I’m stuck with only dial-up access for a week, so blog updates are going to be kind of sparse. But the comics will continue, as I work on new material.

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So here it is - the shiny new home of Debt On. Why don’t we take a few minutes to walk through some of the new features…

1. New comic archiving system. This is courtesy a little PHP script called ATP. This really was the perfect client for this site, and was easier to set up than 90% of the PHP scripts I’ve used. (I tried about 10 different comic updating scripts before this one.)

2. RSS Feeds. I’ve set up RSS feeds for the blog, comic and newswire. If you have a newsreader, you can automatically be informed of updates.

3. Blog search function. I forgot b2 could do this. Seems interesting.

4. Streamlined design. The whole site is now written on 8 pages of actual html, and the content is added through scripting and databases. This makes tweaking and adding to the site much easier, though it did mean losing some of the older content. I’ll think of a way to reintegrate it at a later date.

5. And its got some pretty nifty new graphics, no?

So click around and check stuff out! And please let me know about anything that doesn’t seem to be working right.

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In January I made a few vague references to projects I’ve been working on behind the scenes. In a few days I’m going to unveil the first in a series of steps that should completely transform this site, in a way that both brings it closer to my original intention, and (I hope) moves it forward in a really big way.

Starting in four days, Debt On goes into reruns. No, that doesn’t sound very exciting at all. But there’s a few things this is going to help me accomplish.

1. It gets the shiny new site design I’ve been working on up and going so I can fix any of the bugs in the sites and the comic update scripts.

2. I’m finally moving the Debt On archives over to debt-on.com. (They’re hosted on Keenspace, now called Comic Genesis. Not very convenient.)

3. It gives me three months of working and promotion time.

For what?

In May I plan on producing a daily comic strip again. I plan to have it last at least one year. I hope this leads me somewhere good.

Scott, you’re a fantastic writer and a fabulous cartoonist! How can I help you achieve these goals?

Glad you asked.

1. Let me know about any bugs in the website, problems you notice, or generally confusing layout.

2. Once they start, tell your friends about the comic strips! If you know anyone that hasn’t read the old strips this is the perfect time to get caught up. Remember, if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.

3. If you or anyone you know publishes a zine I’ll let you run the comic strips for free. email me if you’re interested.

4. Give me a grant so I can quit my job and work on comics full time. ;)

Okay, so to recap: new site in four days, new comics in May. See you there!

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So despite all the hand-wringing to the contrary, Hamas said today that it was willing to talk to Israel, and thus recognize them as a political institution.

They do, however, contend that “resisting an occupation is legal.” Sounds fair. Seems to me that when the terrorists become the government, they’re not terrorists any more.

The political leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas has said the group is willing to take a serious step towards peace if Israel does the same.

Khaled Meshaal told the BBC that Hamas would not renounce violence, saying resisting an occupation was legal.

But he said a long-term truce would be possible if Israel accepted conditions including a return to its 1967 borders.

So Hamas’ demands sound kind of like the United Nations’. Israel? Your response?

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Hugo Chavez: “The imperialist, genocidal, fascist attitude of the US president has no limits. I think Hitler would be like a suckling baby next to George W Bush.”

Hitler would be a suckling baby next to George W. Bush? Dude, George W. Bush is a suckling baby!

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Bush’s new budget was released today. There are some sadly predictable things about this budget, like an all-time record deficit of $423 billion. An increase in the Pentagon’s budget to $439.3 billion. And yet again the cost of the war was mostly left out, only $50 billion, so the budget doesn’t seem quite as bad as it might. They just ask for that separately:

The OMB analysts also include the $50 billion that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he will request in “supplemental” funds for FY 2007, sometime this year, to cover anticipated expenses of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That brings the total to $513 billion.

And there’s more. The Pentagon also announced Monday that it would ask Congress for $70 billion as a supplemental to fund war costs for the rest of FY 2006 (which lasts until this coming October). Strictly speaking, this $70 billion doesn’t count in a toting up of military appropriations for FY 2007. But if you view the whole budget package simply as a request for more new money, whether for next year or slipped in through the back door of this year, then that takes us to $583 billion.

Bush has never incorporated the cost of the war into his annual budget, instead preferring to have the money doled out throughout the fiscal year. $120 billion was already requested for 2006 since last January.

The budget is still recovering from Bush’s first term tax cuts, which will cost $1.35 trillion over the next decade. Meanwhile, to make it seem just a little bit better…

In addition to strict limits on most discretionary, non-security spending in the budget, Bush sought drastic cuts or total elimination on 141 programs that would produce savings of nearly $15 billion in 2007.

The targeted programs included 42 in the area of education ranging from drug-free schools to federal support for the arts, technology and parent-resource centers.

We’ve got $439 billion for the Pentagon but can’t scrape together $15 billion for art and drug free schools??? No Child Left Behind, indeed.

And as always, the ablity of this administration to say the exact opposite of whatever they’re doing is unequaled.

“This budget represents the president’s dedication to fiscal discipline, an efficient federal government and the continuation of a thriving U.S. economy,” Treasury Secretary John Snow told the Senate Finance Committee.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a statement recently where he likened Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Adolf Hitler. The crucial paragraph is this:

“I mean, we’ve got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money,” Rumsfeld added. “He’s a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others.”

Now, I could go on about the inflammatory rhetoric and lies about Chavez continually coming out of the Bush Administration. Or I could point out the similarities between Hitler and Rumsfeld’s own boss. Or that the last time the Bush Administration made inflammatory statements comparing contemporary politics to World War II they turned out to be very very wrong. But instead I’ll just say: the best comparison Rumsfeld can come up with between Chavez and Hitler is that they’ve both been legally elected?

Stop the presses, dictator is in da house!

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Controversy surrounding a Danish cartoon has ballooned into a diplomatic nightmare for Denmark with death threats made on Danish citizens at home and abroad, relations breaking down between Denmark and many Arab countries, and Danish goods being hurt by Arab boycotts.

The cartoons, in my opinion, are inappropriate and offensive. They have the right to exist, but they are horribly inflammatory and provoke the notion that Muslims are a violent people with a violent deity.

While the Danish paper had every right to print the cartoons originally, European papers scrambling to reprint the cartoons now in a show of defiance is tasteless and unnecessary. To do so undermines Denmark’s attempts at reconciliation and suggests that Europe is complicit in the image of a Muslim prophet as a ticking time bomb.

This is particularly dangerous considering the internal problems with Muslim communities prevalent in much of Western Europe, acutely demonstrated by the rioting outside of Paris several weeks ago. It’s my opinion that you have the right to say anything, and sometimes you may say something just to say it. But when you repeat it again and again “just for the sake of saying it,” it’s probably your own opinion.

In Berlin, the prominent daily Die Welt ran a front-page caricature of the prophet wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb.

The paper argued there was a right to blaspheme in the West, and asked whether Islam was capable of coping with satire.

“The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical,” it wrote in an editorial.
- BBC

The arrogance is palpable.

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I’m really bothered by the world’s reaction to the recent elections in Palestine. I’m sure most know by now that the political movement Hamas, notorious for its confrontational and violent attitude toward Israel, won an overwhelming majority of the Palestinian Parliament.

The opposition, which has held power in Palestine for decades, as well as leaders of the European Union and our own George W. Bush, are having trouble accepting the election results. As soon as Hamas was elected, demands were made by world leaders that Hamas either renounce violence or risk losing foreign aid.

Several days after the election, Fatah activists and police stormed Parlaiment and occupied the building for twenty minutes, firing guns into the air. This is the peaceful party that the rest of the world is yearning to work with?

I think the rest of the world — particularly one country that aspires to remake the Middle East as a thriving democracy — needs to have more respect for the decisions of the Palestinian people. To outright refuse to work with this new government shows contempt for democracy.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who monitored the elections in Palestine, suggests that it may be possible to work with Hamas, and if not, that the United States should find other ways to give to the suffering Palestinian people:

“If there are prohibitions — like, for instance, in the United States, against giving any money to a government that is controlled by Hamas — then the United States could channel the same amount of money to the Palestinian people through the United Nations, through the refugee fund, through UNICEF, things of that kind,”

Or is it all an excuse to cut a little money going to brown people with no oil?

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A man sat down in the restaurant today. From the moment I went to the table, it seemed he knew he was special.

“Get me three virgin daquiris, please. You know, that means with no booze. And put a little whipped cream on top!”

At the time I was waiting, though I fancied myself a bartender. That he told me how to make the drink already insulted me.

When I came back, he got into it with me about the salmon.

“Now, I notice you have this salmon here that’s stuffed with dungenous crabmeat,”

“Yes, that’s very popular.”

“Now, you also have a salmon served with a northwest berry sauce.”

“Yes. That one is roasted under a cedar plank.”

“Well, could I have this stuffed one with the northwest berry sauce?”

“Sure,” I said. The chefs doled that stuff out like it was water. “I’ll just bring you a side of it.”

“Okay. So I’d like that. Oh, wait, can I have it poached?” The restaurant was slammed and not a damn thing on the menu was poached. I already knew what the chef’s answer would be.

“I’m sorry, sir,” I said, “but the restaurant’s very busy right now. It would be difficult to make that kind of exception.”

“Well, can you just ask them?” he demanded.

I walked away and groaned. I was busy. Not completely weeded, but this wasn’t helping. When I ran back to the kitchen, I looked around for a chef to say to, “can you poach a stuffed salmon I know you can’t right now just say no,” and the chefs were not in a position to answer such stupid questions. I decided I didn’t need to even ask, the answer would just be “no.”

When I told him so, he got kind of pouty and disappointed. I had to apologize a few times. But I thought to myself, this menu has over fifty items. Deal with it.

“Well, I’ll take the stuffed salmon. But.. that’s not farm raised salmon, is it?”

“It is,” I told him.

“Really, but it says here, ‘Atlantic Salmon from Chile’.”

“Yes, but you’ll notice that Chile is a Pacific country and couldn’t possibly have Atlantic salmon unless it was farm raised.”

He got all pouty and huffy again. But he still ordered the salmon. The stuffed one, with the northwest berry sauce.

“And I’d also like this crab and shrimp salad.” I wrote down “combo salad,” it was another very popular order. “Do you know this menu by heart? I mean this one right here,” and he put down his menu and pointed it out to me. My “certainly”s and nodding head wasn’t enough to confirm to him that I probably did, indeed, get his order right the first time. I really hate being patronized.

“And make sure the dressing’s on the side,” he said.

“Okay,” I said.

“And also we’d like the fried shrimp platter.” I scurried off before he could point to that, too.

After a while I brought out the food, exactly as he’d ordered it. Stuffed salmon with a side of northwest berry sauce. Crab and shrimp salad with the dressing on the side. Fried shrimp platter. It was about this time that he ordered another virgin daquiri. I checked on the table several times and was told everything was fine.

When he cleaned his plate - and I mean he ate every bite on it - he called me over.

“Now, this daquiri you brought me has booze in it. And I said, ‘no booze.’”

“If that’s the case, sir, our bartender should be fired. I don’t think he would do that.”

“Well, he did. So just take that off my bill. Also, the salmon you brought wasn’t stuffed at all. You brought me the other one, the one served with the berry sauce.”

“No, sir. I remember what I brought you. It had cheese on it.”

“No, you don’t understand. You have two salmons on this menu.”

I knew the goddamn menu. “Actually, sir, we have three. I did bring you the berry sauce…”

He stuck out his hand, “OK, then. Thanks for admitting it.” That really pissed me off.

“Sir, I admit nothing,” I said. “Would you like to speak to a manager?”

“Umm.. no, I don’t think that will be necessary,”

And I walked away from him. I found the manager, and told him that this man was accusing me of screwing the order up conveiniently after he finished his meal just to get a free lunch. I’d had enough. I told the manager as much, and after speaking with him he reluctantly agreed to take one of the daiquiris off the bill. After all the stress and strain he created for my workday he left me an incredibly lousy tip (I guess because he thought I screwed his order up.)

The moral: if you see someone acting this way in a restaurant, try and shut them down. They’re only screwing up your service.

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