Monday, January 30, 2006

Reader Mailbag - The Army's Recruitment Numbers

The Army reported meeting its recruting goals for 7 months straight. Last Friday's Candorville lampooned the contention that meeting those goals was tantamount to a vote of confidence in the Presiden'ts Iraq policies. A few readers have e-mailed to ask a couple questions in response: a) Where did I get my facts, and b) why don't I go #@% myself. The answer to the latter is, it's not physically possible. If it were, nobody would ever get any work done. The answer to the former is best summed up by this newsgroup exchange I had with a poster at rec.arts.comics.strips (cleaned up the grammar just a bit):

Detox wrote:
(Regarding Friday's comic strip)

Sorry Darrin. I don't believe that to be the case.

The Army's recruiting goal this year is 80,000. Same as last year.

The Army met its June goal only by lowering it from 6650 to 5650.

They went on to miss their annual goal by at least 6600 soldiers.

"Fiscal 2005 marked the first time the Army fell short of an annual recruiting goal since 1999 and was one of its poorest recruiting performances since the birth of the all-volunteer military in 1973
during the tumult of the Vietnam War era."

Detox wrote:
Additionally, the entire recruiting story was a big nothing last year. If you look at total military recruiting, the shortfall was pretty minimal. The Corps exceeded expectations and I'm pretty sure the Air Force and Navy did as well.

If you look at this graphic from Stars & Stripes, you'll notice that recruiting goals for the other branches are significantly lower than those for the Army. And not to disparge the Air Force or the Navy, but in this battle, neither branch faces the conditions faced by the Army or Marines. Marine recruitment met its targets, but the story was about Army recruitment, not the entire military. The Army National Guard fell even shorter.

This is troubling because of the increased signing bonuses and other lengths the Army went through to expand their pool of recruits.

"After missing its recruitment goal this year by nearly 7,000 troops, the widest margin since 1979, the Army has announced a revision of recruitment tactics. It is now accepting a greater number of less qualified applicants, doubling the amount of so-called Category 4 troops, those men and women who score low in the aptitude tests from 2 percent of the class to 4 percent."
-General Barry McCaffrey

Detox wrote:
Also, all of the military did very well in terms of re-enlistments for FY2005. In the case of the Army, re-enlistments almost covered the shortfall in new recruits.'s the big rates were strongest among units that had served in Iraq.

That's re-enlistments. Stop-loss programs and the beratement many get when they decide to leave aside, here's a good article about why some soldiers re-enlist. It may have less to do with support for Bush's policies than with the comeraderie abroad and the respect they receive when they come back home.

Re-enlistments are entirely different than new enlistments. I'd like to see someone do a study examining whether the re-enlistees are mostly career military who plan on staying in the army long enough to earn a pension, or whether they're mostly the short-timers who serve 6 years or so and then go on to a civilian career. My guess is it would be the former.

Detox wrote:
Curiously, there seemed to be more stories about the shortfall in new recruits than there were about the increasing retention rates.

The Army did cut their recruiting goal for May last year, but kept the overall 80,000 goal for the year.

It missed its recruiting goal last year. And the Army lowered its recruiting goals for the first few months of fiscal year 2006 (which is when it reported meeting its goals). They are keeping the 80,000 annual goal, but only hope to meet it by increasing their summer goals, when it may be easier to recruit soldiers.

"Even within the Defense Department, few suggest that the Army has seen its way through the crisis. Instead, what the Army has done is backload the goals for its recruiting year, which runs from October through next September.

For instance, last fiscal year, the Army's October recruiting goal was 6,935 recruits; this year it dropped to 4,700. To make up the difference, the Army will look to sign up more recruits next summer: Last July it sought to bring in 7,450 soldiers; next July it is seeking 10,450, an extra 3,000."

I don't know if missing the goal suggests a widespread lack of support for the President's policies, but I do know it does not suggest the opposite. Which is what that strip was about.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Reader Mailbag - Abortion?

One interesting part of this job is, the comics you're sure will cause a shitstorm often don't, and the ones you think couldn't possibly offend anyone often manage to draw out the crazies who get offended by the weirdest things. A reader wrote to me a few years ago, for instance, to complain that one of the characters wears sunglasses at night. Why, he asked, would I so callously encourage our nation's children to do something that would cause blindness, accidents and horrible mangled suffering? There are some readers who surprise me, not because they write in about stupid things, but because they were able to read the comic strip in the first place.

A few days ago, I posted an e-mail exchange with the "Stupid Reader of the Day." Thankfully, most of Candorville's readers are more intelligent, and even when they disagree with the strip, they manage to present that disagreement in a respectful, thoughtful way.

Today's strip was conjecture about one side effect of the State's decision to allow pharmacists to deny birth control to women if it violates their religious beliefs. I received a few e-mails about it, but surprisingly, they were all thoughtful and polite. Here's one that's representative of those e-mails:

Mr. Bell --

I imagine you would prefer to receive comments about your strips on your message boards, but I hope you don't mind -- I preferred to contact you directly.

I'm assuming that the comic I will refer to below ran on Jan 5th everywhere, but my paper -- the Chicago Tribune -- accidentally ran the same page of comics on Jan 3rd and 4th, so it may be off by one day. It was the strip that contained panels that showed:

2002 -- a reference to pharmacaists that choose to follow their conscience and not prescribe drugs that they feel destroys a living human being

2020 -- a reference to the Republican party being projected to do well in an election

I want to thank you for this creating this strip as a "cautionary tale" for the Democratic party -- (I would also say for the black community, but since I am white, I will not presume.)

Unless the Democratic party wakes up and realizes that the generation of those saved from the tragedy of abortion began voting around 1993 -- not some point in the future, let alone 2020 -- they will continue to founder.

These children realize that it is primarily the Republican party that did not condemn them to a death sentence simply based on their color, their economic status, their parents' age or marital status, their own size/age, their physical deficits, their father's evil actions, their mother's treatable mental or physical status, etc

You don't need to tell me all that is wrong with the Republican party -- I am aware that all political parties should work for better conditions for women, children, and families -- but they alone defend what is really at stake -- the right to be born and given a chance at life.

The Republican party doesn't deny the unborn a chance to prove that every child (and their mother and/or father) has the potential to rise above all temporary setbacks and live a great life -- if given that chance.

I am a member of Feminists for Life (which you can find our more about at which is not affiliated with any political party. It sometime pains me to that I have to vote Republican, but until the Democratic party allows for even the slightest reconsideration on this issue, it's where I'll stay -- and where the growing pro-life community will continue to gravitate.

In closing, I don't always agree with your strip, but I read it everyday as I find it relevant without being rude (most of the time) unlike The Boondocks (most of the time!) while remaining funny (ditto!)

Thank you for your time,


What I try to do with Candorville is contribute to the national dialogue, to get people to think. I don't really care whether people agree with me, I just think there isn't enough critical thought in this country. Since 9-11, asking questions, connecting dots and doubting the intentions of government have become taboo, and I'm trying to do my part to chip away at that attitude. So I appreciate when people who disagree with me take the time to tell me why, because it tells me it's working.

These days, I still receive a few e-mails telling me to "Shut up," or that "nobody wants to hear that," or asking why I hate America, and after I exchange an e-mail or two with them to confirm that they're idiots, I add them to Mail's "nut" list and they automatically get the following form reply from me from then on:

Dear reader,

While we try to answer every e-mail, even the crazy ones, some are just way too crazy to bother with. If you are on this list, congratulations, you have joined the incredibly small handful of nuts who've been blocked by this e-mail address:


1. You are a bigot.
2. You are just WAY too easily offended.
3. After we've sent you several links to our sources, you continue to deny that a recent comic strip was factually correct.
4. You believe the numbers on the bus stop signs in Candorville are communicating secret messages having to do with aliens.
5. You believe you speak for God, that your religion is superior to all others, and that anyone who disagrees with you is hopelessly lost.
6. You began your e-mail with "I believe in free speech, BUT..."
7. You spelled "loser" or "stupid" incorrectly.

Your e-mails will not be answered unless they are accompanied by a note from an accredited psychiatrist.

Good luck to you.


Darrin Bell
Cartoonist, "Candorville"
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But when they write to me, as "C.M." did, to present their views thoughtfully, I respect that. Even if I think they're dead wrong. My response to "C.M.":

Ms. "C.M.",

Thank you for taking the time to write.

I'm confused about why you say a generation of Americans "saved from abortion" began voting in 1993. After all, the generation that began voting in the Nineties was the first generation born after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally.

I'm also confused by the language you use, which seems to suggest you believe Democrats are anti-life and are engaged in some sort of genocide against people based on their economic status, race, etc...

That simply is not the case. Democrats seem to have two major arguments, one based on practicality, the other based on principle:

The practical argument is that women have always sought abortions. Always. And when it wasn't legal, women still obtained them and in many cases this resulted in severe injury or death. Legalizing abortion has virtually ended the back-alley abortion industry and its horrible conditions.

The principled argument is that government has no right to decide what people do with their own bodies. People do not agree on when life begins or when it ends, and that such a decision is a personal one to be made by those directly involved. Whether it's with the issue of abortion or the issue of discontinuing life support, the principled argument is that that's personal, and shouldn't be used as a political football for partisan purposes.

That said, the comic strip you mentioned was not about abortion, it was about birth control pills and the morning after pill (neither of which aborts a fetus; rather they both work to inhibit ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of the egg in the uterus. In other words, the woman never becomes pregnant in the first place.). If you are against abortion, you should favor both the birth control pill and the morning after pill, because they prevent the formation of life in the body of a woman who would otherwise be likely to abort it.

As for the pharmacists, I believe that if they're going to let their personal beliefs prevent them from providing any legal drugs to adults who are legally allowed to purchase them, they should go into another line of work. In my opinion, they, and government, have no right to make such a personal decision for women.

And as for the Democratic Party foundering because of their support of the freedom to choose, that's unsupported by the facts. Most Americans are pro-choice. If that were the issue people were basing their vote on, Democrats would control all three branches of government right now. The Democrats are foundering because they don't fight as hard as Republicans do, they don't articulate the morality of their position (it's moral to ensure safe working conditions for miners, for instance, rather than ensuring the mine companies can avoid penalties for unsafe working conditions - look up the cuts the White House has made to the Mine Safety and Health Administration since 2002).

Thanks again for taking the time to write, and for reading Candorville!


Darrin Bell
Cartoonist, "Candorville"

Monday, January 02, 2006

Candorville Comes to the Bay Area

After getting into the largest papers in the country, every cartoonist's dream is to appear in his hometown paper. One reason is so you can make sure your work looks as good in print as it does on your monitor (because newsprint isn't the highest quality medium, ink sometimes spreads, dot patterns sometimes become ugly moire patterns if they're too fine, and colors look like shit if they're too saturated). Another reason is, when you meet someone and they ask what you do for a living, it's a lot easier to say "you can see my cartoon in the Tribune" than to say "you can see my cartoon online at or if you go to and select Candorville from the drop down menu in the top right-hand corner of your screen."

After more than two years, the dream's come true for me -- Candorville debuted today in the Oakland Tribune and the other East Bay and Peninsula papers that are part of the Alameda Newspaper Group (The Argus, Hayward Review, San Mateo County Times and the Alameda Times-Star).

These aren't the first Bay Area papers to pick up Candorville - that ignominy belongs to the San Francisco Chronicle. But they're the first to run Candorville daily on the comics page, where it belongs (the Chronicle runs Candorville every Monday on the opinion page).

I subscribed to the Tribune last week so I can check on the print quality of the strip every day. The only downside is, now I'll have to get up before Noon to get the paper before someone in my building steals it.


I'll be manning the NCS booth at Wondercon in San Francisco again this year. If you'll be in the area and haven't picked up a copy of the Candorville book (or just want to meet me), I'll be there at Moscone Center sometime during the weekend of February 10. The final schedule's not nailed down yet, so I'll post the exact date and time here as it approaches.

Happy New Year!