Friday, May 9, 2014
Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...
I want you to think about some events that have occurred recently, and while they seem disparate, there is a common thread that runs through them.
We are all aware of the remarks made by Donald Sterling, the owner of the Clippers of the NBA. Sterling's comments, secretly recorded by his girlfriend, were racist, stupid, reprehensible, and whatever other negative adjective that you can conjure.
The fallout from Sterling's remarks is a ban from the NBA and the probable forced sale of his team.
Now think about that for a moment.
Stupidity publicly expressed could result in the loss of a very valuable asset for Sterling. His biased and racist remarks could cost him dearly from a financial standpoint.
Understand that in no way do I concur with the remarks that Sterling made. At the same time, the act of confiscating the assets of an individual because of impolitic and stupid comments is dangerous.
All of us have made comments we have regretted. Some have required an apology. Some have been embarrassing. But I suspect none have caused us to forfeit any of our assets.
We are also aware of the scandal at the IRS, where conservative organizations had the approval of their tax exempt status delayed indefinitely to thwart their efforts to raise funds to support their candidates in the 2010 election. By contrast, left leaning groups have their tax exempt status approved expeditiously.
Now that is an atrocity, but delve deeper and you find that the IRS asked these conservative groups for their donor lists, which is an unusual move. But the IRS did not stop there. Once those names were obtained, the IRS set about to audit the contributors to these conservative groups.
The IRS annually audits approximately 1% of tax filers.
The percentage of conservative donors that were audited?
In Congressional hearings this week before the House Ways and Means Committee, it was revealed that the IRS targeted 10% of the donors listed for these conservative groups.
The IRS has the ability to make any citizens life hell, and the specter of an audit can be daunting. When over 10% of conservative donors are targeted by this arm of the government, does one reasonably think this wasn't an act of intimidation?
You also may be aware of William Baer, the Gilford , New Hampshire father that was arrested at a school board meeting.
He dared to speak against the school board that had assigned the book 'Nineteen Minutes" by Jody Picoult, which was assigned to his 14 year old daughter's (and all freshmen) reading list. The book contains some explicit passages about rough sex, and Baer questioned the school board members at a public meeting as to why he as a parent was not notified of the content of the book and given an opt out option.
Ostensibly, Baer was arrested for exceeding the 2 minute speech limit and not sitting down when asked. He was charged with disorderly conduct and led out of the meeting in handcuffs.
All because he as a concerned parent questioned the choice of reading material made by the school board.
Do you notice the common thread that runs through these vignettes?
Disagree with the powers that be or the politically correct view and there will be retribution.
Again, we all have said stupid things, but have we faced a threat of having our assets confiscated and our wealth diminished because of that stupidity?
Or has a political view that is contrary to the party in power resulted in such a blatant response by the government's attack dog, the IRS?
Has disagreement with a local board's view of appropriate reading material resulted in a specious charge that leads to arrest?
The danger that these examples present is that societally we are moving toward an environment of "thought police" where non-conforming thoughts are punished. Part of this is the toxic partisanship that both parties in Washington have cultivated, but more disturbing is the use of power to limit opposition to those in power and question their actions.
When contrary thoughts and speech result in confiscation of assets, audits, and arrests, we as a nation are on a dangerous path.
Our society has enjoyed the privilege of free speech and the reasonable discussion of opposing ideas. Take that away and encourage group think and our country becomes weaker and we ostracize those in society that don't hold to the prevailing political view.
Our country becomes weaker when this happens.
And our individual freedoms are diminished.
And that, my friends, is my view.