Archive for May, 2007

May 31, 2007

We’ve been too passive and deferential to Iraqi sovereignty
posted by TheDon

I have to admit, that’s EXACTLY what I have thought. Good to see that our military leaders on the ground in Iraq are catching up.

from WSJ:

But even the staunchest supporters of the “surge” strategy acknowledge that the U.S. must do more to push political reconciliation in Baghdad among feuding Sunnis and Shiites. One debate roiling Baghdad now concerns whether the political process is stalled because elected officials are merely inneffectual or because they are more interested in advancing their sectarian agendas than in governance. The strategy review conducted for Gen. Petraeus seems to conclude it is a bit of both. The report argues that Iraq is essentially a failed state and that the U.S. must devote far more effort to making Iraq’s ministries work, said officials who participated in the review.

We’ve been too passive and deferential to Iraqi sovereignty,” says one U.S. military official involved in a review of the surge for Gen. Petraeus. It also recommends that the U.S. take a more active role in “isolating the irreconcilable Iraqi government officials from the reconcilable ones” by demanding they be replaced, said the military official who was involved in the review. Stephen Biddle, who served on the panel, said he believes Iraq is in the midst of a low-grade sectarian civil war and that U.S. forces should be used as leverage to compel Sunnis and Shiites to reach an accord.

Because nothing will win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq, or bestow more legitimacy on their government than having the USofA pick their government ministers. Idiots.

also from that article:

Pentagon officials and the White House are developing rough proposals to begin withdrawing tens of thousands of soldiers sometime next year as a way of defusing some of the public fury over the war and making it less of an issue in next year’s presidential and congressional elections.

Nice to know that the main focus is on winning the next presidential election “meeting our moral obligations to the people of Iraq”, and “fighting them over there or they will follow us home.”

May 31, 2007

Hillary is right
posted by TheDon

The right is having a collective aneurysm over Hillary Clinton’s assertion that it’s time to replace an “on your own” society with one based on shared responsibility and prosperity.

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined a broad economic vision Tuesday, saying it’s time to replace an “on your own” society with one based on shared responsibility and prosperity. The Democratic senator said what the Bush administration touts as an ownership society really is an “on your own” society that has widened the gap between rich and poor.

“I prefer a ‘we’re all in it together’ society,” she said. “I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none.” That means pairing growth with fairness, she said, to ensure that the middle-class succeeds in the global economy, not just corporate CEOs.

“There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed,” she said. “Fairness doesn’t just happen. It requires the right government policies.”

This is being argued as a bad thing. She’s a (gasp!) SOCIALIST!!!

Apparently, if we just let the magical free market work and get the government out of the way, prosperity will cover the land, godly people will prosper and all will be well in the world. Last night I saw Pat Buchanan smirkingly ask, “What does she want to do? Regulate the markets?” Then he laughed his maniacal laugh.

Well, yeah.

People need rules, structures and penalties or BAD things happen. During the monolithic Republican control of the government there was no oversight. Some people in the Executive Branch took the opportunity to grab power and corrupt our government at a breathtaking rate. It didn’t help matters that the “news” outlets were uninterested in pursuing any real corruption or constitutional violations.

Wiretapping. Phony voter fraud prosecutions. Ignoring corruption by fellow Republicans when possible. Putting talentless political hacks in charge of everything. Editing scientific findings to comply with political agendas. No-bid contracts. No-result contracts. Lying to Congress when they even bothered to show up. Lack of oversight and amoral, power-hungry politicians and businessmen combined to create a perfect storm of corruption.

With rules, capitalism is a wonderful economic system which forces innovation, creates wealth and makes a nation strong. Without rules, capitalism is a system which will drive labor costs as low as possible (slaves are preferable), create monopolies, market unsafe products, create unsafe working conditions and create wealth only for the thinnest upper crust. For the Republicans out there, I will point out that these are all BAD things.

Without a sense of community, of shared responsibility, a ‘we’re all in it together’ society, if you will, we can’t create the structures which allow people to prosper. If people don’t think that their hard work will earn them the ability to live happily and retire comfortably, they won’t work. And why would they.

People need to know that their sacrifices will pay off for them and/or their children. They need to know that the whole society (as represented by their government) cares about the $4/gallon gas that is cutting into their budget. They will conserve and scrimp if they know everyone is pulling together to fix the problem. Instead they get cynical manipulation of markets, the highest profits in the history of the world, and $400 million retirement packages. And contempt. Lots of contempt.

It’s the kind of situation that causes people to show up at the polls with more than a little anger. And a sense of shared purpose and responsibilty.

May 31, 2007

Shortwave Report for Central Asia, Part 1
posted by Susan Stark

What is shortwave radio? It is a type of broadcasting where a listener hundreds or thousands of miles away from a transmitter can receive information from that site. The most prominent English-language shortwave broadcaster is still the BBC.

For many of us in the West, shortwave radio is an anachronism. Today we have cable, satellite, and the internet to get our information. But for the vast majority of the world, these methods of information collection are simply out of reach, due to many factors. The main one is cost. With billions of people living on a few dollars a day, they can’t afford the cable, the satellite, or the internet. And those billions are also more likely to live without electricity, so they don’t have television, which is also out of reach due to the cost of a TV set. Even the humble, primitive newspaper is not an option for many because of the lack of literacy.

But radio is still a viable alternative. It’s much cheaper, with AM/FM/SW radios to be had for even less than what they cost in the West. And they run on batteries, so no external electricity is required. For example: according to the New York Times World Almanac, only one percent of Afghan households has a TV, but at least one out of every ten persons has a radio. That is potentially one radio for each large household—no small feat for such a poverty-stricken nation.

What does this mean? It means that shortwave transmissions are more numerous going to Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where the listeners are, than in North America, where there aren’t as many.

Shortwave Listening in Central Asia:

With Central Asia, it’s location alone might guarantee a richness of shortwave transmissions. It is surrounded by Europe in the north; by the Middle East and Africa in the west; by Pakistan, India, Bangladesh in the south; and by all the countries east of it, such as China, Burma, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia . . . . . the list goes on.

Shortwave radio listening is at its best away from power and telephone lines. Modern concrete buildings with wires running through them tend to hinder transmissions, so you may have to stick your antenna out a window when lodging in a city hotel, such as in Tashkent and the like (make sure the radio can’t fall OUT the window when you do that). But in cities, the local AM/FM stations should be interesting since they haven’t been taken over by ClearChannel, or so I hope.

However, the countryside can be much better for shortwave radio listening, particularly if you’re in wooden or mud lodgings. Stone lodging is better than concrete. If the weather is rainy, or if there’s a thunderstorm, this could hinder transmissions. The mountains might interfere with listening, but not too much because shortwave frequencies bounce off the atmosphere, unlike AM/FM waves.

That’s it for now.

May 30, 2007

We’re in a dogfight with the terrorists
Posted by TheDon

I don’t know how it’s playing around the country, but in Atlanta we are following the story of Mike Vick *allegedly* being in the dog fighting business with a lot of interest. It’s a bottom-feeder sport which appeals to the most cruel instincts of “humans”. In order to be involved in the “sport”, you have to believe that it’s ok to train dogs to tear each other to pieces.

from SI.com:

“It’s [Vick’s] property; it’s his dogs. If that’s what he wants to do, do it,” Portis said. He added that if Vick were convicted of dogfighting, he would be “behind bars for no reason.”

It’s the same mentality that allows the current White House to kidnap, torture, rape, bomb and kill “terrorists” – as defined by them. In their minds, terrorists are generally brown people, generally Islamists, and always hate America. Terrorists are NOT good-old-boys from Alabama with guns and bombs, looking for abortion clinics to blow up real good. They are NOT attendees of Jerry Falwell’s funeral, looking to use home-made bombs to stop troublemakers. They are certainly NOT human.

So torture away, Gonzo. Keep Gitmo open, Bob Gates. And keep killing A-Rabs, Mr President. If that’s what you want to do, do it. And if anyone goes to jail for war crimes, perjury, obstruction of justice or corruption during the execution or defense of your plans, they will be “behind bars for no reason.” In your evil low-life minds.

May 30, 2007

Ted’s in Central Asia…But New Guest Bloggers Are in Da House!

The siren call of the Stans is luring me back to the windswept steppes and soaring peaks of post-Soviet Central Asia and tumultuous South Asia too, but the Rallblog won’t be dormant while I’m traipsing through the Pamirs. Instead, say hi to my special new guest bloggers who’ll expound on anything and everything they deem interesting.

Enjoy and see you soon.

May 30, 2007

Be very afraid
posted by TheDon

I’m really afraid that when the current administration is told this:

The NYT fronts word that experts who are advising intelligence agencies say the interrogation techniques used since 2001 are outdated and inefficient. In a study commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, the experts said the government has not taken the time to perfect interrogation techniques and is frequently relying on harsh tactics that are ineffective. Some are urging intelligence agencies to pick up new techniques from sources such as law enforcement and marketing. “We have a whole science literature on persuasion,” one of the experts said. “It’s mostly on how to get a person to buy a certain brand of toothpaste. But it certainly could be useful in improving interrogation.”

the only part they hear is “the interrogation techniques used since 2001 are outdated and inefficient”. And maybe toothpaste.

May 25, 2007

New Cartoon Collections by FORs:

If you’re in the market for some interesting, hard-hitting political cartoons, please check out two new books by my friends Mikhaela Reid and Masheka Wood. Mikhaela was in “Attitude 2” and Masheka is up and coming. Both are self-published, so every dollar (well, most of them) goes to cartoonists at a critical time in their careers. Come on, support new talent, folks! Ordering information, etc. follows:

Mikhaela and Masheka’s Books:


Attack of the 50-Foot Mikhaela! Cartoons by Mikhaela Reid (Foreword by Ted Rall).

Bushies are bum-rushing Cheney’s secret bunker! Ex-gays are quaking in their closets! Abstinence educators are shivering in their shiny silver purity rings! Greedy CEOs are heading for the hills and Minutemen are bolting for the border! Cartoonist Mikhaela Reid is on the rampage—and no hypocrite is safe! Attack features 150 of Reid’s greatest cartoon hits, plus rarities, odds, ends and behind-the-scenes commentary! Available June 4 at Lulu.com!


Deep Doodle: Cartoons by Masheka Wood.

Masheka Wood takes you deep into the warped, candy-colored recesses of his brain as he tackles a variety of social, political and just plain grody targets. Here are Wood’s “Not Just Knee Deep” cartoons, assorted illustrations and a delicious dose of old-school comics. Prepare to lose your mind—or your lunch! Wood’s work has appeared on MTV, The New Standard and Jackson State University’s art exhibit, “Other Heroes: African American comics creators, characters, and archetypes.” He is a 2007 Glyph Comics Award nominee for ‘Rising Star.’ Available now at Lulu.com!

Mikhaela and Masheka’s Book Tour:

Click on any of these events for more details or view the calendar here.

May 16, 2007

A Compliment I Don’t Deserve, or, “Hi, Coppers!”

The New York Times reports that the New York Police Department monitored this very here “Search and Destroy” website during its manic run-up to the 2004 Republican National Convention, which was held in New York and became infamous as the site of “Little Gitmo”—a system of disused piers transformed into concentration camps where protesters and random passersby were held incommunicado for as long as four days, without being charged.

Here is the Times:

Some highlights from the police intelligence digests:

An Oct. 9, 2003 digest showing that the Police Department shared information with other law enforcement agencies about Bands Against Bush. “The mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,” one police officer wrote.
A Nov. 13, 2003 digest noting the Web site of the editorial cartoonist and activist Ted Rall. “Activists are talking, some with barely hidden glee, about the possibility of violence,” an officer wrote, describing postings on Mr. Rall’s site. [emphasis added]
A March 5, 2004 digest citing Aron Kay, a k a “Yippie Pie Man,” who was planning to apply for camping permits so that activists could sleep in Tompkins Square Park during the convention. “The permit application will reportedly be submitted on behalf of an activist group ‘Rainbow Affinity Tribe,’” the officer noted.

The Times story also contains a link to the NYPD dossier on yours truly, the Dreaded “Activist”:

“Ted Rall is a Columbia University graduate who earns a living as a cartoonist/radio host and has been published in the Village voice.[sic]
Ted Rall is a nationally known activist figure.”

No wonder our security state can’t find bin Laden: they can’t even get the basics right.

I’m no activist. I marched during the 2003 anti-Iraq War demo in New York, but before that it had been many years since I’d been active in any political organization. (The Dukakis campaign sort of ended my interest in conventional politicking.) Many of my friends are activists, and I admire them for it. Next to them, I’m a mere lump on a log who opines on current events from behind my computer and drafting table.

Also, it wasn’t just stuff posted on my “website,” as they say–it was my syndicated column, which also happens to appear at my website. Saying that this material is from a website is like saying the New York Times is a website, which it is–but it also misses the point.

Another reason they can’t find bin Laden: they’re so worried about the “traitors” in their midst that they’ve lost sight of America’s real enemies.

May 15, 2007

Jerry and Me

My contempt for Jerry Falwell pales compared to that I feel for his ideological contemporary Ronald Reagan, but I do have a couple of personal recollections–one professional, the other personal.

My very first major controversy over a cartoon took place in 1980, when the Vandalia (Ohio) Chronicle published my send-up of the then-nascent Moral Majority. (You only have to consider the group’s name to understand the level of arrogance and hatred–we’re the majority, so the rest of y’all sit down and shut up–that motivated its leader and followers.)

When the paper’s publisher, who belonged to the Moral Majority himself, saw the cartoon, he hit the roof and demanded that the editor publish an apology. Rather than capitulate, she quit. I was shocked, but she shrugged. “No editor would give into censorship,” she explained. How editors have changed!

Then, last year, I appeared in a split-screen broadcast with the Reverend (who was in Lynchburg, Virginia) during a political debate on Fox or MSNBC, I forget which. Anyway, I was unfailingly polite (I always am, until and unless the other party insults me), sticking only to the issues at hand. Falwell, on the other hand, launched straight into a personal, ad hominem, attack worthy of Mr. Attack Dog, Sean Hannity, himself.

I have to admit it: This oh-so-jaded pundit was surprised. The dude’s a preacher, for God’s sake. Doesn’t he at least have to pretend to act like a civilized human being? Evidently not.

As far as his political legacy goes, Falwell’s was obviously a poisonous one, channeling and giving voice to people who, frankly, aren’t kind or intelligent enough to deserve one. (The uniformed and/or stupid shouldn’t be taken seriously, or vote. You don’t see me talking about sports because, well, I don’t know enough about sports to have anything worth saying in public.)

Falwell was a mean, bitter, very small man, and the world is better off without him.

May 13, 2007

Three Troops Missing in Iraq

4,000 U.S. soldiers are searching for them. For three people.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped–some by gangs, others by insurgents, others by U.S. forces. But the U.S. occupation forces don’t lift a finger to find them.

It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again anyway: Until we start acting like other people’s lives count for as much as Americans, people overseas are going to hate our guts. Who can blame them, really?