Friday, May 31, 2013

A lesson in tolerance

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year last year in the NFL.  This year he may once again be the NFL’s offensive player but not in the way he intended.  In the ever-growing politically correct climate of professional sports Peterson’s views on gay marriage are being deemed offensive.

The Vikings recently cut punter Chris Kluwe who has been an outspoken supporter of gay marriage which becomes legal in Minnesota on August 1.  Peterson told Sirius XM NFL radio, “I have relatives who are gay.  I’m not biased towards them.  I still treat them the same.  I love ‘em.  But again, I’m not with that.  That’s not something I believe in.”

Peterson was excoriated on Twitter.  One Tweeter wrote, “It’s called equality, bro.  Get with it.”  Another wrote that Peterson was “less demi-god and more semi-troglodyte.”  JustZoe wrote, “He should’ve kept the anti-gay opinions to himself.”  As I’ve often said, the left is always about diversity except for diversity of thought.

They love to make gay marriage into an equality issue.  You’ve seen the equal signs on the backs of cars and posted on Facebook.  It’s as if to say that if you support traditional marriage then you’re somehow treating people unfairly.

Let’s take a look at the restrictions already on marriage.  You can’t get married until you reach a certain age.  Does that mean anyone supporting traditional marriage is engaging in ageism?  (And, yes, that’s actually a word)  There’s a prohibition in every state against brothers and sisters marrying, against having more than one spouse, against marrying your father or your mother.  Does that make those who want to break those rules victims of discrimination?

I know, there I go using logic again.  The simple fact is you don’t see these same gay marriage proponents standing up for polygamists and sibling marriage even though a case can be made that they’re just as much in love as two men could be.

It’s time we had a frank discussion.  It’s easy to think of the gay issue in terms of wonderful, caring neighbors or a co-worker who does such an exemplary job but that’s not being gay.  Being gay is two men having sex.  Let that image sink in for a moment.  That’s not an image that sits well with most people.  If you just cringed when you read those words you’re not a homophobe, you’re not a bigot or someone who hates.  You’re a completely normal heterosexual and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Heterosexuals have a natural aversion to gay sex.  If you don’t then you’re either bisexual or gay.  Our culture today is brainwashing us into believing that if we don’t completely embrace homosexuality on the same level as heterosexuality that we’re somehow evil people.  We’re not.  There’s a huge difference between tolerance and acceptance.  I tolerate all sorts of things I don’t believe in because we live in a free country.  That doesn’t mean I have to accept everything as being just fine.

That’s not to say that we don’t love people who are gay.  When I learn someone is gay it doesn’t change my love or admiration for them.  But it also doesn’t mean that just because I love them I have to love what they do.  That’s the distinction that needs to be made.

If I’m to accept that you’re a person of worth even though you’re gay then you should be willing to accept that I’m a person of worth even though I don’t believe your marriage should be legally recognized.  Tolerance is a two-way street.


Friday, May 24, 2013

GOP: Don't overplay your hand

Republicans have a nasty habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Just when you think they may have it won they find a way to lose it.  The latest trio of issues swirling around the White House might very well be President Obama’s undoing if only the Republicans don’t overplay their hand.  One of the three is not really a scandal.  Can the Republicans tell which one?

Some conspiracy theorists believe the entire IRS scandal is a red herring, a diversion to distract us from the Benghazi scandal.  Were that true the Democrats would had to have planned the entire scheme two years in advance because that’s when the IRS started targeting conservative groups.

Outgoing IRS Commissioner Steve Miller now claims they grouped the conservative applications together so that one group wouldn’t be approved while another was being reviewed.  No one thought to ask Mr. Miller one simple question.  How did he know which groups were conservative?  That simple question would’ve boxed him in a corner.  Once again, the Republicans wasted a golden opportunity.

But where a lot of Republicans and conservatives are overreaching is on the Fox News story.  Like the AP story, it’s not a scandal.  It may have been heavy-handed treatment by the administration but, so far, there’s nothing to indicate anything illegal.

In the case of reporter James Rosen from Fox News, he was reporting information on North Korea that was classified.  Whether or not he knew it was classified is another matter but this administration – any administration – is obligated to plug such leaks and that’s what they did.

They accessed security badge records at the State Department from Rosen and matched his movements to department employees.  They obtained a search warrant for his e-mails and between the two found the leak.  Now Fox News is outraged that the administration was targeting their reporter.  The fact is had he not been broadcasting classified information there would’ve been no investigation.

As I’ve stated before, the administration’s investigation into the Associated Press over another leak pertaining to a CIA operation in Yemen is what’s driving the mainstream media to actually do their job on the IRS and Benghazi scandals.  The last thing the Republicans need to be doing is trying to equate the AP and Fox News issues with the real scandals.  Once all the facts come to light and it’s clear the administration was simply trying to plug leaks the Republicans cannot have been on the wrong side of those issues if they want to be on the right side of the real scandals.

Obviously the IRS was targeting not only conservative groups but conservative individuals.  Who knows how deep or how high this scandal goes.  We do know that senior White House officials were aware of the Inspector General’s investigation.  Saying they never told the president stretches credulity. 

We also now know the State Department gutted the original CIA talking points on Benghazi and inserted their own, including the ridiculous notion that the attack was simply the product of a YouTube video protest gone bad.  The simple question is who made up the excuse about the video and why?

If the Republicans allow themselves to get sucked into the Fox News story as some sort of scandal they run the risk of destroying the credibility of the real scandals and that would be a real shame.

This is probably as close as we will ever get to leveraging an issue to make fundamental changes in our tax system and scale back the beast known as the Internal Revenue Service.  Please, Republicans, don’t blow it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

IRS misconduct no surprise to me

(This column originally appeared in Talkers Magazine)

The revelation that the IRS was targeting conservative groups came as a shock to much of America.  For me, it was all simply a confirmation of something I’ve been experiencing for some time. 

A couple of years ago I began getting inquiries from the IRS.  They wanted me to explain certain items I’d taken as deductions.  I had the same experience back in the mid-‘90s when I first moved to Philadelphia.  This was during the Clinton administration and I figured when I landed in Philadelphia to do talk radio I also landed on the administration’s radar.  Again, it was petty stuff like making me dig up receipts from prior tax years and fill out all sorts of annoying forms.  Once I satisfied the requests for one year another inquiry for another year would begin almost immediately.

So when this all started again with me a couple of years ago I decided to contact some of my friends in the talk radio business.  I e-mailed back and forth with some high profile talkers.  A couple of them admitted they were going through the same thing but told me in no uncertain terms that they did not want their names made public.  That’s how frightening the IRS can be.

I, on the other hand, was sick and tired of it so each time I got a letter I shared it with my listeners.  I knew I was running the risk of damaging my reputation.  After all, being investigated by the IRS puts all sorts of ugly thoughts in people’s minds.  I also knew I’d be inviting more ire from the IRS but I thought the story was important enough that I needed to tell my audience what was going on.

They began to target my mortgage interest deduction.  Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats had limited how much mortgage interest you could deduct.  The IRS disallowed all of my mortgage interest, not just what would’ve been above the limit set by Congress.  All of it.  And they sent me a bill for tens of thousands of dollars.  I knew they were wrong so I went through the pain of digging up the information they needed.  That wasn’t enough.  They wanted more documentation from the mortgage companies, one of which had been absorbed during the mortgage meltdown by another bank.  Once I provided the requested information they just moved on to another year and started the process all over again.

What’s amusing is after the third time they discovered that I had made a mathematical mistake to my detriment.  They sent me a check for several thousand dollars.  I could tell it was sent begrudgingly because the check arrived with no explanation, no note, no nothing.  At first I thought it was one of those tax scams since it came from out of the blue.  I called the IRS and, after working my way through the labyrinth of departments, finally got word that, yes, the check was real.

That was just a few months ago.  Now they’re on to another tax year, asking for the same information, asking me to fill out the same worksheets and the same forms.  To be clear, I’m not saying that Bill Clinton was behind my IRS harassment during the ‘90s and I’m not saying President Obama is behind it now.  What I’m saying is someone inside the IRS is misusing their power for political retribution, despite what the IRS is saying.  There are just too many examples of it.  We need to put a stop to this once and for all, no matter the political party in power.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How Benghazi, the IRS and the AP are all connected

There are three stories swirling around in the press right now and I'm going to tell you how they're all connected.  There's the Benghazi cover-up.  We'll get back to that one in a moment.  There's the IRS story in which the IRS was targeting conservatives.  Then there's the AP story.  The Obama justice department subpoenaed phone records from the AP ostensibly in search of a leak about a CIA operation in Yemen.  This is the story that connects the other two.

You see, the Associated Press and most of the mainstream media view the subpoenaed phone records as overreach, at the very least, and a gross violation of the sacred bond between a journalist and his or her source, at the very worst.  Once anonymous sources understand the government will violate that bond whenever they please then secret sources will cease to exist.  The mainstream media types view this as an abuse of power by the Obama administration and they know that anonymous sources are the bedrock of investigative journalism.

The AP story may not yield anything criminal by the administration.  After all, they saw a CIA operation compromised by someone who leaked information to the Associated Press and they're probably within their rights to plug that leak.  The White House denying any knowledge of the details of the story is laughable but that's another issue.  But what that story has done is it has made the mainstream media suspicious of the White House.

The IRS story, although it only involves conservative victims at this point, is troubling to the mainstream media because they know an administration powerful enough to sic the IRS on conservatives is powerful enough to sic the IRS on them, if they ever have a mind to.  That's why they're covering this story.

ProPublica, which bills itself as an investigative journalism organization, is really little more than a front group for George Soros and his liberal agenda.  They are funded, in part, by Soros' Open Society Foundation.  And they partner with practically every mainstream media outlet in the country including NPR and all the major news networks, as well as many establishment newspapers.  Pretty scary.  They have now admitted to getting nine confidential applications from the IRS last year and using them in hit pieces they tried to pass off as investigative journalism.  As the noose tightens on the IRS scandal it was inevitable that ProPublica would be exposed.  They tried to get out in front of the story to pass themselves off as whistle-blowers when, in fact, they're part of the entire ugly conspiracy to target conservatives.

ProPublica's involvement in this nasty affair is a not-so-subtle reminder to the rest of the mainstream media that the thin line between their being used by this administration and serious journalism is far thinner than they were previously willing to admit.  They feel sullied by it all.  They've awakened to the sad fact that they had become little more than apologists for this administration instead of holding it accountable, as is their duty as journalists.  The news in recent days that the heads of CBS News and ABC News both have siblings who not only work in the Obama White House but are directly involved in the Benghazi affair surely are jolting enough even for a jaundiced news media.

The AP story and the IRS story have caused the mainstream media to double back and start asking more questions about Benghazi.  What first appeared to them as conservative hysteria over minor details is now being viewed through the newly-grinded lens of an administration that will disregard any law to get what it wants or to cover up its indiscretions.  Here we are eight months after the Benghazi attacks and the major networks are just now demanding to see the e-mails pertaining to the talking points on Benghazi.

The AP story will probably pan out to be a non-issue but it will prove to be the catalyst that finally opened the eyes of the mainstream media about what's been going on for the last four-plus years.

For the first time ever the mainstream media don't trust Barack Obama.  Welcome to the club.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The real story behind the government buying ammo

You may have heard that the government has been buying a lot of bullets lately.  The Department of Homeland Security is buying more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammo over the next 5 years.  That’s more than enough ammunition to fight the Iraq War for almost 25 years.

Of course, conspiracy theorists immediately jumped to the FEMA camp conclusion.  If you’re not familiar with the FEMA camp conspiracy theory here it is in a nutshell.  The government, they say, is setting up FEMA camps or concentration camps all across the country and at some point there will be a fabricated state of emergency and all enemies of the Obama administration will be rounded up and taken to these camps.

The problem is the FEMA camp conspiracy was hatched long before President Obama ever took office.  The theory dates back to at least the 1980s when left-wingers were convinced Ronald Reagan was going to round them up and put them in FEMA camps because of their opposition to Reagan’s Contra support in Nicaragua.  Ollie North, the theory goes, was the mastermind behind the FEMA camps and was well on his way to implementing the plan until he was snared by the Iran/Contra scandal.

The FEMA camp theory usually walks hand-in-hand with the FEMA coffin theory, that the government has purchased millions of plastic coffins in which Obama plans to bury his enemies.  Looks like it would be much easier to just burn us but perhaps that wouldn’t be good for the environment.

So, if the government is not stockpiling bullets for the forthcoming martial law and FEMA camps why is it buying so many?  My theory all along has been quite simple.  Obama and his gun-grabbing allies on the left have had little success in banning guns.  They can’t even get the so-called assault weapons ban reinstated which, by the way, didn’t ban real assault weapons, which are automatic weapons.  It just banned semi-automatic weapons that looked like assault weapons.  In other words, it was gun profiling from a crowd that claims to abhor profiling and stereotypes.

If they can’t get the guns the logical Plan B is to go after the ammo.  After all, what good is a gun if you have nothing to shoot?  Notice how every place from Walmart to gun shops is running out of ammo?  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  My theory is the government is using its purchasing power to create a shortage of ammunition.  Sure beats being thrown into some FEMA camp.

And I’m no longer alone in this theory.  Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) offered up the same theory recently and he’s much closer to the government than I am.  He’s proposed a bill in the senate which would limit non-defense federal agencies to pre-Obama levels of ammunition.  It’s a fantastic idea but it doesn’t seem to be getting much traction.  Probably because most of the senators are already on board with this whole FEMA camp thing.

The irony of the entire gun debate is that gun enthusiasts have turned out to be their own worst enemies.  Each time the liberals start making noise about taking guns the second amendment folks start running up the price of guns and ammo.  One gun shop told me they still can’t keep anything with an AR in its name in stock.  Now with the government buying up ammunition certain types of ammo are more scarce than a bride at a Barney Frank wedding.

Until congress does something about the government there’s not much we can do except stop feeding the hysteria and stop playing into their hands.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let the Benghazi fireworks begin

I can hardly wait until tomorrow (5/8/13).  That's when all hell is set to break loose in the House Oversight and Government Reform committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).  Mr. Issa has invited President Obama's number two guy in Libya at the time of the terrorist attack last September in Benghazi.  Of course, according the White House mouthpiece Jay Carney that was so long ago.  Sorry, Jay, but the loss of four of our citizens is still fresh on our minds and people want answers.

We're sure to get them from Greg Hicks, a 22-year foreign service diplomat who said his "jaw hit the floor" the morning he watch UN Ambassador Susan Rice make the Sunday talk show circuit with the concocted story that some video no one had ever heard of caused a demonstration at the consulate in Benghazi to become violent.  Hicks says everyone involved knew it was a terrorist attack "from the get-go."  Hicks told investigators - and will presumably tell Issa's committee - that Ambassador Chris Stevens, who lost his life along with three others in the terrorist attack, reported to him, 'Greg, we are under attack.'

Hicks said, "I've never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career, as I was on that day," referring to Susan Rice's fabricated story shortly after the Benghazi terrorist attacks.

History tells us that most of the great political scandals become scandalous not because of the original act but because of the cover up.  After tomorrow there will be no doubt left that there was a cover up.  The only questioning remaining will be what were they covering up?

My theory is they had scaled down security in Libya to appease the newly-minted Muslim Brotherhood regime and Obama was wanting to demonstrate our good will.  Having been educated part of his young life in a Muslim madrasa I think Obama is bending over backwards to demonstrate that not all Muslims are terrorists.  That's all well and good but in the process he leaves us vulnerable to those who are.

This seems to be a common thread on the left.  Remember after the Boston bombings how NPR was cautioning its listeners not to jump to any conclusions about the brothers' religion?  Even after the younger brother was captured hiding out in a boat CNN was wondering aloud as to what could possibly have been their motivation.

Not all Muslims are terrorists but most of the terrorists these days are Muslim.  It's just common sense that we'd be paying a little more attention to them than anyone else.

I believe what happened in Benghazi was political correctness at its very worst.  This administration wanted so much to prove that stereotyping Muslims is wrong that they allowed our consulate to let its guard down.  I also believe the so-called annex was the true target of the attack.  Whether real or imagined, the terrorists believed the CIA was using it as a black site.  That's why operatives there were told to stand down when they first heard gunfire several blocks away at the consulate.  They ignored orders and ran to the rescue only to have the terrorists follow them back to the annex and lay waste to the site.

Another interesting aspect of this story is Hillary Clinton's involvement.  At least one person is scheduled to testify that Hillary circumvented the State Departments own counterterrorism unit to keep it out of the decision-making chain.  Hillary's people have vehemently denied this but one has to wonder if Hillary will continue to take the heat if, in fact, she was covering for the administration.

I'm not ready to use the "impeach" word yet but I will remind you that in Watergate no one died.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Internet sales tax - Why so complicated?

Once again government is making something more difficult than it has to be.  There’s a lot of talk about the Internet sales tax.  It’s not an “Internet tax” as some have tried to portray it.  It’s merely a tax on all sales made through the Internet.  As the laws stand now, you don’t have to pay a tax on an item unless the company selling the item has a physical presence in your state.  Lawmakers are wanting to force any retailer with sales over $1 million annually to collect sales tax for each state.

Opponents argue that it’s too burdensome and on that point they’re right.  But we do, in the name of fairness, need to close this loophole that allows some items to go untaxed.  Congress, as usual, is making this far too complicated.

Let’s say I walk into an antique shop in Kentucky and I see a little antique box that I just have to have.  Let’s say it’s $30.  I whip out my credit card and do the deal then pack the box into my car and drive off.  The store where I bought the item charges me Kentucky sales tax and sends the money to Frankfort.  Neither the store owner nor the state of Kentucky cares that I’m from Tennessee.  Why should a mail order or Internet sale be any different?  If I find that same antique box online and that store ships it to me then I should pay Kentucky sales tax, not Tennessee sales tax.

Some have argued that the tax is on the customer, not the business.  That’s true but it’s still on where the customer is doing business and, technically, the business is being transacted in Kentucky.  That computer program that I’m using to fill in the pertinent information and turn my credit card info over to belongs to the business in Kentucky.  The order is being processed in Kentucky and the item I’m ordering is in Kentucky.  Kentucky should get the sales tax just as if I were standing at their register.

Asking businesses to send tax revenue to 50 different states is asking a bit much. It turns businesses into tax collectors for states with which they otherwise have no connection.

If we do decide to go the common sense route and collect the money where the item is sold and send that tax revenue to the state where the business is located some argue that will drive businesses to relocate to states with lower or no sales tax.  Perhaps but I think that’s way down on the list of why businesses are in the states they’re in.  I would suspect the foremost reason a business is where it is is because the founder lives there.  Beyond that, businesses might relocate to states with no income tax since the CEOs will have to pay it but a sales tax is not a tax on the business or anyone else within the company.  It’s a tax on the consumer.

Most states are pretty close on sales taxes except for the handful that don’t have a sales tax.  Most states are in the 6 to 9 percent range.  That means if I buy that $30 antique box I’ll pay a sales tax ranging from about $1.80 to $2.70.  That’s probably not enough to discourage me from making the purchase.  On the larger items you’re as likely to be worried about shipping costs as you are sales tax.

I just don’t see it as a big deal but if we’re going to do it at least let’s make it simple for a change.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Common Core - Good or Evil

I have been doing a ton of research on Common Core lately.  That's the fairly new initiative on educational standards that has a lot of people upset.  To be honest, I must admit that I went into my research looking for reasons to hate Common Core.  I was under the impression that the federal government was making a back door attempt to take over education which, constitutionally, should be run by the states and local school boards.

I expected to find passages in text books stating the founding fathers were a bunch of racist, sexist, homophobes.  I expected to find brainwashing material telling our kids the Constitution is too antiquated to be relevant.

What I found is there are no textbooks at all.  There's no propaganda material.  Common Core is not a curriculum at all, rather it's a set of basic standards each graduating senior needs to have mastered by graduation.  It's not something that was mandated by President Obama.  It was commissioned by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Doesn't sound very federal to me.

I know Obama likes this initiative and is pushing it but he also likes golf.  That doesn't make golf bad.  We have to drop this notion that just because Obama supports something it must be sinister.  He's been killing terrorists, including bin Laden.  There are times when the man actually gets things right.

I've been hard-pressed to find any specific objections to Common Core from its opponents other than the fear of a federal takeover of our schools.  That's a legitimate fear, mind you, but I see no evidence of it.  One of the rare specifics cited is they claim Common Core will de-emphasize classic literature like To Kill a Mockingbird.  First of all, there's no evidence of that but we'll cover that in a moment.  But I want to make a point here and this is central to the whole argument.

Everyone remembers reading To Kill a Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath way back in the day in high school, right?  Everybody read those, all across the country.  There was no federal mandate to read them so how did we all end up reading the same books?  Government conspiracy?  No, there was a set of literature standards that school boards all across the country adopted.  There has to be some commonality in order for students to do well on tests like the ACT and SAT.  Plus, agreements on what constitutes classic literature simply emerge as common knowledge.  That doesn't mean Harper Lee was forced on local school boards as part of some federal government conspiracy.

What's ironic is Common Core supposedly puts more emphasis on The Federalist Papers than it does on the so-called literary classics.  I can't believe people are actually complaining about that one.  If I had to choose I'd much rather my kids study Madison than Steinbeck but Common Core doesn't force such choices.  In the words of Common Core itself the standards include "classic myths and stories from around the world, foundational U.S. documents, seminal works of American literature, and the writings of Shakespeare. The standards appropriately defer the many remaining decisions about what and how to teach to states, districts, and schools."

I don't know about you but it seems the study of our foundational documents has been woefully lacking.  Common Core fixes that.  Another thing Common Core is designed to do is to narrow the shotgun approach to education a bit and concentrate on taking a deeper look into the more important things kids need to know.  It also encourages critical thinking.  That's something else that's been lacking.

Many of the concerns come from misinformation and, to be honest, disinformation.  I've seen articles quoting an Israeli math expert who says Algebra I, under Common Core, won't be offered until ninth grade instead of eighth, as it is in many parts of the country.  That's simply untrue.  You can take Algebra I in eighth grade if you've mastered the math skills in grades 1-7 that build up to eighth-grade Algebra.  That sounds like a common sense approach.  Kids shouldn't take Algebra I because their friends are.  They should take it because they're ready to take it.

You can read a long list of myths vs. facts at the Common Core website.

I also understand that Common Core makes kids learn their multiplication tables like we had to back in the day and makes them solve math problems by working them out on paper or in their heads instead of using a calculator as a crutch.

Yes, I've done quite a bit of research on this Common Core and I was all prepared to uncover some grand conspiracy by Washington to take over our schools.  After all, the feds are now telling our schools what to serve in the cafeteria.  I found nothing to alarm me and, in fact, a lot to encourage me.  Common Core appears to be what the name implies; a common core of knowledge that the states can agree on to prepare students for college, if the student so chooses, or for a career after high school.  How the schools impart that knowledge is largely left to them.  And the curriculum and materials are left exclusively to them.

I preach logical thinking on my radio show and that's the very approach I took on this subject.  Take a moment to ask for specific objections from those who oppose it, as I did, then explore whether those objections are valid.  I suspect you'll come to the same logical conclusion that I did.