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Comic Strip Politics » Free Speech

Archive for the 'Free Speech' Category

High-Schoolers Don

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

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Mallard Fillmore - 03.29.07

Yesterday’s Mallard Fillmore reminds me of those news reports and comic strips that say something like “Only 12% of high school seniors could point to Afghanistan on a map”. These kind of stats are often combined with the number who could rattle of the most recent American Idol winner or the name of Paris Hilton’s dog. The point of such statistics is to show how out of touch American youth are with things that are important in the grand scheme of things, and therefore how globally sheltered they are and how apathetic they may be in the future about world issues.

This particular comic puzzles me somewhat, though, because I don’t quite understand how being ignorant of the ancient Jewish story translates into anything specifically harrowing. If the group polled was seniors in Christian or Jewish high schools, perhaps the point would be that these schools aren’t doing a good enough job of teaching the faith to their students, and that would make much more sense.

Would Bruce Tinsley maintain that all students should be taught stories from the Bible and other religious texts? What is it about this particular story involving Sodom and Gomorrah (which are two cities, by the way) that makes Tinsley so shocked that it’s not more well-known? I guess my main problem with the strip is that I don’t quite understand what Mallard is getting at.

I checked out Amazon to see the book Mallard was referring to. In the book’s description, it says:

“[The Author] begins this valuable primer by noting that religious illiteracy is rampant in the United States, where most Americans, even Christians, cannot name even one of the four Gospels. Such ignorance is perilous because religion “is the most volatile constituent of culture” and, unfortunately, often “one of the greatest forces for evil” in the world, he writes.”

Based on that and the rest of the description, it seems that the book is probably pretty even-handed. It seems that the author thinks that religious literacy is necessary in the same way that World History is necessary; it’s important to understand the past in order to fully understand the present, especially relating to various cultures around the world. In this, I absolutely agree. I feel like much of the semi-polarization between Christians and non-Christians in the US recently has been fueled by misconceptions of Christianity’s history and teachings, even by self-proclaimed Christians themselves. A better understanding of all religions would probably be beneficial to all, but if that’s Mallard Fillmore’s point in this strip, it’s not particularly clear.

As for keeping religion out of schools, quite frankly, I don’t see why religion needs to play a formal role in school. However, there’s no good reason to keep religion completely out of schools in an informal capacity (like a Bible club or a Muslim student group). In fact, it would seem that preventing those students who wish to participate in a religous activity would actually be taking away their First Amendment rights.

Despite what many people believe, the Bill of Rights actually says nothing about public schools, or even keeping religion out of publically-owned places and events. It simply keeps congress from respecting the establishment of a religion, or from preventing the free excercise of any religious belief. Preventing (voluntary) religious expression in a school woud seem to be going against the second part of it there.

Religion in schools (and other public places) is a hot button issue recently. What do you think about religion and public schools. Is it a bad idea to mix the two? Would it be breaking the 1st amendment to prohibit voluntary religious expression at school?

What about the book mentioned in the strip…. Do you think knowing religious history of religions you do not subscribe to are important to learn about for cultural reasons or for gaining a better understanding of others? I await your comments.

The Republican Party Just Tried To Scam Me!

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Payday loans

I don’t think I’d believe it myself it I hadn’t heard it with my own ears. I was working in my home office yesterday, and my wife came down with a message. Jessica Brown from Congressman Tom Cole’s office had called, and apparently, he wanted to give me a National Leadership Award. All I had to do was return the call at 1-877-213-0603 and they would work on my press release.

My wife though maybe it had something to do with the many websites I operate online, but I immediately smelled a rat. I figured it was a Nigerian Scam of some sort, using a random name and a phony award to get people to fork over their money. In the end, I almost wish that’s really what it was. It turns out to be far more sickening.

First, I Googled the Congressman’s name, and it came up legit. There really is a Congressman Tom Coles from Oklahoma. Why would an Oklahoma Congressman want to give me, a resident of Maryland, an award? I searched for his name with Jessica Brown’s and found nothing. Next, I searched for the phone number they had left at which to call them back, 1-877-213-0603. That’s when the whole plot began to unfold.

It seems that I’m not the only one being called by Congressman Tom Cole’s office being offered a National Leadership award. It seems anyone who is a “small businessman” is being contacted and told they have won this award for helping to improve the local economy. I have no employees, and I work out of my basement. I’m not sure how I’m improving my local economy, but anyway…

It seems that a lot of people are being called by different people, all with the same message. The callers include Betty Lake, Kim McClain, Sandy Vandergrift, Elaine Praise, Vickie Bell, Robin Blankenship, Ashley Cameron, and more. The message is always the same, telling them that they have won a National Leadership Award and they need to call back so they can get started on their press release.

It turns out that when you call back, you are told that they are the National Republican Congressional Comittee, and they patch you through to a recorded message from Tom Coles about how the NRCC needs you to donate $500 to they can fight the Democrats and help small businessman such as yourselves. Your $500 donation will get you the award, your name added to a Wall Street Journal press release, and an invite to a dinner with the President.

Another blogger actually recorded the call, so you can see for yourself exactly how it all went down. It really disgusts me that a political party would stoop so low as to try something like this. It’s not exactly a scam, since I presume that you do end up getting the National Leadership Award (now we know what that’s worth), and your name in the Wall St. Journal, etc.

Still, this has got to be one of the sleaziest fundraising methods I’ve ever heard of. If a private company tried this or a charity, they would be condemned by everyone in sight, and hypocritical Congresssman would be the first to throw the stones.

If you read this site on a regular basis, you know that I’m have no affiliation with a political party. I am certainly not a Democrat, and this is not is not some kind of Republican bashing post to make Democrats look good. To be honest, I think the Democrats are capable of just as sleazy things. Nearly all politicians are, and that’s why politics is such crap!

Anyway, so that’s my story.  Leave a comment if you’d like and tell me what you think about all this.

Why Do People Think Overpaying the IRS is a Good Thing?

Friday, March 9th, 2007

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Mallard Fillmore - 04.09.2007

Today’s Mallard Fillmore cites a vague statistic without any source to back it up. I suppose that’s better than citing a source that has nothing to do with the information he’s presenting, which he tends to do, but either way, I’m not sure I believe that “many Americans” don’t think they pay income tax.

What “many Americans” do believe, based on my experience, is that tax refunds are this great way of getting extra money every year. “I got a $1500 refund check - Take that, IRS!”

What many don’t understand is that the bigger your refund check is, the more of your money you allowed the government to keep throughout the year, earning interest on it instead of you. Getting a tax refund simply means that you allowed the government to withhold more than they deserved every week throughout the year.

$1500 put into an online savings account like the Orange Account (earning 4.50% APY) would earn you almost $70 over the course of a year. That’s not an astronomical amount, but it sure would be nice to have that money for yourself instead of letting the government take it.

I would implore everyone to ask your payroll department for a new W-4 form. That’s the form that your employers uses to calculate how much money to take out of your paycheck each week. Then use the IRS’ withholding calculator to determine the actual amount that should be withheld. Then just complete the new W-4 and give it back to your employer.

Friends of mine have actually suggested that it’s better for the government to withhold the money, because that way, we’re not tempted to spend it. Huh? Are we that spend-happy that we can’t make a concious decision to put $30 a week into savings? What if you get a raise? Would you like the government to withhold the entire raise so that you won’t be tempted to spend that too? Maybe the IRS should take all but what you need to live on, and then give it all to you at once in April. Would that help you save money?

Paying the high rate of taxes that we pay is bad enough.  It’s not wise to make the situation worse by letting the IRS earn interest on your money.


Sunday, March 4th, 2007

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Mallard Fillmore - 04.04.2007

I don’t know of any “Big Solar Energy Companies”, although they may exist. Today’s topic is simply about companies profiting from legislation.

It’s easy to hate the energy companies. What they do has a direct effect on all of us in the price of gasoline. Even if we don’t drive a car, price increases in gasoline are reflected in the products we buy, and any transportation we pay for, like planes, taxis, or buses. Seeing that many energy companies made huge profits as we all suffered under high gas prices upset many Americans. The large profits the companies made were mostly from wise investing as opposed to their high proces, but that was largely ignored by the media and the American public. That’s an editorial for another day, though.

The point is, everytime legislation is passed regulating an industry, several companies stand to benefit or lose from the decision. The more legislation and regulation that the government passes, the higher the stake the company has in the decision. Potentially billions of dollars are at stake with the stroke of a governor’s pen.

Even ‘good’ companies, like those promoting alternative energy sources, are in business solely to make a profit. They have just as much stake in the government’s policies as oil companies do, and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t stoop to underhanded tactics to get their way anymore than other types of companies would.

That said, it kind of makes you think. If there are huge corporations who will benefit from the US government moving towards using alternative energy sources, those corporations have a huge incentive to get the public on their side. I wouldn’t expect these companies to be above using propaganda to meet their ends. Warning the public about the “imminent danger” that Global Warming presents is a great way to do it. These companies would have every reason to promote the potential dangers of Global Warming, whether such dangers actually exist or not.

Now I’m not claiming that talk of Global Warming is all lies or that alternative sources of energy are a bad idea. In fact, I think they’re a great idea. But I do think it’s very important to look at the topic objectively, including who has a stake in each issue. It’s easy to look at ExxxonMobil’s CEO as horribly evil, and a “Green” company’s CEO as only out for good, but it simply doesn’t work that way. Any company can have good honest people running the show, and any company can have sleazy, underhanded people running things (like the National Republican Congressional Committee).

In the end, it all comes down to critical thinking. No company is truly looking out for your best interests. Not the Oil companies and defense contractors. Not the alternative energy providers and conservationists. It’s important for all of us to look past all the propaganda (and most of it just that), and find out the facts for ourselves. Only then, can we really judge a situation for what it really is.

The War In Iraq and Other Stupid Political Soundbytes

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

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Doonesbury - 04.02.2007

Last Fall, the Democrats won an surprising number of open seats in Congress, the Senate, and Governorships across the country. Most of the candidate’s platform was nothing more than “I’m not a Republican”. When prodded to give some sort of ideas, most talked about how the war was a terrible idea (from those darned Republicans), and that we needed to get out of Iraq. They rarely gave any actual plan to get us out, but America apparently thought they would do something right, because they voted them into power.

Fast forward several months. For the most part, the Democrats have done what one could have easily predicted: Nothing. Just because they said they would do something about the war while they were campaigning doesn’t mean they were actually going to do anything about it when it came down to it. It seems that now, a few Democrats are actually going to try something. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has proposed a bill that would cut off funding for the Iraq war next year, effectively forcing the military to pull the troops out of Iraq.

As one would expect, the Republicans are rebutting this plan by using clever soundbytes like “They’re voting against the troops and against our country.” Dick Cheney had this one - “It’s time the self-appointed strategists on Capitol Hill understood a very simple concept: You cannot win a war if you tell the enemy you’re going to quit.”

This is where the suttle politics comes in though. Obviously, by cutting off funding and pulling out the troops, the US will essentially be forfieting the war. Dick Cheney is trying to stress this, because the Democrats don’t want it to seem like they will be causing the US to lose the war. They want to end the war, and then blame the Republicans for losing the war in the 2008 elections.

The timing of this is no coincidence. This gives a lot of good soundbytes for the Democrats in early campaigning, and it will all be over by the time the 2008 election is in full swing. At that point, the apathetic American public will have forgotten everything about the war other than “we lost”, and the Democrats can sweep to victory.

So anyway, there isn’t much of a point to this post other than to point out once again that “it’s all politics”. Nothing being done here by liberals or conservatives is truly to benefit the American public - just to benefit the politicians.

Repeal the Online Poker Ban!

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

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They’ll Do It Every Time - 01.20.2007

I discussed this comic in January in a post about Congress banning online poker. I’m bringing it back from the archives because there’s a chance (however slight) that this ridiculous legislation could be repealed soon.

According to, Representative Barney Frank, the new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has pledged to introduce legislation in the next couple of weeks to repeal the ban on online poker playing.

I would encourage everyone to contact your Congressman and Senator to let them know that you are in favor of repealing this ban. has a system setup so that you can automatically contact your representative by email, quickly and easily. It’s a fantastic way to tell Congress how you feel without going to a lot of trouble.

Regardless of whether you actually gamble online, we can’t let our elected officials get away with sneaking unpopular legislation into unrelated bills. If you didn’t read my original post, Senator Bill Frist snuck the legislation regarding online poker playing into a bill about port security.

If Congress was actually voting on this bill alone, it almost certainly wouldn’t have passed. At the very least, it would have generated massive amounts of buzz in the media and on the internet. Since it was put into an unrelated bill at the last minute, citizens didn’t have time to protest, and Congress couldn’t vote against it without voting against port security. Do you see how messed up the system is?

Right now, go to DownsizeDC, tell your representatives that you are in favor of repealing the online poker ban.

To help the cause, I have decided to support DownsizeDC, a non-partisan organization through this site. Every month, I will donate half of the monthly revenue from Comic Strip Politics to DownsizeDC. If you’d like to support DownsizeDC, but can’t donate, tell your friends about this site, support our advertisers, and Digg our posts. The more visitors we get, the more revenue the site generates, and the more we’ll be able to donate each month to help eliminate the stupidity that currently exists in Washington.

Free Speech Doesn

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

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Ziggy - 04.20.2007

Ziggy isn’t the first place I’d look to find political commentary, but sure enough, here it is. Usually, Ziggy’s the one taking the brunt of all the misfortunes life dishes out. In this case, it’s the station manager who dared to give his opinion on television getting put in jail.

You would think that in this enlightened age, people would never be put in jail for something they said or an opinion they gave, but it does happen. Even as recently as last week.

University of Colorado student Max Robinson Karson was participating in a class disussion about the tragedy at Virginia Tech. During the discussion, he said some things that surprised and disturbed the other students in the class. His statements in the class included “If anyone in here says that they’ve never been so angry that you wanted to kill 32 people, you’re lying.”

He also mentioned that the decor of the classroom they were in made him angry, and it he could see how it could set someone off on a rampage.

Obviously, anyone listening to this may think he was disturbed, and I think anyone would have been justified in reporting his statements to campus officials or even police. Without context, there’s no way to know if his statements had anything behind them, if he was joking (in extremely bad taste), etc. Based on his statements, it’s certainly reasonable to think he could be a threat to others, and a discussion with a psychiatrist may be warranted. If he had been asked - or even required - to be checked out by a shrink to make sure he was not a danger to others, it would have seemingly been justified.

Nowhere in his reported statements did he threaten anyone. He simply said he could understand how a person could get angry enough to do what the Virginia Tech shooter did. As abhorrent as that may seem, it’s certainly not illegal to say such things. Right?


Karson was arrested, fined $750 dollars, and faces six months in jail. Additionally, he is barred from the University of Colorado, essentially expelling him from the university, since he is no longer able to attend classes.

Keep in mind that this all happened on a college campus, supposedly a bastion of open discourse and ideas. I guess the boundaries of free speech only extend as far as popular opinion. If he had said that he understands what drive suicide bombers to kill themselves and others, or that he could empathize with foreign dictators crushing political opposition, would the reaction have been as extreme?

Would he still have been arrested if he had chosen to empathize with another killer whose atrocities weren’t so fresh in everyone’s mind? I find it hard to believe that he would have? As such, this is just another example of free speech being shut down due to knee-jerk reactions of the government and the public, and that scares me just as much as the comments he made.

Why Do

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

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Cathy - 04.13.2007

Today is tax day, and unless you’ve waited until the absolute last minute to file, you’ve probably heard of the Telephone Excise Tax, and are aware that you’ll be getting a refund for the taxes levied from March 2003 to July 2006. You may want to be aware that if you keep good records, and have your phone bills available from even part of that time period, you may be able to deduct more than the standard amount. I was able to deduct twice the standard amount simply by itemizing the charges from the past few years. You may be surprised.

The ridiculous thing about all of this is how this tax came about. As stated in the comic above, the tax was levied in 1898 to fund the Spanish-American War, back when residential telephones were a major luxury reserved primarily for the wealthy. Despite the fact that the war lasted only eight months, the American people have been charged this tax every month for the past 108 years.

This might not be a huge deal if it weren’t for the fact that this happens all the time. Laws are created as “temporary fixes” and then left in place indefinitely. Because the public is duped into believing that the laws (or taxes) are truly temporary, there is rarely any public outcry, and by the time anyone realizes that the government has no intentions of repealing the law, no one seems to care anymore.

One perfect example of this that relates to taxes is the idea of income withholding. This was introduced during World War II as a way to raise funds for the war. It was supposed to end after the war ended, but the government realized the power that income withholding held. When citizens never received their entire income, it didn’t hurt as much to part with it. Whereas before, every tax increase was felt by the populous, and could be rallied against, Congress could now raise taxes with impunity, and not worry about most of the public even noticing.

One potential solution that I’ve heard recently is automatic sunsets on every law and tax passed by Congress. With such a provision, every bill would automatically expire after a specific period of time (20 years, for example). At that time, Congress would have to revisit the issue and decide whether or not to renew the law.

I see very few problems with such a measure. Important laws that needed to be renewed would pass through easily. Other provisions that lacked public support would renew public debate and help Congress to really determine what their constituents wanted.

Once a law gets passed, they very rarely get repealed, even if they have very little public support. This type of sunset provision would have the opposite effect, requiring every bill to have continued public support, or else face an automatic sunset.

So what do you think about this?  Can you think of any downsides to a provision such as this?  Would there be measures that should be exempt from an automatic sunset?  If so, who would decide?  I look forward to your comments.

Allowing Partisan Politics To Define America

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

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Prickly City - 4.12.2007 - 4.13.2007

” It’s hard to embrace something when you don’t know where it stands.” I would say that is a true statement, but I don’t understand why it would be applicable in this context. Why would anyone want to embrace a specific political ideology (like ‘Republican’ or Democrat’) as opposed to having their own ideology based on careful study of facts and opinions.

It seems as though the character in the first strip has already made up her mind that she will stand for whatever it is the Republicans stand for, and she’s slightly dismayed that she can’t figure out exactly what that is. What’s crazy it that it seems that a huge portion of Americans think like this, both Democrat and Republican. They decide what political ideology to subscribe to, and then look to political leaders to tell them what to believe.

Are we that uninformed that we need people to tell us what we should and shouldn’t believe in? If we all truly made a concerted effort to look at various issues from all sides, and used logic and reason to determine the best point of view, I think we’d find that we all have a lot more in common than we think. Instead, we allow the media, political pundits, cable news windbags, and scheming politicians to define our beliefs.

Candidates from the same parties don’t always agree on various issues. Political pundits generally say this makes a party “weak”, and maybe they’re right, but as I said in January, there are far more than two “sides” to any given issue, and allowing politicians to define for use two nicely packaged positions, and given a choice between the two does no one any favors. The only ones that benefit from this watering down of complex issues are the politicians themselves, who now find it easy to rally the troops behind them under one banner.

Political parties (and party loyalty) will be the downfall of this country. The two parties take every issue, divide it into “sides”, and then choose one to defend. In many cases, the two sides aren’t really that different, but the politicians will have you believe that you’re looking at night and day when you compare the two. If the parties seem to agree on a hot topic, they are no longer well-defined, and therefore voters may lose their loyalty to one side. As such, they make a point to disagree about every single thing.

When two parties disagree about nearly every issue, just for the sake of disagreement, it polarizes the public, and allows no beneficial work to actually get done. Every vote, every speech, every single thing the politician does is for the sake of political posturing to help him get elected the next term, or help his party. It disgusts me, and I don’t understand why more people don’t share my sentiment.

So that’s my rant. I encourage you all to disassociate yourself from a specific political party, think logically and rationally about hot-button issues, and really look into every candidate in an election before deciding who to vote for. You may be surprised to find that a 3rd-party candidate holds views much more similar to yours than a Democrat or Republican. Above all, don’t allow partisan politics to continue to define who you are and what you stand for.

Thank you and goodnight.