Tuesday, December 26, 2006

R.I.P., Godfather

A career told through YouTube clips. Take a moment, there'll never be another like him...

No, this is not a sketch from Chapelle's Show...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas, Iraq, three years late

Is it just me, or does anyone else think this is something we should have done THREE @#$% YEARS AGO?

THE White House is expected to announce a reconstruction package for Iraq as part of a plan for a “surge” of up to 30,000 troops into Baghdad when President George W Bush unveils America’s new strategy next month.
Bush is being urged to give up to $10 billion (£5.1 billion) to Iraq as part of a “New Deal” that would create work for unemployed Iraqis, following the model of President Franklin D Roosevelt during the 1930s depression.

But while some of us were suggesting this very plan the moment our tanks began their dash across the desert, the Bush administration was busy laying the foundations for the insurgency by carrying out their plan to carve up Iraq and feed the white meat to Haliburton and its no-bid contract winning no-Iraqi-hiring, no-work-finishing, tax-payer-money-squandering subcontractors from Hell. Instead of putting Iraqis to work, the Bush administration was busy freezing them out of possibilities to rebuild their own country. Now with possibly 600,000 Iraqis dead and the country embroiled in a vicious, bloody civil war, the Bush team may have finally decided to allow Iraqis to go to work to rebuild their country. If only they'd come to this conclusion before the Iraqis came to feel they had nothing left to do but destroy it. In keeping with their pattern, the Bushes are a few years late to the party. Merry @#$% Christmas, Iraq.

One other thing to note here: Apparently $10 billion U.S. is now worth only 5.1 billion British pounds. Historically, that 10-large should have been worth over £6.5 billion. Anyone else bothered by this?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When the story matches the ad...

Came across this moment of synchronicity on the Washington Post's website this morning, and just had to capture it for posterity:

There comes a time when you have to cut your losses, admit your mistakes (or at the very least, declare victory) and leave, and we very well may be at that point right now. What is the alternative, sending more troops to become targets for the resentment and bombs of an entire nation? Hussein is gone, a democratic government was created and now they're fighting a civil war to determine either who will control it or whether they want to keep it.

Do we really believe that through force of arms we can help them make that decision? Can we? What is our mission in Iraq? How will we know when we've succeeded? What exactly is this "victory" to which Bush keeps referring? The answer to that seems to change month by month. With every turned corner, we find another corner that needs turning. Seems more like a maze with no exit than a path toward anything. And every year it seems as if there are more questions than answers.

I blame Churchill.

It's all in the timing.

In 2001, according to former terrorism czar Richard Clark, he and others in the government demanded that President Bush pay attention to the threat from Al Qaeda. The White House ignored the demands (instead focusing on apparently more pressing matters, such as Internet pornography), and the entire world is familiar with the results of that negligence.

In 2001 and 2002, millions of Americans demanded an investigation of 9/11. The President and his party refused for months before finally relenting. But by then it was too late, and those who were shown to possess questionable intelligence - in every sense of the word - had already taken us into Iraq. Had we known prior to invading that we were trusting the word of the incompetent, thousands of American troops, not to mention hundreds of thousands (most likely) of Iraqi civilians, would still be alive today, and we wouldn't have spent half a trillion dollars in order to create an Islamic failed state in a formerly secular dictatorship.

In 2004, Mr. Bush dismissed John Kerry's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq in order to try halting the slide toward civil war. Bush dismissed the notion that a slide toward civil war was even occurring. Two years, and untold deaths later (untold because we and our puppet government in Iraq now refuse to count them), George Bush has changed his mind. Yet again, coming around to what may be the right conclusion only when it's far too late to matter.

Democrats have been calling for additional troops for years. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) proposed an increase of 40,000 troops during his 2004 campaign against Bush, only to be dismissed by the administration. As recently as June, the Bush administration opposed adding more troops because restructuring "is enabling our military to get more war-fighting capability from current end strength."

But Bush yesterday had changed his mind. "I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops -- the Army, the Marines," he said. "And I talked about this to Secretary Gates, and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."

Most outside the White House, including Colin Powell, seem to believe additional troops at this point wouldn't help. It's too little, too late. It's all in the timing. Perhaps a surge of troops would have made a positive impact a couple years ago when everyone else first thought of the idea, but today it's likely to do nothing but give insurgents more targets for their resentment and their IED's. Furthermore, although the military seems to have largely met its recruiting goals this year, those goals were lowered a couple years ago. They've struggled to meet their goals, and there's no telling exactly where Bush thinks he's going to find an additional 70,000 troops, unless he were to propose reinstituting the draft (which ain't gonna happen). Perhaps through more stop-loss programs, shifting more troops from elsewhere, conscripting the Coast Guard, calling up the Girl Scouts, and recalling the last living World War One veteran to duty. I'm sure they'll try some combination of the above.

If only I were on the White House staff, I'd solve the problem in no time. I'd empower the President to fulfill his wish in the quickest way possible -- by walking into the Oval Office and uttering three simple words: Work release program.

Not only would a work release program allow the President to proceed with his troop increase, it would also solve our chronic prison overcrowding problem. In fact, if we were to send nothing but death row inmates to Iraq and put them on the frontlines, it may even save us a buck or two on all those needles and electric bills.

But, it's all in the timing, and this President's habitually late to the game. Odds are my phone'll be ringing two years from now.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Candorville on YouTube

According to Time Magazine, we are all the "Person of the Year," and much of the credit for that goes to YouTube. YouTube's begun to fulfill the promise of the Internet: Just a few short years ago, the national pastime of America's youth (myself included, I confess) was sitting in front of a flickering TV screen addicted to the mindless crap (and the occasional thoughtful crap) Hollywood flings at us. YouTube helped change all that.
Today, more and more people under thirty are sitting in front of an unblinking LCD screen addicted to the mindless crap (and occasional gems) flung at them by their peers. The difference is - and I promise this is the end of an analogy inspired by an unpleasant trip to the zoo's Bonobo cage - now anyone with a video camera, Final Cut and an Internet connection can fling their poop right back.

Case in point: According to Time, YouTube's turning point came when someone posted SNL's "Lazy Sunday" sketch online earlier this year. Visits to the site jumped by over 80% and kept on rising. Time suggests that you check it out on YouTube, but good luck finding it. If it's still there, it's buried somewhere amidst page upon page of "Lazy Sunday" parodies uploaded by random people.

But I think this is another case of the Media not putting two and two together. Around the time YouTube blew up, another video was posted to the site. It was much funnier, far more relevant, and even a bit inspiring. It was groundbreaking. Yet again, the mainstream media drops the ball. Here is what, I believe, actually led to YouTube's success:

In case you're wondering, this was apparently based on a strip from late 2005:

...and since nothing escapes C-Dog's notice (it only took him a year):

C-Dog, "Other Guy" and I all want our royalties, YouTube.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Politics is the art of the disgusting

Democratic Senator Tim Johnson may have suffered a stroke today. Strokes are serious business. My mother suffered through one years ago and I'm not sure she ever fully recovered, even though they caught it early. Everyone wished her well and we've been pulling for her because we love her. But my mother wasn't the deciding vote in the United States Senate. If Senator Johnson is unable to serve, his replacement will be appointed by a Republican governor, and will most likely be a Republican -- denying Democrats control of the Senate.

Count on the conservative blogs to salivate over this (while offering half-hearted "best wishes"), not because they're evil, but because they care more about regaining power than they do about the life and health of a human being. Count also on the liberal blogs to be deeply concerned for Senator Johnson's health, not because they truly care about him, but because they care about holding on to their party's newly-won power. The latter is only slightly less odious.

It's also human nature.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Channeling one's inner loser

Not a week goes by that I don't check my inbox and see a variation of the following question: "Mr. Bell/Darrin/Moron, how do you get the characters in 'Candorville' to seem so three-dimensional? I want to work long hours for 1970's wages as a cartoonist someday, but my characters seem so flat and lifeless."

Here's how you do it, kids: stay in school, read as much literature as you can get your hands on, and always cross at the crosswalk (I don't know what that has to do with learning about character development, but it's a good idea anyway).

Other tricks: Pay attention to the people around you, and create backstories for them in your head. See a homeless person? Create a story about how he ended up that way. Not only will you be on the road toward developing three dimensional characters, but focusing on the plight of another human being helps you develop your "compassion muscle." Unless, of course, you come up with some calvinist backstory about how the guy's homeless because he deserves to be, which would be a pretty boring, two-dimensional story.

Or you can take the easy way out, and simply channel your inner loser. Be critical of yourself. Have you done anything stupid that you wish nobody would ever know about? Don't repress it deep in your subconscious, where it'll fester until it eats some choice part of your soul. Don't live in denial. Confess your loserness to the world. Not only will it keep your soul from being eaten, it'll give you some quality character development.

Case in point:

Of course, for this strip I used option A. I would never do something like this in real life.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winning Hearts and Minds, example 29,987

Disclaimer: Spotted this on SmirkingChimp.com; I have no idea what the source of this video may be, but verified stories coming out of Iraq make this look tame by comparison, so odds are it's legit. It seems more like a sure-fire method for creating an insurgent, rather than a way to instill a sense of justice. When the punishment doesn't fit the crime, you're just asking for rebellion. And when you stick a bunch of kids with guns in the middle of someone else's civil war and don't give them the planning, training and tools they need to do their job (whatever the hell that is), you're just asking for punishments that don't fit crimes.