Archive for December, 2006

December 27, 2006

Happy New Year, Ann Coulter

Yesterday I sent the following e-mail to those who promised to support a lawsuit against Ann Coulter.

Earlier this year I contemplated filing a lawsuit for slander and libel against columnist Ann Coulter in order to hold her accountable for her verbal and written statements to the effect that I had entered Iran’s contest for cartoons about (presumably denying/mocking) the Holocaust. These statements, though false, prompted people ignorant of Coulter’s long history of publishing lies to believe that I was anti-Semitic. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I wanted the chance to set the record straight in court.

One needs to have two things on one’s side to win a lawsuit: money and the law. Toward the first end I reached out to readers outraged by Coulter’s malicious smears against me and others whose only crime is criticizing the Bush Administration. They—you—didn’t let me down. I obtained serious pledge commitments (I asked readers not to send the actual money until and unless I filed a suit) sufficient to make fighting a suit against a moneyed defendant like Coulter feasible.

Because I am opposed to burdening the legal system with vanity litigation, I decided that I would only sue if I had an excellent chance to win. Therefore I asked my attorneys to exhaustively research case precedents relative to slander and libel in New York State and under federal law. Months of research have forced me to conclude that, though a lawsuit against Coulter would certainly withstand initial challenges and motions to dismiss and might ultimately prevail through verdicts and subsequent appeals, the road ahead is too uncertain to justify spending thousands of dollars of pledges, not to mention my own money.

Unlike Bush, I don’t enter into battles I’m not certain of winning.

More than ever, I believe that Coulter’s attempts to assassinate my character are illegal as well a reprehensible. Unfortunately, she may have sufficiently muddied the waters with her toxic brand of commentary that she might be able to avoid a judgment against her by claiming First Amendment protection as a satirist. If Ann Coulter tells a joke, does anyone laugh? If not, is it a joke?

The interesting legal conundrum for Coulter is that she would have had to testify either that (a) she intended her audience to believe I had entered the Iranian cartoon contest or (b) it was just a joke. She couldn’t cop to (a) without getting smacked with a libel and/or slander judgment. If she claimed (b), however, she’d be admitting that she is not, as she presents herself on Fox and other TV networks, a serious political analyst, but rather a comedienne—or attempted one, anyway. It would have brought her ill-begotten career as a talking head, if not to a crashing halt, to a stall. So which is it, Ann? Are you a pundit or a comic? I regret that I’m not going to get to watch her figure that one out at a deposition.

So there’s not going to be a Rall v. Coulter—at least not now. Look at the bright side, though—she could still go down for possible vote fraud!

December 27, 2006

Jonathan Chait in the LA Times

Jonathan Chait’s column in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times suggests putting Saddam Hussein back in charge of Iraq. Nice thought, or at least I thought so when I wrote it first. (I won’t even mention the cartoon I drew about it over a year ago.)

December 21, 2006

Turkmenbashi Dies: Central Asia on the Brink

The Central Asia-based conflagration that I predict in SILK ROAD TO RUIN began today with the death of the 66-year-old absolute dictator of Turkmenistan, Sapamurat “Turkmenbashi” Niyazov. Niyazov is the first of the generation of Soviet-era Communist Party bosses who ran all of the southern “Stan” republics of Central Asia to die in office since independence in 1991.

Unlike Fidel Castro’s Cuba and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, no successor was ever designated and a ferocious power struggle has broken out in Ashkhabat, the Turkmen capital, where the constitutional heir has been arrested by a heretofore unknown deputy prime minister who has seized power as acting president.

Turkmenistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan and controls the world’s largest reserves of natural gas on earth–as well as key refineries and pipelines that process and carry Kazakh crude oil–is entering a dangerous period of political instability. Long-suppressed tribal rivalries and religious schisms will rise to the fore. Though hardly inevitable, a steady decline and eventual civil war are possible and indeed probable.

Energy futures traders are stunned by the news, and higher energy prices will almost certainly result.

Look for Russia and the United States to vie for control of post-Niyazov Turkmenistan through proxies within and outside of the country, and for possible military in intervention by one, or possibly both nations, during 2007.

Niyazov’s death marks the beginning of the end of the fragile post-Soviet order in
Central Asia, which has been held together by despotism. The future can only go in one of three directions now: Western military occupation, failed statehood, or–least likely–radical Islamism. The War on Terror is over. The New Great Game is afoot.

The most comprehensive essay ever written about Niyazov is a chapter titled “The Glory That Is Turkmenbashi” in my recent book SILK ROAD TO RUIN: IS CENTRAL ASIA THE NEW MIDDLE EAST?. The book also contains a detailed overview of Turkmenistan and its role vis-à-vis American foreign policy.

Here’s a sneak peak at “The Glory That Is Turkmenbashi”:

In a region where no one can imagine a president who isn’t an egotistical tyrant, posters of each country’s beloved benevolent despot festoon every police checkpoint and corruption is merely an economical word to describe business as usual, saying that Turkmenbashi’s Turkmenistan sets the standard for autocracy is selling him short. Not only has the Central Asian dictator created the most elaborate and grotesquely comical personality cult since Ptolemy put the pharaohs out of business two thousand years ago, his unique blending of naked greed and breathtakingly obvious stupidity has elevated autocracy to an art form. He has also reduced one of the world’s intrinsically wealthiest nations into a paragon of despair and near universal poverty.

Wherever you travel in this desolate desert nation nestled between southwest Russia and Iran, Turkmenbashi is there. Giant posters bearing his face and his ubiquitous Nazi-inspired motto “Halk, Watan, Turkmenbashi!” (“One Nation, One People, One Leader”) adorn every building, public and private in a country that would otherwise most notable for its meteorological inhospitability to the five million people doomed to have been born there. Signs bearing his quotes and images of the not-so-great dictator’s face are everywhere you turn. Turkmenbashi is on a painting behind the hotel receptionist. He’s on the businessman’s lapel pin, hanging from the taxi driver’s rearview mirror, even on a pendant hanging around the casino prostitute’s neck. He’s on T-shirts, CDs, DVDs, groceries, mosques, his own line of cologne. No one can get away from Turkmenbashi—not even in the desert.

Turkmenistan one of the few countries on earth to not have a river run through it. Its vast Karakum desert is home to animals—cobras, scorpions, giant monitor lizards and zemzen (“land crocodiles”)—that bite and sting and claw with alarming ferocity and regularity. Temperature readings of more than one hundred fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit in the shade are not uncommon; heat exceeding one hundred is standard. There is, however, no shade in this, the westernmost nation of Central Asia. Water is processed and piped in from the oil-fouled Caspian Sea and the Amu Darya river (Alexander the Great called it the Oxus) running along the eastern border with Uzbekistan. Most Turkmen are nomads similar in culture and tradition to the Bedouin. Outside the capital Ashkhabat and a few outlying provincial capitals, Turkmen set up their yurts wherever a few blades of grass poke out of the sand to feed their camels. City life, secularized by seven decades of Soviet rule, features grim mafia-run discos and thinly-patronized English-style pubs with CNN piped in on a time delay so that news about Turkmenistan and its Central Asian neighbors can be intercepted and blacked out. Even the U.S. embassy is isolated; Turkmenbashi cuts off international telephone and Internet service for weeks at a time. Out in the desert, old traditions live on. Women carry their clan’s savings in clunky silver jewelry hollowed out to hold bank notes; touching, much less robbing, a woman, is just cause for murder. Nomadic hospitality, on the other hand, occasionally prompts men to loan their wives to sate the desires of passing travelers. They would, after all, do the same for them. Sometimes they sell them; the going rate for a tribal wife is two to five thousand dollars depending on age, appearance and personality.
It feels like the end of the world. But in the windblown desert, along remote stretches of road that see less than one vehicle daily, immense billboards have been erected to proclaim the glory that is Turkmenbashi. Halk! Watan! Turkmenbashi!

December 21, 2006

Suicide Girls Interview with Ted Rall

There’s an interview with me about SILK ROAD TO RUIN at the Suicide Girls website and another one about my choice of Richard Stevens’ Diesel Sweeties at The Daily Cartoonist.

December 20, 2006

iPod Offer Gone

A benevolent reader has taken me up on my iPod offer.

December 15, 2006

Ban the Republican Party

A reader responding to my column “When is a Win Not a Win?” from a few weeks ago has sent me a persuasive case for banning the Republican Party. As in making it illegal for the GOP to hold meetings or run for office. Forever.

It’s not as wild as you might thing. Political parties are banned all over the earth. For instance, the Communist Party is banned in Russia and the Nazi Party is prohibited in Germany. The Republican Party hasn’t murdered in the tens of millions, but why wait? The current band of GOP criminals, just getting started, has already killed over 600,000 Iraqis. While they’re currently on the wane, they’re a malevolent influence who will surely return to make America a worse place sooner rather than later.

Anyway, it’s tough medicine and I’ll have to think about it, but here’s John Cutaia’s argument for disbanding the Republicans. I love the second and third graphs:

Dear Ted,

Once again, kudos for a fine piece of writing. I would like to add, however, one more goal to the Democratic Party’s agenda: Destroy the Republican Party. End it forever.

Democrats should do so by going straight to the American public and pounding on the following charges:

Republicans have attempted to destroy our constitution by tearing down the wall between church and state. They have attempted to subvert our constitution to create a theocracy. The GOP itself is guilty of treason.

Republicans nominated a man unfit for the presidency, a man who lacks the intellectual curiosity, the disposition, and the decency to be president of the United States. They knew he was incompetent when they nominated him. They put the quest for power above the good of the nation. They have committed treason. The GOP should cease to exist as a political party.

Republicans have destroyed our environment. During the 1990s, a critical time during which we could have begun reversing global climate change, they funded corporate pseudo scientists to befuddle the public and browbeat the media into believing, against all reason and common sense, that humans are not responsible for the rapid global
climate change we are experiencing. They have put not just our country but the world at risk. The GOP should cease to exist.

Republicans have been attempting to destroy our public education system for the past 30 years. In doing so, they have attacked the very foundation of our democratic society: An educated populace capable of analytical thought. The GOP deserves to be abolished from American politics forever for this crime.

Republicans have destroyed American foreign policy, destroyed our global credibility, played upon fears to justify a senseless war, and ultimately served as a recruiting tool for terrorists. No political party should be allowed to survive after such a blunder.

And finally Republicans have turned Americans against Americans, families against families, gays against straights, religious against nonreligious. They have preyed on our bigotry. They have appealed to the basest instincts of human nature: To hate what one does not understand.

For all these crimes and more, against our nation, against the world, against the constitution, against individuals, no one should ever vote Republican again.

December 12, 2006

San Francisco Book Signing

I will discuss, answer questions about and sign copies of my two new books “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?” (NBM, 304 pp. hb $22.95) and “America Gone Wild: Cartoons by Ted Rall” (Andrews McMeel, 168 pp. ppb $13.95). “Silk Road to Ruin,” named a Best Book of 2006 by School Library Journal, was described by the San Diego Union-Tribune as “a crash course on Central Asia, essential for anyone who’s at all interested in what the U.S. is up to (see: oil, projection of power) in the region, and what’s likely in store for us (see: blowback).” “America Gone Wild” features my controversial post-9/11 cartoons as well as a lengthy introduction explaining the origin of and reaction to now-notorious strips about Terror Widows, Pat Tillman, the death of Ronald Reagan and New York firefighters in the year 2011.

Date: Sunday, January 14, 2007

Time: 4 p.m.

Location:

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Fisherman’s Wharf
2550 Taylor Street
San Francisco, CA 94133

December 12, 2006

Since I Know About Media Pile-ons…

Count me out of the Bruce “Mallard Fillmore” Tinsley DUI pile-on. It’s icky.

I’ve only had one interaction with the cartoonist, and it was a singularly pleasant one. I invited him to be interviewed for one of my ATTITUDE anthologies. Why? Well, he draws in a different style, he’s political and he takes unorthodox positions. In other words, he’s a subversive (conservative) cartoonist. “Mallard Fillmore” ain’t no “Doonesbury” (what is?), but it’s much better than people–liberal people–say. Mallard detractors mostly despise his politics, but rather than simply say that they insult the strip’s execution. Well, if it’s bullshit when it happens to me, it’s bullshit when it happens to him.

Unfortunately I was unable to secure, despite Tinsley’s sincere attempts, the rights to reprint his strips. This sucks, because I really wanted to have some conservative artists in the book.

As for the DUI, well, that could happen to anyone who knocks back three or four beers in an hour or two in a city without decent mass transit, i.e., most people reading this. Speculation that he’s an alcoholic is just that. If Tinsley has issues, he ought to be allowed the privacy to seek help without being ridiculed by a Standard Issue American Media Pile-on. If not, one presumes he’ll choose a designated driver next time.

The hypocrisy issue has come up. After all, Tinsley often mocks Ted Kennedy for alleged drunkenness in his strip. It’s a valid criticism, for sure, but the above stuff is why I would urge people to lay off. Being liberal, after all, means being understanding–even to those who aren’t understanding themselves. Besides, mocking TK’s supposed drinkyness (sic) isn’t exactly on par with the hypocrisy of those who dodged the draft sending other people’s children to war. Tinsley’s sins are of taste, not life or death.

Cut the dude some slack, and let him figure out his life.

December 10, 2006

Ted Rall on Animated Cartoons in Newsweek

There’s a short piece about the decision of some editorial cartoonists to animate their work in this week’s Newsweek. I’ve got a quote in there.

I too would like to follow innovators like Mark Fiore (see image above) by attempting to make the move to moving images, but simply don’t have the time to learn and do all that Flash animation myself. I suspect that time constraints will be responsible for keeping many cartoonists from animating their work. This could change were companies interested in partnering with cartoonists, as some talked about doing at the height of the dot-com boom, but so far that just hasn’t happened. For the foreseeable future, therefore, look for American political cartooning to remain static, and the overall number of cartoonists to continue to decline as newspapers continue to eliminate them.

December 9, 2006

The Cassandra Chronicles Revisted

Now that only 9% of Americans believe the war in Iraq can be won, it’s easy to forget how bad things got for those of us who were against it from the beginning. As the Great Northern Plains blog reminds us, those of us who stood up against this idiotic war against Iraq were getting trashed by the radical right while the moderates and liberals quivered in fearful silence. Paul Krugman referenced this typical Weekly Standard piece in his normally excellent New York Times column, but fumbled by focussing on elected officials trashed by the radical right rather than on the journalists and other citizens who actually paid a price for being correct.

Here’s the section about Yours Truly:

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

I assume that the “conspiracy theory” book they’re referring to was GAS WAR, which detailed the development of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project, a project neoconservative Republicans like Brendan Nyhan said was pure fiction. Now, of course, the pipeline is under construction even as Afghanistan collapses into worse chaos. As for my quote, well, looks like I called that one right. As usual.

Now that my politics have been vindicated, will the publications that censored my cartoons because of my politics between 2001 and 2005 apologize to their readers and pick them back up again? Don’t hold your breath. After all, being the Week In Review editor of the New York Times means never having to say you’re sorry.