Wart Nation: Upward Mobility Through Excrescence

I first noticed the wart while showering in the Barnard dorm. It didn’t look like much – just a smooth, hard, round bump just to the right of my left nipple – but after twenty years on this earth, I’d never had any warts, moles or other weird skin growths before. I vividly recall being worried enough about it to make an appointment with Columbia’s official university dermatologist for the next day, December 10, 1983. His name was, naturally, Doctor Moley, and for those of you who require documentation of such things, his office was on Amsterdam Avenue at 114th Street. Anyway, people with free medical coverage can’t get finicky about inappropriately-named physicians.

Warts are strange. Not to be confused with their darker, hairier cousin the mole, wart viruses are among the oldest life forms on the planet – even pterodactyls probably had to deal with these hard little growths disfiguring their leathery wings. Warts come in tens of thousands of varieties. Everyone has wart virusues all over their skin, but almost all wart viruses are too damn weak to plant a root and become visible. We are a warty nation: According to a brochure I picked up at my dermatologist entitledWarts, the average American sports some sixty of these things. You should see this thing – it had photographs of people who have warts on their warts.

It’s not pretty to think about, but the virus is mildly contagious, which means you can and will get them from handrails, subway seats and other places where wart-ridden citizens drag their infected limbs. New York City is a dermatologist’s darkest, moistest dream, a place where warts, moles and all types of skin growths you’ve never given a thought fester and spread among 8 million people, each to be removed at more than $200 a pop. At 60 warts per person, the economics of wartdom add up to potential business of a staggering $96 billion.

The more stubborn viruses wait for your body’s immune system to weaken; then the little bastards strike. Some people use foul over-the-counter liquids like Compound W to treat their warts, but I’ve never heard of the stuff working. All it does is turn your skin white and smell like shit, like Gary Oldman in Coppola’s version of Dracula. Ointments are pointless, because they only treat the surface. It’s like a weed – you have to get down to the root.

The only methods that actually kill the fuckers are to have a dermatologist freezing them off with liquid nitrogen, burn them off with a soldiering-gun-like instrument or electrocute them with lasers. (Genital warts are even worse – they hurt like hell and usually require actual surgery.) Usually the resulting burn blisters. Then it starts to itch like crazy. A few days later the wart emerges from the gooey bloody hole in your skin, loosely hanging on my the bottom of its root despite it all. Then you yank it out, and if you work in food service, drop it some bad tipper’s meal. Even this doesn’t always work – some warts come back bigger and better than ever. Most people, figuring that the warts will die when they do, decide to ignore them. For the most part, warts are harmless, so there’s no point worrying about them or spending hundreds of dollars to treat them.

For the most part.

Which brings us back to that magical winter of 1983. Reagan was presiding over a recession, Culture Club topped the charts and I was a junior applied physics major at Columbia Engineering. I lived in the Barnard dorm under a then-pilot housing exchange with Columbia. It was the night before my first final exam, and for the first time since I’d arrived in college, I felt good about my prospects. The Mudd Club had just closed, so I had started sleeping more at night than during the day. My midterm grades had risen to decent, all As and Bs, and I’d actually been to most of my classes, done most of my homework and read most of my books. I was on my way to becoming a full-fledged member of the white power elite. In just two years I planned to be working on satellite-mounted laser-defense cannons for GE in South Jersey, pulling down fifty grand a year as I developed more efficient methods to incinerate millions of human beings within tenths of a second.

That night my girlfriend insisted that we sleep in her room. In the middle of the night, I started to feel really warm – sticky warm, as if I’d pissed in the bed. I was in one of those half-awake states where you’re asleep but can think straight nonetheless. I reminded myself that I was 20, so I probably hadn’t wet my sheets. Anyway, I hoped not. Then some part of my brain proposed that I might be sweating like a pig because it was so damned hot. That was impossible, though, because Philippa’s radiator never worked right and it was always freezing in her room. “All right, shit,” the skeptical part thought to the other one, “I’ll check what’s up,” and awoke.

There was blood everywhere – on the wall, the floor, all over both of us, everywhere. Philippa’s thick comforter was soaked completely through. It looked like someone had slaughtered a pig – a large pig – right over the bed while we were sleeping. A pool of blood a few feet across spread across the tile floor. My first thought was that I’d accidentally killed my girlfriend while I was dreaming about offing my dad for not paying my tuition. Then I felt a ball of blood hit my arm, warm and slick, and realized that it was spurting out of my chest like a garden hose. I remembered the wart, and knew immediately what had happened. Its root must have grown into an artery. The root had somehow become dislodged from moving around at night, it popped out like a cork and the artery burst. Amazing.

Philippa got up and tried to call an ambulance. “This is New York City!” I screamed as she tried to explain that no, it wasn’t an address per se, but a room within a dorm that didn’t have an actual street address. I held my hand over my chest, trying to keep my blood inside. “I’ll die waiting for a fucking ambulance!”

“Good point. I’ll call Robert. He’s pre-med. He’ll know what to do.”

Robert was planning to practice forensic medicine. At least he could identify the cause of death later.

“We’d better carry him to the hospital,” Robert said after surveying the mess. “You could die waiting for an ambulance in New York City.”

The thought of all that blood, my blood, spilled all over Philippa’s floor and the sight of what was left dripping out on the sidewalk of 114th Street finally hit me. It was snowing, but I felt not warm, but uncold. I passed out while they carried me over to St. Luke’s, but woke up just as we arrived. My body felt like it weighed maybe forty pounds. I could feel my brain pressed up against the back of my skull. I kind of miss that feeling; feeling your brain is really cool.

“We got a gunshot!” the attendant screamed after spotting the hole in my chest. On the operating table, I tried to explain about the wart to the doctor, a large balding guy with pink skin. “Don’t talk, man – you’re delirious.” I wonder if this technique works with delirious patients. Anyway, he cut off my shirt with scissors, cleaned off the wound, and stepped back for a moment. “It’s a wart,” he announced grandly. I was actually relieved; maybe I’d gotten shot without knowing it.

“Call the other doctors – anyone who’s not operating,” my doctor asked a nurse. Within what seemed like a few minutes, I was surrounded by at least a dozen men and women in white. “Watch carefully,” my doctor announced gleefully. “You’ll probably never see another one of these the rest of your careers.

“The wart’s root has grown into an artery, become dislodged and burst,” he continued, poking the wart and helping his career.

“I think it came loose during sex,” I offered.

“Shut up. You’re delirious.”

He used silver nitrate to force the bleeding to stop and put a clear bandage over the hole in my chest. You could look right through it into my chest. Then they gave me tons of blood through a transfusion – I think it was six pints. This was only a year after they started national screening for HIV, so I’ve gotten tested every year ever since. I threw myself a 10th anniversary bash when my 1993 AIDS test came back negative.

My wart was a boon for the bald doctor at St. Luke’s, who published an article in a major medical journal about my case. It was titled “A Potentially-Lethal Dermatological Condition.” My freak wart is a rare example of a terminal skin condition. Skin cancer doesn’t actually kill you, it’s the spread of the disease into your body that does. Anyway, that’s what the doctor told me – I don’t know squat about this stuff. All I know about this wart is that it screwed me up less than 24 hours after I discovered it!

The first thing I did after getting discharged from the hospital was to go to Tom’s of Seinfeld opening credits fame. Losing a lot of blood makes you ravenously hungry for greasy diner food. I ate three full breakfasts and enough side dishes to bring the tab to $30 in a place where you can get two-eggs and bacon for $2.40. I still have the bill. Then I headed back to my dorm, where I found Philippa trying to scrub the blood off the wall. It looked like a finger painting done by an elephant – pretty cool, but very gruesome.

“I want you to clean my comforter. It’s disgusting!” she spat upon seeing me hours after my brush with the Big Sleep.

I was still too weak to argue, so I lugged the thing, still incredibly heavy with my blood, to the bathtub. Incredibly, cold water really did get all the blood out, but I bet that thing still smells slightly ferrous. Finding no affection from my soon-to-be-erstwhile girlfriend, I decided to seek solace from other girls instead.

“Show me your chest!” Felicia and Judy demanded. Soon a crowd of women gathered in the 5th floor hallway to stare through my transparent bandage at the blood rushing past the dangling remnants of my once-fearsome wart. “It’s gross – but kind of cool,” one commented. Unfortunately, this didn’t lead to any illicit sex.

I ended up missing all of my exams. Under Columbia’s professor-as-tyrant policy, any teacher can arbitrarily deny a student the right to take a make-up test, no matter how legitimate their excuse. Three of my teachers, eager to get their winter breaks started, opted to fuck me over by refusing me a make-up. Failing a final means failing the whole semester, so I ended up on academic probation. The following term I failed a class, so I got expelled. No one likes to date a drop-out, so Philippa dumped me. Never underestimate the power of a wart to change your life.

A week after my transfusion, I went to see Dr. Moley to have the wart extracted. He injected a local anesthetic above the wart and went to cut in, but I warned him: “It’s going to spurt. There’s a lot of pressure under there.”

“Listen, son,” the guy snarled, “I’ve been doing this since before you were a thought in your father’s balls. Shut up and let me do my job.” I guessed that working with rich college kids would make anyone surly after a while.

“Yeah, but it’s really, really-”

He pressed down and sent a perfect jet of blood shot straight into his eye. I was too afraid to laugh. “I told you it would spurt,” I whispered.

He did a crappy job sewing me up, zigzagging all over and pulling the flesh every which way. The scar is really huge, but it makes a fun conversation piece at the beach.

After I got expelled, I had no prayer of ever pursuing my parents’ dream of my becoming an engineer of mass destruction. I worked in a series of financial services jobs, first at Bear Stearns as a $10,000-a-year trader-trainee, and later at the Industrial Bank of Japan. The bank liked me and kept promoting me and giving me raises, but it was during that time that I decided that I’d never be happy doing anything other than drawing cartoons for a living. One night after work in 1987, I drew a cartoon before dinner. I’ve done three a week ever since then. Four years later, I got syndicated. Last year, it finally became a full-time job. For the time being, I’m really happy about my career, and I know that I owe it all to that fucking wart.

© 1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Just Because You’re Oblivious Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Out to Get You

Conspiracy Logic and TWA Flight 800

Pierre Salinger says that he has an August 22nd Secret Service report that proves that TWA Flight 800 was shot down accidentally by the U.S. Navy.

According to the former Kennedy Administration press secretary, Navy ships testing missiles off the coast of Eastern Long Island in July assumed that all flights in the area were flying at 21,000 feet, so they used 13,000 feet as their test altitude. Flight 800, however, had taken off late from JFK Airport, and was flying lower than previously scheduled in order to avoid another plane.

Air traffic controllers, in “a tragic error,” neglected to advise the Navy, Salinger said, and a Navy missile blew up the plane. This scenario jibes with dozens of calls to the FBI from witnesses who claimed to have seen a streak of light heading towards the plane just before the blast.

Salinger acknowledged that the alleged Secret Service memo has been posted to the Internet for two months, but said he had waited until the elections to speak out, presumably to protect the incumbent Democratic president. “The truth must come out,” he told reporters in Cannes, France, on November 7.

Not surprisingly, the government has treated the ex-ABC News correspondent like some bizarre conspiracy theorist. “The United States military did not shoot a missile at this airplane,” New York FBI chief James Kallstrom scoffed. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall attacked Salinger “not only for causing consternation and pain to families of the victims but also for the fact that a once well-respected journalist would seize information he now admits was third-hand at best and try to promote it as some scoop of his.” Clearly, the government was not pleased about the Salinger bombshell in light of recent efforts to pin the explosion on mechanical failure.

Navy mouthpiece Lieutenant Commander Rob Newell responded that the nearest warship, the USS Normandy, an Aegis-type missile cruiser, was 185 miles south of the crash site. He said it wasn’t testing weapons, and its radar was set to a maximum range of 130 miles. The Normandy, Newell says, “couldn’t even see the TWA plane.” Newell said a Navy P-3 Orion anti-submarine plane was in the area, about 80 miles away, but said it doesn’t carry missiles. Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft, a standard military reference text, states that the P-3 is capable of carrying missiles.

Whether those 230 people were blown out of the air two miles above the Atlantic Ocean by a terrorist’s bomb, a mechanical failure or a missile gone awry, there’s something painfully amusing about the spectacle of government officials scrambling to deny the “friendly-fire” theory. Why do Americans persist in believing in outrageous theories about government crimes, accidents and cover-ups? Their standard defense is: We’re too nice to do such things. And if you don’t buy that one, try this: We’re too dumb—the government is just too disorganized to pull off a conspiracy.

The thing is, monstrous government conspiracies are now considered historical fact. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson led Congress into a mammoth escalation of our involvement in Vietnam after North Vietnam fired at American ships in the Tonkin Gulf. More than 50,000 dead soldiers later, historians of all political stripes accept that the Tonkin Gulf incident was a fiction, a scam invented by LBJ to get us into the war. Why assume that today’s officials are any different than the ones who lied to us about that?

During the late 1960s, the FBI decided to put the radical Black Panther Party out of business. At the time, the nation was told that the Panthers had shot back at agents coming to arrest them and had gotten killed for their trouble. A few years later, it came out that the only shooting had come from the FBI side. According to autopsies, the black nationalists had been shot in their beds, sleeping.

The 1972 election saw political skullduggery assume epic proportions, as the Nixon Administration sandbagged the man they perceived as being its most dangerous Democratic opponent, Edmund Muskie. GOP operatives phoned New Hampshire primary voters at 3 in the morning, urging them to vote for Muskie. George McGovern won the Democratic nomination, but just to make sure, Nixon’s henchmen broke into his running mate’s shrink’s office and leaked his private records to the press, forcing McGovern to choose a new veep. If America had any decency whatsoever, McGovern would be allowed the four-year term he was cheated out of back in 1972, but as things are, he’s long-forgotten. Nixon, of course, died a statesman, and one wonders why voting matters in a country with such manufactured elections.

The American government has admitted to overthrowing the governments of Argentina, Iran, Panama, Chile and countless other nations. It tried to kill Fidel Castro with cigar bombs, train Laotian hill-tribe people to fight the Vietnamese, tapped millions of phones and opened millions of letters. There’s never been a satisfactory explanation for the JFK assassination or the killings of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. They tested dangerous drugs on prisoners and soldiers without their consent. Oliver North testified on national television that the Reagan-Bush Administration imported cocaine for sale on American streets to fund illegal weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras. A secret plant irradiated the residents of downtown Cincinnati for decades, with tacit government approval. Just last week, the Pentagon admitted that it’s been covering up the extent and seriousness of Gulf War Syndrome for the last five years. With that stellar record, it’s not exactly shocking that many blacks think the government invented AIDS as a form of systematic genocide, or that they buy into the recent San Jose Mercury-News series accusing the government of dumping narcotics on the inner cities. Eight percent of voters supported Ross Perot in the last election; maybe the Texas billionaire’s story about the government’s plan to disrupt his daughter’s wedding sounds a little wacky, but it’s completely conceivable.

Trust is fragile. Every time the government tells people a tax is temporary and later opts to make it permanent, every time it promises a public work that doesn’t get built and every time some newly-declassified document proves that our leaders lied about something 15 years ago, citizens learn that their leaders are both malicious and dishonest. Unfortunately, the credibility gap between politicians and the public they supposedly serve has rarely been more extreme than it is now. That’s half of the reason why, even if Pierre Salinger turns out to be wrong about TWA Flight 800, Americans are so easily persuaded by conspiracy theories. The other half is that they often turn out to be true.

(Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer based in New York City, has written for Might magazine, Maximumrocknroll, P.O.V., the New York Press and numerous other publications.)

© 1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved

SYNDICATED COLUMN: United We Fall

The Melting Pot Boils Over

Driving west across New Jersey recently, I was relieved to see the mile markers drop to single digits, and finally to zero. I was struck by a sign posted at the state border that read: “Welcome to Pennsylvania: America Starts Here.” As someone who grew up in Ohio, that seemed to make perfect sense. New Jersey is, perhaps, more “America” than Manhattan; nothing in America is less American than New York. Still, New Jersey isn’t really “America.”

Continuing my trip—I was traveling to visit my mom in Dayton—I wound westward through a 15-mile-wide sliver of West Virginia that serves as a de facto DMZ between the mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. As I crossed the bridge in Wheeling, Ohio’s welcome sign declared “Ohio—The Heart of it All.” Indeed, the media had yakked a lot last year about the sweet irony of forcing the warring nations of the former Yugoslavia to sign their peace treaty in the “heartland.” There’s no doubt you’re in what the French would call l’Amérique Profonde when you pass through hundreds of miles of open fields or talk to the residents with their hard, earnest faces and blandly confident accents.

Going back east, however, I encountered that same “America Starts Here” sign at the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border. Now, this was confusing. Was Governor Tom Ridge, who signed the sign, implying that West Virginia—or for that matter, Ohio—was less American than Pennsylvania? After all, there are several un-American anomalies unique to Pennsylvanians, not the least of which is something called “Dutch” cooking. (When in Pennsylvania, starvation isn’t always a bad thing.) Anyway, this got me thinking about which places are really “American” in America.

From watching Hollywood movies, you might make the mistake of thinking California is “America”, but the only reason those dry hills and weird L.A. cityscapes are featured so prominently is because directors are too lazy to pack up a camera crew and go somewhere else. Californians are nationally reviled as kooky, New Agey, politically-correct weirdos who lounge in their hot tubs while race riots, mud slides and brush fires rage around them. Clearly, California is not “America.”

The South isn’t “America,” either. Although they’ve produced things that all Americans love—Elvis, greasy breakfast food, racism—they have those dumb accents. And they’re too slow. The ex-Confederacy has ceded the cultural and political dialogue of this country to the Yankees ever since Appomattox. National TV anchormen reflect the cultural norm—ever wonder why neither Tom Brokaw nor Dan Rather drawl? America is so unsouthern that we import cultural icons like Peter Jennings and Michael J. Fox from Canada. No one would give the South a second thought if it weren’t for the Super Tuesday primaries held once every four years.

You can’t count Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana, either. Sure, mountains get a nod in “America the Beautiful,” but real Americans are suspicious of people who live in the hills. Mountains are for “Deliverance” extras, militia types and flying over. There isn’t much farming there, either. “America” has lots of cows, lots of corn, maybe some grain. You also have to have some minorities—at least a few token ones—and the Rockies are as white as a freshly-bleached piece of Xerox paper.

The Pacific Northwest doesn’t even pretend to be “American.” The only thing Washingtonians and Oregonians have in common with the rest of the United States is that they hate Californians, except more so, because Californians mostly live in Portland and Seattle. It rains all the time, conifers outnumber deciduous trees, which are both outnumbered by dead trees, and bait shops in the middle of nowhere offer double cappuccinos. Americans go to Javaland to test their mellowness with caffeine. It ain’t America.

Then, there’s the stupid states, the places where there’s no proof that anyone actually lives. Idaho, according to a half-decent River Phoenix movie, has a lot of empty space scarred by flat highways, but that’s pretty much what you’d suspect. Then there’s Arkansas, Oklahoma, the Dakotas, etc.

Indiana is only notable as the inconvenient place separating Chicago and Cleveland for no good reason. The Northeast has a lot of stupid states like that. (Who the hell cares about Rhode Island, Maryland, Rhode Island, or Delaware?) New Jersey, long the butt of New York-based comedians’ gags, is more than 50 percent paved. Now that’s stupid. The ultimate stupid states are Hawaii and Alaska. Three decades after statehood, national maps rarely even show these add-ons, and 48-star flags are quickly snapped up at yard sales. Puerto Rico, if granted statehood, would become another stupid state schoolchildren remember to forget.

You can make a case for the Plains states, but not that many people actually live in places like Kansas, Nebraska or Iowa. There’s certainly something very “America” about all those amber waves of wheat and stuff, but there’s the whiteness problem again. Also, they don’t have any real cities. Cities, of course, are the least American thing of all. Nonetheless, the ideal American state would contain one or two decent-sized cities surrounded by a lot of suburbs, surrounded by oceans of agribusiness. Think of California, but with rainfall and without the Californians. Also, ever since “Children of the Corn” and Bob Dole, most real Americans get the willies when they think about the Great Plains.

Our national consciousness centers around the hard-ass Anglicans who landed at Plymouth Rock, but New England is, ironically, not America. They have those weird accents up there, for one thing. They eat seafood that doesn’t come in cubes. Even the conservatives are liberal. The states are all too small. It’s cool, but it just ain’t America. New York, with half its population living in one apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the other half in heart-shaped tubs in the Catskills, is too schizo to be American. In fact, New Yorkers pride themselves on the very un-Americanness other Americans deride.

So, we’re left with the original Northwest Territory, the area running west from Pittsburgh, south to the Ohio River and just west of the Mississippi River. Minnesota and Iowa are out, however, because it’s so cold there that everyone talks like they’re in Denmark. Also, there are liberals there, and Americans are not liberal. We’ve already ruled out Indiana, but let’s also delete Michigan, which is definitely a dumb state for having both a Lower and Upper Peninsula. What the hell were their cartographers thinking?

Which leaves us with Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and western Pennsylvania. Delete Pennsylvania because of the strange food. Illinois goes because of Chicago, and it has that New York State identity duality problem between urban and rural. I was in Wisconsin recently, where several people made strong arguments for the land of dairy being, in fact, the “real America.” Actually, Wisconsin has a lot going for it—a few decent-sized cities surrounded by suburbs and lots of farmland in between, conservative whites mixed with enough blacks to be noticeable but not to have any political influence and a pretty average geographical size. Still, it’s all the way up there on the Canadian border, and to me any state that purports to be America has to be in the middle of the country.

Although it’s the last holdout, and I would love to see the place of my origins declared as the only American state in America, Ohio doesn’t quite pass the test of Americanosity either. My hometown, Dayton, used to call itself “America’s Most Average City,” and that was true. Its generic demographics made it a favorite site for pollsters and product testing. The trouble for Ohio is that it’s all city—most of the state’s inhabitants live in one of eight cities, making it one of the most urban places in the Union. America isn’t urban, you know.

Some of you touchy-feely types (hello California!) might conclude from the preceding that there is no such thing as a generic America; that the United States is a brilliant hodgepodge of cultures, mannerisms, architecture, music, foods and attitudes, and that the amalgamation of this social cocktail has created a country that is unique in its diversity and tolerance.

But these days, the only thing Americans have in common is hatred. They hate immigrants from countries other than the ones they came from. They hate members of other races, other religions, other genders, other sexual orientations. The rich hate the poor, and the poor hate them right back. Americans read hate in the newspapers, watch hate on television and talk hate on the radio. Forget business—the business of America is mutual contempt.

America ends here.

(Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer based in New York City, has written for Might magazine, Maximumrocknroll, P.O.V., the New York Press and numerous other publications.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: So Much for Democracy

Is a Clinton Victory Worth the Cost?

My involvement with the Democratic Party started at age 9, when my mom took me along to pass out McGovern-Shriver leaflets door-to-door in our solidly Republican neighborhood. “The Democrats,” my mother explained, “are the party of the people. Republicans only care about rich big-shots.” Nothing I have seen since 1972 has contradicted the latter part of that summary of our two-party system. Watching my mom’s enthusiasm while she tried to reason with our neighbors and dialed number after number in the dingy campaign headquarters in downtown Dayton convinced me that there really was a chance of ousting President Nixon—a man, who all attempts at historical revisionism notwithstanding, was the devil. My fourth-grade class held a mock election that fall. There were 32 little Nixonites to my one Democratic vote.

I quickly learned that, in America, Democrats usually lose, even when they win. Jimmy Carter squeaked by Ford in 1976—an astonishing fact when you consider the unelected incumbent’s corrupt pardon deal and idiotic demeanor—and never enjoyed a mandate to act like a real Democrat. The great Reagan defense build-up actually began in 1978 under Carter, along with draft registration and the U.S. refusal to attend the 1980 Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I was convinced that Carter lost in 1980 because these compromises had lost him his party’s liberal base, but I still worked for Mondale and Dukakis as they continued to pursue watered-down liberalism, organizing college students and dodging New York cops while wheat-pasting posters in the subways.

The capitalism run-amok excesses of the Reagan and Bush years made it easier to be a Democrat again—by the time 1992 rolled around, there was nothing more important to the country’s political and financial health than getting George Herbert Hoover Walker Bush out of the White House. The day after the election, a reporter called me to ask my reaction. “I feel like an evil cloud has lifted from the country,” I told him as I scribbled file labels at one of my three jobs. “Americans have rejected the idea that caring about other people is a sign of weakness.” I really did feel that way.

Which brings me to November 5th, when I will not be voting for Bill Clinton.

I am personally better off than I was four years ago, but the country has continued to go to hell. The reasons are simple. Given the first chance in a century to get national health protection passed, he blew it by proposing an outlandish scheme designed to protect insurance-company profits. Then he signed NAFTA and GATT, treasonous free trade deals that sell out American workers for the benefit of his corporate pals’ bottom lines. Even Reagan and Bush never pushed hard on NAFTA. To be sure, he did the right thing by sending troops to Bosnia, but he waited so long that the people they were sent to protect were all dead by the time they got there.

Clinton’s 1995 copresidency with Newt Gingrich was an embarrassment, but the last straw was his cynical election-year betrayal of the poor by eliminating welfare without creating the jobs to replace it.

My friends argue that a vote for Ralph Nader or Ross Perot—or for that matter, opting to stay home and watch TV—is a vote for Bob Dole. In a rigid two-party system, they’re right, but so what? Even if there were a chance that Dole could be elected, he and Clinton are both essentially the same: Both are pro-business, pro-choice and deficit-obsessed. A Dole Administration might cost the nation a few progressive appellate judges, but on the issues that really matter, most Americans wouldn’t notice much difference.

Furthermore, casting a protest vote, or not voting at all, is an effective means of telling the mainstream parties that you’re not interested in what they’re offering. While low voter turnout allows “winners” to claim mandates at press conferences, they know that the truth is that their message isn’t selling. While it may mean supporting a “spoiler” in the short term, it can force the big parties to reevaluate their directions.

This year, voting for Clinton potentially tells him that you agree with everything he’s done so far when you’re actually voting for the anti-Dole. If you support NAFTA and guaranteed unemployment and making children homeless, fine. But our republic wasn’t intended to have voters support the lesser of two evils—or likely winners simply because they’re likely to win. If you substantially disagree with Clintonism, you have a moral obligation as a citizen to vote for someone else. If no other candidate else appeals to you, your duty is to stay home.

Some people may question how I could abandon the Democrats after all this time. But I never left the party—it left me.

(Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer based in New York City, was a 1996 Pulitzer Prize finalist.)

© 1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved

SYNDICATED COLUMN: A Divine Strategy

Ancient Deities Adapt to a Brave New World

Until recently, God it had it all—omnipotence, ubiquity and benevolence. As the leading beneficiary of the current global trend towards monotheism, the guy who made everything and ran it all didn’t have to do much to attract popular support. Then, in 1993, God’s pollsters came to him with some bad news: his numbers were slipping.

“I was down to 43 points, and falling fast,” God recalled at a recent interview. “In New Jersey it was like they’d never even heard of me. I had to do something fast.”

Polls revealed that many people felt that God was out of touch with their concerns. “I prayed for my boss to be slowly gummed to death by sea cucumbers,” said one respondent, “but he’s still here, counting how long I take to go to the restroom. So much for the power of prayer.” Furthermore, God’s existence had in the past been justified by the existence of causality, design and purpose in the universe—an assumption that recent advances in chaos theory have rendered obsolete.

Advisors to the central deity of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and those other faiths told him that the only way to recover was to take a page from his chief opponent’s book. “You can move towards evil without actually becoming evil,” his head speechwriter said. Within days, God announced his transformation to a “New God.”

At the time, many religious observers were skeptical that a deity could abandon over 5,000 years of straightforward love for mankind in favor of a more pragmatic approach that asked people to be responsible for themselves. Now, three years later, it’s clear that God has adapted with incredible ease to his new image.

First he decided to give up positions that many had seen as overly judgmental. “Take sin,” he explained during one of his weekly radio addresses. “Who’s to say what’s sinful and what’s not? Sure, a murderer who carves up his best friend with a butcher knife might seem bad. But the guy must have had his reasons, right?”

But strategists also determined that others considered God to be too soft on mankind in general. Many missed the 17th century Calvinist view of humanity as a loathsome spider dangling from a tiny thread above a flame, averting disaster by the Almighty’s whim. To address this nostalgic yearning for a fiercer, more vengeful Supreme Being, God caused an increased number of airplane crashes, bursting dams and a variety of new diseases—all in order to make the interplay between behavior and destiny appear more fickle.

In addition, God has finally managed to shed the “M” word—merciful. “I’m tired of being tarred with the brush of being called ‘kind and merciful,’” God recently told a group of Rotarians. “Mercy implies wimpiness. And the other side doesn’t have a monopoly on fire and brimstone.” Since late 1994 he has ignored 85 percent of prayers from the poor and sick. He has also smitten a half-dozen cities entirely without provocation.

To be sure, devout worshipers of God—his traditional core base—are not pleased with the New God. Some suspect that the new image resulted more from budgetary than ideological considerations; concern for mankind was much easier thousands of years ago when there were only a few million people.

Reached at her hospice in Calcutta, Mother Teresa asked: “What’s the point of obeying God if he acts more and more like the devil? At that rate you might as well go for the real thing.” Still, the world’s most famous nun emphasized, she was sticking with God for the time being.

Others, fearing divine retribution, spoke only on condition of anonymity. In Tehran, a leading imam said: “Look, we all understand that it’s a new world out there. So maybe we pray twice instead of four times a day, okay, I can see that. But he’s been advertising for souls on the World Wide Web!”

Indeed, Satan is bitter about the New God, claiming that God has taken over many issues that were once the Dark One’s own. “In the old days, good was good and evil was evil. You didn’t need a program to tell the players. But now it’s all mixed up! Everyone’s moving to the center, but by giving up our core identities I fear that we’re all losing our souls.”

Satan, too, has attempted to broaden his base by appealing to people who were traditionally considered good, by curing certain obscure venereal diseases and opening a soup kitchen in Mexico City. He has even reached out to the MTV generation with bumper stickers reading “Beelzebub is cool,” but the Prince of Darkness still seems unable to overcome the perception that he doesn’t care about the environment.

Meanwhile, God’s remarkable progress, which has earned him the moniker the “Comeback Creator,” continues as his popularity rating leads Lucifer’s by nearly 20 percentage points. As this year’s holiday season looms, even the malcontents seem likely to stick with the “New God.” “Where else can those goody-two-shoes go?” God scoffed recently at a press conference during which he announced the end of morality as we know it. “It’s not like they’re gonna go to the devil.”

(Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer based in New York City, has damned his soul to eternal hell.)

© 1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved

SYNDICATED COLUMN: ‘Civil’ Democrats Defend Kemp, Dole on Morals

‘NEW YORK, August 32—In an active demonstration of his convention speech call for a new era of “civility,” yesterday President Bill Clinton (D-AK) took the unusual step of coming to the defense of his Republican opponents on moral issues.

“I have come under fire over so-called moral issues myself,” said Clinton, who survived the Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones scandals and now leads the polls by twenty points. “This isn’t about partisan politics—I know how painful it is to have one’s private life overshadow one’s accomplishments in the public arena.”

Clinton then turned his conciliatory remarks to vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who has been dogged by rumors that he attended a gay orgy in California ever since columnist Drew Pearson wrote about the incident in 1967. The episode became public when then-Governor Ronald Reagan fired a staffer who also attended the orgy in a remote cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It has come up several times during this year’s campaign.

“The Democratic Party has always supported homosexual rights,” Clinton said in a hastily-called news conference held in front of the Anvil, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. “Is it so wrong to love another man? There is absolutely nothing wrong or immoral about a buff 32-year-old quarterback rolling around with a bunch of sweaty nude men in the middle of nowhere. It took great courage for the Republican Party to nominate the nation’s first openly, or closeted, as the case may be, gay, or bisexual, or whatever, vice-presidential candidate.”

“There will be those bigots who would otherwise have supported our opponents on the Dole-Kemp ticket this November but plan to vote Democratic instead because Jack Kemp chose to experiment with his sexuality three decades ago,” Clinton continued as a hand-picked crowd of transvestites and male prostitutes cheered. “Well, hear this—the Clinton-Gore ticket doesn’t want your vote! Just because Al and I have always limited ourselves to straight sex doesn’t mean that we don’t support Jack Kemp’s right to

rub his firm, tight, rippling biceps against the twitching thighs, supple buttocks and welcoming arms of a dozen men greased down with massage oil!”

Clinton also reaffirmed his party’s support of gay marriage.

“In fact,” the president concluded, “Jack Kemp and Bob Dole have every right to come out of the closet. If elected, I think they ought to divorce their wives and live together as man and wife—which would demonstrate that the Republicans are serious about deficit reduction by eliminating the expense of maintaining a separate residence for the vice president.”

Jack Kemp could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, while campaigning in front of the Grassy Knoll Bar & Grill in Dallas, Vice President Al Gore (R-TN) told an enthusiastic lunch-hour crowd of born-again Christians that it was time to “reach out” to Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich and other well-known Republicans who have gotten divorced.

“Ronald Reagan, a great president, divorced Jane Wyman before most people were even born. Newt Gingrich knew that marrying his high school math teacher would help him get the SATs he’d need to get into a good college, but when it came time to enter public life, that wife was no longer appropriate,” Gore said, his facial expressions alternating masterfully between sympathy and understanding. “So he divorced her in that hospital bed—but if he hadn’t done that, he wouldn’t be who he is today. Similarly, you won’t find any mention of Bob Dole’s first wife in his autobiography. Dumping the mother of his only child wasn’t an easy decision, but it gave him the opportunity to marry a woman who would one day run the Department of Transportation!”

A well-dressed heckler screamed out: “What about Bill and Hill?”

“No!” Gore responded directly to the man. “It’s wrong to compare marriages along party lines. No one knows why Republicans get divorced while Democrats stay married, but we are all Americans. We are inclusive and we are tolerant and we are nice, and that means accepting lifestyles that we ourselves may not necessarily agree with. We’re bigger than a few sundry ‘til death do us parts.”

A Dole spokesman replied: “It’s about time the Democrats started talking about family values.”

(Ted Rall, a syndicated editorial cartoonist and freelance writer living in New York City, is the author of The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done! (NBM Publishing, 1996), a graphic novel depicting the true confessions of Americans’ worst crimes.)

© 1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved.

Real Americans Admit: The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done!

For my first (nonfiction) graphic novel, I gathered answers to the question “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” from 540 Americans from all walks of life. I asked fellow plane passengers, people at parties, family members…and I took out ads in newspapers too. I serialized their answers — everything from murder to animal cruelty to a mere one-night stand — in ComicsLit magazine and compiled the best 64 pages worth into this book.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? The answer to that simple question partially defines what and who we are.

Worst Thing won the first-ever annual Firecracker Alternative Book Award in 1997.

This book is out of print. If I do a sequel or it is developed into a reality TV show — something that has been repeatedly discussed — that would likely change.

“By turns funny, unpleasant, and pathetic depending on your point of view (the animal abuse ones really bothered me), these stories are interesting in a voyeuristic way. The book is sort of like Ripley’s Believe It or Not merged with the Jerry Springer show.” —Comics Get Serious

Graphic Novel, 1996
NBM Paperback, 8.5″x11″, 64pp., $8.95

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Standard Deviation

America as Cost-Benefit Analysis

As if our country didn’t already have enough to worry about—advancing technology, downsizing, Pamela Anderson—here come the economics of rape.

An exciting new Justice Department study, “Victim Costs and Consequences: A New Look,” reveals that the “average rape” costs its victim $5,100. This sum is based on such out-of-pocket expenses as medical bills and visits to counselors. So, locking up a rapist at the cost of $20,000 a year—the average annual cost of housing an inmate—obviously doesn’t make good economic sense, the authors say, until you factor in “the effect on the victim’s quality of life,” which then brings the total average rape cost to $87,000.

Therefore it may be a good idea to lock up rapists——assuming, of course, that the average rapist would otherwise have performed at least one average rape every 4.35 years. The Justice Department plans to attach tracking devices to a random sampling of 1,200 average rapists to determine the average rate of rapist recidivism. Criminologists will present their recommendations to the Congressional Budget Office, which will then decide whether it makes more economic sense to put rapists in prison or to let them run amok.

Government analysts have also priced the “lost quality of life” for a murder victim at $1.9 million. This amount includes the average murder victim’s average pain caused by an average bullet or average knife shoved through an average heart or lung, the net total of average relatives’ average bereavement, the average number of days the mourners miss from work and the resulting loss to national productivity, as well as average burial costs and uncovered medical expenses. Do bear in mind, however, that people murdered next year will be entitled to a 4 percent cost-of-living increase to account for inflation, minus depreciation.

The average murder investigation costs only $1,400, which at first glance seems to mean the police could catch only one out of 1,357 murders and still be fiscally ahead of the game. Assuming that the average murderer serves 20 years in prison, however, the cost of housing him would be $400,000. Therefore, from a profit-loss standpoint, it only makes sense to continue pursuing murderers if at least one person is convicted for every 4.75 unnatural deaths (the $400,000 cost of housing an inmate for life, divided by the $1.9 million cost of an average life).

Actually, a number of factors mitigate against even considering rape and murder to be “crimes.” First of all, the American medical industry derives an annual benefit from the livers, kidneys, eyes and other organs donated by murder victims that are worth billions of dollars in transplant fees.

Furthermore, when jailed, a murderer or rapist fails to contribute an average of $45,000 in value-added labor to the economy. Over a 20-year sentence, this comes to a loss of $900,000—plus that additional cost of $1.9 million if the inmate should get murdered in prison.

Additionally, many murder victims are smokers, whose secondhand smoke would undoubtedly have killed many of their acquaintances and coworkers, as well as themselves, had they lived.

The statistical analysis is clear: murder—in reasonable, non-Dahmer quantities—is good for the economy, and should be immediately legalized.

If the inmates currently in American penal institutions were released and given even menial jobs, their increased production would cause the Dow Jones Industrial Average to soar at least 300 points. The Treasury Department is currently calculating the effect of legalized killing on interest rates. In the meantime, this much is certain: While we’re coddling the funeral-going, absentee-worker relatives of murder victims, our stockholders are taking a beating and our Asian competitors are laughing themselves silly.

While we’re on the subject, The Cato Institute reveals that the average welfare family receives $17,500 in government benefits, the post-tax equivalent of a $25,000-a-year job. Given that the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour pays a full-time worker just $8,840 a year, assuming no vacation, at first glance it seems that we’re paying people not to work.

But the Cato study fails to take into account the Justice Department’s analysis, which demonstrates the financial viability of murder and rape. Our society needs to find some way to get people off welfare, and out murdering and raping where they belong. Sure, rape and murder may seem like horrible crimes, but it’s time to let go of antiquated ideas of morality. In the brave new world of 21st century international competition, traditional notions of right and wrong offer nothing to a society trying to maximize its asset-liability ratios.

It’s all in the numbers!

(Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer, is the author of All The Rules Have Changed (1995). He was a loan officer and financial analyst from 1985 to 1995.)

©1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Our Great Mixing Bowl


American History for High School Students
(September 2053 Edition)

As difficult as it may be to believe today, white Americans—now virtually extinct—were once the dominant ethnic majority in our country. Until as recently as the late 20th century, every President and 99 percent of all Congresspersons were Caucasian!

What happened to these fascinating people?

After four centuries of cultural and political dominance, such famous white Americans as Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway and Martha Stewart helped build a rich and vibrant civilization that peaked during the late 1900s. White people were responsible for such important inventions as the penknife and airplane. They built computer games, composed music like disco and techno and made contributions to postmodern architecture.

White Americans were deeply spiritual. They worshipped a male god with blond hair and blue eyes who lived in a “church,” a large auditorium ringed with benches where money was collected. In addition, they felt a strong kinship with the land, which they believed had been created by their “manifest destiny” for them to use as they saw fit. Having no strong concept of an afterlife, whites often exploited and murdered each other in order to accrue as many possessions as possible before they died. According to their “work ethic” the practitioners of these violent rituals were not only tolerated but widely admired by their victims. Their government was based on a plutocratic system, in which the most successful exploiters and murderers were rewarded with absolute power.

Although white society was oppressive, its concentration of power in the hands of a few allowed the creation of impressive monuments. Today in the 21st century we can still see such relics of slave-labor as tract housing, fast-food chains and the data used to create the early Internet.

Their family structures were extremely simple, consisting of only a mother and a few children. Males followed the example of animals, which they observed in televised nature shows. After fathering several children, white men struck out on their own and lived solitary lives in one-bedroom condominiums.

Several factors contributed to the decline of white Americans. Unchecked immigration, always a factor in American history, became dominated by Mexicans, Sri Lankans and other dark-skinned peoples during the last half of the 20th century. Although some politicians urged that the country’s borders be closed, most whites were too shortsighted to predict the long-term consequences of these migratory patterns. The newcomers established themselves in business, politics and pop culture. As the number of whites fell relative to other groups, their importance in society receded. By 2020, only 14 percent of Americans had any white ancestry whatsoever. Two decades later, whites were forced to live in gated communities in remote suburbs. By 2050, there were fewer than 75,000 living in the entire United States.

In addition, whites suffered from a low birthrate. Their work ethic, high-fat diet and Puritan heritage impeded their reproduction. White environmentalists, family planners, fundamentalist Christians and feminists discouraged sex and thus large families.

African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics, however, celebrated sexual intercourse as an integral part of their culture and enjoyed exploding family sizes.

Many anthropologists attribute the end of white American culture to affirmative action, a policy that gave priority for employment and education to blacks, women and gays. First developed to counteract the effects of white discrimination against other groups, affirmative action continued after 1970, even though these groups had long since achieved parity with whites. By the year 2000, whites were completely locked out of employment.

Along with declining numbers came discrimination. Whites were limited to the most menial forms of employment. Unable to buy or rent homes in desirable neighborhoods, whites were herded into squalid inner-city ghettos vacated by former minorities. In 2018, the first black-majority government of President Orenthal J. Simpson enacted legislation, the White Protection Act of 2018, that barred whites from the Eastern and Pacific time zones. From that point on, their fate was sealed.

Today we can still see whites practicing their culture on remote reservations in Kansas and eastern Colorado. Watching their big-screen televisions, driving monster trucks and listening to unsyncopated music, these relics of a once-great civilization are a reminder of our distant past and a sad warning of the errors that can lead to one’s own extinction.

(Ted Rall, 32, is a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer based in New York.)

© 1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Cashing In On Irony

Dole’s Secret Youth Strategy Revealed

As a stunned America reels from the shock of pre-selected Republican nominee Bob Dole’s emergence as the Republican nominee, patriotic citizens should read the following secret memo—faxed to me by a Dole mole. As a dutiful public service, I have opted to relinquish my normal weekly column space. Instead, I am releasing this explosive internal strategy paper, for the good of the country and to improve my lagging sales:

INTERNAL MEMORANDUM
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL—EYES ONLY

To: Bob Dole
cc: ___ _____________
From: C___s__ __in___
Dole ’96 National Youth Coordinator

Date: 3-19-96

Re: Youth Strategy for General Election
______

Dear Bob:
As you know, voters under 35 years of age have emerged as a potent political force. They were single-handedly responsible for Clinton’s 1992 win, but the Little Rock Mafia has failed to market themselves to this key group. For the first time in recent electoral history, the GOP has the chance to appeal to young people.

Not only are young voters (a.k.a. Generation Xers, twentysomethings, twentynothings, posties, Baby Busters, slackers, scum) the determinative demographic group this year—they are also the least worried about your age. February’s New York Times/CBS News poll revealed that 41 percent of respondents aged 65 and older think you’re too old to be an effective president, compared to 39 percent of those aged 45 to 64, or 31 percent of those 30 to 34, and 29 percent of those aged 18 to 29.

Says typical voter Mary Laurent, a Republican from Hollywood, Florida: “I’ll be 74. He’s 72. I think he looks pretty good but sometimes he looks tired. It all depends on who he picks as his Vice Presidential candidate.”

Moreover, you’ve alienated older people with your support of a plan to gut Medicare spending by $275 billion over seven years. Two-thirds of these selfish seniors oppose you on Medicare.

The data is clear: Sucking up to geezers is a losing game. If a Dole candidacy is to be successful, it must concentrate on issues and images that appeal to voters under 35. Specifically:

Baby Boomer Backlash. Difficult as it may be to believe, in light of the “generation gap” rhetoric of the ’60s, Gen Xers have more in common with older Americans over 60 than they do with Boomers (now aged 35 to 50).

Both the elderly and the young came of age under a stagnant economy. Young people, busy working several jobs to survive, do not empathize with their comparatively wealthy (middle-aged) Boomer seniors and their ceaseless search for personal self-fulfillment. Their disdain for a generation they blame for abandoning activism and embracing laissez-faire capitalism—often at their expense, by underpaying them—is impossible to exaggerate.

For Gen Xers, Clinton exemplifies the Baby Boomer stereotype—out-of-touch, wishy-washy, hypocritical, opportunistic, full of flexible idealism. Ask them about Renaissance Weekends, $100 haircuts, Hillary’s “luck” at the futures market or Chelsea’s private-schooling and they roll their eyes. While they’ve passed the last twenty years watching Boomers like Clinton racing to sell out; they never had anyone to sell out to. Gen Xers lost the vast majority of jobs caused by downsizing. They blame Clinton for supporting NAFTA. They overcame their annoyance at their Boomer bosses, gave Clinton’s generation a chance to run the country and got screwed.

Issues for Youngsters. Our focus groups tell us that young voters feel particularly strongly about economic issues. I recommend that you embrace the following promises in your platform at San Diego:

• Student Loan Forgiveness Plan: Your bland balanced-budget pitch (“Interest rates would drop 2 percent!”) is dead in the water. With the federal student-loan program bleeding $20 billion in defaults, ex-students aren’t paying them back anyway. The switch from grants to loans during the Reagan years saddled an entire generation of Americans with debt, preventing them from buying homes and stagnating the housing market. So let the Treasury repay old student loans. Recommended soundbite: “Let’s get real and revive the American Dream.”

• End Reverse Ageism: Drop the minimum car-rental age (now 25) and the drinking age from 21 to 16. Extend senior-citizen discounts to the young, who need it more. Soundbite: “If you’re old enough to work, you need a drink!”

• Corporate Responsibility: You’ve already cashed in on Pat Buchanan’s anti-corporate shtick. Go further by banning profit-enhancement layoffs. Support the SEC’s proposal to force corporations—the biggest employer of young voters—to limit their top salaries to no more than 20 times that of their lowest-paid employee. Soundbite: “Baby Boomers already got theirs. Let’s reward our future before it’s too late.”

• Your Vice President: Since you will probably die in office, choose a vibrant, hip veep, like Al Pacino (a gifted Italian-American actor, see “City Hall,” now playing at Georgetown Multiplex). Forget Colin Powell (black general/author)—when this generation grew up only losers went into the military. If you want to make a dual ploy for Xers and the black vote, consider Magic Johnson (photogenic basketball legend w/AIDS). A woman veep would go over well with kids raised overwhelmingly by divorced women, but Christi(n)e Whitman (NJ governor w/ ambiguous first name) is too patrician, too uptight. You’ll have to look outside the Republican party. Soundbite: “Two presidents for the price of one!”

Hip Imagery. Drop the “Comeback Adult” comparison rhetoric. Twenty-year-old voters consider Clinton too old as it is. Most young voters didn’t have fathers or extended families, so play the role of the wacky grandfather figure they never had. A lot of irrelevant old farts have cashed in on their ironic appeal with young adults(reverse hip): Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Pat Boone. Why not you? Everything square is hip again: the Little Rascals, lunch boxes, gas guzzlers. Don’t fight your age…revel in it! Emphasize your stodgy demeanor and links with the past, use make-up that makes you look even older.

Balance your retro appeal with up-to-date tactics: Appear with Courtney Love (seedy rock singer, see attached cassette) on MTV (cable-TV music channel). Consider a nose ring (like an earring, but goes in nostril). Refer to lines from Tarantino movies (young actor/director, see attached VHS tape) to explain your position on issues (On the minimum wage: “Hey, this is one great $5 milkshake.”). Discuss your World War II experiences in hard-boiled terms appealing to young people (“Sure, we played football with their skulls, but hey—no one asked them to bomb Pearl Harbor.”).

I realize that much of the pandering to the stapled-nose crowd I’ve outlined above may feel somewhat awkward. But bear in mind that you’ve managed to hold down your lunch while promising the world to the Christian Coalition. You can win without the Creationist lunatics, but you can’t win without the young. As always, I’ll be at (202) ___-____ if you need me.
Faithfully yours,
C___s__ __in___

(Ted Rall, 32, a syndicated editorial cartoonist for Chronicle Features and freelance writer, is the author of Waking Up In America (1992) and All The Rules Have Changed (1995).)

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