Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Human nature and the lawnmower

The 'Johnny B Lawnmower Fund' ended up being a very interesting social experiment. Just for the sake of background, we had the story of the Oregon couple that refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding and were fined $135,000. They set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe but GoFundMe took it down citing a violation of the their terms and conditions. Which got me to wondering how easy would it be to start an online fundraiser. As it turns out, it was very easy. Took all of 45 seconds.

For the record, the lawnmower for Johnny B was my idea. I’ve heard his stories of push-mowing his 3 acres and borrowing riding lawnmowers from neighbors. I know people love the man and thought it would be interesting to see how (or if) they would respond with their money.

The response basically broke down into three groups. I anticipated the first group of people, those who either donated to the cause because they love Johnny B and wanted him to have a new mower or they didn't donate but still wanted him to have it. These were the folks who saw this for what it was, a way to do something nice for a great guy.

I also saw the second category coming, those who thought the cause was frivolous and thought we should give the money to charity. I heard from several of these people who could name all sorts of causes that were more in need than Johnny B and a lawnmower. Of course, I could list a bunch that were less worthy. Although I disagreed with the second category, I could certainly understand their point.

However, I did not see Category 3 coming. These were folks who were actually consumed with jealousy and anger, so much so that several even petitioned our program director to fire us. One lamented how he only had a push mower and was saving to put his daughter through college and it wasn't fair that Johnny B was getting a new mower for free. In fact, he thought it was outrageous. While he was at it, he attacked me for talking about working on my boat. (I guess he doesn't have one of those, either) Apparently he doesn’t know that my “boat” was about two steps away from the scrap yard when I bought it. Apparently, he thinks I’m Aristotle Onassis. 

The morning after we launched the campaign I got an e-mail from Johnny B. He didn’t feel right about taking the money. He sort of fell into Category 2. He said there were all sorts of causes that were much more worthy of people’s money. I told him I understood his feelings but it was my opinion that people wanted him to have that mower. Ultimately it was his call.

As we prepared to go to air, Johnny and I had a quick conversation. He wanted to give the money to charity and I respected his wishes. So, we explained the situation as we went on and I must admit I did not anticipate the response. (Another interesting social experiment) Many of the people who had given were upset. They said they gave the money specifically to Johnny B and our switching the cause to some unnamed charity was deceptive. We were in the proverbial Catch-22. That’s when I had the idea to put a poll on our website at and let the people decide. Before our people could post the poll, we got a very interesting phone call. The caller pointed out that we had already posted a poll. I asked him to explain. He said we set up a GoFundMe account and people could either donate or they could choose not to. That was the poll. I had to admit, it was a great point.

And it got me to thinking about those three categories of people. The first category was delighted to see Johnny B with a new mower but the other two were less so. Why? Why would someone care if Johnny B got a mower or not? As one tweeter pointed out, “What does this have to do with charity? This is a gift. You don’t have to be poor to receive gifts.” Another great point.

Category 1 has it right. They come upon an opportunity to give something to someone they’ve enjoyed on the radio for years and they’re genuinely happy for him. No jealousy. No comparing Johnny B to their own lives and whether he “deserves” it based on what life has dealt them.

Category 2 has a good heart but they’re overthinking it. As the tweeter pointed out, “You don’t have to be poor to receive gifts.” And that’s what this is. It’s not a charity. It’s a gift from those who have listened to the show and have appreciated what Johnny B brings to it. If you’re constantly overthinking where money goes then you probably need to forego that movie or that nice restaurant because there will always be a worthier cause than your own selfish desires. You can drive yourself crazy doing that. Just relax and understand that Johnny B getting a lawnmower is not taking anything away from the earthquake victims in Nepal or the starving children in Bangladesh. In fact, feel good in knowing that the $20 someone gave to the lawnmower fund is $20 less given to some carbon-spewing, minimum-wage-paying, multinational corporation.

The folks in the third category have some serious problems to work through. Everything in life is filtered through the prism of how unfair life has been to them. It’s not fair that someone gets something that they want when they don’t have it. They are eaten up with envy. Remember, as our senior research analyst says, envy is the mirror image of greed. Isn’t there something in the Bible about thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s lawnmower? Of course, there’s always someone who can look at you the same way. For the jealous guy with the push mower there’s some cat cutting his grass with a pair of scissors and just fuming over the guy with the luxurious push mower. (Self-propelled, as he later admitted. Such conspicuous consumption)

At the end of the day, I learned a great deal about human nature. When I devised this little experiment I knew we’d be creating a storm. I just didn’t realize it would be a category 3. 

(If you would like to give Johnny B the gift of a riding lawnmower, click here and give what’s in your heart. His aching back will thank you.)

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.

A predictable reaction in Baltimore

I get it. A guy is arrested by police, suffers a severed spine in the process and dies. I was outraged when the video of the arrest first surfaced and was pleased to hear there would be a formal investigation with the officers involved put on leave. That’s how the system works. And with a hyphenated black female mayor of Baltimore there was no doubt that the investigation would be thorough.

But that’s not good enough for the Sharptonesque rent-a-mobs. It doesn’t matter that the system is working. It doesn’t matter that justice is being served. They want to show up and burn down. That’s what they do. That’s what they did.

And the mayor sure didn’t help by saying the city needed to give the protestors space to destroy. Why didn’t she offer the “space” of her home if she so believed in their right to destruction. Then she looked all surprised when they looted and burned.

Surprised? This is what these people do. These people? Yes, those who lie in wait for a racial moment to exploit. Are they angry? Perhaps. More like crazy. What’s even crazier is a mayor and police force that stand by as they torch a couple of police cars then loot and burn a CVS store. Now, to give credit, the police commissioner was as outraged as anyone with the conduct of the thugs who looted and burned and, perhaps, his department was just outmanned. However, allowing even the least bit of destruction can only embolden the criminals to take it to the next level.

Is there a problem with police brutality? I’m willing to entertain that possibility. A severed spine during an arrest sounds pretty brutal to me. Do you solve a police brutality problem by burning down a drug store? Absolutely not. That’s the part that enrages me. Anyone who justifies looting and burning is as big a thug as the looters and arsonists.

There has always been a tense relationship between the police and minority communities. It’s sort of a Catch-22. These communities are where the highest crime rate is so, naturally, they’re going to have a greater police presence. Were the police to simply withdraw and leave the community to the criminals they would be accused of racism. So, this powder keg is ever-present. It only takes a spark to set it off, which is exactly what happened in Baltimore. The funeral for Freddie Gray was that spark and the result was a raging fire.

For the mayor to even suggest that rioters need their space to destroy is totally irresponsible and she shoulders at least some of the blame for what happened. Baltimore has worked hard to reverse its reputation from the ‘60s and ‘70s as a complete dump of a town. I’ve visited Baltimore on a number of occasions and they’ve done a remarkable job remaking their city’s image. This ain’t gonna help.

Riots like this can do irreparable damage to a city, or at least a neighborhood. Watts has never recovered from the riots of 1965. What’s the chance a company is going to relocate to Ferguson, MO anytime soon? Would you want to move there?

It starts with putting out the little fires first, like graffiti and gangs. I once suggested that to Jesse Jackson and he told me graffiti was the “hieroglyphics of oppression.” Need we look any further for the problem? When people of influence even remotely justify crime then it’s a green light for the criminals. And no one should be surprised when they burn your town down.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Public opinion on guns takes a major shift

We may have Obamacare, whether we like it or not. We may have illegal aliens streaming across the border. The spineless Republicans in Congress have facilitated both. But there’s one issue where conservatives and constitutionalists are winning and winning big. Gun rights.

All 50 states have some form of carry law. The Supreme Court has struck down at least a couple of onerous laws banning guns. Perhaps even more important is that public opinion on the matter has shifted and shifted dramatically in the last several years.

President Obama and the liberals tried to make hay with the Newtown school shooting. They attempted to exploit the tragedy and turn public opinion against guns. Just the opposite has happened. According to Pew Research, Americans’ views on guns have shifted dramatically. They asked a simple question. Is it more important to control gun ownership or protect the right of Americans to own guns. Shorting after Sandy Hook, 66 percent sided with gun control while only 29 percent thought it was important to protect gun rights. After hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent by the anti-gun crowd to sway public opinion, now gun control has dropped to 46 percent and gun rights have shot up to 52 percent. That’s a 20-point drop in gun control and a 23 percent jump in gun rights.

What’s driving this is the public’s growing awareness that owning a gun makes one safer. Only 35 percent believed it prior to Sandy Hook. Now 63 percent do. Conversely, the percentage of people who believe having a gun in the house makes it a more dangerous place has plummeted from 51 percent to 30 percent. In other words, more than twice as many people now believe that having a gun in the house makes it a safer place rather than a more dangerous one. 

The gun-grabbers were sure that a high-profile, multi-victim shooting would work to their advantage. They were wrong. What it did was elevate the entire gun debate. Once people start looking at it rationally, more times than not they come to understand that guns are not the problem. Moreover, they understand that in order to keep them and their families safe, they need a gun.

This is as old as the country itself. There were no gun-free zones at the founding of the United States. People back then knew that a gun-free zone had the potential to be a killing zone. Nothing has changed in that regard. Those little signs with a gun and a red line through it do absolutely nothing to deter killers. In fact, they only encourage them. Would you put a gun-free zone sign in your front yard? Of course, not. Why on earth would you want to advertise something like that? Then why do we have these signs in front of schools? Why would a restaurant owner or a mall want to advertise that all law-abiding citizens inside are unarmed?

No, just the opposite should be true. The criminals should be left guessing as to who has a gun. The multiple-victim shooters choose soft targets. They want to kill on their own terms and die on their own terms. Do you ever hear of one of these nuts opening fire at a gun show?

Public opinion is shifting on this issue because the people are using common sense. More and more places are allowing guns. More and more businesses understand that you don’t make your patrons sitting ducks. That’s bad news for the criminals but it’s great news for us.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

College Sex Week, and you're paying for it

Well, Sex Week just concluded at the UT Knoxville. Yeah, Sex Week. They got the idea from Brown University. If you want to emulate an Ivy League school, this ain’t the way to do it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem teaching kids about sex but if you haven’t learned from classroom instruction by the time you’ve reached college you’re probably self taught. Some of the classes were merely using juvenile innuendo, like the one titled ‘Road Head: The Roll of the Automobile in American Sexuality.’ Others were more in-your face, like ‘Your Hair Down There: Pubic Hair Removal and Genital Self-Image.’ Genital self-image? My generation never gave that a second thought. 

Megan Andelloux, one of the
'professors' at Sex Week
And before you jump to the conclusion that I’m some prudish dinosaur, I have a smokin’-hot wife (still on my first) and three boys so I’ll put my credentials up against any of these ‘professors’ teaching these classes. It’s not about sex, per se, it’s about what’s appropriate for kids, some of whom were going to their first dance just last year. One class asked this question: ‘Looking for a more perfect union of you and your partner’s desires?’ Then it gets more explicit from there, encouraging college kids to express what turns them on in the bedroom to their partners. Why are we encouraging people with no jobs and their whole lives ahead of them to have sex and maybe start out their working lives with a little bambino? Oh, that’s right, these same ‘professors’ probably have the local abortion clinic on speed dial.

‘What if you could make a job out of studying sex?’ one class asks. It then goes on to extoll the virtues of being a condom-tester or doing research on the ‘hook-up culture.’ Yet another class was about sexual fantasies. ‘What gets you off?’ the syllabus asked. And what sex week would be complete without a class titled, ‘Batteries Not Included.’ I’m sure you can figure out what that one’s all about. And just to throw a bone to anyone who might object to all this madness, there was a class on abstinence. 

Sex Week at UT concluded with ‘the most popular event at Sex Week,’ a drag show. Not sure what guys dressing up as women has to do with sex. Maybe it doubles your chances of getting a date.

My question is, how much of our tax and/or tuition dollars went into this event? And why did our tax and/or tuition dollars go into this event? I get a sneaking suspicion that some of these so-called ‘professors’ might be using this as an opportunity to hook up with college kids.

I tweeted my outrage about the event and lo and behold the organizers blocked me from reading their tweets on Twitter. I didn’t even know you could do that! Shows you how open they are to outside prying eyes. Not too mention how adult they are.

Sex Week is part of a growing trend at UT. In case you didn’t know, all incoming freshmen and transfer students are required to go through a global warming indoctrination class. Required! It’s not that I oppose my kids being taught this rot gut. I just think there should be a little balance. Especially since I’m paying an arm and a leg to send two kids there. Again, I guess they’re trying to be Ivy League. Missed it by that much.

Google Sex Week UTK and take a look around. I think you’ll agree there doesn’t need to be a Sex Week 2016.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wedding participation is now a right?

Rarely do I revisit the same topic two weeks in a row in this column but there are still a couple of things that need to be said about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana and similar laws in states across the country.

The gay activists who keep pushing this agenda love to hitch their wagon to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. There really are no similarities. Gays have not been relegated to the back of the bus. Gays haven’t been made to drink from separate drinking fountains. Gays weren’t subjected to Jim Crow laws nor were they held as slaves in this country.

And here’s the interesting point as it pertains to the current hot issue. I don’t recall any photographs after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed showing black couples standing at the altar being wed by reluctant white preachers. Which led me to this next question. Since when does someone think they have a right to force anyone to participate in their wedding?

Think about that for a moment. I’m sure Jesse Jackson has officiated some weddings in his time as a reverend. Did I have a right to force him to officiate mine? Had I requested he do so he most likely would’ve declined. Would it have been because I’m white or because I’m conservative? It doesn’t really matter. It never occurred to me that I could force him into participating when he didn’t want to.

Then why are so many people now looking at forceful wedding participation as a civil right. What about the civil rights of those who don’t want to take part? At least one person with a vested interest in the issue is standing up for what’s right. Courtney Hoffman is a lesbian and a small business owner. She also donated $20 to Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, the pizzeria that came under a firestorm after one of its owners answered a TV reporter’s question saying if they were asked to cater a gay wedding they would have to decline.

“As a member of the gay community, I would like to apologize for the mean-spirited attacks on you and your business,” Hoffman wrote while making her online donation on a fundraising website. “I know many gay individuals who fully support your right to stand up for your beliefs and run your business according to those beliefs.”

Kris Cruz is a radio host and producer of “The Jeff Adams Show.” Cruz first discovered Hoffman’s donation and contacted her through Facebook. He asked Hoffman why she made the donation. “My girlfriend and I are small business owners,” Hoffman explained, “and we think there is a difference between operating in a public market space and then attaching the name of your business to a private event.” She said if her business were asked to set up at an anti-gay marriage rally they would have to decline.


Hoffman understands that no one has a right to force you to participate in their wedding or, for that matter, their event. It’s completely different from refusing service at a restaurant. As a vendor, you become part of an event and vendors should not be forced to participate in events that make them feel uncomfortable. This could lead to all sorts of awkward partnerships, like a gay-owned print shop being forced to print ‘God Hates Fags’ signs for the repugnant Westboro Baptist Church.

So, since when does someone have a right to force anyone to participate in their wedding? The answer is ‘never.’ It’s time the courts backed that up.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What the Indiana religious freedom law really means

The two have been on a collision course for years. It was only a matter of time before they crashed headlong into one another. Gay rights and religious rights. Which would win? Religious rights are constitutionally fundamental. Your right to marry isn’t. That’s where the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) becomes so controversial.

Bill Clinton signing the RFRA in 1993
Indiana isn’t the first state to enact such a law by a long shot. In fact, there’s a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was introduced by then-Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY), passed unanimously by the House and almost unanimously by the Senate with just three dissenting votes. President Clinton signed the act into law in November of 1993. What sparked this law was the infringement on the religious rights of American Indians to use certain land deemed sacred and the use of peyote in religious rituals.

The law was intended to apply to the federal government as well as state and local governments but in 1997 the Supreme Court determined that Congress had overstepped its boundaries in regards to the states. The court ruled that the RFRA passed by Congress could only apply to federal law. That sparked a flurry of state action to replicate the law on the state level.

To date, there are 21 states that have passed their own versions of RFRA, Indiana being the latest. So, why is Indiana’s so controversial. Because it was in response to gay marriage rulings and the now-famous Hobby Lobby case. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court struck down the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare. The Indiana RFRA does not give business carte blanche to discriminate against gays. All the Indiana law says is that the religious rights of corporations and individuals can be limited but only by the “least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest.” 

In other words, if the government wants to compel a business not to discriminate against gays then it must take into consideration the religious objections of the business or individual. That doesn’t necessarily mean the courts will rule in favor of the business. For example, it could be argued that baking a cake for a gay wedding doesn’t violate the religious rights of a business because they aren’t taking a direct role in the wedding. However, it might be argued that a photographer would have a legitimate objection since he or she would have to attend the wedding. Certainly few sane people would argue that a preacher should be compelled to perform a same-sex wedding if he or she has a religious objection.

The Indiana law is just common sense but the backlash has been fast and furious. Everyone from the NCAA to Mr. Sulu from Star Trek have railed on Indiana. Several big-city mayors have prohibited travel to Indiana with city money. The governor of Connecticut issued an executive order banning state-paid travel from his state. The irony is Connecticut is one of the 21 states with its own Religious Freedom Restoration Act and it’s more restrictive than Indiana’s!

When the RFRA was about Indians smoking peyote everyone was on board. Now that it’s being used by Christians with a legitimate biblical objection to gay marriage, people are coming unhinged. Honestly, I don’t like seeing anyone being denied service. However, if there’s a compelling religious objection then that should be taken into consideration. The preacher being forced to perform a same-sex marriage is the prime example.

It was only a matter of time before gay rights crashed into religious rights. No matter which side you’re on, it’s been a train wreck.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.