates it to an orphanage. His act of generosity beats the alternative–keeping it for himself. But you’d probably prefer that he’d returned it to you, or better yet, never stolen it at all.

July 10, 2006

Signs I’m Doing Something Right

One of my cartoons is on the front page of Slate today.

And right-wing ersatz White House reporter/outed gay prostitute cum “Voice of the New Media” Jeff Gannon took a swing at me. With enemies like that, who needs friends?

July 8, 2006

Available for the First Time Online

I am frequently requested for digital versions of my 1995 essay for Might Magazine entitled “Quit Your Job, Work is a Sham.” Heretofore this seminal bit of Generation X arcana had existed only in print in two books, both out of print: my 1998 book REVENGE OF THE LATCHKEY KIDS and a Might anthology entitled “Shiny Adidas Trackshoes and the Death of Camp.” (Dave Eggers has always had trouble coming up with good titles.)

Now thanks to an obsessive blogger’s efforts at transcription, there’s an online version. For the record, Plant Seeds’ efforts are a flagrant copyright violation. Also for the record, I own the copyright and I hereby authorize this particular version because it’s so cool.

There are some typos and a lot of punctuation errors but in deference to the huge demand for this piece, I’m pointing you to it nevertheless.

July 8, 2006

Blind Auction

Time to try something new: the blindest of blind auctions. Up for bids: something that I assure you is very, very tasty: the complete original artwork, comprising 99 full comic pages, of the five graphic novellas in my forthcoming 304-page blockbuster SILK ROAD TO RUIN: IS CENTRAL ASIA THE NEW MIDDLE EAST? My publisher, not the flattering type, calls it the best work of my career.

Not only have I never done this before, I have never before sold a single page from any of my graphic novel format comics. As collectors of comic art know, complete collections of an entire book are almost NEVER sold off by cartoonists.

What, you wanna see the goods? It’s a BLIND auction, silly. Gotta have faith!

OK, so here are the terms:

Minimum Bid for 99 pages of comic art from SILK ROAD TO RUIN: $4,500

(My price for individual cartoons is normally $500 each.)

How to Bid: Send e-mail to chet@rall.com. Highest bid wins. All bids kept private.

Offer Expires: July 22, 2006 (a few days before the book hits stores)

Winning bidder required to pay immediately upon notification.

Minimum bid goes to $10,000 if I do this after July 22, 2006.

Winning buyer is required to cooperate with museums and galleries wishing to borrow artwork for exhibitions.

Copyrights remain with me.

My apologies to people who love my work but can’t afford this admittedly expensive offer. Tasty Ted Rall ephemera at affordable goods to follow at some point in the future.

July 7, 2006

Publisher’s Weekly on Silk Road to Ruin

Publisher’s Weekly, or more precisely Publisher’s Weekly Comics Week, has published an interview with me about my upcoming book SILK ROAD TO RUIN: IS CENTRAL ASIA THE NEW MIDDLE EAST? (NBM Publishing, 304 pp., $22.95 Hardback, August 2006).

Some highlights:

Ted Rall’s Central Asian Adventure
By Sarah Feightner

Syndicated cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall has made a career out of a take-no-prisoners brand of political satire, taking shots from the extreme left wing at such controversial targets as the 9/11 widows and Pulitzer Prize-winning comic book legend Art Spiegelman. With his new book, Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?, coming in August from NBM, Rall hopes to convince readers to care about everyday life and politics in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and a handful of former Soviet republics that the average U.S. citizen probably couldn’t find on a map.

“This will either be a disaster, or the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” Rall says with a grin.

Four years in the making and launching with a 10,000-copy hardcover first printing, this new work of comics nonfiction picks up where his acclaimed 2002 war memoir To Afghanistan and Back (NBM) left off, mixing Rall’s political commentary with a comic travelogue pieced together from numerous trips to the region between 1999 and 2002. Silk Road to Ruin is an eye-opening and unexpectedly funny introduction to Central Asia. Each section explores the political and cultural landscape of one of “The Stans,” as Rall flies, drives or bribes his way across the border. Highlights include a tour of Third World cuisine, oil pipeline politics and the ultraviolent regional sport buzkashii—”the bloodiest and most anarchic sport currently played by the human race”—in which men on horseback duke it out, sometimes to the death, over the body of a dead goat.

“It’s very much the book that I wanted to write instead of To Afghanistan and Back,” says Rall. “I wanted to show that this war in Afghanistan was part of a much bigger thing that 9/11 triggered but really wasn’t the cause of it.”

[…]

While there may be more qualified scholars, better artists and more balanced political commentators out there than Rall, no one else has put together an introduction to Central Asia with as much accessibility, humor and guts as Silk Road to Ruin.

And it’s hard to match Rall’s enthusiasm for the subject. “I want to popularize Central Asia,” he says. “I want to do for Central Asia what Julia Child did for cooking.”