I am totally slapping myself in the head now because I never once thought about including a secret underground party lair in the plans. Now it's too late. And I suspect Shelly will be closely watching the construction phase, asking a lot of questions such as "Is that the pantry or the entrance to a secret underground party lair?"
To make things worse, I am exactly the sort of person who would build a house with a secret underground lair. But I probably wouldn't use it for parties because I'm selfish. I would just say I was on a business trip and go hide in there. All I'd need is a TV, refrigerator, and a toilet. It could all be in one room. I wouldn't even need overhead lights as long as the TV was always on. And obviously a chair would be redundant if you have a toilet. Easy peezy is the way I like it.
I'd use my secret lair to watch all the TV shows I can't watch with my family, such as Battlestar Galactica, and Southpark. The only risk is that it might sound a bit pathetic when the authorities raid my house for Garfield copyright infringement and discover that I have an underground television lair. There is no type of beard I can grow that would make that situation seem cool.
Check out my previous blog and the comments. If you use the ranking feature you can see the top several arguments for voting for McCain versus Obama. I found it fascinating to see which arguments were most persuasive to the extra-smart readers of this blog.
Personally, I think neither McCain nor Obama meet the minimum requirements to be president. I think we're hosed either way. But I am inspired by your arguments to come up with my own best case for each candidate. First, McCain:
Argument for McCain
You've heard the saying, "Only Nixon could go to China." If not, here is some background: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixon_in_China_(phrase)
Likewise, only McCain, the ultra-hawk, can make peace with Iran or North Korea or Cuba. No one could accuse him of being soft. If a hawk like McCain decides to make peace, it must be because peace is clearly the best option.
Likewise, only McCain could draw down troops in Iraq without it appearing to be a defeat. All he'd have to say is, "We'll be back tomorrow if needed," and it would seem credible. That promise wouldn't be credible coming from Obama. And the threat of return is the only thing that would make a withdrawal work.
McCain went hard to the right to get the nomination. And he appears to have been inconsistent on some issues just to get elected. That proves he is a practical guy who knows how to get the job done. Once elected, he could be expected to drift back to the middle, where things can be accomplished in this country. Even if you like more of Obama's plans compared to McCain's, only McCain could get the support from congress to get anything done. Obama will be stonewalled, especially when he tries to pay for his plans by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Even if you like that idea, it can't happen in this country because corporations and the wealthy control congress.
If you like any two ideas from McCain, and you like ten ideas from Obama, you're still better off voting for McCain because his two ideas can happen. Obama's ideas are too left to get the support needed.
Argument for Obama
McCain is simply too old to be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button. While it is entirely possible that one particular 70+ guy could defy the rules of aging and remain sharp, it is a fool's bet for voters when so much is on the line. He's clearly sharp enough today, but at that age, the drop will come quickly.
McCain supported the gas holiday over the objections of every economist. That proves he's either dishonest or willing to ignore experts, even when all of them are on the same side. Either explanation disqualifies McCain for the job of president.
Presidents don't have much impact on the economy. And as different as Obama and McCain seem on Iraq and Iran, they would end up in the same place: stuck in Iraq and talking tough with Iran but doing nothing. So you can discount the economy and foreign affairs in your voting calculation. Presidents make their biggest impact on how we feel. That was Reagan's gift and Kennedy's too. Obama makes people feel inspired and hopeful, and those things have a huge impact on the economy and even education. The very existence of an African-American president would change who we are as a country in a way that everyone agrees is positive.
If you agree that presidents have little power over economics, and both candidates will end up on the same place with international affairs, you have to decide between the inspiration of Obama and the senility of McCain. Those are the two most predictable elements.
And if you happen to be a social lefty, you need Obama to nominate the next few Supreme Court justices.
I reiterate that I don't think either man meets the minimum qualification I would like in a president. I just like the challenge of coming up with good arguments. How'd I do?
This blog has a comment ranking system. Let's have some fun with it by having our own presidential debate. Pick a side, either Obama or McCain, and leave a comment explaining why your pick would be the best president.
Then be sure to vote for the best other comments that aren't your own. Let's see which arguments float to the top.
You are not required to be brief, but my guess is that people will vote you down if you can't make your case in a paragraph or two.
The challenge is to support your argument. For example, saying one candidate will vote for some particular treaty is just a fact, not an argument, unless you can include a link to an article saying most experts disagree with the treaty.
Later I posted Dave Steward's story and his resume on my blog, hoping someone would offer him a job. He just e-mailed to say something good came of it. Dilbert blog reader Bob Buchholz offered to help Dave with his resume (which needed help), and a company with a sense of humor gave him a job a month ago. Dave thinks Bob's help on the resume made the difference. He's working security again, this time within walking distance of his home.
I don't know Bob personally, but apparently he is a generous guy.
People who love to read physical newspapers often cite "discovery" as one of the advantages over the Internet. Your eye scans the entire page and you notice interesting items that you wouldn't have otherwise known about. The problem is that many of those interesting items are total downers. Most news involves unpleasantness of one sort or another, so the more you see of it, the unhappier it makes you.
This got me wondering how the Internet handles all the bad news, since I see headlines many times a day online and never come away feeling sad. Today's news headlines on yahoo.com were interesting because they are mostly couched in upbeat terms.
The toilet on the space station isn't "still broken"; it's being fixed! Clinton didn't lose a primary in which she stayed too long; she's uniting the party! United Airlines isn't in a death spiral that begins by grounding lots of airplanes; they are saving fuel! And that feisty 83-year old World War II veteran is graduating high school! And hey, what about those sports!
Even Yahoo couldn't fix the headline about Somalia, but there are no photos on the home page. And "humanitarian crisis" sounds much better than starving by the truckloads. It seems like maybe the problem could be fixed with good paperwork.
I wonder if anyone has studied whether the Internet has generally more upbeat takes on the news compared to physical newspapers.
Yesterday I flew to LA, after just being there on the weekend and sighting a few minor celebrities. (See yesterday's blog post.) This time I was traveling with my wife, and I was alert to spotting additional celebrities, or at least people who looked like celebrities.
After we got off the plane in LA, we ended up on the escalator behind a guy who seemed to be someone important. He wore clothes that you can't get in Macy's, and a haircut you can't get at Supercuts. We guessed he was an ultimate fighter type, based on his build and the way a guy in a business suit was sucking up to him. I just found his picture on Google Images to confirm who he was. Apparently he's one of the most famous ultimate fighters, Tito Ortiz.
Later in the afternoon, back at the airport, we got in the Southwest Airlines ticket line to try and get an earlier flight. I noticed that the guy in front of us looked a little like actor Danny Glover, but older and scruffier. For fun, I decided to tell my wife it was indeed Danny Glover and let her enjoy the thrill-by-proximity until she realized I was full of shit. So I discretely tapped out the message on my Blackberry: "You are behind actor Danny Glover" and showed it to her. Shelly wasn't going to fall for that, and dismissed it quickly. After all, the guy in front of us was schlepping his own bags, shabbily dressed, and standing in line at Southwest with the common people. He clearly wasn't movie star material.
But when we got a glimpse of his full profile, it sure looked like Danny Glover. I convinced myself it really was. Shelly noticed the initials on his luggage were DLG. As we walked from the ticket area to the gate, she suggested I use my Blackberry to figure out what Danny Glover's middle name is, to confirm the initials. I argued that the odds of spotting a guy who looks like Danny Glover, in a city where Danny Glover works, boarding a flight to an area where Danny Glover lives (The Bay Area) with two-out-of-three confirmed initials for "Danny Glover" on his luggage was sufficient confirmation. Shelly wasn't so sure.
Coincidentally, we ended up next to this potential Danny Glover fellow as we lined up in our designated waiting place at the gate. He was on his cell phone talking in a perfect Danny Glover voice to a business contact about his next movie that begins production in September. I asked Shelly if she still needed me to check his middle name, but she was now ready to accept this as a bona fide celebrity sighting.
The interesting part was watching the reaction from the other passengers and flight crew to this huge star: none. As far as we could tell, no one else in the terminal was aware of his existence. Or if they were, they weren't letting on. Maybe that's how they roll in LA, where there is a celebrity on every corner.
All I know is that when we returned to my celebrity-free suburban town, I felt a little empty knowing it could be weeks, even months, before I saw another famous person from a distance. I already miss my good friends Tito and Danny.
Last weekend I attended the BEA convention, an event for publishers and book sellers. One of my duties was to sign books for an hour at my publisher's booth. Hordes of authors were doing the same, at different times, throughout the show.
I got to the show early and decided to walk around and see if I ran into anyone famous. I've been to a few of these conventions and you can usually count on seeing a minor celebrity or two. To me, celebrity watching is like bird watching, but better because celebrities rarely crap on your head.
The last time I went to this convention, a number of years ago, I talked to Oliver North and saw Heidi Fleiss from a few feet away. Not bad. But on this day all I saw was Jackie Collins. She's famous enough, but I've run into her twice in LA on other trips - once at a restaurant, and once on a TV set. So that was disappointing. I was hoping for something new. And I wondered if Jackie has a house of if she just wanders around in public hoping I see her.
As I rounded a corner, I noticed a long line of people who were obviously waiting for a well-known author. I had about 15 minutes to spare, so I jumped in the line, hoping to see the celebrity before I had to go do my job. I listened to the people ahead of me and tried to figure out who I was waiting for. Man, was I disappointed. They were in line waiting for me. Luckily I am virtually invisible in crowds, so no one noticed me slink away and go to the head of the line to sign books.
The next morning, at the Burbank airport, I was in a gift shop buying a Snickers. A woman asked the guy next to me if she could take a picture with him. It was Mario Lopez. He was flipping through a People magazine, presumably looking for pictures of himself. So I guess that counts as a decent celebrity sighting. But Mario was flying Southwest Airlines, so I couldn't get too impressed. Not that I am competitive, but my boarding pass was an A3, and I doubt he could top that.
I'm in LA today, signing Dilbert books at the BEA (bookseller convention), from 1-3 pm, in the Andrews McMeel Publishers booth. If you want something signed, find a friend who knows a friend who knows someone at the show.
I imagine the tyrant retirement program would provide some sort of international security guarantees and permanent amnesty for the tyrant. That might require some U.N. forces to guard his mansion or island fortress or wherever he decides to retire. And he would have unrestricted travel rights, in case he wanted to get out of the country for his own safety.
Second, the tyrant would be written into the history books as some sort of founding father type. He would be, ironically, the father of democracy, having stepped aside to allow it to happen. The history books would be modified to show the tyrant did many good things in terms of national stability, and then stepped aside to allow democracy to flourish. His multiple genocides would be downplayed. No tyrant wants to get bad press after retiring.
The tyrant would also be allowed to keep much of the money he stole, say up to a limit of $5 billion per tyrant. That's enough to keep him in helicopters and hookers.
You could add some extras, such as putting the tyrant on stamps and currency, or agreeing to keep him on the ones already in circulation. The point is that retirement has to look like a safe and honorable thing.
The story line for the country would be that while a dictatorship made sense while the tyrant was in power, it only worked because of the force of his amazing personality. And since his country couldn't be expected to find another dictator of such compassion and skill, democracy is the best succession strategy. That spin might sound preposterous, but when you consider the things your own government tells you, it's not that different.
I know it will never work. But waiting for tyrants to die takes too long, and killing them is too expensive. There has to be a better way.
My comic on 5/24/08 raised some questions. In the third panel, Dilbert makes a reference to "churning my own butter." Readers wondered if that was intended to be a naughty double entendre. Read it again if you care to refresh your memory.
This comic was written in my usual way. I started with a premise and drew the first frame hoping I would eventually figure out how it ended. I had a notion that it would end with a reference to something old-fashioned, and I expected to cycle through lots of options before landing on something funny. As it turned out, "churning my own butter" was both the first thing I thought (it's the most obvious) and also the funniest, precisely because it does suggest a darker joke. The boss's line, "You make it sound creepy" was the frosting, so to speak.
Wait, I think I just did it again.