THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: WAR ZERO

Nothing Honorable About the Vietnam War

Every presidential candidacy relies on a myth. Reagan was a great communicator; Clinton felt your pain. Both storylines were ridiculous. But rarely are the constructs used to market a party nominee as transparent or as fictional as those we’re being asked to swallow in 2008.

On the left–OK, not–we have Barack Obama. “The best orator of his generation!” says Ed Rendell, the Democratic power broker who has a day job as governor of Pennsylvania. “The best orator since Cicero!” Republican strategist Mary Matalin swoons. No doubt, Obama reads a mean speech. Take his Teleprompter away, though, and the dude is as lost as George Bush at a semiotics class. Forced to answer reporters’ questions off the cuff, Obama is so afraid of messing up that he…carefully…spaces…each…word…apart…
so…he…can…see…them…
coming…wayyy…in…advance.

Still more laughable than the notion of Obama as the second coming of JFK is the founding myth of the McCain campaign: (a) he is a war hero, and (b) said heroism increases his credibility on national security issues. “A Vietnam hero and national security pro,” The New York Times calls him in a typical media blandishment.

John McCain fought in Vietnam. There was nothing noble, much less heroic, about fighting in that war.

Some Americans may be suffering another of the periodic attacks of national amnesia that prevent us from honestly assessing our place in the world and its history, but others recall the truth about Vietnam: it was a disastrous, unjustifiable mess that anyone with an ounce of sense was against at the time.

Between one and two million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans were sent to their deaths by a succession of presidents and Congresses–fed to the flames of greed, hubris, and stupidity. The event used to justify starting the war–the Tonkin Gulf “incident”–never happened. The Vietnam War’s ideological foundation, the mantra cited to keep it going, was disproved after we lost. No Southeast Asian “dominos” fell to communism. To the contrary, the effect of the U.S. withdrawal was increased stability. When genocide broke out in neighboring Cambodia in the late 1970s, it was not the U.S., but a unified Vietnamese army–the evil communists–who stopped it.

Not even General Wesley Clark, shot four times in Vietnam, is allowed to question the McCain-as-war-hero narrative. “Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president,” he argued. The Obama campaign, which sells its surrogates down the river with alarming regularity, promptly hung the former NATO commander out to dry: “Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain’s service, and of course he rejects yesterday’s statement by General Clark.”

Even in an article criticizing the media for repeatedly framing McCain as a war hero, the liberal website Media Matters concedes: “McCain is, after all, a war hero; everybody agrees about that.”

Not everyone.

I was 12 when the last U.S. occupation troops fled Saigon. I remember how I–and most Americans–felt at the time.

We were relieved.

By the end of Nixon’s first term most people had turned against the war. Gallup polls taken in 1971 found that about 70 percent of Americans thought sending troops to Vietnam had been a mistake. Some believed it was immoral; others considered it unwinnable.

Since then, the political center has shifted right. We’ve seen the Reagan Revolution, Clinton’s Democratic centrism, and Bush’s post-9/11 flirtation with neo-McCarthyite fascism. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Americans–including Republicans–still think we should never have fought the Vietnam War.

“After the war’s 1975 conclusion,” Michael Tomasky wrote in The American Prospect in 2004, “Gallup has asked the question (“Did the U.S. make a mistake in sending troops to fight in Vietnam?”) five times, in 1985, 1990, 1993, 1995, and 2000. All five times…respondents were consistent in calling the war a mistake by a margin of more than 2 to 1: by 74 percent to 22 percent in 1990, for example, and by 69 percent to 24 percent in 2000.”

Moreover, Tomasky continued, “vast majorities continue to call the war ‘unjust.'” Even in 2004, after 9/11, 62 percent considered the war unjust. Only 33 percent still thought it was morally justified.

Vietnam was an illegal, undeclared war of aggression. Can those who fought in that immoral war really be heroes? This question appeared settled after Reagan visited a cemetery for Nazi soldiers, including members of the SS, at Bitburg, West Germany in 1985. “Those young men,” claimed Reagan, “are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.”

Americans didn’t buy it. Reagan’s poll numbers, typically between 60 and 65 percent at the time, plunged to 41 percent after the visit. Those who fight for an evil cause receive no praise.

So why is the McCain-as-war-hero myth so hard to unravel? By most accounts, John McCain demonstrated courage as a P.O.W., most notably by refusing his captors’ offer of early release. But that doesn’t make him a hero.

Hell, McCain isn’t even a victim.

At a time when more than a fourth of all combat troops in Vietnam were forcibly drafted (the actual victims), McCain volunteered to drop napalm on “gooks” (his term, not mine). He could have waited to see if his number came up in the draft lottery. Like Bush, he could have used family connections to weasel out of it. Finally, he could have joined the 100,000 draft-eligible males–true heroes, to a man–who went to Canada rather than kill people in a war that was plainly wrong.

When McCain was shot down during his 23rd bombing sortie, he was happily shooting up a civilian neighborhood in the middle of a major city. Vietnamese locals beat him when they pulled him out of a local lake; yeah, that must have sucked. But I can’t help think of what would have happened to Mohammed Atta had he somehow wound up alive on a lower Manhattan street on 9/11. How long would he have lasted?

Maybe he would have made it. I don’t know. But I do know this: no one would ever have considered him a war hero.

COPYRIGHT 2008 TED RALL

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61 Responses to “”

  1. Angelo Says:

    Great article. Love all the disclaimers.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    McCain = Mohammed Atta! I love it! Ted, you’ve got balls!

  3. Clownstotheleftjokerstotheright Says:

    Good column. A very valid argument. Not one that I totally agree with, but more than a fair making of your case. Well done!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    “I was 12 when the last U.S. occupation troops fled Saigon. I remember how I–and most Americans–felt at the time. We were relieved.”

    12 years old and you were “relieved”? Uhhh … right. 12 year olds don’t stress out about foreign policy. They’re playing in Little League and discovering the wonders of masturbation.

    Get over yourself Rall.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Funny that the guy who started these two wars didn’t ‘fight for his country’ in Vietnam. Some experience he had, and yet here we are in two wars..

    that last paragraph is a brilliant comparison!

  6. Ted Rall Says:

    You bet I was worried about Vietnam. When I was eight, I watched the draft lottery on TV and asked my mom whether I’d have to go there when I was 18. “Maybe,” she replied.

    I was a total news dork. In 1972, when I was nine, I enthusiastically helped pass out McGovern flyers to my right-wing neighbors.

    I know there are lots of kids today who are politically engaged as well.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Vietnam: Another war started by a Democrat based on lies.

  8. Lewis Ranja Says:

    While your usual gang of admirers are busy fellating you, I feel the need to point out a few things –

    (1) Your comparison of John McCain to Mohammmed Atta is idiotic. McCain was targeting an energy factory that was feeding the enemy. Yes, it was planted in a major city – but that does not exempt it from being targeted. A war can’t be fought without collateral damage. It’s simply impossible. Comparing that with the intentional destruction of a civilian building is moronic.

    And, yes, I can already hear your response. “So how was a Vietnamese energy plant different than an American business building – don’t they both feed their respective enemy?” The answer to that is “You are right, there is no difference – except one. They are the enemy.”

    You see, it all comes down to a scene in the movie “Kill Bill”. (Get ready to have a temper tantrum, Aggie). I think this scene is essential to understanding foreign military policy. It’s two scenes, really.

    Scene One- Budd is talking to Bill about how Beatrix Kiddo is out to get them. He explains that Beatrix is right in her desire to kill both himself and Bill. “She deserves her revenge. And we deserve to die.”

    Scene Two – SPOILER ALERT. Budd fires some rock salt into Beatrix’ tits and then buries her alive.

    So what’s the point? It’s that Budd understands his own interests (specifically his interest to survive) supersede the interests of his opponent. And so, the point emerges.

    Our need to stop the spread of Communism (which we failed at, as it infiltrated our own nation through the daft Filthy Hippie movement – an effect that plagues us to this day) superseded anything else. Maybe Atta felt the same way when he attacked us. But my question is “Who gives a shit?” His goal is our destruction. The goal of the Vietnam War (a 100% justifiable war – unlike the current war in Iraq) was the survival of our society. And so those who fought for our war are heroes. Those who fight for their war are villains. There is no relativism. There is only survival.

    That’s a concept that you and your mindless fellaters can’t understand.

    More about the Vietnam War and why it was a great war later. But I’m 12 hours ahead of you people, and I need to go to bed.

    I certainly hope this post gets through – my last ones have been blocked by mysterious forces.

    P.S. I still want Ted to tell me why he lives in America. If he is opposed to everything that America has historically stood for (Capitalist, small-government, free-market economics) then why doesn’t he just grow some balls and leave the country? That’s what I did (for the opposite reasons that he did, of course, as I’m a Libertarian). Come on, Ted. I’m sure there’s a country that will fit your desires. Come by old place in China. See what that Korean War truce did for the people here. Hooray for Liberalism!!!!!!

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I remember CBS had a news-for-kids segment called “In The News”. It ran at 5 minutes to the hour during their Saturday morning cartoon schedule. They used to report on what was happening in Vietnam. I was 6 or 7 when this started running and, as a child, I couldn’t understand why the North was the “Good Guys” in the Civil War but the North were the “Bad Guys” in Vietnam. So I started READING BOOKS AND THE NEWSPAPERS to find out what was going on. You see, back in the late 60’s and early 70’s the country wanted to inform kids on the world they would someday be resposible for. So they would question authority and never let what Happened in Germany happen here.This paved the way for many arguments with my ELEMENTARY school teachers over the war and other topics like “Reagan as President would be a bad idea ’cause he’s an actor”.(76 Primary) Unlike today where the majority of kids have no idea what’s going on, totally sheltered from anything controversial, except sex. They all know what the cast of “High School Musical” looks like naked. Great. A nation of sheep that have no idea of the the great things gained and squandered after WW2. And why not keep ’em stupid? They’ll be just like all you other idiots that feel shredding the Constitution is a good idea. No fear, memory is a stranger, history is for fools. BIG BROTHER!!! BIG BROTHER!!! BIG BROTHER!!!!

  10. Anonymous Says:

    PS SPORTS, THE OPIATE OF THE MASSES. Dorme Bene….

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Great argument, Ted.

    It’s a real shame that this point of view, which is almost self-evident, is taboo in the mainstream press.

    –Dave

  12. Aggie Dude Says:

    Anon, 12:33, nice way to miss a point…that attitude is what’s wrong with this country.

    Ted, I love this article, and I think a lot of the points could even be extended to World War II. Everyone who goes to war is a “war hero.” What gives? What’s so glorious and heroic about human tragedy? There are no good wars, only wars in which the better option prevails. . . which I don’t necessarily believe happened in World War I.

    As for this mythic heroism that’s suppose to propel McCain to the White-whore-House, notice it didn’t work for John Kerry? No, it’s only the gung ho soldiers who are heroes, the ones who say they’re anti-war are traitors…WTF?

    McCain’s experience as a POW being tortured should actually DISQUALIFY him from being president. I don’t want someone with that level of trauma to have control of the country. Think about this argument; that we can’t let the innocent people out because even if they weren’t terrorists then, they will be now. It’s a decent argument actually, and an argument for why someone with McCain’s war experience is probably not a good choice.

    Lastly, the connection between fighting in a war and national security is specious at BEST. What do those two have to do with each other? What does that say about George W Bush? It’s like when you see a fast food restaurant advertise a new and improved product while trying not to admit that the current product is crap.

    He’s part of a conservative cold war mentality that clearly asserts national security through militarism. If it isn’t already obvious to these people that entire world view is phony, I don’t actually know what would convince Americans of the fact.

    Excellent article. Why are Americans so obsessed with “the good war” to the point that every war becomes “a good war.”?

    I don’t know the answer to that, but I suspect it has something to do with keeping the military industrial complex fat and happy.

  13. The Reverend Mr. Smith Says:

    As (as far as I know) the only person who would compare John McCain to Mohommed Atta in a nationally syndicated column (which shoots to the top of Yahoo’s Most Popular Opinion list soon after release), you’re one of MY heroes!

    I can imagine Ann Coulter’s blood boiling. It’s not a pretty image, because it’s Ann Coulter.

  14. Anders Says:

    Anon @7/16/08 11:23 AM;
    I was pretty relieved myself when I was 13 and there seemed to be a hope for lasting peace in the Middle East. (Oslo Accords -our media hyped it; Nationalism at it’s best. Nor-way! Nor-way! Nor-way!)
    Anyone who’s opinions of young people are like yours are just speaking out of their own personal memories.

  15. Aggie Dude Says:

    “The answer to that is “You are right, there is no difference – except one. They are the enemy.””

    Wow, way to miss a point.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    As always Ted, thank you for desperately needed point of view.

    They praise McCain as a War Hero for not dying. My grandpa used to tell me that “Assh*les” live the longest”, maybe that is why they don’t want to talk about age.

    Should we praise Obama for not saggin his pants and lack of Bling? Everyone says how great a speaker he is. Why? Because he doesn’t speak Ebonics?

    When it comes to Policy, McCain is a Flip Flopper and Obama is like a Mad Lib (lots of open spaces so he can fill in the blanks later)done in pencil. I’m not thrilled with either of them.

    I have been saying to my friends and Family that if McCain is elected the draft will come back. A few weeks ago I saw a clip of him saying that in case of WWIII he would bring it back. WTF? He is following Bush’s lead in the middle east and we are already on the bring of WWIII with Iran! I haven’t heard anything else about McCain’s draft policy. Heck, would Obama bring the draft back?

    I was born in the 80’s so I never sat and watched the whole Lottery thing. I couldn’t even imagine how that would have effect me and those around me.

    With all the comparisons made on the News regarding Past Policy VS Current Policy, could the News outlets explain more about the possiblities/reprocusions of the draft now rather than “Terrorist Fist Jabs” or Hanah Montana showing some skin?!?!?!

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Jason posted this above:

    P.S. I still want Ted to tell me why he lives in America. If he is opposed to everything that America has historically stood for (Capitalist, small-government, free-market economics) then why doesn’t he just grow some balls and leave the country?

    Maybe before 9/11 these were true but I have seen some recent signs that make me think that the times are changing;

    Governmet Rebate checks: not something a Capitalist society would do (It was a deversion)

    Small-government: Yeah right, the number of Federal employees has increased 4X since Bush was in “elected” into office in 2001.

    Free-market economics: BearSterns & IndyMac were saved by our government and Soon Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae may soon be on that band wagon too.

  18. Kevin Says:

    Jason,

    Let me get this straight: you abandoned your country because your political views were too wacky to be accepted by your friends and neighbors, and you have the stones to get on Ted’s case for not cheering for the home team?

    Holy crap. Get off my internet, you dirty furriner.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Aggie,

    “McCain’s experience as a POW being tortured should actually DISQUALIFY him from being president.”

    Should Nelson Mandella’s 30 years as a political prisoner have disqualified him from being president of South Africa? I hate inviting the comparison with McCain, but its a counterexample to the claim that someone who has had an experience that would make most people bitter should not have power.

    Besides, you are missing the larger point. McCain is portrayed as a loose cannon because that is the downside of his self portrayal as a maverick. His opponents, whether Bush/Rove in 2000, or Obama in 2008 try to turn his “straight talk” on its head by claiming he is reckless. The fact that he’s a torture survivor lends plausibility to the notion he has an axe to grind.

    His biography appears to suggest someone who is more calculating than most. He is no maverick and he’s probably no more reckless than any other Republican. (admittedly not a high standard) At best, he’s the Republican party equivalent of a pro wrestling heel. He is attacked for being bitter and reckless because its easy. Attacking him on more substantial grounds, like corruption, would leave his opponents vulnerable to counterattacks.

  20. Edward Says:

    “Anon, 12:33, nice way to miss a point…that attitude is what’s wrong with this country.”

    Aggie,
    You are the most intellectual person here. Care to actually expound on your point?

    -Just a dumb Electrical Engineer

  21. Dennis Says:

    As usual Ted;

    crystalline, brilliant, penetrating.

    Here in Canada our Conservative minority government has just today stuck out its red neck and deported our first US Army deserter, a guy who decided in all good conscience he couldn’t do a second tour of duty in Iraq. CDN talk radio is alive with hawks who say good riddance and let’s do the same to the two hundred-odd other such cases awaiting judgment. But there are others who decry the loss of the true ‘Canadian north strong and free’; ruing idea that when we side with an administration which has launched still another illegal, ill-advised, immoral, misdirected and misconceived war that is ludicrous we lose our credibility in the world as non-violent peace lovers.

  22. Angelo Says:

    jason fumbles:
    Scene Two – SPOILER ALERT. Budd fires some rock salt into Beatrix’ tits and then buries her alive

    Do you remember what happens after that? She comes back and kills his ass with the “Five Point Exploding Heart Technique”. It is actually a great comparison if you apply it correctly.
    We create terrorists with our foreign policy, so that we will always have wars.

    I think your point of view that the US “deserves to die” is 1000 times more honest than most conservatives’, but you have a long way to go before you are as smart and savvy as you need to be.

    We all have a lot of false beliefs, jason. It is hard work to find them, and destroy them. On the other hand, defending a bullshit world view is probably a lot more tiring.

  23. Lewis Ranja Says:

    To anonymous and Kevin-

    Everything that you just listed there is an example of how far America has moved from its core principles (except rebate checks, which is just giving me back some of the money that the government had stolen from me). Libertarians such as myself criticize America because it has become a big-government empire.

    The Ted Ralls, however, criticize America because it is not and never has been the Socialist utopia that they dream of. Nearly everything that Ted advocates is completely foreign to every principle that America was founded upon. And that is why I ask him and all his loyal followers – Why are you there? Surely, you can find a country that is closer to your ideals. Pack a bag and move to Venezuela, for God’s sakes. I know that doing this would mean leaving behind the comforts that capitalism has provided you with, but just the same – grow some balls, man.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    “If he is opposed to everything that America has historically stood for”

    Actually if you look at the historical record, the stances you mention have only been adopted by one faction or the other, never universally.

    The capitalism=democracy meme started under Jackson. The founding fathers did not believe that unanimously. Jefferson certainly didn’t.

    Perhaps the craziest thing is this notion that wanting to change your country for the better is somehow disloyal.

  25. Patrick Says:

    Preach on Ted
    And to anonymous, I have been involved in politics since the first Gulf War. I was seven and I was watching CNN with my dad, who is and has always been a unrepented conservative, when they said that U.S. troops had killed three Iraqi soldiers in a firefight. I cheered and my dad, who supported the war, said to me that you never cheer the death of a man no matter whose side he is on. From then on I have kept abreast in all wars and have yet to support one because none of them have justified the death of a single person.
    Just because all you did when you were 12 was masturbate and play baseball(I did both but still found time to stay up on world affairs) doesn’t mean everyone else did. Stop being so full of yourself.

  26. Ted Rall Says:

    I’ll cop to playing a lot of baseball–God, I miss that!–but I wish I was masturbating at age 12! I didn’t unravel the mysteries of self-pleasure until after I lost my virginity at age 18.

    I’m still mad at myself about wasted lost years.

  27. Ted Rall Says:

    Oh, and…

    Why, Patrick, did you argue that I couldn’t possibly be aware of Vietnam at age 12, only to concede that you were aware of the Gulf War at age 7?

    Stop being so full of yourself.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    I used to respect you Ted, but now I will never look at you or your writing the same way again.

    Not becoming a full-fledged member of the chicken-choking club until you were EIGHTEEN???

    Unless your arms were in traction for all of junior high and high school, there is simply no excuse. None.

  29. Clownstotheleftjokerstotheright Says:

    Uh Angelo..

    Actually, Beatirx did NOT kill Bud, Elle Driver did! If you’re gonna try to discredit a moran be sure to get your facts right lest you look like a bigger moron.

  30. Aggie Dude Says:

    “Anon, 12:33, nice way to miss a point…that attitude is what’s wrong with this country.”

    Aggie,
    You are the most intellectual person here. Care to actually expound on your point?

    -Just a dumb Electrical Engineer

    Sure, Edward. The comment was about how Vietnam was started by a Democrat, which completely misses the larger point about American obsession with militarism and warfare and opts for that same tired old “Republican vs. Democrat” shit flinging contest…did so…did not…did so…etc, it’s adolescent!

    If the only lesson we derive from Vietnam is that Democrats can get us into wars too, we have a long, long……..long way to go. Yes, the neo-conservative movement is new enough that only recently have Republicans been imperialist in their foreign policy ambitions (hence the “neo”)…if that’s the extent of a person’s observations from Ted’s article, they can be a rocket scientist for all I care and I’d still say they’re moronic.

  31. Lewis Ranja Says:

    Excellent point, Clownstoblabla. Bud was hardcore and quite able to defend himself from Beatrix. It was only able when Driver came along and undermined his strength by injecting him with the venom of self-hating liberalism did he finally get taken out of the picture. And like all liberals, Driver’s blindness just got even worse as time went on. Good stuff.

    Hey, wait a minute! Did you call me a moron?????

  32. Clownstotheleftjokerstotheright Says:

    Of course the same goes for spelling and typos on my part. Sheesh but I can’t type!

  33. Kurt Says:

    Jason,

    First off, most libertarians, Jakob Sullum excepted, are total whack jobs and don’t deserve a sentence of response. I am responding to you because you are not only a whack job but you are sadly misinformed.

    The Founding Fathers were above all else pragmatic. They used a funny little thing called reason to guide their decisions. We know, or should know, that the market does a lousy job of pricing certain things. Labor and externalities (get an economics book if you don’t understand… most libertarians need to get one of those books anyway) tend to be high on the list of things priced poorly. Bad air quality costs this economy over 50 billion a year, but none of those costs are included in the price of electricity from utilities that rely on coal production or in the price of a car, truck or other mobile pollution source. Bad water costs the country 15+ billion, but very little of that expense ends up going into the price of products produced by the heaviest polluters. It is pragmatic to socialize some sectors of the economy and to regulate externalities. Idealogues are typically people who have allowed religion of some sort to blind them to reason and reality. I don’t always agree with Ted, but he is right more often than he is wrong, and he is pragmatic. You can’t be reasonable because you “believe” in things… some of them are demonstrably not true. I think all libertarians should be forced to live in a place with libertarian policies and see how you like it.

  34. Anonymous Says:

    Weee! What a great debate!
    As we have seen, America and Americans stand for many contradictory things. Ted stands for Socialism, others for capitalism and still others for tribalism and others for religiosity. America is first and foremost a marketplace of ideas. How we run or day to day economy (socialism or capitalism) is flexible as long as our society is open to new ideas.
    It is OK in my mind to kill someone who is trying to kill you but I think that in Viet Nam and in Iraq, America picked the fight.
    On 9/11 Saudi Arabia picked a fight with the US.

  35. Clownstotheleftofmejokerstotheright Says:

    Jason,

    Well to be excat, I called you a moran. I just assumed that was your last name.

  36. Aggie Dude Says:

    Very good point, Kurt, I’d also suggest he pick up a sociology book as well as the economics book. And maybe one on history. However, I do question your assertion about Ted, I’m not sure how pragmatic he is.

  37. SDS Says:

    Jason,

    Remarkable honest and clarity on this matter. I think you cut right to the heart of this issue: for you, it’s about survival. The terms appear to be less than meaningful. But, you do oversimplify things by suggesting that survival is the only imperative. For a relatively large swath of humanity, the terms ARE important. I can say honestly I’d rather America cease to exist than meander into compromised states.

    To draw an analogy, it’s much like a human life: I like my brain, I like to be productive, I like to be helpful and compassionate. If somehow these ways of living were stripped from me, I would say that it’s my time to go. Being the last man standing isn’t all its cracked up to be. There’s regret and inner decay.

    And I take particular exception at your notion that America is “about” anything at all. It’s an open-sourced system that has repeatedly deviated and (in my thinking) radically improved. And, from the Grimke sisters to Nat Turner to Susan B. Anthony to the guys at Stonewall to Cesar Chavez to Eugene V. Debs, dissenters have opened the dialogue and spoken for the disenfranchised. This isn’t even specific to America. In the early 20th Century, Britain was in a crisis for its soul. Writers spoke openly about the morality of the empire they had constructed. Any society that gets to a point will do this. And as Golda Meir said in Munich (the film, not the city), “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values.”

    That’s the hub of this. If you’re happy to just live long, I advise you to breed aggressively and stop thinking. It sounds to be a petty and nihilistic existence, but hey philosophy is only valuable on the individual level anyway.

    But, some of us are in the camp of trying to criticize, work, and alter the terms of this existence. And some of us are proud to be American because we know we can negotiate those terms, eventually.

  38. Incitatus Says:

    Lots of very non-exciting debate here. Jason claims to be a Libertarian but defends the Vietnam War, which used the very unlibertarian draft to harvest its cannon fodder.

    Ted makes a couple of interesting points in his article, especially the one about mythologizing of politicians, but then he mocks the notion of Obama being “the second coming of JFK.” If you ask me, the mythologizing of Reagan and Clinton is dwarfed by that of JFK, which only survives because of nostalgic boomers like Oliver Stone. And don’t get me started about FDR and Honest Abe!

    Then Kurt goes off and harangues us about “wack job” libertarians and very precise calculations of externalities (only negative ones, of course) and mispells ideologue. Can we stop with this silly “ideologue” talk, apparently popularized by Paul Krugman in his columns? Look, you got your ideology, I got mine. Stop pretending yours is purely based on pragmatism (itself, arguably, an ideology). And let’s go back to using the term “ideologist”.

    Last in this parade of silliness am I, giving prose advice to people in a language other than my native one.

    Won’t someone stop this madness?

  39. Lewis Ranja Says:

    Clownstotheblablabla – Actually, that is my name. Jason Whackjab Moran. So no problem. It’s a horrible handle with which to go through life, but I’m doing my best. 5th Grade was hell for me, I tell you.

    Kurt – That was absolutely wonderful there. You simultaneously criticize me for “believing” in something, while then spouting off with a lengthy diatribe that is based on nothing more than belief. “Labor is priced poorly”? According to who? You? This pricing seems to have worked quite well in creating an economy that has pretty much molded the entire world.

    And I have some trouble with your line that the Founding Fathers were pragmatic. It’s not very pragmatic to start a war just because somebody put a tax on your morning beverage. They believed in something much more powerful than pragmatism. So do I, and so do you. But I, at least, admit to this.

  40. Angelo Says:

    clownjoker retorted:
    Actually, Beatirx did NOT kill Bud…moran…moron

    I never said she killed Budd.

    but the same point applies since they were on the same team, right?
    Anyways, if you wanna get nitpickety,
    the snake killed Budd, not Elle.

    Budd was a greedy, fat hitman who dies while counting his money. What country do you suppose resembles him more closely, Jason?
    (PS. jason, I know you were not being serious)

  41. Anonymous Says:

    Ted Rall writes the best inciting satire ever.

  42. Clownstotheleftjokerstotheright Says:

    Angelo;

    Fair enough. But where, then, does the snake fit into an already shaky metaphor? I’ll have to think about that one a bit.

    And, your original post to seem to indicate that yout thought Beatirx did kill Budd (the “him” pronoun being the indicator here). I’m sorry if I misread you.

    Best,
    Clowns..

    Jason,

    Just imagine going through life with a name like Clownstotheleftofmejokerstotheright!

    I son’t care how big a fan Ma was of Steeler’s Wheels, that’s just not right!

  43. Anonymous Says:

    Too many opinion poll quotes. Yes, there is nothing else we have, to read the pulse. But giving too much importance to the average minds’ responses is not sane Ted.

    Does Bush care about opinion polls, why do you then? I hate seeing these numbers anywhere. .

    Wow, I found one thing to agree with Reagan after all.

    Atta – McCain? Atta was a ring leader . McCain was a hopeless pilot. You gave McCain some undue credit by comparing him with Atta. What to do, people do not remember names of all others 17 guys:)

  44. Tony Says:

    My one complaint about an otherwise excellent column:

    “… the dude is as lost as George Bush at a semiotics class.”

    No way, not even close. I understand the hyperbole, but please!

  45. Angelo Says:

    McCain loved killing civilians more than life itself. A main point of Rolling Thunder was to kill civilians(according the the guy who planned it). What is worse is that McCain knew it was “pointless”, by his own admission. So what does that make him? Now that he has seen what war is all about, he wants more of it. Someone please do away with this man.

    If we are to believe Osama actually planned 9-11, like he wants us to believe, then we must believe his bragging that most of the terrorists did not even know what they were actually a part of until the last minute. For all we know, some of them turned once they found out, and tried to help.
    But even if they just stood there with plastic box cutters in hand while the plane slammed into the World Trade Center, they are less guilty of killing civilians than John McCain.

  46. Kurt Says:

    Jason,

    Labor is commonly priced without both parties being having the luxury of being able to enter into that contract with free will. Yes, the market tends to do a lousy job at pricing labor. Teachers provide a service that is as vital as that service that doctors provide, yet doctors earn, on average about 20x what teachers do, for example. People that move money around and fail still get to keep billions in salary and assets.

    Also, I wasn’t just talking about negative externalities when I said the market does a lousy job pricing them. Sure, I only used examples of negatives, but that doesn’t mean that the market prices positive externalities all that well. The fact is, however, that negative externalities tend to be priced worse than the positive ones.

    On the mythology of Reagan and JFK.. They both got shot on TV. Mystery solved. Reagan had zero success on his initiatives and zero success at earning the publics trust right up until the day he got shot. After that, he was elevated to mythical God and got away with whatever he wanted until Congress found out what Oliver North was doing and that only served to extend the myth because poor, poor Ronald Reagan was just suffering from dementia. JFK was not cannonized while he was alive. People hated him for being involved with Chicago mafia guys and for the Bay of Pigs. He also was a well known man-slut, but in the 60’s that was expected of powerful men (apparently unlike the 90’s). Clinton’s mythology I don’t get. From both sides. He was a dog with the ladies and he was a great public speaker, but he wasn’t the great president that the left thinks he was and he wasn’t evil incarnate like the right thinks he is.

    On justifiable wars: There was no strategic resourse or reason to invade Vietnam. In fact, if Eisenhower was 1/2 the man HIS mythology describes, he would have listened to Gen. Stillwell and embraced Ho Chi Mihn in 1946 instead of letting the french re-enter Vietnam and once again subjegate its people. That was a war about two things… Which traditional ruling family (Mihn or Nguyen) was going to be in charge and about Vietnam’s long history of expelling invaders. Afghanistan has a similar long history of repelling invaders and I am sure they will do it again. Iraq is the cradle of civilization and they have oil. Of all the wars we have been in since WWII the Iraq thing is the most justifiable because they have control of a large strategic resource. That said, it doesn’t square well with self-determination and we live in a post colonial world. Anyone with half a brain can see why colonialism is a bad path to go down.

    Libertarians generally are infected with religious zeal that often flies in the face of reality. What other word would you use? I don’t have a problem with having ideas. Ideas are great. Ideals are great. However, when an ideal causes you to ignore reality and to praise policies that cause pain and suffering for many to benefit a few… well, that is what I have a problem with. Libertarians want policies that historically have reduced competition but they believe that the policies increase competition and progress. If that isn’t letting religious zeal misinform policy decision, I don’t know what is.

    On my spelling… Typing fast, not proof reading. My apologies.

  47. Edward Says:

    “Teachers provide a service that is as vital as that service that doctors provide…”

    Most of the education majors I met in college were there because they didn’t want to be “psyc” majors. Teachers are drawn from the bottom third of college students (“The Conspiracy of Ignorance” by Martin Gross ).

    My wife and I will do our best to teach our child at home to supplement the lack of education he’ll receive in school.

    The second most overrated profession are college professors. The teach a total of three to six hours a week, and spend another three to six hours of office time being condescending to students (see aggie for example). College professors are overly self important especially if they’ve ever had any input on a text book. If they had half the intelligence they think they do, they’d be in the real world applying some of their ideas.

  48. The Reverend Mr. Smith Says:

    Hmmm…legalizing victimless human behavior, respecting privacy, paring down the completely insane, money-sucking machine known as the federal government, and staying the fuck out of other peoples’ business. Count me among the proud “whackjob” libertarians. Also, note the lowercase “l”. I have nothing to do with the so-called “Libertarian” party.

  49. SDS Says:

    First: They’re Stealer’s Wheels. Not Steeler’s. Sadly, no connection to the NFL team.

    More importantly, I think libertarians have solid points, but the premise is flawed for the same reason that the Objectivist cult of Ayn Rand is flawed. The system was inherently slanted away from the best possible outcomes. Until we create a decent meritocracy (that comes with the requisite parity in education, legal services, political access, and health care) we’re doomed to this semi-aristocratic/semi-socialist/semi-capitalist state. The problem of America from day one has been actual fairness.

  50. Kurt Says:

    Edward,

    Since both my parents are teachers who graduated near the tops of their classes at Illinois and David Lipscolm, I respectfully disagree with your assertion. Also, you made some statements that don’t make sense. For instance, you claim that college profs are worthless, but the grades they hand out are worthwhile. Care to explain. Lastly, your point about SOME teachers teaching because they don’t have other options sort of proves my point about the market pricing teachers poorly.

    Edward,

    If that was all libertarians believed, I would be a libertarian. The whole privatize everything, including essential services flies in the face of all human history.

  51. Edward Says:

    Kurt,

    Since both my parents are teachers who graduated near the tops of their classes at Illinois and David Lipscolm, I respectfully disagree with your assertion.
    I didn’t assert anything about your parents. What I did assert is that a large percentage of k-12 teachers get into education because it’s easy and they tend to be bottom of the grade barrel.

    Also, you made some statements that don’t make sense. For instance, you claim that college profs are worthless, but the grades they hand out are worthwhile.
    Where did I say their grades are worthwhile?

    Lastly, your point about SOME teachers teaching because they don’t have other options sort of proves my point about the market pricing teachers poorly.
    I didn’t say they don’t have other options. I said they are lazy in college so they become “education” majors because it’s easy. And let’s be honest, compared to many other professions the work is easy.

    Also, I don’t believe I ever defended the libertarian position.

  52. Lewis Ranja Says:

    Kurt- I’m still amazed by your inability to accept that your opinions are based in your personal beliefs. Any idiot with a four-year degree can become a teacher. It is more difficult to become a doctor. The supply is greater, and so the price is lower. You seem to believe that labor should be payed simply based on need. So a garbageman should earn as much a dentist. That’s a belief – but it’s a whackjob belief based in a personal philosophy. Please just accept and quit trying to pass it off as hard science. It just embarrasses you.

  53. Kurt Says:

    In 48 states, you have to have an MA and 3 units of continuing education per year to stay a teacher for more than 2 years. At the end of a teachers career they have spent far more time in school than the average doctor. Almost every economist will admit that the market prices some things poorly. I never said it is a hard science. Economics and political science are soft sciences. The truth is, however, that years of human experience trend in the opposite direction of what most libertarians believe. Capital doesn’t always chase the best ideas, in fact it frequently chases bad ideas because of group think. Private industry seeks power as well as economic advantage (as does public). Major public works don’t get built without state intervention and haven’t ever. I can go on and on, but were all the ideas that libertarians hold dear implemented, there would be a small oligarchy that would control everything and everybody else would be serfs…. And as a result, all innovation would cease. One just needs to look at the parts of the world with completely unregulated industry to see that.

    On Jason’s Points:

    First off, there is a shortage of teachers… or haven’t you picked up a newspaper lately. Not anybody can be a teacher either. It requires more education than most fields and pays less. That was my point anyway. The supply is low, but the price is still low for teachers. In the medical field, the supply of primary care docs is very low, but the price is very low. You can’t swing a stick in CA without hitting a plastic surgeon, but those guys make an average of 1.9 million dollars a year. Labor is no more priced by supply and demand than is the price of electricity (just look at what private utilities charge per KWh compared to muni’s, coops or publics right next door).

    I didn’t say that a garbage man should earn the same as a dentist, but I don’t think a CEO should earn 562x what their average employee earns. Their contribution to that economic activity isn’t 562x higher. It might be 15 or 20x higher. I don’t even think doctors and teachers should earn the same, but it is irrational that Plastic Surgeons make 2.5x as much as Oncologists and Cardiologists.

    Edward,

    Your assertion about who ends up in teaching is not supported by facts. Sorry, it just isn’t. At my alma mater, the average graduation GPA for teachers is 3.12. For pre-med it is 3.14. For Economics, it is 3.11. For Poli-sci it is 3.02. For business it is 2.89. For Philosophy it is 2.93. The lowest is communications at 2.71. You did assert that teachers are people who are lazy and dumb. You are wrong. There are some who are, but that isn’t the norm.

  54. Edward Says:

    Kurt,
    I did not say anything about your alma mater. Congratulations to you if their GPA’s are higher. I am talking about teachers in general, not specifically at your alma mater. BTW education courses are incredibly easy compared to medicine, engineering and law. And most k-12 “educators” don’t have a clue about what they are teaching. They spend their time learning education processes.

  55. Lewis Ranja Says:

    Kurt – Despite my best efforts, I’ve done found nothing to support your statement that you need a Master’s degree to be a teacher. Please show me anything you have to support it. Hell, I have a friend whose taking a rapid one-year program this year to allow her to teach elementary school. And doctors are required to take continuing education classes to keep their licenses, too. The notion that teachers spend more time in school than a doctor is absurd (unless, of course, you’re counting the time they spend teaching).

    There is a shortage of teachers – not because it’s hard to be a teacher, but because nobody in their right mind would want to enter a profession that has been so thoroughly poisoned by the works and philosophies of Education PhDs. However, teacher vacancies can easily be filled with substitute teachers and other temp employees. You simply can’t do that with a neurosurgeon.

    Also, please don’t make the silly assumption that I agree with all Libertarian philosophies. That is as ridiculous as my assuming that, simply because you agree with some historically Communist philosophies, you must agree with all of them – such as seizing all private properties and killing off the educated class.

  56. Kurt Says:

    Jason,

    Its state law in every state except mississippi and Alabama. It shouldn’t be too hard to find. It took me 15 seconds and a google search. Most states only allow a teacher to teach 2 years without earning a MA. Some let it slide for 4 (Michigan, Wisconson).

    Edward,

    Um… My school alma mater has 26k students and is probably a pretty good cross section. I checked out Michigan and Northwestern and got similar numbers. The problems of public schools are pretty simple. The public schools have to teach kids that are criminals and have severe learning issues as mainstream students, yet no additional resources are given to the teachers to do so… secondly, from a pure market perspective, you have once again proven my point about pay and the market not always pricing jobs very well. People will do all sorts of nasty things if they get paid enough. I know classically trained musicians that do rap backing tracks because it pays well.

  57. Lewis Ranja Says:

    Kurt – It’s so great the way that you say such blatantly false things with such authority. I believe a legal profession is waiting for you.

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070705070641AArQHA5

    is just one of many sites that I’ve found for both California and Georgia that state a Master’s isn’t required. I haven’t found ONE that says otherwise. Please share your knowledge with the rest of my class, my man!

  58. Kurt Says:

    Jason,

    Read on on the CA website refereneced in your link. It says that you have to complete the coursework equivilent of an MA in education or in the the main subject they are teaching to renew the 5 year certificate for a teacher in CA.

    Note.. I know about 40 teachers here in CA and only one doesn’t have an MA. They all work very hard and are invested in the future of their kids. The complain mostly about wasting time on things mandated by the state or feds.

  59. Lewis Ranja Says:

    Kurt, this conversation is getting ridiculous. That website stated that teachers have to take a “teacher preparation program” at a college. Not a Master’s program. You were wrong. Teachers don’t need a Master’s Degree. Teachers don’t spend as much time in school as doctors. Stop acting like a jackass and just admit that you were wrong.

  60. Tony Says:

    My sister-in-law is a teacher. As a consequence, most of my brother’s best friends are teachers. Two of my poker buddies have wives that are teachers. Some of the acquaintances I met in college became teachers. None of them are bright, though they were able to plod along and get a 4-year degree.

    To a person, these people are the laziest excuses of humanity I’ve ever had the unfortunate circumstance to deal with.

    I sincerely wish that they had a decent work ethic, but basically they chose their profession to get summers off.

    They have been teaching for several years (10+), and only one has an advanced degree (a Masters in Art), which somehow qualifies her to also serve as a guidance counselor.

  61. Edward Says:

    Kurt,
    I could walk into any k-12 classroom tomorrow and teach the whole year. Anyone with a basic education can. Teachers are easily replaceable and the market is placing them at exactly what they are worth.

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