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Comic Strip Politics

Free Speech Doesn

January 23rd, 2007

Cialis online
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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.

Poker Night at the State House

January 21st, 2007

They’ll Do It Every Time - 1.20.2007

This strip is a caricature of exactly how gambling laws work in most states. State-run lotteries are completely legal, and sanctioned by the government. Why then, are all other types of gambling outlawed?
Politicians’ answer: Because gambling addiction is a serious problem. It’s my job to save the people from themselves. Gambling is an evil, evil monster, and deserves to be outlawed in this state.

There are two obvious problems with this argument. The first is the obvious hypocritical nature of that type of answer. If gambling is so evil, why are state-sponsored lotteries legal? Because they benefit the government (and as such, presumably the common good)? So apparently, gambling addiction is worrisome if private individuals (and other winning gamblers) reap the windfall, but not if the state gets the profits to use as they see fit.

The second part of this whole thing is the idea that Americans need to be protected from themselves. Gambling can be addictive to a small percentage of people. So can alcohol, cigarettes, sex, food, and a number of other very legal things. Banning something because it causes a problem for a small number of people is simply ridiculous.

Since the house almost always has an edge in casino-gambling, in the long run, most gamblers will end up losing money. Everyone is aware of this, yet casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and on Indian reservations never seem to have a problem filling up their casinos. It’s just possible that people are aware of the fact that gambling is a losing proposition, but they simply don’t care because they’re having fun.

A night out at the ballpark is a money-losing endeavor. You spend money on tickets, overpriced hot dogs, beer, and those funny foam hands. When it’s all over, you have $100 less than you did that morning, but you don’t mind, because you had a good time. Many people seek out gambling for a similar purpose. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and if you get lucky, you’ll come home with more money than you started with. If not, you still had a good time. How is this a bad thing?

Can anyone provide me with a valid reason why gambling is illegal in most states? It simply doesn’t make sense why an activity that so many people enjoy would be outlawed at the behest of the government.


Find a Parade and Jump in Front of It!

January 20th, 2007

Curtis - 1.20.2007

I have to assume that in the last panel here, Curtis’ Mom just doesn’t feel like getting into an hour-long discussion with her son, and that’s why she claims not to know. The long answer may be a bit complicated, but the short answer is very simple:

  • Most people are apathetic, and don’t care about a specific issue until it’s negative effects are felt in a big way close to home.
  • Politicians are ridiculous opportunists, and will do whatever it takes to make it look like they are serving their people’s needs. The best way to do this is to lead the charge on whatever the hot issue is, and milk it to death before the public stops caring about it. They’re just looking for a parade to jump in front of, so they can claim they had been leading it all along.

“It’s about time!”, Curtis’ Mom exclaims. I wonder if she ever brought the issue of speeding on Ogden Avenue up in front of the city council or wrote a letter to her local politician. Like most of us (including me), she probably noticed the problem, but was too apathetic to try and do anything about it.

It’s really just as well, though, because if she had made a stink about it, the government was likely to ignore her. It’s hard to blame them. If they approved taxpayer funds for the speed bumps, their political opponents would accuse them of wasting tax dollars in the next campaign. The local citizens would think “That’s right! I paid for those speed bumps, and all they do is annoy me when I’m driving. I’ll vote for the other guy.” Of course, that’s assuming they’ll even vote at all.

It isn’t until something major happens that most of the citizens will start to care about the problem and the only political risk for Joe Councilman is if he looks like he’s not doing anything about it. The problem now is that whatever measures are taken are often an overreaction, and are almost always not the best solution.

Cars are speeding on Ogden Avenue. What’s the best way to solve this problem? We could post traffic cops there more often to give big tickets. That would cut down on speeding. Maybe a traffic light or stop sign at the intersection where children cross. What about some traffic calming measures that reduce vehicle’s speed without requiring them to come to a near-stop every 50 feet. There are probably several potential solutions, but only one is so obvious that everyone will realize that the politicians are working hard for the children… Speed bumps!

Two years from now, the public will have resumed their apathy, and be cursing the speed bumps every time they drive down Ogden Avenue. The politicians will have been reelected, and have moved on to some other now-pressing issue like teen smoking or something, and the cycle will continue indefinitely. Every time something bad hits close to home, the people will clamor for more laws and regulations, the politicians will try their best to look like they’re solving the problem, the real issues won’t be addressed at all, and we’ll all suffer through even more bureaucracy and red tape. It’s the way of the world.

Comments? :)

Why Do

January 17th, 2007

Cialis online
Cialis online

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.

Two “Sides” To Every Issue

January 14th, 2007

Doonesbury - 1.14.2007

This is a funny Doonesbury today, but there are a few things that I take some issue with, especially in the 5th panel.

My primary beef is with the idea that “both” sides of an issue should be respected. It’s very popular lately to act as though every issue (scientific or otherwise) has two sides: a “conservative” side and a “liberal” side, a “right” side and a “wrong” side, a “bad” side and a “good” side. Some may say I’m reading too much into this, but I really don’t think I am. The idea that complex issues (like many of those named in panels six and seven) have only two sides is a very “political” way of viewing it, and a very incorrect way of looking at things.

This type of thinking often simplifies complex issues into two specific sides, both of which often have major flaws. Worst of all, it keeps people from actually thinking critically about an issue, allowing them to blindly go along with one “side”, usually dependent on their political leaning.

It’s ironic that the 3rd panel of this comic shows the student claiming that the evidence doesn’t line up with his beliefs. Dividing issues into two sides makes it easy to ignore all evidence that doesn’t support your claim, and is a primary reason for the huge drop in support for the war in Iraq over the past four years. Major evidence against the presence of WMDs existed in 2002 and 2003, and most truly objective analysts predicted at least five years of US occupation, but in the hysteria and desire for revenge left over from 9/11, most decided to ignore any evidence that went against their predetermined belief that Iraq was supporting terrorists and should be invaded.

The entire issue was neatly divided into two sides by the American public:

  • Those who were against terrorists and loved America
  • The “No Blood for Oil” crowd who hated George Bush and America and think the war is only about money.

With these being the two perceived “sides”, it’s no wonder that most of America fell into the first category. Now, four years later, everyone absolves themselves of blame because “they were lied to”. This is true to an extent, but the information we have now was available then. It’s very easy to blame someone else for misleading you, but anyone who bothered to look past the headlines would have seen huge amounts of evidence that there were no WMDs, obvious reasons to believe that Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein would never work together for any reason, and easily predictable outcomes that would surely come from this type of military action.

I’ve gone off on sort of a tangent here, so I’ll digress. I may seem a little overly passionate about something that seems trivial, but I really think that a lot of the ridiculousness in American government today stems from every issue being divided into two sides, relieving everyone of the need to think critically about anything. A large percentage of people just pick the side that their favorite politician/radio personality/best friend supports, and in the end, we all end up fighting over trivial issues while the important issues go completely unnoticed. If I was more of a conspiracy theorist, I would say that the politicians are causing this to happen on purpose, but unfortunately, I think we’re just doing it to ourselves.

I’ve written far more than I set out to write and covered far more topics that I intended, so I’ll end this post here. Please write comments, and let’s discuss.

Allowing Partisan Politics To Define America

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.

Welcome To ‘Comic Strip Politics’

January 10th, 2007

Hi, my name is Robert Dickson, and I’m the author of Comic Strip Politics.

As long as I can remember, I’ve read every comic on the funny page, including the soap opera strips, the strips that haven’t been funny since the Reagan administration and even the strips that rarely make any sense at all.

The internet has opened me up to dozens of strips I had never even heard of, and hundreds of people who share my interest in reading comic strips and making fun of them.

Although, there have always been political comic strips, it seems that there are an increasing number of regular “funnies” with political messages. As I mentioned earlier, most political messages (purposely or not) include lies and half-truths, and comics are no different. Usually, comics present one side of a political issue to setup a joke, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I often find myself laughing at politically-themed comic strips, whether I agree with the strip’s underlying point or not, and that’s what the whole point of the strip is; to make people laugh. But with my ever-present desire to see all sides of an issue, I often find myself wishing that there was some place to actually discuss the issue brought up in the strip, and that’s sort of what this blog is about.

Despite the fact that I enjoy discussing and writing about political ideas, I actually have no specific political affiliation at all. In general, I dislike nearly everything about politics and politicians, mostly because politics seems to have become nothing more than stretching the truth for personal gain and scaring the public. Unfortunately, this trend has expanded far beyond the realm of politics and elections and has come to envelope our whole society, including areas such as science, economics and religion.

I’m no journalist or political pundit. I’m just a guy who enjoys exploring issues from every possible angle, trying to understand where each person is coming from, even if I don’t agree. I feel like I’m pretty good at being objective, but I realize it’s not possible to be completely objective, since our life experiences shape us all differently. Nevertheless, I’ll try my best to not take sides on an issue, but to try to explore it from every angle. I realize this will put me at odds with nearly everyone, and I am prepared for the onslaught of disagreement. I welcome any comments you might have, although I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t write anything to me that you wouldn’t say to me in person or in front of your mother ;)

Often times, comics are funny because they reflect our lives, or those of people we know. Scott Adams has said that he receives emails every day telling him that a recent Dilbert strip was exactly like what happened in their office last year. I’d like to use the comics as a starting point for real objective discussion, and I think it will be a lot of fun.

I have no desire to promote a specific political party or ideology. There are far more “liberal” comic strips than “conservative” comic strips (though both do exist), so it may seem that I’m taking issue with one party’s position more often than another. But stupidity knows no political party, and I feel confident that I can find narrow-minded views everywhere, from Doonesbury to Mallard Fillmore, and I promise I will hold nothing back when discussing any political nonsense no matter what political party (if any) is being praised or condemned.

So that’s that. I look forward to your feedback.